Time For Time

Today’s fun information is the effect that ancient civilizations continue to have on us every day.

Let’s start with units of time. The Sumerians preferred a sexagesimal (base point 60) form of mathematics. The Babylonians inherited the system and expanded it to great use. The Muslims adopted the use of the minute (minuta; ′) as the 60th part of an hour, the second (seccunda; ′′) as the 60th part of a minute, and the third (tertia; ′′′) as the 60th part of the second around 1000 AD, and it was copied by Roger Bacon in Europe in the 13th century, and given the Latin names shown.

The origin of 360 degrees in a circle has the same Sumerian roots.

The Babylonians used a seven day week, which ended on a holy day. The Jewish culture did not adopt this standard until after the Babylonian Captivity period in the 6th century BC. The Romans (and the Early Christian Church) used an eight day week, but it actually contained an overlap with the next week, and the Emperor Constantine permanently adopted the 7 day week in 321 AD.

The Roman days of the week were named after the celestial bodies, which were all named for major gods, and their order was (Modern/Original)
Sunday – Sol
Monday – Luna
Tuesday – Mars
Wednesday – Mercury
Thursday – Jupiter
Friday – Venus
Saturday – Saturn

The northern German peoples adopted the Roman week, but added their own gods to replace some of the Roman ones.

Sunday – Sun Day
Monday – Moon Day
Tuesday – Tiw’s Day (Norse god Tyr)
Wednesday – Wodan’s Day (Norse god Odin)
Thursday – Thor’s Day (Norse god Thor)
Friday – Frige’s Day (Norse goddess Frei)
Saturday – Saturn Day (didn’t change this)

The weekend is a bit more complicated. Ancient cultures often took their holy day off at the end of the week, and the idea of holding a market day on the day before developed. In later Western Europe, peasants had half a day off on Sunday, but also spent time standing up in church! (Yes, pews did not become common until the Protestant Reformation. Thank you, Martin Luther). In 1926, Henry Ford shut his factories for Saturday and Sunday so that his Jewish workers could also celebrate their Sabbath. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America were the first union to fight for a five day work week, but it was not until 1940 that a provision of the Fair Labor Act took effort that it was formalized into law.

So there you have it. Every moment of your busy schedule is dictated by the designs of ancient civilizations. Don’t be late!


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