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My Favourite Planet > English > People > Hermes

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Hermes

Ancient Greek mythology, religion and art

In Greek myth Hermes (Greek, Ηερμες, Ἑρμῆς; also Ἑρμείας, Hermeias; known to the Romans as Mercurius, Mercury), god of dexterity, messenger and guide, was the son of Zeus and the nymph Maia, daughter of Atlas and one of the Pleiades. He was born in a cave on Mount Kyllene (or Cyllene; Greek, Κυλλήνη), Arcadia, in the Peloponnese. He was the father of Pan and Hermaphroditus.

Shortly after his birth he is said to have killed a tortoise and used its shell and intestines to make the first lyre. He later gave the lyre to Apollo as compensation for cattle he had stolen from him (see more about Hermes, the tortoise and the lyre on Stageira gallery page 19). He was also credited with inventing language itself.

Apart from being inventive, a trickster and a thief, he was a swift messenger and errand boy of the gods, and is often shown with wings on his head, on a cap, petasos (πέτασος, a broad-brimmed sun hat) or helmet, or on his ankles or sandals. His other attribute and symbol was the kerykeion (κηρύκειον, herald's staff or wand; known in Latin as caduceus), a wand entwined with two snakes, and sometimes with wings, which he used to induce sleep and healing (see photos below).

He was the second youngest of the Olympian gods, which may account for the fact that the elder deities were always sending him on errands. He is often portrayed as a protector of his younger half-brother Dionysus.

Hermes was given several epithets, and there were so many stories about or involving him, and so many statues and herms of him on roads, at markets and gymnasiums, outside houses and other buildings, that it seems obvious that he was a very popular deity for all classes of people. However he was not worshipped or honoured with temples in the same grand style as other gods such as Zeus, Apollo, Athena or Artemis; sanctuaries of Hermes were usually quite modest.

Like many of the Greek gods, he was endowed with numerous skills, attributes and responsibilities as patron of various human professions and activities, including trade, thievery and travel - in this world and the next, since he also guided the dead to the underworld, as Hermes Psychopompos (Ἑρμῆς Ψυχοπομπός, Guide of Souls). Thus he was associated with death as well as sleep and dreams.

Hermes' association with markets and commerce may have developed from his more ancient role as the master of animals, wild and domesticated, a herdsman and tender of horses and mules. According to Hesiod, he also regulated the number of animals owned by farmers; animals and their products were among the most important indicators of wealth and purchasing power, especially before the introduction of coinage.

His multi-skilled and multi-tasking existence leads one to think that he was a composite or replacement for various earlier pre-Olympian and local deities. His attributes and responsibilities also overlapped with those of other deities, for example Hypnos (Ὕπνος, Sleep) and his brother Thanatos (Θάνατος, Death) who are also depicted with wings on their heads, as well as Morpheus (Μορφεύς) the god of dreams.

In Greek art Hermes was often depicted as a mature bearded male, but from at least the late Archaic period period (6th century BC) he was also portrayed as young, clean-shaven and with an athletic build, as was his half-brother Dionysus. However many later works, particularly herms and Archaistic statues (imitating the style of the Archaic period, 8th - 5th centuries BC), he was still shown with a beard.

He is often shown alone, but from early votive works he carries a ram, in his role as Kriophoros (κριοφόρος, ram bearer), the good herdsman and shepherd later also to become a symbol of Christ.

In a similar role, he carries his infant half-brother Dionysus to save him from the vengeance of Hera, and takes him to be raised secretly by nymphs (see photos below).

As Hermes Psychopompos, he is seen leading the souls of the deceased to the underworld, particularly on funerary monuments and vase paintings. In this connection he also appears with Hades (Pluto), the god of the underworld, and on votive works at sanctuaries of Pan (his son) and the nymphs.
 
