In Greek mythology, Hermes was the fleet-footed messenger of the gods. His parents were Zeus, king of the gods, and Maia, one of the seven sisters known as the Pleiades. The Romans identified Hermes with Mercury, the god of merchants and trade, and they placed his main temple near the merchants' quarter in ancient Rome.
The Greeks looked upon Hermes as a patron of travelers, merchants, and thieves and as a bringer of good luck. Because of his reputation as a speedy messenger, the god became popular among athletes. Many ancient sports arenas had statues of the god. In later art, Hermes was usually depicted as a young man wearing winged sandals and a wide-brimmed hat with wings. He also carried a staff with two snakes known as a caduceus.
patron special guardian, protector, or supporter
While still an infant, Hermes killed a tortoise and used its shell to make a stringed instrument called a lyre. Soon afterward, he stole some cattle belonging to Apollo* and then returned to his cradle. When Apollo came looking for the animals, Hermes pretended to know nothing and told a cunning tale to prove his innocence. In the course of telling his tale, he stole Apollo's bow and arrows.
Zeus insisted that the cattle be returned, so Hermes brought Apollo to the place where they were hidden. There he took up his lyre and played so impressively that Apollo agreed to overlook the theft of the cattle if Hermes would give him the instrument. Hermes also handed back the bow and arrows he had stolen. Amused by the young god's antics, Apollo became his good friend and made Hermes the protector of herdsmen.
When Hermes grew up, he often came to the aid of other gods and mortals. He accompanied Zeus on many journeys and once helped him during a struggle with the monster Typhon. Another time, Hermes rescued Ares* when the god was imprisoned in a jar. He also played a role in arranging the return of Persephone* from the underworld. As a protector of travelers, Hermes escorted the spirits of dead mortals to the river Styx. Among the living mortals he assisted were King Priam of Troy*, Aeneas*, and Odysseus*.
underworld land of the dead
Hermes had love affairs with a number of goddesses and mortal women. The goddess he loved the most was Aphrodite*, with whom he had two children, Hermaphroditus and Priapus. Hermes was also the father of Pan, the god of shepherds and flocks who was half man and half goat.