The caduceus was the staff or rod carried by the messenger of the gods, known as Hermes to the Greeks and Mercury to the Romans. The caduceus became a powerful symbol of magic. In modern times, it has been associated with medicine.

The original caduceus was a staff adorned with two ribbons. Messengers and officials carried it to identify and protect themselves during a journey. According to legend, when Hermes threw his staff at two fighting serpents, the animals stopped biting each other and became entangled. The design of the caduceus came to include two entwined snakes, and the staff became associated with peace. Wings were later added at the top to represent the god's swiftness. According to some myths, the caduceus had magical powers, including the ability to cause mortals to fall asleep or to wake from slumber.

Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing, carried a similar staff with a single serpent wrapped around it. Modern physicians have adopted the caduceus as the symbol of their profession.

See also Asclepius ; Hermes .

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