Hermes

Hermes

  Hermes, Greek God
of The Road

Hermes, The Messenger,
Known by Many Names,
God of the Marketplace and the Patron of Thieves
Father of Alchemy,
Psychopompus, Guide to the Underworld,
And Hermes the Divine Herald.
Hermes, the Greek god also known
as the Roman god Mercury.

Hermes


Hermes, Greek God of The Road

The Greek God Hermes was favored with many divine responsibilities, chief of which was to serve as a personal assistant and messenger for his father Zeus, ruler of the Olympian deities. Known for his swiftness and athleticism, for Hermes this seemed an ideal assignment.

Soon another great talent of Hermes was to be discovered -- he was an excellent communicator, both articulate and persuasive. A skillful negotiator, the Greek god Hermes was quickly promoted to become Zeus' "roving ambassador".

Hermes

The Greek god Hermes revealed his true nature at a tender age. The son of Zeus and Maia, a timid star-goddess who lived in a mountain cave, Hermes was a precocious child. During his first day of life, Hermes snuck out of his cradle, found a tortoise just outside the cave, and invented the lyre by fastening strings across the turtle's back.

Of course he spent a few minutes teaching himself to play it sweetly, but, soon bored he took off to explore the world, Whereupon he encountered a herd of cattle belonging to his half brother Apollo. Hermes decided to take a few for himself, culling the finest of the herd to take with him. The little thief was so clever he taught the cattle to walk backwards to foil anyone trying to follow them!

Hermes

But there was a witness to the crime, an elderly shepherd named Brattus. Hermes bribed him to be silent and sacrificed a couple of the cattle, dedicating a portion to each of the twelve Olympian deities. It is believed that Hermes thus invented the practice of animal sacrifice, and he became known as the protector of sacrificial animals and shepherds.

At any rate it was foolish to think he could deceive Apollo who had the gift of prophecy (foresight). Indeed, Apollo soon realized what had happened and who was responsible. Confronting Hermes in his cradle, the angry Apollo hauled the infant into court. Their father, the great Zeus himself, was to try the case.

Zeus found Hermes guilty and ordered him to return the cattle, but just then Hermes pulled out his lyre and started playing. Apollo, the god of music, was intrigued with the musical instrument that Hermes had invented. As a way of apology for all the trouble he had caused, Hermes gave the lyre to Apollo, and the grateful Apollo in return told Hermes to keep the cattle he had stolen. Soon the two were best of friends.

Zeus, too, was impressed with young Hermes who soon became a handsome young man and an exceptional athlete. It was said that he ran faster than the wind. With his keen eye for talent, Zeus appointed Hermes as his personal messenger, as the god of commerce and the marketplace, and as protector of all gymnastic games. greek gods

The skill and trustworthiness of the Greek god Hermes was so highly valued that Zeus appointed him to be the Psychopomp, the guide who escorted the souls of the dead to their new home in the Underworld.

Hades, ruler of the Underworld, gave Hermes the freedom to come and go as he pleased --a privilege granted to very few, for the rule was that once you entered the Underworld you were never allowed to leave.

Always "on the go" carrying messages for Zeus and the other gods and goddesses, Hermes was worshipped as the god of the roads, the god who protected travelers. Citizens of Greece erected posts or pillars of stone on the roads and at gates to honor him -- those were called "herms". The name "Hermes" actually means "pillars".

When Zeus appointed Hermes the Divine Herald, he awarded him a cap with two small wings and a pair of winged sandals that could carry him across water as well as land. Zeus ordered everyone to give Hermes their full respect. (Note: Now his image is recognized as the logo for florists' delivery service...not quite the type of respect that Zeus imagined!)

Zeus also gave him a herald's staff, encircled with two white ribbons. Later these ribbons were replaced by two snakes, entwined around the staff. Legend has it that Hermes encountered two snakes who were engaged in mortal combat with each other. Driving his staff between the two to separate them, he persuaded them to reach a peaceful solution and, in appreciation, they coiled around his staff and remained in perfect harmony, accompanying him on his travels. Today we recognize this image as the caduceus, a symbol adopted by modern medicine. (Note: the earlier symbol of the physician was the staff of Asclepius having only one snake.)

Later, serving as the messenger of Zeus, Hermes quickly became known as the "God of the Roads", offering his protection to travelers. As a traveling man himself, Hermes wasn't inclined to settle down and never married. He did, however, seems to have a girlfriend in every town and fathered numerous children, many of whom became well known, e.g. the god Pan, Priapus, and Hermaphroditus.

greek myths

In his role as messenger of the gods, Hermes had the opportunity to make quite a name for himself -- and to be featured in countless myths as a supporting actor....making arrangements for many of Zeus's love affairs (and "cleaning up the messes after his jealous wife took her revenge), helping his favorite mortals perform their heroic deeds, and performing a few acts of heroism himself.

Just a few of the fascinating exploits of Hermes: Hermes rescued the unborn Dionysus from certain death, loaned Hades helmet of invisibility to Perseus so he could slay the Medusa, protected Odysseus from enchantment by witchcraft, rescued Zeus' lover Io whom Hera had turned into a cow, freed Ares from captivity in the bronze jar, and ever restored Zeus to good health when his tendons had been frayed in his battle with the fearsome Typhon.

The myths of Hermes reveal his ingenuity, creativity, mental and physical quickness, and his friendly nature. According to Greek mythology, western civilization owes much to Hermes -- the invention of stringed musical instruments, astronomy, our system of weights and measures, the alphabet, boxing and the gymnasium are all attributed to the Greek god Hermes.

The Symbols of the Greek God Hermes

  • Lyre
  • Sheep
  • Cattle
  • Pillars
  • Tortoise
  • Roosters
  • Winged helmet
  • Winged sandals
  • Caduceus (staff with two entwined snakes)
  • the Planet Mercury
  • Pouches, purses, and bags

 

Which god are you?  Hermes?
Or one of the other
Greek gods?

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