Sections on this page

Hermes / Mercury in ancient
Greek, Etruscan, Roman art
The kerykeion (caduceus)
Herms of Hermes
Bearded Hermes
Hermes Kriophoros
Youthful, beardless Hermes
Hermes Psychopompos
Hermes with other gods
Hermes with the infant Dionysus
Inscriptions and dedications to Hermes
Hermes, Io and Argos
The Judgement of Paris
Hermes / Mercury and commerce
 
References to Hermes
on My Favourite Planet
 
The Herm of Hermes from Pergamon,
"a copy of Hermes Propylaios by Alkamenes".
Including photos and articles about herms,
showing Hermes with a beard.

Pergamon gallery 2, page 15
 
A winged head of Hermes, from Pergamon.
With photos and articles about sculptures
and paintings of Hermes without a beard.

Pergamon gallery 2, page 16
 
A relief of Hermes with his caduceus on a column
drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus:

Selcuk gallery 1, page 3
 
Reliefs of Hermes on the Clivus Sacer (Sacred Way),
at the Ephesus archaeological site:

Ephesus gallery 1, page 9

A herm of Hermes in Athens at My Favourite Planet

Herm of Hermes of the "Pergamon type".
Pentelic marble. 1st century BC - 1st
century AD. Provenance unknown.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
Inv. No. 107.
Marble head of a bearded Hermes from Daphni, Attica at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of a bearded Hermes.

1st - 2nd century AD.
Found at Daphni, Attica.

Probably from a herm. The hair
is tied with a ribbon, and the
curls of the beard end in spirals.

National Archaeological Museum,
Athens. Inv. No. 1611.
 
Marble head of Hermes in Rome at My Favourite Planet

Head of Hermes.

Roman period copy of a 4th century BC
Greek original. Island marble. From Rome.

Barracco Museum, Rome. Inv. No. MB 159.
 
Head of Hermes on a tetradrachm coin from Ainos, Thrace at My Favourite Planet

Head of Hermes on a tetradrachm coin
from Ainos, Thrace (today Enez, Turkey),
circa 469-452 BC.

Hermes faces right, wearing a petasos with
a row of dots above the brim. Several coins
of this type were minted by Ainos in the
5th - 4th centuries BC, and later another
type showing Hermes facing frontally. On
the reverse of some coins is a male goat,
and on others a kerykeion (caduceus).

Altes Museum, Berlin.
Hermes and two sphinxes on an Attic black-figure amphora by Sophilos at My Favourite Planet

Bearded Hermes, holding a kerykeion (caduceus), standing
between two sphinxes on the neck of an Attic black-figure amphora.
A late work of the Athenian vase painter Sophilos, circa 580 BC.

Found at Marathon, in the tumulus of the Athenians
who died during the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 1030.
Hermes between two sphinxes on a black-figure olpe at My Favourite Planet

Beardless Hermes, holding a kerykeion, standing between two sphinxes.

Detail of an Attic black-figure olpe (jug), made in Athens
about 600-580 BC, in the manner of the Gorgon Painter.
Found at Nola, Campania, southern Italy.

British Museum. GR 1867.5-8-1010 (Vase B 32). Blacas Collection.
 
Hermes The kerykeion (caduceus)
Detail of the kerykeion from Syracuse at My Favourite Planet   An inscribed bronze kerykeion from Syracuse, Sicily at My Favourite Planet
A bronze kerykeion (caduceus) from Syracuse, Sicily.
On the shaft is the inscription ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΟΝ ΔΑΜΟΣΙΟΝ.

Around 480-470 BC. Height 51.1 cm, width 8.8 cm, weight 440 grams.

A keryx was a messenger or crier in private or public service with a function
in political, judicial, military and religious contexts. The kerykeion (κηρύκειον;
Latin, caduceus) was the herald's staff carried by kerykes, and often buried
with them as a symbol of their status. They were also dedicated in temples.

This is one of six full-size ancient kerykeions from
Greece and Italy on display in the Hamburg museum.

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Inv. No. 1978.61 / St. 337.
Stiftung für die Hamburger Kunstsammlungen.
 

A bronze kerykeion (caduceus) from Longane, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

A bronze kerykeion, inscribed in Greek
"I am Longenaian public property",
from Longane, northeastern Sicily.

