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God Of Trade, Wealth, Luck, Athletic Contests, Fertility, Animal Husbandry, Sleep, Language, Thieves, Travel, Gymnasiums, Astronomy, and Astrology.

HERMES (Roman name Mercury) was the messenger of the gods and guide of dead souls to the Underworld. A prankster and inventive genius from birth, Hermes aided the heroes Odysseus and Perseus in their quests.

Hermes was the son Zeus and a mountain nymph. As a newborn he was remarkably precocious. On his very first day of life, he found the empty shell of a tortoise and perceived its utility as a sounding chamber. Stringing sinews across it, he created the first lyre.

Hermes was known for his helpfulness to mankind, both in his capacity as immortal herald and on his own initiative. When Perseus set out to face the Gorgon Medusa, Hermes aided him in the quest. According to one version of the myth, he loaned the hero his own magic sandals, which conferred upon the wearer the ability to fly.

Some say that Hermes loaned Perseus a helmet of invisibility as well. Also known as the helmet of darkness, this was the same headgear that Hermes himself had worn when he vanquished the giant Hippolytus. This was on the occasion when the gargantuan sons of Earth rose up in revolt against the gods of Olympus.

Hermes' symbol of office as divine messenger was his staff, or caduceus. This was originally a willow wand with entwined ribbons, traditional badge of the herald. But the ribbons were eventually depicted as snakes. To support this mythologically, a story evolved that Hermes used the caduceus to separate two fighting snakes which forthwith twined themselves together in peace.

It was Hermes' job to convey dead souls to the Underworld. And as patron of travelers, he was often shown in a wide-brimmed sun hat of straw. Hermes was known to the Romans as Mercury. His most famous depiction, a statue by Bellini, shows him alight on one foot, wings at his heels, the snaky caduceus in hand and, on his head, a rather stylized combination helmet-of-darkness and sun hat.

He invented the lyre, the pipes, the musical scale, astronomy, weights and measures, boxing, gymnastics, and the care of olive trees.


Apollo's cattle

Hermes was the son of Zeus and Maia, the daughter of Atlas. He was born in a cave of Mount Cyllene in Arcadia and in the first hours after his birth, in a myth of Apollo`s cattle, he went to Pieiria and stole some oxen which Apollo was tending there. To prevent from being discovered by tracks, he put boots on cattle`s feet and led them to Pylos. He sacrificed two, pinned up their hides on rocks, boiled some of the juicy meat for his meal and burned the rest what was left of these two oxen.

From the tortoise-shell that he found there, while having a meal, he made a lyre with binding strings made from cattle across the shell and also a plectrum for the lyre. Meanwhile, Apollo was already searching for his cattle in Pylos, asking locals for their whereabouts. The locals told him to search for a boy with cattle that they had seen passing through. When Apollo finally found him and the cattle, he heard the magnificent sounds of the instrument and was willing to trade the some of the cattle for it.

They made the trade and while Apollo was tending the rest of his flock, Hermes fashioned a shepherd's pipe for his instrument to play. It was not long before Apollo become enthusiastic over the pipe and offered him his golden staff that he carried while tending his herd. But this time, Hermes wanted in exchange not only the golden staff, but also a proficiency in the art of prophecy. Apollo was eager to get the pipe and therefore he agreed on giving him the staff and the lesson. Hermes and Apollo became friends and Hermes promised him never to steal anything from him again.

Zeus impressed with Hermes' persuaiton and bartering skills, appointed him as his personal messenger.

Wrath of Hermes

There is more to the previous story in myth where a local named Battus lived on the top of the hill, from where the cattle of Apollo were stolen. He heard the herd when they were being driven past his house, and therefore he came out and found out that they were being stolen. However, he agreed not to tell anyone in exchange of reward. And Hermes promised him reward on these terms. Then Hermes went to hid his cattle inside a cave by the cliff near Koryphasion and came back to Battus, transformed into another person to test his oath.

He offered him a robe, if he could tell of noticing a herd of cattle being driven past his house. And Battus took the robe and told him about the cattle. Hermes was furious to be lied to and so easily double crossed, and therefore turned the man into stone with his wand.

Rescuing Io, mistress of Zeus

In the myth of rescuing Io, Zeus asked Hermes to save his mistress Io who Zeus himself had an affair with and was forced to instantly turn her into cow, to hid her from approaching wife who was looking for her pristess.

When Hera saw Zeus with the cow and heard his lame excuse, she was rightfully suspicious and demanded to give her the animal as a gift. Zeus had no choice but to agree, because otherwise, his secret would be disclosed. Hera then called her servant Argos, the hundred-eyed giant, to take her away from Zeus and keep an eye on her. Argos had one hundred eyes and never had to close them all while sleeping and was the perfect guard. However, Hermes was able to make the giant fall asleep with his soft refrains of his pipe.

When the giant turned into slumber, Hermes picked his sword and chopped off his head, because he didn`t want to leave any witnesses. And poor little Io was finally free, but still a cow. She roamed mile after mile for many years, until she reached Egypt and gave birth. Then Hera finally released her from torments as being the goddess of childbirth, she felt pity for Io.

Other myths

Hermes was also involved in many myths of other gods or semi-gods. For instance, he helped saving Dionysus, rescued Asclepius, son of Apollo, at his birth, and helped Perseus in his quest to defeat medusa. He also helped Odysseus, giving him a potion that prevented Odysseus to fall under the spell of Circe and he saved him from captivity of nymph Calypso. And Heracles, he helped to deceive the Cerberus, helping him to bring the beast from the underworld.


Facts about Hermes

Hermes was the son of Zeus and Maia, one of the Pleiades.

He primarily served as the herald or messenger of the gods.

Hermes was the god of shepherds, land travel, and literature. More specifically, he was known as a patron of poetry.

His interests were varied and widespread.

In his role as herald, it also fell to him to conduct souls to Hades.

As was the case with other gods, Hermes was known for abundant love affairs with mortals, goddesses, and nymphs.

According to some sources, Hermes was associated with fertility and good fortune.

Hermes is most often presented as a graceful youth, wearing a winged hat and winged sandals. This is how he appeared to Perseus when he and Athena arrived to help the hero kill Medusa.

Hermes was considered a “trickster” due to his cunning and clever personality.

Hermoea was the name given to the riotous festivals thrown in his honor.

Hermes was born in a cave on a mountain in Arcadia; he was conceived and born within the course of one day.

His son Pan was half man, half goat. Pan’s mother was named Dryope, and she was terrified of her son’s strange appearance.

Abderus, another of Hermes’ sons, was a friend to Hercules. He met his fate when he was devoured by the Mares of Diomedes.

Hermaphroditus (also known as Aphroditus) was an androgynous deity and the offspring of Hermes and Aphrodite.

The tortoise is a symbol of Hermes.

Hermes freed Io, one of Zeus' lovers, from the giant Argus.

Hermes talked the nymph Calypso into releasing Odysseus.

Hermes played a part in the infamous love story of Orpheus and Eurydice. After Eurydice is granted one day on earth with her husband, it is Hermes who escorts her back to the underworld.

He was a patron of thieves. On the day of his birth, Hermes stole Apollo's cattle.

He was the only one other than Hades and Persephone who was allowed to leave the underworld without consequence.

He was the god of boundaries, both literal and figurative.



[1] "MythWeb"

[2] "Greek Gods"

[3] "Greek Gods and Goddesses"

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