Fast Facts: Hermes
- Pronunciation: HER-meez
- Origin: Greek
- Role: Messenger of the gods; God of travel, sports, thieves and trade
- Parents: Zeus and Maia
- Children: Hermaphroditus, Priapus and Pan
- Symbols: Staff, Winged Sandals
- Other Names: Mercury, Ermis
Who Is Hermes?
Hermes is an Olympian god in Greek religion and mythology, the son of Zeus and Maia. He was the God of Commerce, God of the Wind and the messenger of the Gods of Olympus.
He belongs to the twelve Olympians and was assimilated to Mercury by the Romans. He is portrayed as a handsome and athletic young beardless man, or as a bearded man in the prime of life in the first performances.
His main symbol is the Greek kerykeion or Latin caduceus, which appears in a form of two snakes wrapped around a winged staff with carvings of the other gods.
Hermes: The God Of The Wind
Son of Zeus and Maia, Hermes was the most astute and the most graceful of the gods. He directed the winds and was the messenger of the Gods.
Linked to this role of messenger, it is said that he is also the conductor of souls in the underworld. He guided notably Héraclès.
Hermes: The God Of Commerce
He protected the merchants and assured them of the trade routes. Hermes brought the merchants his skill and his trick to deceive the other traders. Literature indicates that he was also the God of thieves. To facilitate trade and exchange, Hermes invented weights and measures, such as the lyre.
Hermes with the “golden crook” is a deity easily recognizable thanks to its attributes. Its attributes are the helmet and sandals that refer to the Winds and the lightness of God Hermes.
- The caduceus, olive or laurel stick, surrounded by two serpents and surmounted by two wings. He is the badge of messengers and heralds.
- Winged sandals (talaria) and
- The winged helmet reminds him that he was the messenger of the gods able to fly through the sky.
- The flute he had received in return from Apollo.
- The petasas, big hat, symbol of traders and travelers.
- A purse full of coins.
- A wide cape.
Some illustrations of Hermes:
(1) Statue of Hermes located in the gardens of Versailles
(2) Statue made by Praxiteles, representative of Hermes holding Dionysus (Archaeological Museum of Olympia).
(3) Hermes on a vase from the archaic period (between the 9th and the 6th century BC).
Art & Iconography:
The image of Hermes evolved and varied according to Greek art and culture. During Archaic Greece he was usually depicted as a mature man, bearded, dressed as a traveler, herald, or pastor. During Classical and Hellenistic Greece he is usually depicted young and nude, with athleticism.
He was represented in doorways, possibly as an amulet of good fortune, or as a symbol of purification.
His sandals, called pédila by the Greeks and talaria by the Romans, were made of palm and myrtle branches but were described as beautiful, golden and immortal, made a sublime art, able to take the roads with the speed of wind.