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Hermes and Mercury

By Jeremy J. Baer


Hermes was the son of Zeus, king of the gods, and a nymph named Maia. Immediately after birth he invented the lyre from a tortoise shell, as well as stealing his brother Apollo’s herd of cattle. The last was accomplished more with guile and dark humor than malice. This amoral cleverness would become a defining trait of Hermes.

Hermes soon became the herald of Zeus, and a special guide for those under Zeus’ protection. It is in this capacity he appears in both The Iliad and The Odyssey. Hermes was also thought to lead shades, or souls of the recently dead, to the waiting ferryman at the River Styx. He was the only god that could easily traverse the boundaries between earth, Olympus and Hades.

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