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Hermes - A Thief, Inventor, and Messenger God

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Hermes - Not Always a Messenger God
Lekythos of Hermes

Lekythos of Hermes. c. 480-470 BC. Red figure. Attributed to the Tithonos Painter

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Hermes (Mercury to the Romans), the fleet-footed messenger with wings on his heels and cap symbolizes fast floral delivery. However, Hermes was originally neither winged nor a messenger -- that role was reserved for the rainbow goddess Iris*. He was, instead, clever, tricky, a thief, and, with his awakening or sleep-conferring wand (rhabdos), the original sandman whose descendants include a major Greek hero and a noisy, fun-loving god.

    *In the Iliad, Iris is the messenger god and in the Odyssey, it's Hermes, but even in the Iliad (Book 2), there is a passage where in the words of Timothy Ganz, Hermes serves as courier:

    "Then King Agamemnon rose, holding his sceptre. This was the work of Vulcan, who gave it to Jove the son of Saturn. Jove gave it to Mercury, slayer of Argus, guide and guardian. King Mercury gave it to Pelops, the mighty charioteer, and Pelops to Atreus, shepherd of his people. Atreus, when he died, left it to Thyestes, rich in flocks, and Thyestes in his turn left it to be borne by Agamemnon, that he might be lord of all Argos and of the isles."

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