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Herm

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Herm from the Getty Villa

Herm from the Getty Villa

CC Flickr User Marshall Astor - Food Pornographer
Definition: A herm is a quadrangular stone sculpture, usually placed outdoors, serving as a boundary marker, signpost, milestone, or memorial. A herm has a bearded man's head, but no or stunted arms, yet the square slab often holds an erect phallus. The herm's vestigial arms or brackets may have served to hold drapery.

The name "herm" is related to Hermes, an ancient god associated with boundaries and fertility. Hermes is the god represented in the stone herms. Goldman thinks herms were originally carved for Dionysus from wood. Stone was easier to sculpt into the rectangular form. Herms were in use from the 6th century B.C. Goldman says Herodotus says the Athenians, who got the herm from the Pelasgians, spread use of it to the rest of Greece.

Sources:

  • "herm" The Oxford Dictionary of Art. Ed. Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • "The Origin of the Greek Herm"
    Hetty Goldman
    American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 46, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1942), pp. 58-68
Examples:
Romans had a boundary marker similar to a herm called a term named for the boundary god Terminus.

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