Made in Sicily, around 450-420 BC.

British Museum.
Inv. No. GR 1875.8-10.3 (Bronze 319).
 
 
Hermes Herms of Hermes
See more photos and information about herms on Pergamon gallery 2, page 15.
An adorant making offerings to a herm at My Favourite Planet

A red-figure kylix (wine cup) with a painted tondo
depicting an adorant making offerings to a herm.

5th century BC. From Akraiphnio (Ἀκραίφνιον, ancient
Akraiphia, Ἀκραιφία), Boeotia, central Greece.

Thebes Archaeological Museum.
Marble herm from the propylon of the Sanctuary of Apollo, Delos at My Favourite Planet   Hermes from the propylon, Delos at My Favourite Planet
Marble herm from the propylon of the Sanctuary of Apollo, Delos.

341/340 BC. A copy of the herm now stands in front of the remains of the propylon,
(or propylaia) the monumental entrance at the south of the sanctuary (see below),
built by the Athenians around 150 BC to replace an earlier gateway.

Delos Archaeological Museum, Greece. Inv. No. A 7756.
Marble herm from the Prytaneion, Delos at My Favourite Planet   Detail of the Prytaneion herm, Delos at My Favourite Planet
Large marble herm from the Prytaneion (πρυτανεῖον), southeast of the
Sanctuary of Apollo, Delos. A copy now stands at the site (see below).

4th century BC.

Delos Archaeological Museum, Greece. Inv. No. A 7759.
 

Marble Archaistic head of Hermes in Delos at My Favourite Planet

Marble Archaistic head of Hermes from Delos.

Hellenistic period, after a prototype of 430 BC.

Delos Archaeological Museum, Greece.
Inv. No. A 6960.
 
Archaistic head of Hermes from the Stoa of Antigonos, Delos at My Favourite Planet

Marble Archaistic head of Hermes,
Hellenistic type.

From the Stoa of Antigonos, Delos.

Delos Archaeological Museum, Greece.
Inv. No. A 5594.
Head of a herm from the House of Hermes, Delos at My Favourite Planet

Marble Archaistic head of a herm of Hermes, from the
House of the Herms (or House of Hermes), Delos.

1st century BC, probably derived from a
work by Kallimachos, 5th century BC.

Delos Archaeological Museum, Greece. Inv. No. A 4118.
Marble herm from the Agoroa of the Competaliasts, Delos at My Favourite Planet   Hermes Propylaios, Delos at My Favourite Planet
Marble herm from the Agoroa of the Competaliasts, Delos.

Late 2nd - early 1st century BC.

Delos Archaeological Museum, Greece. Inv. No. A 6992.
Reliefs of a hydria and a kerykeion, Theatre of Dionysos, Athens at My Favourite Planet

The lower part of a marble double-headed herm, found in 1914 in the area
of the Odeion of Pericles, next to the Theatre of Dionysos, Athens, during
excavations directed by Greek archaeologist Panagiotes G. Kastriotes.

The front is bisected by a vertical incised line, to the left of which is a relief
of a hydria (or stamnos), and to the right a kerykeion. It has been suggested
that the herm may have been a boundary marker between the Sanctuary of
Dionysus Eleuthereos and an unknown sanctuary of Hermes.

Theatre of Dionysos, Athens. Inv. No. NK 2342.
 

Marble herm from Pompeii in Naples at My Favourite Planet

Marble herm from Pompeii. 1st century AD.

National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Inv. No. 27730.
 
Marble herm from Herculaneum in Naples at My Favourite Planet

Marble herm of Mercurius
from Herculaneum.

National Archaeological Museum,
Naples.
 
Hermes Bearded Hermes

Herm of Hermes, Curtius B type in Dresden at My Favourite Planet

An Archaistic herm of Hermes, Curtius B type.

First half of the 1st century AD, "after an
original dating from the later 5th century BCE".
Height 47 cm, width 31 cm, depth 27 cm.

Skulpturensammlung, Albertinum, Dresden.
Inv. No. Hm 069.
 
