Hermes was the Greek god of commerce, athletes, literature, poetry, invention, trade, roads, boundaries, shepherds, merchants, music, luck, riches, good fortune and travellers. His name ‘Hermes’ literally means ‘boundary marker’. He is quick acting, cunning, adventurous and reflected as a trickster for his ingenious personality. Hermes the second youngest of the Olympian gods, is son of Zeus and the mountain Nymph Maia, goddess of clouds, one of the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas and one of the Pleiades. As a god, he was the swiftest, nobody could go anywhere faster than Hermes.
Hermes was born in Arcadia, southern Greece inside a cave on Mount Cyllene. He grew miraculously fast On his very first day of life, soon after his birth he was able to walk out of the cave and kill a tortoise. Hermes attached seven strings to the tortoise shell, one for each of the seven Pleiades, in honor of his mother, Maia; he created the first lyre. Accompanying himself on his newly created lyre, he celebrated his own birth.
He was also known as “the guide and giver of good” and inventive genius. Known for his swiftness and athleticism, Hermes was given credit for inventing foot-racing and boxing. He invented the pipes known as a syrinx (pan-pipes), which he made from reeds, and the credit of inventing the flute. He was considered to be the most entertaining, shrewd and resourceful god.
Hermes was the only one other than Hades and Persephone who was allowed to leave the underworld without consequences. With the ability to move swiftly between the world of man and the world of gods, he acted as a messenger of the gods, a link between mortals and the Olympians and a guide for the souls of the dead to the underworld and the afterlife. Being the herald and messenger of the gods, Hermes traveled from place to place, concluding treaties, implying the impression that he was the supporter of social communication, commerce among men, and that he was friendly towards man.
He occasionally tricked the other gods in an effort to protect humans. Hermes was known for his helpfulness to humans, using his ability as a immortal herald and his own resources. Hermes aided Perseus to plan and slay Medusa when Perseus set out on a quest to face the Gorgon monster. He guided him through the Hyperboreans’ land where most travelers perish, and flying him personally to the land where the Gorgons slept. Hermes lent the hero his magic sandals, which gave him the ability to fly, a helmet of invisibility and the sword needed to cut off Medusa’s head.
Hermes appeared as a young man, clothed in traveling clothes, usually with a winged staff held in his hands. He wore a flat, wide-brimmed hat known as “Petasus”, winged sandals that gave him the ability to fly and oftentimes was found to have wings attached to his shoulders and his hat. He also carries a bag which represented his role as the Greek god of riches, trade and good fortune.
Hermes’ winged staff was wrapped with snakes, or caduceus which allowed Hermes to gain access anywhere. The caduceus was given by Apollo and originally showed a willow wand accompanied by weaved ribbons. However, the ribbons were later replaced as snakes. To support this adjustment mythologically, a story developed for Hermes where he used the caduceus to depart two fighting snakes which immediately spiraled themselves together in peace. The staff was also able to charm men’s eyes to sleep or to wake up those who were tamed by Hypnos, the god of sleep.
Hermes was said to have invented speech. He was very skilled in speech and taught humans to learn many different languages. Hermes had great negotiation skills, clear, brief speech and verbal skills required to be a messenger. For many centuries men spoke in one tongue, before Hermes had explained and created the languages of men. He invented the alphabet, numbers, astronomy, music, gymnastics and weight measurement.
As a great negotiator he had good relationships with other gods like Zeus. Hermes had a close relationship with Zeus and accompanied him in the myth of Baucis and Philemon. Zeus appreciated Hermes’ wits highly and always asked for Hermes’ assistance throughout his decisions, especially when it came to cheating on his wife Hera.
In mythology Hermes didn’t only showed his ability of delivery but also bravery and intelligence. In the story of the giant Typhoeus, Hermes aided Zeus in the battle against it while all the other gods fled to Egypt in fear and hid themselves in animals forms. Zeus had stood alone disarmed and defeated against Typhoeus, the monstrous giant, but lucky Hermes and Aigipan came to his aid and restored his stolen strength. The beast cut out the sinews from Zeus’ hands, feet and hid them away in the skin of a bear, even so Hermes and Aigipan stole back the sinews and succeeded in replanting it back in Zeus
Hermes also used his ingenuity and literature abilities to persuade the nymph Calypso to release Odysseus, the wandering hero. Zeus sent Hermes to release Odysseus when Calypso had kept Odysseus captive, after he was shipwrecked on her island, Ogygia. In addition to that Hermes saved Odysseus and his men from being transformed into pigs by the goddess and sorceress Circe. He gave them herbs which resisted the spell.