Hermes the Greek God of Travelers

Architectural details, Grand Central Station, New York, New York

Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Hermes, the Olympian Greek God of travelers, craftiness, merchants, music and fast motion is depicted as a handsome young man with a winged hat, winged sandals and a golden staff twined with serpents.

The Myth of Hermes

Hermes is the herald of the gods and also leads human souls into and occasionally out of the underworld. Zeus used him as a troubleshooter and secret-agent type, dispatching him to take care of assorted problems. For example, he put the many-eyed Argos to sleep so lovely Io could escape from Zeus's outraged wife Hera. Hermes also arranged for Odysseus to slip away from Callisto, among many other tasks. He is definitely an ally of Zeus.

Hermes shows up in the Roman pantheon under the name Mercury and is also associated with the Egyptian god of wisdom, Tahuti or Thoth. As a deity of religious mysteries or wisdom, he is sometimes called Hermes Trismegistus, or Hermes the Thrice-Great. He also is said to have invented the lyre from a turtle shell.

Major Temple Sites of Hermes

Generally, Hermes did not have temples. His statue was placed everywhere, and square blocks of marble showing a head and the male genitalia were called "Herms" and set up in many places. On these statues, Hermes is generally shown with a beard, which is not always indicated when he is shown in vase paintings and other images.

Though temples exclusively for Hermes were rare, the capital town of the Greek island of Syros is named Ermoupolis (City of Hermes) which may indicate a special reverence for the god there in ancient times.

Fast Facts About Hermes

Hermes' Symbol or Attribute: His staff is called kerykerion in Greek or caduceus in Latin. This is the symbol used by doctors showing two snakes entwined around a staff, though Hermes' connection with healing is faint. He is, however, the god of merchants. His winged hat and winged sandals are also key ways to recognize his image.

Hermes' Strengths: Clever, bold, determined, athletic, and a powerful magician. Can charm monsters with his flute or lyre music.

Hermes' Weaknesses: No major weakness unless you count seldom staying still for long. Hermes has it together.

Birthplace of Hermes: Born in a cave on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia to Maia, who had just slept with his father Zeus the night before. Talk about quick consequences!

Spouse: Hasn't settled down yet.

Children of Hermes: By his affair with Dryope, Pan, lusty god of the wild; by the Goddess of Love Aphrodite, Hermaphroditus, a half-man, half-woman deity; Abderus (mother unknown).