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Hermés

HERMÉS

French design house

Founded: in Paris by Thierry Hermés in 1837 to manufacture bridles, saddles, and riding boots for the carriage trade. Company History: Company moved to rue de Faubourg in Paris, 1879; began accessories, including silk scarves, 1926; founder's grandson, Emile Hermés, established luggage and couture clothing in 1930s; Hermés scarf introduced, 1937; silk ties first sold, 1949; first fragrances, 1950 (later including Caleche, 1961; 24, Faubourg, 1995, and Hermés Rouge, 2001); glassware, tableware introduced, 1980s; initial public offering, 1993; Martin Margiela appointed ready-to-wear designer, 1997; purchases 35-percent stake in Jean-Paul Gaultier's design business, 1999; opened Madison Avenue store, New York, 2000. Company Address: 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris, France.

Publications

By HERMÉS:

Books

Hermés Handbook, New York, n.d.

How to Wear Your Hermés Scarf, Paris, 1986, 1988, 1994.

Baseman, Andrew, The Scarf, New York, 1989.

Hermés: Le Monde d'Hermés 1992, Paris, 1991.

On HERMÉS:

Books

Hermés Handbook, New York n.d.

Keller-Krische, Christiane, The Book of Scarves: Scarves, Shawls, and Ties Dressed with Imagination, 2000.

Articles

"A Boutique Where You Don't Just BuyYou Invest," in Vogue, October 1974.

Van Dyke, Grace, "Hermés: Old World Luxury in the New World," in USA Today, July 1984.

Dryansky, G.Y., "Hermés: Quality with a Kick," in Harper's Bazaar, April 1986.

"Scarves Everywhere," in the New Yorker, 30 January 1989.

Aillaud, Charlotte, "The Hermés Museum: Inspiration for the Celebrated Family Firm," in Architectural Digest, January 1989.

Beckett-Young, Kathleen, "Signature in the Social Register," in Connoisseur, June 1989.

Tompkins, Mimi, "Sweatshop of the Stars," in U.S. News & World Report, 12 February 1990.

Gandee, Charles, "Jean-Louis DumasHermés is Flying High," in House & Garden, August 1990.

Hornblower, Margaret, "As Luxe as It Gets," in Time, 6 August 1990.

"Hermés: Still in the Saddle," in WWD, 25 September 1991.

"Hermés of Paris, Inc.," in the New York Times, 5 October 1991.

Andrieu, Frederic, "European Accents: A Gold Brooch Here, a Quilted Bag There, and Hermés Scarves Everywhere," in Lear's (New York), January 1992.

Slesin, Susan, "Ah, the Horse: Hermés Introduces New Porcelain Pattern," in the New York Times, 21 May 1992.

Rotenier, Nancy, "Tie Man Meets Queen of England," in Forbes, 13September 1993.

Morris, Bernadine, "Five Designers Reveal a Sense of Calm in Paris," in the New York Times, 10 March 1994.

White, Constance C.R., "Hermés Seeks a New Image," in the New York Times, 20 March 1995.

Mead, Rebecca, "The Crazy Professor: Why was Paris Persuaded that the Radical Martin Margiela was Right for the Venerable House of Hermés?" in the New Yorker, 30 March 1998.

Strom, Stephanie, "Luxury in Recession Land; the Hermés of the World Find New Ways to Prosper in Japan's Weak Economy," in the New York Times, 29 October 1998.

Thomas, Dana, "Gaultier Goes for Growth," in the Newsweek International, 19 July 1999.

"Time and Again: Hermés Opens Boutique on Madison Avenue," in Elle, December 2000.

Taber, Andrew, "Hermés," [profile] available online at Fashion Live, www.fashionlive.com, 19 March 2001.

***

Emile-Maurice Hermés, grandson of founder Thierry Hermés, summed up the philosophy of his family's celebrated firm in the 1920s as "Leather, sport, and a tradition of refined elegance." Passed down over generations, the House of Hermés has been committed to quality in design and production for more than 160 years. At the dawn of the 21th century, the name Hermés continues to represent the ultimate in French luxury.

