The importance of the number 7 in Orthodoxy and antiquity
The importance of the number 7 in Orthodoxy and antiquity
The science of numbers is the foundation of all knowledge in all cultures. Since ancient times, there has not been a people with a philosophy or tradition that does not give great importance to numbers. Chaldeans, Babylonians, Chinese, Egyptians, Jews, Greeks, Romans, Incas and other peoples used numbers to express their cosmogonic concepts. Some numbers however, such as 3, 4, 7 and 9, attracted people’s special attention. The phenomena observed in nature, the coincidences, the combinations, the various incidents, which were connected with these numbers, gave rise to the development of a kind of mysterious cult around them.
The number 7
The beliefs surrounding the number 7 dominated most peoples of antiquity and their echo reaches to our days stimulating the mind of today’s man as well. The number 7 is considered sacred and symbolic and encloses a mysterious power within it. If we tried to mention all the things included in this mysterious number, we would need a whole book. But let’s look at some applications of the number 7:
According to the Pythagoreans the number 7 is:
“immortal”, since it is not the product of factors. It is also the symbol of perfection, because it is the sum of 3 and 4, which express the two perfect geometric shapes, the equilateral triangle and the square. The Ancient Greeks considered 7 as a mysterious number and for its geometric properties, because 7 points cannot create symmetry in a circle!
The Pythagoreans still considered the number 7 as an image and model of order and harmony in nature. It was the number that included twice the sacred number three (symbol of the divine trinity to all peoples, Christian and pagan), to which is added the one or the divine unit (3X2+1=7).
For the Eastern peoples the 7 planetary spheres are represented by the 7 rings, which women wear on the 7 parts of the body, which are decorated (head, neck, hands, feet, ears, nose and waist). Chinese philosophy considers 7 points as fundamental (air, water, metal, ether, fire, wood and earth).
The ancient eastern peoples believed that 7 were the great deities and 7 were the great stars. The Chaldeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Indians and Persians counted the 7 planets, the 7 stars of Ursa major and the 7 stars of Ursa minor. Muslims are entitled to have 7 wives according to the Quran. Each phase of the Moon lasts 7 days.
For the Jews, the Feast of Tabernacles lasted 7 days, the Sabbatical year lasted 7 years and 7 such years constituted the Jubilee. Seven priests with 7 trumpets went around Jericho for 7 days and on the 7th day they circled its walls 7 times. Seven lights was the holy lamp, on the seventh day from birth boys were circumcised, seven times sins were forgiven, sevenfold the thief compensated the sufferer.
Ancient Greece had 7 sages (Thalis, Vias, Cleoboulos, Periandros, Pittacos, Solon and Chilon) and the education of boys in ancient Sparta started at the age of seven. The liberal arts in antiquity were 7 (grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy) and 7 wonders of the ancient world (Colossus of Rhodes, pyramid of Cheops, Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Lighthouse of Alexandria, hanging gardens of Babylon, Statue of Zeus in Olympia and Temple of Artemis in Ephesus). 7 generals campaigned against Thebes in Aeschylus’ “Seven on Thebes” (Adrastus – Polyneices – Tydeus – Amphiaraus – Kapaneas – Hippomedon – Parthenopeus) and 7 heroes (Eteoklis – Polyphontas – Melanippus – Megareus – Hyperus – Lasthenes – Actoras) defended the 7 gates of Thebes.
7 cities claimed the origin of Homer (Chios, Smyrna, Kymi, Kolofon, Pylos, Argos, Athens) and the shield of Hades in the Iliad was made of 7-fold cowhide. The Ancient Greeks divided the world’s oceans into 7 seas (Aegean, Mediterranean, Adriatic, Black, Red, Caspian, Persian Gulf).
In the 7th month of pregnancy the fetus must be born in order to survive, in the 7th month of life it produces teeth and in the 7th year it renews them. They divided the human age into septs (as 7 infant, 14 child, 21 adolescent, 28 youth, 35 maturity, 42 acne, etc.), 7 are the openings of the head (2 eyes, 2 ears, 2 nostrils , 1 mouth), 7 the viscera (stomach, heart, spleen, liver, lung and 2 kidneys), 7 and the responses of the human organism (tear, snot, saliva, semen, urine, feces and sweat).
Homer wants 7 herds of Apollo’s oxen, his lyre has 7 strings, the Egyptians gave him a seven-foot statue. Odysseus stayed 7 years on the island of Calypso and in the legend of Theseus 7 lads and 7 daughters were sent to the Minotaur for food.
The number 7 also has a special place in the Old Testament: The days of Creation were 7, on the 7th day God created man and the 7th day of Creation is a day of rest and holiday and symbolizes completion and perfection!. Easter lasted 7 days. Noah put 7 pairs of animals and birds in the ark, The Flood started 7 days after Noah entered the ark, on the 7th day after the Flood Noah sent the dove out and 7 days and 7 nights the dove traveled until it returned to the Ark . Pharaoh dreamed of 7 fat and 7 lean cows, as well as 7 fruitful and 7 barren ears of corn. Moses’ lamp had seven lights. King David praised God 7 times a day and Samson’s hair had 7 braids, which gave him strength. The number 7 is used in the Old Testament 70 times!
Rome was built on seven hills, just like Constantinople, which had seven names (Byzantium, New Rome, Antonia, Treasury of Islam, Divider of the World, Istanbul, and Constantinople.), was besieged by the Mohammedans 7 times and then beaten from 7 weeks by the seventh Ottoman Sultan.
In the Orthodox Church 7 are the holy sacraments (Marriage, Baptism, Anointing, Blessing Oil, Communion, Confession, Priesthood), 7 are the miracles of Christ according to John the Evangelist, 7 are the main virtues (humility, mercy, purity, philanthropy, forgiveness, kindness, industriousness), 7 deadly sins ((covetousness, fornication, gluttony, envy, anger, apathy) and 7 prayers contained in the “Our Father”, 3 for God (hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, let your will be done) and 4 for the needs of man (give us our bread, leave debts, do not enter into temptation, flee from the wicked).
The colors of the spectrum and rainbow are 7 (red, orange, yellow, green, light blue, deep blue, violet). There are even reasonable suspicions that Newton, who first spoke about colors, distinguished six colors and added the color indigo – deep blue, indigo – to complete the “magic” number seven.
The notes of the pentagram 7, the notes of music 7 (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si ), 7 and of Byzantine music (pa, vou, ga, di, ka, zo, ni), 7 the fine arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry, dance, music and cinema), the 7 metals of the alchemists (gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin, lead), the 7 stars in the Pleiades constellation, (Alcyone, Merope , Electra, Taygeti, Kelaino, Maia, Asterope), 7 heavens of the world and 7 evils of our fate!.
In the vernacular there are many words with the first syllable of seven: heptadiplos, heptazimo, heptamero, heptapichos, heptapsychos, heptamanitikos, heptasteros, heptafragistos, heptafottos, heptalofos, heptapyrgio, Heptanis, Heptachori, heptadaktilos, heptachord, heptasyllabos and “7 songs I will tell you / to choose the purpose / that you will tell me and I will tell you / that I love you” said the well-known song of Hatzidaki, The Ionian Islands of the Ionian Sea are 7 (Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Ithaca, Lefkada, Kythira and Paxos) , 7 the dwarfs in Snow White, 7 years the dictatorship of 67 lasted, 7 the vowels of the alphabet, 7up the well-known soft drink and door 7 are owned by Olympiakos fanatics!
We see, then, that this number hides something special and mysterious, since from ancient times until today it marks our lives in its own special way.
Alexis Totsikas Philologist – Author