Studio Tablinum: a few words would be enough to define god Hermes: theft, liar and swindler. To be honest, Hermes was also a generous god at times, and he was considered a wanderer as he was the gods’ messenger and emissary, moving freely between the world of mortals and the divine as well as between the world the living and the afterlife. He is the god of boundaries, a bridge between visible and invisible and he always arrives unexpectedly and quickly. Thanks to this ability of being everywhere and nowhere, gentle and unperceived, he is the patron of communications and travel as well as thefts; all the thieves around the world inevitably need a powerful protector in order to get themselves out of trouble.
Son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, he is considered one the twelve Olympians. His symbols were the rooster and the turtle and he was easy to identify with his clothing, hat, winged sandals, purse and Kerykeion, the wanderer’s stick. In order not to be caught by his wife Hera, Zeus secretly escaped from the bed at night and rushed to the cave where Maia, the Titan Atlas’ daughter, was waiting for him. From their union, Hermes was conceived. In the same evening of his birth, he escaped from his cradle and headed for the woods. The first thing that he saw was a turtle, an invulnerable and odd animal. Astonished, Hermes took the animal back to his cave and killed it with a knife, in the hollow shell he put seven strings made of sheep nerves; he then started playing them and at that very moment, a sweet and harmonious sound came forth: Hermes had invented the lyre.
Hermes also had a fervid and brilliant mind, he used to see things that others could not even imagine and this is the reason why he undertook a second adventure, when he was only one day old. He decided to steal the cows which were sacred to God Apollo. He left his musical instrument and headed for the mountains in Pieria, where the cattle of the Olympians pastured. He took away the herd, and he carefully made sure that the cows walked backwards not to leave prints on the sandy soul. He also wore huge shoes made of leaves and branches, thus it would have been suspected that the thief was a monster or a giant rather than an infant.
He then hid the herd in a safe place and killed two cows to eat them. It is thought that this last action caused the invention of fire and new cooking techniques. To sum up, after only twenty-four hours from his birth, the infant had already invented the lyre, the fire and the art of cooking.
When Apollo went to check his cattle, he realised that fifty cows were missing, the prints that he saw were nothing but confusing and he thought no one could leave such strange prints. He met a winegrower and asked him explanations, the latter was not brave enough to lie to the god of sun and narrated a strange anecdote, a child leading fifty cows walking backwards. The enraged Apollo went to the cave where Hermes was peacefully having a nap and, grabbing his ear, he took him up to Mount Olympus.
Before the Father of gods, Hermes swore that he did not know anything about the cattle as he was only an infant but Zeus scolded the child and ordered him to give back his ill-gotten gains. He also urged him to well behave, but Hermes never followed this suggestion because of his shrewd and furtive nature. However, to make peace with his own brother Apollo, he gave him the instrument he had earlier invented, the lyre. With the instrument in his hands, Apollo became the god of music.
As previously mentioned, Hermes was also the god of wanderers, merchants as well as thieves. He was an emissary travelling around the world and he was also the conductor of souls into the afterlife. The god gathered them and led them through the door to hell where they were condemned to stay in eternity. He used to accomplish this task every single night and this is the reason why Hermes was also identified as an esoteric divinity.
We also say that Olympus for the work he never failed, it was also used in the household chores like cleaning the table of the gods, after the banquet, or do their butler, in short, a sort of God “factotum.”
Its multiple events they see him help the demigod Perseus killing the Gorgon, procuring for the sickle of Perseus Zeus, his winged shoes, the helmet of Hades and the shield of Athena.
They see it on the big Caucasus in an attempt to convince the Titan Prometheus to reveal to him the prophecy about the end of the Gods Olympians but Prometheus, the Titan’s friend, refused to speak and thus prolonged the suffering of his prisoner.
Join, like the other gods, to the war of Troy siding with the Achaeans, though always protect the King Priam, especially when the old king went into the camp of the Greeks to claim the body of his son Hector.
Help the hero Odysseus in his return home, after the council of the gods that stable that the King of Ithaca could return to his island, he went by the nymph Calypso Hermes to persuade her to leave between Odysseus. The Messenger of the gods help Odysseus still giving him an antidote potions of Circe that turned men into animals.
The Loves of Hermes were different and all with bizarre consequences for his descendants, as the Messenger of the Gods ambiguous in its very nature, of course, also his offspring was somewhat extravagant.
The love goddess Aphrodite brought it to create a beautiful child named Hermaphroditus *. It is said that he Hermaphrodite beauty of Aphrodite and the vivacity of Hermes, in his name is the key of the illustrious parents, but it so happened that during a jaunt in the woods the handsome young man found himself near a source and decided to take a bath , not knowing that the Nymph Salmacis, the protector of the source, watching him interested in all that beauty and not just the boy dip in the fresh water source by Salmacis also in the water and joined him, the young Hermaphrodite, who did not want to join with Salmacis, I try to break free but the Nymph taken by a blind fury took a solemn oath to the gods: it is never the day when our two bodies will come off … this oath Pronunciation water came out of a being that was neither man nor woman, but both. She was featured as a girl but masculine attributes.
Another bizarre son of Hermes, had with the nymph Driope, was the mighty God Pan and wild. Hermes would have seduced the nymph of the mountains of Arcadia. Fell in love with her, the Gods Messanger was transformed into a goat and stealthily approached the nymph, once arrived in its vicinity with a leap was on him and abuse her. That’s why this union was born a god so whimsical and surreal, half man and half goat. It is said that when he saw this Driope his son he was so frightened that she left him in the woods. Pan was a god, like his father Hermes, who loved the woods, the pastures and the countryside, a great lover of sex and dance he used to chase the nymphs while playing his instrument, syringe or panpipes. He was also a god playful and appeared suddenly terrorizing ** shepherds and travelers emitting terrifying screams.
As a child of great cunning, in fact like his father Hermes, was Autolycus, father of Laertes and grandfather of Odysseus. He was born from the union of the Gods Messanger and Chione daughter Dedalione. Autolycus, a great thief, had the ability to steal anything from anyone without getting caught. He was also a member of the Argonauts and dispense advice to his grandson Odysseus during their encounter is not by chance Odysseus was crafty and deceiver.
As you understand we are dealing with a God of multiple capabilities, not always fair and clear, but for the Greeks Hermes was a god to which way to turn in the event of a practical need, before a trip, before the opening of a business or before a theft, it was good to have the God Hermes as protector.
The Next month we will discuss the events of the Goddess of Wisdom, Athena.
* Even today hermaphroditism define the phenomenon by which a species of animal or plant can produce, in both ways, the male gametes and the female ones.
** Even today we speak of “panic” for the sudden and unwarranted fears.