Hermés began as a Parisian leather goods shop in 1837, making finely wrought harnesses, bridles, and riding boots for the carriage trade. As early as 1855 Hermés was earning accolades, winning first prize in its class at the 1855 Paris Exposition. Thierry's son Emile-Charles established the current flagship store at 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, where he introduced saddlery and began retail sales. Emile-Charles sold his stake in the company to his brother, Emile Maurice, who in turn was the true visionary of the Hermés family.

With the advent of the automobile, the firm adapted its careful saddle stitching techniques to the production of wallets, luggage, handbags, watchbands, and accessories for golfing, hunting, and polo playing, and began to design couture sportswear. All were made with the same fine materials and attention to detail as the original leather wares, and the firm continued to build on its reputation for quality. Hermés made fashion news in the 1920s by designing one of the first leather garments of the 20th century, a zippered golfing jacket, for the Prince of Wales. For a time the zipper was called the fermature Hermés, because of its European impact (Emile-Maurice had bought a two-year patent on the unusual Canadian invention).

The fourth generation of proprietors were two sons-in-law, Jean Guerrand and Robert Dumas. Guerrand and Dumas added scarves and perfume to the line, while the leather artisans remained loyal, often staying on for decades. Into the 1960s the company continued to expand, with the introduction of new styles and fragrances. Jean-Louis Dumas, the son of Robert Dumas, became président-directeur général in 1978.

The 1980s were a period of unprecedented growth for the firm. Hermés benefitted from the revival of status dressing. Women sported the crocodile-skin Kelly bag (named for Grace Kelly), the Constance clutch, brightly colored leathers, sensuous cashmeres, bold jewelry, tricolored spectator shoes, and silk ballet slippers. For men, Hermés made leather jackets with sherpa lining and trim, gabardine blazers and dashing greatcoats, and richly patterned silk ties. Dumas introduced new materials like porcelain and crystal, expanding the line to some 30,000 items. It is to the firm's credit that they have never licensed any of their products, but keep tight control over the design and manufacture of this vast range of goods. Thus every leather-bound datebook, porcelain teapot, silk waistcoat, scarf, and handbag is made under a watchful Hermés eye.

One of the most visible and bestselling items in the Hermés line is the scarf, or carré as they are called. The carefully printed, heavy silk scarves are coveted for the air of Parisian style they impart. Many of the carrés feature equestrian motifs, as well as other symbols of prestige, like coats of arms, banners, and military insignia. Women boast of how many they own, and hand them down through generations; some of the scarves end up as framed wall-hangings or are made into pillows. The firm corresponds regularly with Hermés addicts trying to collect every scarf on the books, and reports that during the holiday season in the Paris store, a scarf is sold every 20 seconds. Queen Elizabeth II was pictured on an English postage stamp with an Hermés scarf wrapped around her royal head. Each scarf could be considered a small symbol of all of the carefully made luxury goods Hermés has produced for generations.

Hermés, rarely one to keep pace with trends, astonished the fashion world with the appointment of decontructionist Martin Margiela as its ready-to-wear designer in 1997. The Dutch eccentric, known for his savage avant-garde designsoften literally ripping the seams of garments and haphazardly stitching them back togetherproved an excellent albeit bizarre fit. The first Margiela collection debuted in March 1998 and was well received. Andrew Taber, writing for Fashion Live, found the collection "quietly subversive" and further commented, "Margiela's sweeping camel coats and unstructured layers of cashmere and deerskin were timeless, serene, and utterly luxurious in their lack of ostentation."

Though many had their doubts when Jean-Louis Dumas brought Margiela into the Hermés fold, the designer brought a hint of radicalism into the lap of conservative luxury. Another move into the fashion left came with the purchase in 1999 of a 35-percent stake in Gaultier Couture, the company of fashion bad boy Jean-Paul Gaultier. Gaultier got funds for expansion; Hermés extended its empire to keep up with luxe conglomerates like LVMH. Yet the recent additions of Gaultier and Margiela far from tarnished the Hermés name; the company's clothing and accessories have continued to transcend fashion. The Hermés look relies not on trends but on the finest materials, exquisite construction, and the instinctively casual chic of French style.

