Dume: The days of the week

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Dume: The days of the week

Among other singularities of Portuguese culture, one of the aspects that most draws the attention of those who visit us is the curious nomenclature of our days of the week, especially in comparison with the other Romance languages. But do you know the reason for this particular case? We can already advance that the question is, literally, older than the See of Braga ...

The Portuguese language is a source of singular cases. Its complex grammar (sometimes confusing even to the natives) and its vast vocabulary makes it one of the most interesting and difficult to study, master and investigate. It originates, like its Romance counterparts, from the vernacular Latin, that is, from the Latin spoken by the lower classes of society like the soldiers or the plebs, the Portuguese - like its twin brother Galego - suffered deep and decisive influences of the dialects spoken by the castrejos peoples who inhabited the peninsular northwest before the Romanization of Hispania.
Even the most distracted ones will certainly be aware that the Portuguese language has some singularities among the Latin languages. Many could be the examples to use, but our focus today will focus on the days of the week and how peculiar the Portuguese case is. But let's go back in time ...

Roman culture was deeply polytheistic. The daily life of the Roman citizen, whether patrician or commoner, was marked by the influence and protection of hundreds and hundreds of deities, whether of Etruscan origin or foreign origin - Egyptians, Persians and, of course, Greeks. It is not surprising, therefore, that an aspect so present in daily life as the division of time was equally under divine control. The months of the year, after the reformation by Julius Caesar, varied between the names of gods (for example Januarius, of the god Jano, or Februarius, of the god Fébruo) and the ordinary names (September and October, months seventh, and eighth, year began in March). Also the days of the week were influenced by the deities, and this is where the differences begin for the Portuguese case. In Latin, the days of the week had the following nomenclature: Lunae dies, Martis dies, Mercurii dies, Jovis dies, Veneris dies, Saturni dies and Solis dies. We can find similarities in the other Latin languages. In Spanish, Monday, in French Mardi, in Italian Mercoledì, or in Romanian Joi, we can verify how present the pagan heritage continues in their daily lives.

 São Martinho de Dume

Although there is no document in Portugal attesting to the use of the "pagan" version, it is agreed that it has been verified (Galician, always useful for studying the evolution of the Portuguese language, continues to use the pagan version more often). However this would change in the century. VI, in one of the great cultural centers of the Iberian peninsula of the high Middle Ages, Bracara, through one of his most notable bishops: Martinho.
Saint Martin of Dume was born in Pannonia (present-day Hungary) in the early sixth century. The proximity to the Roman Empire of the East took him to Constantinople and to Alexandria where I am with the great masters and philosophers of the height. Later it comes to Iberia, to the outskirts of Bracara Augusta, where it founds a monastic cell in Dume. His brilliant management and guidance to knowledge made the monastery flourish in such a way that the Pope elevated him to the status of diocese, making Martinho his first bishop. Later on, given the vacancy of the neighboring diocese, Martinho was ordained Metropolitan Bishop of Braga, a post that he would occupy until his death, around 580.

Arca Tumular de São Martinho

It is in the capital of the Suevo realm that Martin will achieve some of his most notorious actions. Among his greatest accomplishments are the conversion of the Suevi from Arianism to Catholicism, or the adoption of a new nomenclature for the days of the week, breaking definitively with the pagan tradition. The context, or rather the pretext, was the holy week and its prayers. According to Martinho, besides making no sense, it was unseemly to use pagan terminology during the Week in which the Passion of Christ is remembered. Then using more liturgical terminology, and taking the idea that Sunday, or Dominica, was the first day of the week, the next would be the Secunda Fair, followed by the Tertia Fair, and so on until the Sabbatum. the term fair means holy day. This system, as we have seen, was first thought and applied only during the celebrations of Holy Week, but its success was such that it soon became generalized, later, throughout the year as a form of rupture and cultural affirmation between of the kingdom of Portugal.
Martinho, or rather, Saint Martin de Dume, would remain for eternity known as one of the most brilliant prelates and thinkers of Christendom and a central figure of what we consider today Portuguese culture.


Article written by Tiago Lopes Botelho


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