Hermes, in Greek religion and mythology

Hermes, in Greek religion and mythology, son of Zeus and Maia. His functions were many, but he was primarily the messenger of the gods, particularly of Zeus, and conductor of souls to Hades. He was god of travelers and roads, of luck, of music and eloquence, of merchants and commerce, of young men, and of cheats and thieves. He was credited with having invented the lyre and the shepherd's flute. His most typical monument, the herma or herm, was a stone pillar which usually had a carved head on top and a phallus in the center, probably representing the god in his original role as the giver of fertility. The Hermaea, a riotous festival, was celebrated in his honor. In art, as exemplified by the statue The Flying Mercury by Giovanni Bologna (Bargello, Florence) Hermes is represented as a graceful youth, wearing a wide-brimmed winged hat and winged sandals and carrying the caduceus. A famous statue by Praxiteles, which is located in the Heraeum at Olympia, Greece, shows Hermes with the child Dionysus. The Romans identified Hermes with Mercury.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient Religion