Over the course of the 20th century and into the 21st, the cut of the clothing and the palettes may have changed, but the classic quality of Hermés designs have remained constant. Beyond mere status symbols, the firm's goods are the embodiment of simplicity and elegance in extremely well made and durable products. Whether it be a jacket of meltingly soft leather, a paisley silk dressing gown, a Kelly bag, a valise, or a carré, an Hermés purchase comes with the assurance that it will be stylish and appropriate for a lifetime. With more than 215 Hermés stores around the world and countless boutiques in high-end department stores in Europe, Asia, and the U.S., the Hermés name has certainly gained more prominence, but its goods land not in the hands of the masses but in the chosen few.

Kathleen Paton;

updated by Nelly Rhodes

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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.

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Hermes

Hermes in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Maia, the messenger of the gods, and god of merchants, thieves, and oratory. He was portrayed as a herald equipped for travelling, with broad-brimmed hat, winged shoes, and a winged rod. His Roman equivalent is Mercury.

He was also associated with fertility, and from early times was represented by a stock or stone (a Herm), generally having a human head carved at the top and a phallus halfway up it. As patron of flocks and herds, he may be shown carrying a lamb or a calf, and thus may be taken as the equivalent of Christ as the Good Shepherd.
Hermes Trismegistus a legendary figure regarded by Neoplatonists and others as the author of certain works on astrology, magic, and alchemy. Latin Trismegistus means ‘thrice-greatest Hermes’, in reference to Thoth, identified with Hermes.

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Hermes

Hermes

In Greek mythology, Hermes was the fleet-footed messenger of the gods. His parents were Zeus, king of the gods, and Maia, one of the seven sisters known as the Pleiades. The Romans identified Hermes with Mercury, the god of merchants and trade, and they placed his main temple near the merchants' quarter in ancient Rome.

The Greeks looked upon Hermes as a patron of travelers, merchants, and thieves and as a bringer of good luck. Because of his reputation as a speedy messenger, the god became popular among athletes. Many ancient sports arenas had statues of the god. In later art, Hermes was usually depicted as a young man wearing winged sandals and a wide-brimmed hat with wings. He also carried a staff with two snakes known as a caduceus.

patron special guardian, protector, or supporter

While still an infant, Hermes killed a tortoise and used its shell to make a stringed instrument called a lyre. Soon afterward, he stole some cattle belonging to Apollo* and then returned to his cradle. When Apollo came looking for the animals, Hermes pretended to know nothing and told a cunning tale to prove his innocence. In the course of telling his tale, he stole Apollo's bow and arrows.

Zeus insisted that the cattle be returned, so Hermes brought Apollo to the place where they were hidden. There he took up his lyre and played so impressively that Apollo agreed to overlook the theft of the cattle if Hermes would give him the instrument. Hermes also handed back the bow and arrows he had stolen. Amused by the young god's antics, Apollo became his good friend and made Hermes the protector of herdsmen.

When Hermes grew up, he often came to the aid of other gods and mortals. He accompanied Zeus on many journeys and once helped him during a struggle with the monster Typhon. Another time, Hermes rescued Ares* when the god was imprisoned in a jar. He also played a role in arranging the return of Persephone* from the underworld. As a protector of travelers, Hermes escorted the spirits of dead mortals to the river Styx. Among the living mortals he assisted were King Priam of Troy*, Aeneas*, and Odysseus*.

underworld land of the dead

Hermes had love affairs with a number of goddesses and mortal women. The goddess he loved the most was Aphrodite*, with whom he had two children, Hermaphroditus and Priapus. Hermes was also the father of Pan, the god of shepherds and flocks who was half man and half goat.

See also Apollo; Caduceus; Hermaphroditus; Pan; Persephone; Pleiades; Priam; Styx; Underworld; Zeus.

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Hermes

Hermes In Greek mythology, god identified with the Roman Mercury. Represented with winged hat and sandals and carrying a golden wand, Hermes was the messenger of the gods and patron of travellers and commerce.

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Hermes (in astronomy)

Hermes, in astronomy: see asteroid.

