Hermes is an interesting character from Greek Mythology, most commonly described as the messenger of the Gods. Depicted naked expect for a cloak and sometimes a hat, he is often shown sporting a beard and a staff with twin entwined snakes.
Who was Hermes?
Hermes was cunning and quick, with the ability to move freely between the divine and mortal worlds. This ability made him an intercessor between the divine and mortals and also a messenger of luck to the gods. Some Greek myths also portray Hermes as a trickster type character, in some way similar to the Norse God Loki.
Hermes in Greek Mythology
If Greek Mythology were a play, Hermes could be classed as a minor recurring character. He plays minor roles in many myths, but perhaps the most well known are the Iliad and the Odyssey.
In the Iliad he was described a bringer of good luck, and was firmly on the Greek side. He did, however, show the Trojans a sense of fair play when he protected Priam who ventured into the Greek camp to retrieve the body of his son Hector.
Hermes plays a more prominent role in the Odyssey, as a distant protector to his grandson Odysseus. In addition to warning Odysseus of traps and helping him to escape, he also escorts the souls of the suitors that Odysseus kills down to Hades realm.
What powers and skills does Hermes have?
He possessed typical Olympian strengths along with other powers and abilities such as:
- He was very quick at running and flying at godly speeds than the other Olympian gods
- Had extraordinary skills and hand at combat, especially wrestling
- Skilled musician
Hermes carried with him a staff that showed two entwined snakes, and is also often depicted with a musical instrument. The winged cap and winged sandals are also two of his most well known symbols.
What interesting children did he have?
Although Hermes did not marry, like most of the Olympian Gods he had numerous children. These children were both divine and mortal, with their offspring often featuring as heroes in later ages.
The two most famous children were Pan and Hermaphroditus, with others such as Autolycus and Priapus also being well known.
Pan was his son with the nymph, Dryope. Pan was the god of shepherds and flocks, the mountain winds, and the nymphs’ companion. His mother fled because he was born with goat-like appearance.
Autolycus (Prince of Thieves), was his son with Chione (a mortal). It is believed that Autolycus had the same skills as his father and was gifted a thief who couldn’t be caught. Autolycus was the grandfather of Odysseus.
He was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. He was the god of fertility, masculinity, gardens, fruit plants, livestock protector, and male genitalia. Priapism, a medical term, is born out of Priapus. He was represented by an oversized and permanent erection.
This was a half man, half woman deity. When taken into account with Priapus, it seems there may have been some influence from a former fertility God or Goddess.
What role does Hermes play in the Percy Jackson books?
The Sea of Monsters
His appearance to Percy on the beach motivates him to go on a quest. Hermes lends a helping hand to the young demigod and his friends by giving them magical items. He gave them a thermos (a compass), magical vitamins, and releases the winds from the earth’s four corners. He was hoping that Percy could rescue Luke (Hermes’ son) from Kronos. Later, Percy informs him that Luke could not listen to him and even fought each other. He understands by telling Percy there is still enough time to change Luke’s mind.
The Titan’s Curse
He defends Percy during his trial before the Twelve Olympians and even votes In favor of preserving Percy’s life. Also, he interrupts Apollo before he does a haiku. His conversation with Percy at the Olympian celebrations is interrupted by his caduceus.
The Last Olympian
Annabeth’s failure to escape with Luke gets him angry at her because he is afraid that Luke’s escaping chances are now very slim. Out of anger, Percy reminds him that he abandoned Luke as a kid and that is why Luke is angry at the Olympian family. However, Percy apologizes to him when Luke dies. He forgives him but is still mourning Luke’s death. Later, Percy forces the Olympian gods to an oath that they will take all of their offspring by age thirteen. Percy promises Hermes that he will personally escort his children from Camp Half-Blood.
Temples dedicated to Hermes
Unlike the majority of the Greek Gods, Hermes did not have temples dedicated in his honour. Instead, statues of Hermes were very common, either in shared shrine areas, or in public spaces. On the Greek island of Syros, the capital is named Ermoupolis which some people believe indicates that Hermes may have been a significant deity there.
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