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Hermes

Hermes ("pile of marker stones"), in Greek mythology, was the god of travelers, shepherds, land travel, orators, literature, cunning, poets, athletics, weights and measures, and thieves, and the messenger from the gods to humans. Son of Zeus and a nymph named Maia, Hermes was equivalent to the Roman god Mercury and the Etruscan Turms. Hermes was born in a cave on Mt. Cyllene[?] in Peloponnesus, between Achaia and Arcadia. His origin on Mt. Cyllene explains the origin of an epithet for Hermes: Hermes Cylleneius. He was also referred to as Enagonios. As a psychopomp, Hermes was known as Psychopompos ("conductor of the soul"). The Roman Mercury later absorbed the Dei Lucrii, early gods of commerce and wealth, and were referred to by that name. Hermes was also later combined with the Egyptian Anubis to form Hermanubis.

Obviously the name Hermes Trismegistus was used later by alchemists and their like to refer to a mixture-god combining elements from Hermes and the egyptian god Thoth.

The modern post office in Greece uses Hermes as its symbol.

Table of contents

Worship

Hermes was worshipped especially fervently by travelers, pilgrims, thieves and poets. Though temples to Hermes existed throughout Greece, Arcadia was a center of his cult. Hermoea[?] were the festivals in his honor, also especially prevalent in Arcadia.

Hermes was a psychopomp, meaning he brought newly-dead souls to the underworld, Hades. He also brought dreams to living mortals.

In addition to the flute and the lyre, Hermes invented many types of racing and the entire sport of boxing. Statues of Hermes stood at stadia and gymnasiums throughout Greece.

Hermai

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 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 BCE, 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.

Hermes In Art

Hermes was usually portrayed wearing a broad-brimmed or winged cap, winged sandals and the heralds staff. He wore the garments of a traveler, worker or shepherd. He was represented by purses, roosters and turtles.

Birth

Hermes was born on Mt. Cyllene[?] in Arcadia. The story is told in the Hymn to Hermes[?] attributed to Homer. His mother, Maia, had been secretly impregnated by Zeus, in a secret affair. Maia wrapped the infant in blankets but Hermes escaped while she was asleep. Hermes ran to Thessaly, where Apollo was grazing his cattle. The infant Hermes stole a number of his cows and took them to a cave in the woods near Pylos, covering their tracks. In the cave, he found a tortoise and killed it, then removed the insides. He used one of the cow's intestines and the tortoise shell and made the first lyre. Apollo complained to Maia that her son had stolen his cattle, but Hermes had already replaced himself in the blankets she had wrapped him in, so Maia refused to believe Apollo's claim. Zeus intervened and claimed to have seen the events, and siding with Apollo. Hermes then began to play music on the lyre he had invented. Apollo, a god of music, fell in love with the instrument and offered to allow exchange the cattle for the lyre. Hence, Apollo became a master of the lyre and Hermes invented a kind of pipes-instrument called a syrinx.

While Hermes was stealing Apollo's cattle, a shepherd named Battus witnessed it. Hermes made him swear to keep silent; Battus didn't and Hermes turned him to stone.

Adulthood

Hermes later invented the flute, which he bartered with Apollo (or Zeus) for, gaining a golden wand that Hermes used as his staff (see caduceus).

Hermes' Offspring

Pan

Pan was the son of Hermes and Dryope, a human princess. She was terrified of her ugly, half-goat baby so she ran away. Hermes took the baby to Mt. Olympus, where gods enjoyed the child's laughter and good nature. He became a god worshipped by shepherds and woodsmen particularly.

Abderus

Abderus was a son of Hermes who was devoured by the Mares of Diomedes. He had gone to the Mares with his friend, Heracles.

Hermaphroditus

Hermaphroditus was the third son of Hermes, with Aphrodite. He was changed into a hermaphrodite by the gods, responding to the pleas of Salmacis, whose love Hermaphroditus spurned.

Other Stories

Herse/Aglaulus/Pandrosus

When Hermes loved Herse, a jealous Aglaulus stood between them and refused to move. Hermes changed her to stone. Cephalus was the son of Hermes and Herse. Hermes also had a son, Ceryx, with Herse's other sister, Pandrosus. With Aglaulus, Hermes was the father of Eumolpus.

Argus/Io

Zeus loved the Argive princess Io and changed her into a cow to protect her from Hera. Hera suspected his deception and asked for the cow as a present. Zeus was unable to refuse and she placed the watchman Argus to guard the cow. Hermes, at the request of Zeus, lulled Argus to sleep and rescued Io but Hera sent a gadfly to sting her as she wandered the earth in cow form. Zeus eventually changed her back to human form, and she became, through her son with Zeus, Epaphus, the ancestress of Heracles.

Other Roles

Hermes saved Odysseus from both Calypso and Circe, by convincing the first to let him go and preparing Odysseus with an herb to protect him from Circe's spells. In addition, Hermes brought Eurydice back to Hades after Orpheus lost her for a second time. He also changed the Minyades into bats. He taught the Thriae the arts of fortune-telling and divination.

King Atreus of Mycenae retook the throne from his brother, Thyestes using advice he received from the wise trickster Hermes. Thyestes agreed to give the kingdom back when the sun moved backwards in the sky, a feat that Zeus accomplished. Atreus retook the throne and banished Thyestes.

Consorts/Children

  1. Aphrodite
    1. Eunomia
    2. Hermaphroditus
    3. Peitho
    4. Rhodos
    5. Tyche
  2. Aglaulus
    1. Eumolpus
  3. Herse
    1. Cephalus
  4. Pandrosus
    1. Ceryx
  5. Unknown mother
    1. Abderus
    2. Aethalides
    3. Echion[?]
    4. Myrtilus
    5. Pan
  6. Unknown Sicilian nymph
    1. Daphnis

External link


Hermes is the name of a commune of the Oise département in France.

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Hermes is also the name and trademark of Hermes of Paris, a luxury goods manufacturer and retailer located at 24, Rue du Faubourg, Saint-Honore, Paris, 75008, France.

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