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Hermes

Hermes •Andes •Hades, Mercedes •Archimedes • Thucydides • aphides •Eumenides, ParmenidesMaimonides, Simonides •Euripides • cantharides • Hesperides •Hebrides •Aristides, bona fides •Culdees •Alcibiades, Hyades, Pleiades •Cyclades • antipodes • Sporades •Ganges • Apelles •tales, ThalesAchilles, Antilles •Los Angeles • Ramillies • Pericles •isosceles • Praxiteles • Hercules •Empedocles • Sophocles • Damocles •Androcles • Heracles • Themistocles •Hermes • Menes • testudines •Diogenes • Cleisthenes •Demosthenes •Aristophanes, Xenophanes •manganese • Holofernes • editiones principes • herpes •lares, primus inter pares •Antares, Ares, Aries, caries •antifreeze • Ceres • Buenos Aires

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Hermes

HERMES

HERMES was recognized in Mycenaean tablets, and his nature was described in early Greek poems as that of a clever mediator among the gods or between gods and men, or as an archetypal messenger. Hermes gave the kings of Mycenae the scepter of Zeus (Homer, Iliad 100108) and the lamb with the golden fleece, a fatal pledge of royalty for the Pelopides (Euripides, Orestes 9951000). The ancient authors show the Peloponnesus as the most ancient and important environment where Hermes' cult had developed, but inscriptions and monuments show him worshiped everywhere in the Greek world. The Homeric Hymn to Hermes describes him as the son of Zeus and the nymph Maia, locates his abode in a cave of Cyllene, and ascribes to him the invention of the lyre, made from a tortoise shell.

Hermes is also reported to have stolen fifty sacred cows from Apollo's herdhe hid the theft by forcing the cows to walk backwards in order to produce reversed tracks. Hermes then discovered a means to light a fire, ritually sacrificed two of the cows, then returned to his cave. Apollo discovered the thief in spite of all Hermes' tricks, but his wrath was assuaged when he saw the lyre and accepted it in exchange for the two cows Hermes had sacrificed. This trade was considered to be the beginning of commerce.

Apollo granted Hermes the power of prophecy known to three sacred women at Delphi, and Zeus made him the lord of every herd and the only messenger to Hades (Homeric Hymn to Hermes 550572). The same myth also appears in the Ichneutai of Sophocles (fr. 314 Radt) and a Persian version of a Hellenistic novel, the Vamiq and Adhra (see Hägg, 1989). Hermes' symbol is the herald's staff and his speed is symbolized by little wings on his boots and cap. The ancestry of the Attic priests Kerykes (literally, "heralds") descended from Hermes (e.g., Pausanias 1.38.3).

Hermes was also worshiped by shepherds (Semonides, fr.18 Diehl; Homer, Odyssey 14.435436); Pan, the god of sheep farming, was his son. Statues of Hermes often depict him with a ram. In addition, Hermes granted fertility to cattle and was thus often represented as a phallus (Paus. 6.26.5) or as a phallic stele called a herma. Like Hercules, Hermes stole cattle from the world of gods in order to take them to the world of humans.

Hermes was worshiped by travelers, whom he protected and guided, and he was the focus of a cult in which heaps of stones where piled near roads (Hesychius, s.v. hermaioi lophoi ). The mythic origin of these heaps was the trial of Hermes, who was judged by the gods after he had killed Argos, the Argive cowherd, causing Io, a priestess of Hera who had been transformed into a cow, to run away from the herd. Hermes was charged for this murder, but he was carrying out an order of Zeus when he killed Argos, and the gods voted to acquit Hermes by throwing stones, forming the first hermaic heap. Thus, Hermes was called the Argiphontes (Killer of Argos). The murder of Argos was another crime that caused the passage of cattle from the herd of a god (Hera in this case) to the world of humans. In fact, the temples of Hera at Argos and in other towns owned sacred cows, which were used for sacrifices. The astuteness of Hermes and his friendship with humans earned for him the character of a trickster, a clever inferior god who gave people every means of civilization (Burkert, 1984). Hermes was venerated as a giver of fortunethe adjective hermaios meant gainful and the noun hermaion referred to an unexpected piece of luck.

