One of the most well-known ancient Greek gods is no other than Hermes. Known as Mercury to the Romans, God Hermes was the Olympian messenger god, a deity featured in countless mythical stories. Here are ten facts about Greek god Hermes (Ερμής) you need to know if you are interested in Greek mythology.
Facts About Hermes
- Hermes was more than a messenger god
- God Hermes stole Apollo’s cattle
- The dark side of god Hermes
- Hermes and Aphrodite were lovers
- God Hermes had children
- Zeus was Hermes’ father
- Hermes’ winged sandals and helmet
- God Hermes’ favorite hero was Perseus
- Shopping streets and brands named after Hermes
- Hermes as a Jungian archetype
Hermes was more than a messenger god
Although known as the messenger god of Mount Olympus, the role of god Hermes was far more broad in ancient Greek mythology. He was the god of trade, wealth, luck, language, and travel. All of these were considered interconnected in ancient Greece after all. God Hermes was the most mischievous of all the gods and he was considered the guide between the realms of the divine and humanity.
God Hermes stole Apollo’s cattle
Hermes was also the protector of thieves and shepherds. This belief had its roots in a myth that wanted Hermes stealing 50 cows from Apollo just few hours after he was born. Hermes drove the cows backwards to confuse Apollo who tried to trace his cattle. Therefore, ancient Greeks often viewed the god as mischievous – he was basically the trickster god of ancient Greece! Before he stole the cattle from Apollo, the young god had already killed a turtle and some sheep and made the first lyre with their carcasses. The young god was able to use his lyre to impress Apollo, the god of music, and make him get on his good side.
The dark side of god Hermes
Apart from his mischievous side, god Hermes also had a much darker side. The messenger god did mediate in the exchange of messages between gods and between the gods and humans through dreams. He also helped humans travel from one place to another. But, at the same time, he helped humans reach their final destination: Hades. Hermes was also known with the name “psychopomp”, which in Greek translates as “the one who leads the souls”. He, along with Charon, the boatman of the souls, helped people reach Hades after their death. For this reason, Hermes was considered both an Olympian and a chthonic deity.
Hermes and Aphrodite were lovers
Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and romantic love, had many love interests. One of them was Hermes. The trickster god was initially rejected by Aphrodite. But he was able to win her heart by acquiring her sandal with the help of an eagle sent by Zeus. Just like in most parts of life, Hermes succeeded in love thanks to his cunningness.
God Hermes had children
You may have heard the term “Hermaphroditus”, which is a combination of the names of Hermes and Aphrodite. You may also know that it is a synonym for “androgynous”, a creature, person, or style that is both feminine and masculine. It all goes back to a myth following Hermes and Aphrodite’s love story. The two gods had a son together who was named after them. A nymph fell in love with him and asked to be united with him eternally. But she wasn’t careful enough with what she wished for; the gods merged the two together, creating an androgynous creature.
Zeus was Hermes’ father
Zeus was always on Hermes’ side and seemed to be amused rather than annoyed by the god’s tricks. When Apollo was furious at him or when Aphrodite rejected him, Zeus supported Hermes. That is because he was one of the god’s illegitimate children. Hermes mother was Maia, one of the seven sisters or Pleiades who were the companions of goddess Artemis.
Hermes’ winged shoes
If you hear the name Hermes, a few objects might come to mind. These include his winged sandals, known as ptenopedila in Greek or talaria in Latin, and his winged helmet. It is said that wings appeared on his sandals in later versions of the myths featuring Hermes. They helped him not only move faster but also leave no traces behind him whenever he played one of his tricks. His helmet, on the other hand, was created for him from the Cyclopes and god Hephaestus.
God Hermes’ favorite hero was Perseus
Hermes once offered his winged sandals to a mortal he admired. That was no other than Perseus, the hero who destroyed Medusa. The hero achieved that with the help of a set of items offered to him by the gods, including Hermes’ talaria. Hermes and Perseus were actually half-brothers, since they both had Zeus as their father.
Shopping streets and brands named after Hermes
God Hermes is still associated with commercial activities in Greece, to the point where most shopping streets across the country are named after him. If you have walked on Ermou street in Athens, then you have walked on a street named after the god. Hermes has also inspired countless brands across the globe. The Greek National Post has its winged helmet as part of its logo. Other shipping companies are named after him, including Hermes Group, and countless fashion brands such as Adidas are inspired by his winged sandals.
Hermes as a Jungian archetype
Hermes has also inspired the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. One of the Jungian archetypes is that of Hermes. The god symbolizes the messenger who mediates between our conscious and unconscious mind. Since dreams are now considered messages from the unconscious, it comes as no surprise that ancient Greeks believed that Hermes is responsible for their dreams. For all these reasons, Hermes is considered a helper to the psychoanalysts, guiding them through the psychotherapeutic process.
These were some facts about the messenger god Hermes. At Helinika’s channel and at helinika.com you will find more videos on Greek mythology, but also on the Greek language and culture. You can subscribe and I encourage you to check the description for some recommendations and discount links. These include my own Greek-language course on Udemy, and merchandise that is designed for Helinika’s audience. That includes YOU; therefore, take some time to check it out. Till next time!