The Greek God of Travelers and Troubleshooting

Sign at the Athens Airport
deTraci Regula

Here's a quick introduction to Hermes, the Olympian Greek God of travelers, craftiness, merchants, music and fast motion.

Hermes' Appearance: A handsome young man with a winged hat, winged sandals, and a golden staff twined with serpents.

Hermes' Symbol or Attribute: His staff, called kerykerion in Greek, 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 Cylene 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).

Some 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.

Basic Myth: 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.

Interesting Fact: 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.

More Fast Facts on Greek Gods and Goddesses:



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