The cave of Hermes was a passageway to the netherworld. In the Odyssey (24.114) Hermes acts as the psychopomp and leads by his staff the souls of the Proci through the cave to the doors of Helios and the asphodel meadows, abode of deceased souls. As messenger of the underground realms, Hermes is often appealed to in curse tablets, or defixiones, together with Hades and Persephone. Hermes was sometimes considered an inferior or servant god (Aeschylus, Prometheus 954, 966, 983) and his cult included subordinate people and even slaves (Athenaeus 14.636 B), although free people and kings (e.g., Odysseus in Homer, Odyssey 10.275306) were helped by him as well.

Hermes played a role in the rituals that preceded weddings; together with the nymphs, Pan, and Aphrodite, he was worshiped by brides (Torelli, 1977, p. 166). At Samothracia, Hermes was identified with one of the Kabeiroi (Scholium to Apollonius Rhodius 1.916), and Herodotus (2.51) maintains that the Athenian phallic hermae derived from a Samothracian tradition. Hermes was also worshiped in the mysteries of Andania in Messenia (Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum 736). By the spring of Salmakis, near Halicarnassos, Hermes and Aphrodite were thought to be the parents of a beautiful boy who was beloved by the nymph of a spring; the boy refused the spring's love, but when he entered the water of Salmakis she embraced him and together they transformed into Hermaphroditos (Ovidius, Metamorphoses 4.285388).

According to Apollodorus (3, 28) and many Greek statues, the child Dionysos was entrusted to Hermes to protect him from the wrath of Hera. Hermes became increasingly important in the education of youth; his image and that of Heracles were the most frequently dedicated in gymnasia. The feature of Hermes as the hermeneus, the divine interpreter and god of wisdom, underwent much development after the teaching of Plato (Cratylos 407 E408 B). Thus Hermes became the medium between gods and humans, a medium often thought of as the Logos, the word of god (Diogenes of Babylon, Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, III, 234235), the divine revelation, and even the donor of language to humans.

Hermes' image and mythology were lent to the Roman and Italic god Mercurius, who was called Turms in Etruria. The Falisci worshiped him as Titus Mercus, the Campani as Mirikus. His name indicates that Mercurius was the god of the merx, the wares, a god to whom mercatores (merchants) were especially devoted. In this capacity, Hermes was normally depicted as holding a money bag. The character of the ancient Mercurius cult in Rome was plebeian; his temple near the Circus Maximus was dedicated in 495 bce by the plebeian centurion Laetorius (Livius 2, 27, 56), and his festival was celebrated on May 15. At Mercurius's spring near Porta Capena, merchants ritually purified themselves and their wares (Ovidius, Fasti 5.663692). The cult was entrusted to the fraternity of the Mercuriales, who were guarantors of commercial law, as the Fetiales were of the law of war.

In the second and first centuries bce the community of Italic merchants at Delos organized a cult of thanks to the Hermaistai, a body of six magistri (Bruneau, 1970, pp. 585589). Colleges of Mercuriales were often engaged in the cult of the emperor. In a private cult, Hermes was worshiped and represented in the Lararia. He was thought to be the father of the two Lares, born of Lara, a nymph whom Hermes raped as he led her to the netherworld. Hermes was also reputed to be the lover of the prophetic nymph Carmenta, and with her the father of Evander. People seeking profits threw stones into heaps at crossroads in honor of Mercurius (Martin of Bracara, Correction of the Peasants 7). In imperial times Hermes' staff also became a symbol of peace (Gellius 10, 27, 3) and reason (Julian, Contra Heracleion 234 B; Ammianus 25, 4, 14).

Hermes granted his image, his name, and his myth to a number of local gods of other cultures so that they could be reconceived in a Greek or Roman fashion. A local Hermes was recognized by Herodotus (5, 7) as the god worshiped by Thracian kings. Among the Germans, Mercurius (identified with Wodan) was worshiped with human sacrifices (Tacitus, Germania 9). Among the Gauls, Mercurius was widely worshiped (Caesar, De bello Gall. 6, 17, 1), and the Church Fathers condemned human sacrifices in his honor (Minucius Felix, Octavius 6, 1; Tertullianus, Apology 9; Scorpiace 7). The personality of the Roman Mercurius, god of roads and merchants, perhaps also concealed the figure of Teutates, ancient god of the community, who introduced civilization.

