Under his care were merchants, travellers, and public speakers. He was known for being cunning and full of tricks. He was also the patron of of luck and revered by gamblers and merchants undertaking new enterprises.
Hermes (Roman Counterpart was Mercury)
When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC, the Romans assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods and goddesses that were worshipped by the Ancient Greeks. Many of the Greek gods and goddesses, such as Hermes, were therefore adopted by the Romans but were given Latin names. The Roman counterpart of Hermes was Mercury.
Facts about Hermes
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of Hermes:
Personality: Quick witted, charming, affable, adventurous, popular. He had the impulse to cheat and to steal
Appearance: Young, good looking, wore a winged helmet or sandals
Role & Function: The function of Hermes is described as being the messenger of the gods and the god of travel, commerce, luck, gambling and thieves. It was his job to lead departed souls to the Underworld.
Status: Major God and one of the Twelve Olympians
Symbols: Winged sandals and helmet, caduceus (a staff entwined by snakes), tortoise and stork
Roman Counterpart: The Roman name for this god was Mercury
Name of Wife: Dryope
Name of Father: Zeus
Name of Mother: Maia
Names of Children: Pan, Autolycus, Daphnis, Myrtelius, Priapus, Silenus and Hermaphroditus
Hermes and the Lyre
Hermes is said to have invented the lyre. He found, one day, a tortoise, of which he took the shell, made holes in the opposite edges of it, and drew cords of linen through them, and the instrument was complete. There were nine cords in honor of the nine Muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Hermes gave the lyre to Apollo the god of medicine, and received from him in exchange the caduceus.
Hermes and the Caduceus
The Caduceus means “herald’s staff of office” in Greek. The caduceus can be described as two serpents criss-crossed around a staff that is topped by a round knob and flanked by wings. The coiled snakes or serpents relate to myths concerning the Tree of Life. The caduceus was used as a symbol by printers because it was the staff of Hermes who was the messenger god and the deliverer of information. The caduceus has also been the symbol of the American medical profession for nearly 100 years reflecting the gift from Apollo the god of healing and medicine.
Hermes and Mount Olympus
In Greek Mythology the principle Greek gods, that included Hermes, were referred to as the Twelve Olympians and lived on the summit of Mount Olympus which was protected by a special layer of clouds. The gods and goddesses who lived on Mount Olympus attended sumptuous banquets in the council-chamber of the gods and feasted on ambrosia (the food of the gods) and nectar (the drink of the gods). The names of the other Olympian gods were Zeus, Hera, Athena, Hestia or Dionysus, Apollo, Ares, Aphrodite, Poseidon, Demeter, Artemis, Hephaestus and Hermes.
The Symbols of Hermes
In the sculptures, vases, mosaics and paintings of Greek Art the god Hermes was often illustrated with images representing his symbols - his winged sandals and helmet, caduceus (a staff entwined by snakes), tortoise and hawk.
The symbols of Hermes were:
- Winged sandals and helmet
- The symbol of the winged sandals and winged helmet represents his speed and ability to fly
- The Caduceus (staff)
- He is often depicted holding a caduceus which was a magical staff with snakes curling around it which he used to charm the gods and heal mortals
- The Tortoise
- The symbol of the tortoise relates to the legend that he made a lyre from the shell of a tortoise
- The Hawk
- The symbol of the snake is associated with the god due to myth in which he transformed two men, Hierax and Daidalon, into hawks
Myths and Legends about Hermes in Greek Mythology
He presided over commerce, wrestling and other gymnastic exercises. He also presided over thieves and everything that required skill, cunning and dexterity. The most famous myths and legends relating to Hermes (Mercury) are:
- The theft of the cattle of Apollo refer to Hermes and Apollo
- The transformation of Battos to stone
- The slaying of Argos Panoptes, the hundred-eyed guardian of the nymph Io
- The myth of Perseus and the gorgon Medusa
- The myth of Odysseus