Hermes: Winged Messenger Essay

990 words - 4 pages

To many ancient cultures, including the Greeks, mythology was a literal part of their histories. The Greeks in particular used myths to explain natural phenomena and many other occurrances (Greek Mythology...). The foremost way that this was done was by attributing such occurrances to either the wrath or pleasure of gods created to lord over various dominions. One of these gods revered by the Greeks was Hermes, the winged messenger of the gods.

Hermes, known to the Romans as Mercury, was originally a fertility god, and then became the god of roads and travel (Forty 286,288). He was also known as Hermes Psychopompos, because he escorted souls to Hades(Carlyon 172, Hermes...). Eventually, many other fields fell under his wide jurisdiction. He became responsible for increase in the animal world, as well as being the god of commerce, manual skill, oratory and eloquence, thieves and the wind. He was even the patron of athletes, especially wrestlers, basically all activities that required skill and dexterity (Zimmerman 124, Bullfinch 29). He had many children by various godesses and mortals, including Pan, his son by Dryope, Cephalus, by Herse, and Ceryx, by Pandrosus. He had many children with the goddess Aphrodite, including Hermaphroditus, also known as Atlantius, Eunomia, Peitho, Rhodos, and Tyche (Carlyon 174, Hermes...). He also fathered the infamous thief Autolycus, by Chione (Zimmerman 124).

Hermes was the son of the god Zeus and the nymph Maia (Schwab 754). He was born in a cave on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia, and within hours of his birth had already committed his first larceny (Hermes...). He left the cave while his mother slept, going to Piera, where Apollo pastured his cattle. The child stole the cattle, forcing them to walk backwards to confuse the trail. When he was seen by a man named Battus, he swore the man to secrecy. Battus broke his promise and was turned to stone by the god. Once he arrived at his destination, the river Alpheius, he made the first fire on earth and sacrificed two of the cattle to the gods in the first flesh offering made on earth. He then returned to the cave and feigned sleep. Soon, Apollo realized what had happened and went to the cave to confront the young god. Hermes feigned innocence and the matter was brought to Zeus, who asked Hermes to return the cattle. Hermes reluctantly did so. During these proceedings, Apollo heard Hermes play the lyre, an instrument he had invented. Apollo so loved the sound of this instrument that he offered Hermes several divine offices, such as protector of herds and the art of divining with pebbles, for it. Hermes readily agreed to the trade. At this time, he was also made herald to the gods by Zeus, who found his attitude greatly amusing (Tripp 299-301). He was given a staff, the caduceus, a winged helmet, the petasus, and a pair of golden winged shoes, the talaria. These devices allowed him to fly swiftly to deliver news and messages. As the god of travel and travelers,...

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