In the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire the tendency toward a solar henotheism, supported by Chaldaeans and Stoics, gave Hermes the solar character we find particularly at Baalbek-Heliopolis. Here Mercurius Heliopolitanus was worshiped in a triad composed of him, Jupiter, and Venus; and Hermes was seen as a solar god who protected cattle and vegetation. Hermes was also identified with the morning star, the messenger of the sun called Azizos at Edessa (Iulian, Hymn to Helios 34). In the Mithraic religion the planetary god Mercurius protected the first initiatic grade and was symbolized by the raven, considered to be the herald of the sun god. The initiates of this grade served as waiters at sacred dinners, according to the function of the god in Olympus.

In Egypt Hermes was identified with Thot, the god of wisdom and the scribe of the gods. Later in imperial times, a new god, Hermanubis, was created in order to identify Hermes with Anubis, who prepared the dead for their travel to the netherworld. Like Hermes, both Thot and Hermanubis hold a herald's staff.

See Also

Soul, article on Greek and Hellenistic Concepts.

Bibliography

Bettini, Maurizio. Le orecchie di Hermes: Studi di antropologia e letterature classiche. Torino, Italy, 2000.

Brown, Norman Oliver. Hermes the Thief: The Evolution of a Myth. Madison, Wis., 1947.

Bruneau, Philippe. Recherches sur les cultes de Délos à l'époque hellénistique et à l'époque impériale. Paris, 1970.

Burkert, Walter. "Sacrificio-sacrilegio: Il 'trickster' fondatore." Studi Storici 25 (1984): 835845.

Combet-Farnoux, Bernard. Mercure romain: Le culte public de Mercure et la fonction mercantile à Rome de la République archaïque à l'épopque augustéenne. Rome, 1980.

Eitrem, Samson. Hermes und die Toten. Oslo, 1909.

Freud, Sigmund. The Acquisition and Control of Fire (1932). In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, translated by James Strachey, vol. 22. London and New York, 1961.

Hägg, T. "Hermes and the Invention of the Lyre: An Unorthodox Version." Symbolae Osloenses 64 (1989): 3673.

Kahn, Laurence. Hermès passe: or, les ambiguïtés de la communication. Paris, 1978.

Kerényi, Károly. Hermes der Seelenführer: Das Mythologem vom männlichen Lebensursprung. Zurich, 1944. Translated by Murray Stein as Hermes: Guide of Souls. Rev. ed. Woodstock, Conn., 1996.

Raingeard, Pierre. Hermès psychagogue: Essai sur les origines du culte d'Hermès. Rennes, France, 1934.

Torelli, Mario. "I culti di Locri." In Locri Epizefirii: Atti XVI Congresso Magna Grecia. Naples, Italy, 1977.

Vernant, Jean-Pierre. "Hestia-Hermès: Sur l'expression religieuse de l'espace et du mouvement chez les Grecs." In his Mythe et pensée chez les Grecs: Études de psychologie historique, 3d ed., vol. 1, pp. 124170. Paris, 1971. Translated as Myth and Thought among the Greeks (London and Boston, 1983).

Versnel, Hendrik S. Inconsistencies in Greek and Roman religion, vol. 1, Ter Unus: Isis, Dionysos, Hermes; Three Studies in Henotheism. Leiden and New York, 1990. See pages 206251.

Attilio Mastrocinque (2005)

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Hermes

Hermes

Nationality/Culture

Greek

Pronunciation

HUR-meez

Alternate Names

Mercury (Roman)

Appears In

Hesiod's Theogony, Ovid's Metamorphoses, the Homeric Hymns

Lineage

Son of Zeus and Maia

Character Overview

In Greek mythology , Hermes was the fleet-footed messenger of the gods. His parents were Zeus (pronounced ZOOS), king of the gods, and Maia (pronounced MAY-uh), one of the seven sisters known as the Pleiades (pronounced PLEE-uh-deez). The Romans identified Hermes with Mercury (pronounced MUR-kyoo-ree), the god of merchants and trade, and they placed his main temple near the merchants' quarter in ancient Rome.

