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Tales beyond belief

Discover the legends and myths and religious beliefs surrounding Mercury, the Roman god of finance, gymnasts, thieves merchants and commerce and everything which required skill and dexterity. He was also revered as the Messenger of the Gods. His name derives from the Latin word 'merx' meaning "merchandise", as Mercury was originally the Roman god of tradesmen and thieves.

Mercury was the son of Jupiter and Maia, who was the daughter of the Titan god Atlas. The Greek counterpart of this ancient Roman deity was Hermes.

Who was Mercury?
Mercury was the Roman god of finance, gymnasts, thieves merchants and commerce. Mercury id depicted in art wearing golden sandals and a helmet, he carried a magical wand or staff called a caduceus which was entwined with snakes. On the heels of his sandals were wings which enabled him to fly. Because he had the ability to travel so swiftly he became known as the messenger of the gods. It was his also his job to lead departed souls to Avernus, the gateway to the
Underworld and realm of Pluto. Mercury fell in love with one of the Naiades, a nymph called Larunda (also known as Lara) Larunda was famous for her beauty but she caused great problems by her inability to keep secrets. She told Juno, Jupiter's wife, about his affair with Juturna (Larunda's fellow nymph, and the wife of Janus). As punishment for betraying his trust, Jupiter cut out Lara's tongue and ordered Mercury to conduct her to the Underworld. Mercury fell in love with Larunda and made love to her on the way. She became mother to his two children, referred to as the Lares who were the invisible household gods and stayed hidden in cottage in the woods so that Jupiter would not find her. Every Roman family revered the Lares and had its own guardian, known as the Lar familiaris, to protect the household and ensure that the family line did not die out.

Facts about Mercury
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of Mercury:

  • Roman Name: Mercury or Mercurius

  • Role & Function: He is described as being the god of finance, gymnasts, thieves, merchants and commerce. He was also revered as the Messenger of the Gods

  • Status: Major God and one of the 'Dei Consentes', the Council of Gods

  • Symbols: Winged sandals and helmet, caduceus (a staff entwined by snakes), tortoise and stork

  • Gender: Male

  • Greek Counterpart: The Greek name for this god was Hermes

  • Name of Consort: Larunda

  • Name of Father: Jupiter

  • Name of Mother: Maia

  • Names of Children: Pan and the invisible household gods called the Lares

Facts about Mercury in Roman Mythology
Discover interesting information and facts about Mercury, the Roman god of finance, gymnasts, thieves merchants and commerce. He was also revered as the Messenger of the Gods.

  • He was the son of Jupiter and Maia and the lover of Larunda

  • The Roman "Festival of Mercury" was called the Mercuralia and was celebrated on May 15

  • During Mercuralia merchants and traders would sprinkle their heads, their ships, merchandise, and their businesses with water taken from his fountain at Porta Capena and prayed that he would both blot out any frauds and perjuries they had committed

  • He was esteemed by the Romans as the god of orators and eloquence, the author of letters and oratory.

  • He is said to have invented the lyre which he made from the shell of a tortoise. He gave the lyre to Apollo the god of medicine, and received from him in exchange the caduceus.

  • The Caduceus means “herald’s staff of office” and described as two serpents criss-crossed around a staff that is topped by a round knob and flanked by wings

  • The Greeks and Romans considered him as presiding over roads and cross-ways, in which they often erected busts of him.

  • His hat and sandals were called the petasus and talaria

  • A magnificent temple was erected to the god in Arcadia, a mountainous region in central Greece

  • Another famous temple was erected to him near the Circus Maximus. He also had a temple and a sacred fount near the Porta Capena.

Mercury (Greek Counterpart was Hermes)
The Romans habitually assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods and goddesses that were worshipped by the Greeks and other nations. When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC many of the Greek gods and goddesses were adopted by the Romans.  The Romans simply changed the Greek gods names to Latin equivalents. The Greek counterpart of Mercury was Hermes. The Roman religion significantly differed from the Greeks in that it was officially endorsed by the state and exerted influence over the government of Rome. Politicians took the offices of influential priests, called pontiffs, to gain control of the popular worship, Roman gods and goddesses like Mercury were worshipped at every public event, including the gladiatorial games, where blood sacrifices were made to the gods. In ancient Rome, the pantheon of 12 major gods, including Mercury, were called the 'Dei Consentes' meaning the Council of Gods.

Gods and Deities
Roman Gods and Goddesses

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