In very ancient Greece, before his role as protector of merchants and travelers, Hermes
was a phallic[?]
god, associated with fertility, luck, roads and borders. His name comes from the word herma
) referring to a square or rectangular pillar of stone, or bronze; a bust of Hermes' head, usually with a beard
, sat on the top of the pillar, and male genitals
adorned the base. The hermai
were used to mark roads and borders. In Athens, they were placed outside houses for good luck.
In 415 BC, when the Athenian fleet was about to set sail for Syracuse during the Peloponnesian War, all of the Athenian hermai were vandalized. Though it was never proven, the Athenians at the time believed it was the work of saboteurs, either from Syracuse or anti-war doves from Athens itself. In fact, Alcibiades was accused of being the originator of the crime.
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