The Greeks looked upon Hermes as a protector of travelers, merchants, and thieves, and as a bringer of good luck. Because of his reputation as a speedy messenger, the god became popular among athletes. Many ancient sports arenas had statues of the god.

Major Myths

While still an infant, Hermes killed a tortoise and used its shell to make a stringed instrument called a lyre. Soon afterward, he stole some cattle belonging to Apollo (pronounced uh-POL-oh) and then returned to his cradle. When Apollo came looking for the animals, Hermes pretended to know nothing and told a cunning tale to prove his innocence. In the course of telling his tale, he stole Apollo's bow and arrows.

Zeus insisted that the cattle be returned, so Hermes brought Apollo to the place where they were hidden. There he took up his lyre and played so impressively that Apollo agreed to overlook the theft of the cattle if Hermes would give him the instrument. Hermes also handed back the bow and arrows he had stolen. Amused by the young god's antics, Apollo became his good friend and made Hermes the protector of herdsmen.

When Hermes grew up, he often came to the aid of other gods and mortals. He accompanied Zeus on many journeys and once helped him during a struggle with the monster Typhon (pronounced TYE-fon). Another time, Hermes rescued Ares (pronounced AIR-eez) when the god was imprisoned in a jar. He also played a role in arranging the return of Persephone (pronounced per-SEF-uh-nee) from the underworld , or land of the dead. As a protector of travelers, Hermes escorted the spirits of dead mortals to the river Styx (pronounced STIKS). Among the living mortals he assisted were King Priam of Troy, Aeneas (pronounced i-NEE-uhs), and Odysseus (pronounced oh-DIS-ee-uhs).

Hermes had love affairs with a number of goddesses and mortal women. The goddess he loved the most was Aphrodite (pronounced af-ro-DYE-tee), with whom he had two children, Hermaphroditus (pronounced hur-maf-ro-DYE-tuhs) and Priapus (pronounced pry-AY-puhs). Hermes was also the father of Pan , the god of shepherds and flocks who was half man and half goat.

Hermes in Context

Athletics, an activity associated with Hermes, was very important to ancient Greek men, who valued physical perfection. Every Greek city contained at least one gymnasium, a private area designed for activities such as running, wrestling, and throwing the discus (a heavy, flat disc) or javelin (a spear). Gymnasium activities were reserved for young men, and were the main form of exercise in Greek society. Many of the activities popular in ancient gymnasia have continued into modern sports as events in the Olympic Games.

Hermes is an eloquent trickster, capable of talking himself out of most of the trouble his mischievous actions get him into. The fact that he is appreciated by the other gods reveals that the ancient Greeks valued cunning and eloquence.

Key Themes and Symbols

As the messenger of the gods, Hermes represents both eloquence (required when speaking on behalf of the gods) and speed (required for delivering messages and relaying communication). The theme of eloquence is illustrated in the story about the theft of Apollo's cattle; young Hermes tells a tale that captivates Apollo and removes him from suspicion, and later plays his lyre so beautifully that Apollo forgives the boy.

Hermes in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

As the protector of people from many different backgrounds—from thieves to shepherds to poets—Hermes was one of the more popular gods in ancient Greek art. Over time, Hermes came to be depicted as a young man wearing winged sandals and a wide-brimmed hat with wings. He also carried a staff with two snakes known as a caduceus (pronounced kuh-DOO-see-uhs).

In modern times, Hermes appeared as a character in the 1997 Disney animated film Hercules, voiced by musician Paul Shaffer. As the Roman Mercury, the god has lent his name to—among other things—a chemical element, a brand of automobile, and the closest planet to the sun in our solar system.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

In the early myths of Hermes, the infant god steals several items from Apollo. Instead of punishing the boy, Apollo is impressed by his talent. What do you think this indicates about the ancient Greek view of theft? Do you think Americans share this attitude?

SEE ALSO Apollo; Pan; Persephone; Underworld; Zeus

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