Symbols: Tortoise, caduceus (staff), winged sandals, winged cap, and rooster
Parents: Zeus and Maia
Children: Pan, Hermaphroditus, and Tyche
Abode: Mount Olympus
Roman name: Mercury
Hermes was a Greek god and one of the Twelve Olympians who lived on Mount Olympus. His main job was to serve as the messenger of the gods. He was able to travel very fast and could easily move between the realms of the gods, humans, and the dead. He was known as a cunning trickster.
How was Hermes usually pictured?
Hermes was usually pictured as a young, athletic god without a beard. He wore winged sandals (which gave him super speed) and sometimes a winged cap. He also carried a special staff called a caduceus which had wings at the top and was entwined by two snakes.
What powers and skills did he have?
Like all the Greek gods, Hermes was immortal (he couldn't die) and very powerful. His special skill was speed. He was the fastest of the gods and used his speed to carry messages for the other gods. He helped lead the dead to the Underworld and could put people to sleep with his wand.
Birth of Hermes
Hermes was the son of the Greek god Zeus and the mountain nymph Maia. Maia gave birth to Hermes in a mountain cave and then fell asleep exhausted. Hermes then snuck away and stole some cattle from the god Apollo. On his way back to the cave, Hermes found a tortoise and invented the lyre (a stringed musical instrument) from its shell. Apollo later found out about the theft and demanded his cattle back. When Apollo approached, Hermes began to play the lyre. Apollo was so impressed, he let Hermes keep the cattle in return for the lyre.
As the primary messenger of the gods, especially Zeus, Hermes shows up in many tales of Greek mythology. Both Hermes' speed and his skills as a speaker made him an excellent messenger. Hermes would carry commands from Zeus to other gods and creatures such as when he told the nymph Calypso to set Odysseus free in Homer's Odyssey. Hermes gained his speed from his winged sandals which allowed him to fly like a bird and move like the wind.
Because Hermes was clever, he was often considered the god of invention. He is credited with a number of inventions including the Greek alphabet, numbers, music, boxing, gymnastics, astronomy, and (in some tales) fire.
From his first act of stealing Apollo's cattle, Hermes became known as the god of thieves and trickery. In many tales, he doesn't use strength to win battles, but cunning and guile. Whenever Zeus needed something, or someone, retrieved, he would send the trickster Hermes. Zeus sent him to steal the sinews of Zeus back from the monster Typhon. Hermes also helped the god Ares to secretly escape from the Aloadai giants.
Interesting Facts About the Greek God Hermes
- He once took the guise of a slave trader and sold the hero Heracles to the Queen of Lydia. He also helped Heracles in capturing the three-headed dog Cerberus from the Underworld.
- He often had the job of rescuing and taking care of infants such as Dionysus, Arcas, and Helen of Troy.
- He would disguise himself as a traveler in order to test the hospitality of mortals.
- It was his job to fetch Persephone from the god Hades in the Underworld.
- He used his lyre to lull the hundred-eyed giant Argus to sleep and then slew the giant to rescue the maiden Io.
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