Head of a herm of Hermes from Ostia at My Favourite Planet

An Archaistic head of a herm of Hermes
from Ostia, near Rome.

2nd century AD. Pentelic marble.
Found in 1910 in the Decumanus,
near the theatre of Ostia.

Ostia Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 88.

Described in the official guidebook as
"a copy of Hermes Propylaios by Alcamene".
One of many herms claimed to be copies of
an original attributed to Alkamenes, based
on a mention of a depiction of Hermes at
the Propylaea of the Athens Acropolis.
See Pergamon gallery 2, page 15.
 
Hermes Hermes Kriophoros

Bronze statuette of Hermes Kriophoros at My Favourite Planet

Bronze statuette of Hermes
Kriophoros (ram-bearer).

Work of a Peloponnesian
workshop, 550-525 BC.

National Archaeological
Museum, Athens.
Helen and Antonios
Stathatos Collection.

Bronze statuette of Hermes Kriophoros from Andritsaina, Arcadia, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Bronze figurine of Hermes
Kriophoros (ram-bearer) wearing
winged boots. This figure and that
in the photo, left probably held
a kerykeion in the right hand.

Circa 550 BC.
Confiscated from the area of
Andritsaina, Arcadia, Peloponnese.

National Archaeological Museum,
Athens. Inv. No. 12347.

Terracotta statuette of a youth holding a ram at My Favourite Planet

"Youth holding a ram",
perhaps Hermes Kriophoros.

Painted terracotta statuette
from a Boeotian workshop,
mid 5th century BC. [1]

National Archaeological
Museum, Athens.
Helen and Antonios
Stathatos Collection.
 
In the Archaic statuettes of Hermes from the Peloponnese, he is shown wearing a conical hat similar to the pilos (πῖλος) worn by Odysseus and the twin Spartan heroes the Dioskouroi.

Both bronze figures show a bearded figure wearing a chiton tunic with a zig-zag pattern around the collar and a thin belt around the waist. He carries a ram with his left arm, and originally held a kerykeion (caduceus) in his right hand. The Andritsaina figurine (centre) has an elaborate floral crest on top of the hat, high sandals with attached wings and decorated shin pieces.

Although representations of Hermes Kriophoros (Κριοφόρος, ram-bearer) have been interpreted as being associated with the solemn sacrifice of a ram, Pausanias related a local myth from the Boeotian city of Tanagra, in which the god was credited with saving the city from plague by walking around the city walls carrying a ram on his shoulders. He also mentioned a statue of Hermes Kriophoros made for the city by the 5th century BC sculptor Kalamis, which was later depicted on Roman coins of the city.

"There are sanctuaries of Hermes Ram-bearer [Kriophoros] and of Hermes called Champion [Promachos]. They account for the former surname by a story that Hermes averted a pestilence from the city by carrying a ram round the walls. To commemorate this Calamis made an image of Hermes carrying a ram upon his shoulders. Whichever of the youths is judged to be the most handsome goes round the walls at the feast of Hermes, carrying a lamb on his shoulders.

Hermes Champion is said, on the occasion when an Eretrian fleet put into Tanagra from Euboea, to have led out the youths to the battle; he himself, armed with a scraper like a youth, was chiefly responsible for the rout of the Euboeans. In the sanctuary of the Champion is kept all that is left of the wild strawberry tree under which they believe that Hermes was nourished. Nearby is a theatre and by it a portico. I consider that the people of Tanagra have better arrangements for the worship of the gods than any other Greeks. For their houses are in one place, while the sanctuaries are apart beyond the houses in a clear space where no men live."

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 9, chapter 22, section 1. At Perseus Digital Library.
 
 

Bronze statuette of a youth carrying a ram from Crete at My Favourite Planet

Archaic bronze statuette of a youth
carrying a ram on his shoulders.

Around 620 BC. From Crete.
Height 18.1 cm

Altes Museum, Berlin.
Inv. No. Misc. 7477.
Purchased 1880 in Athens.
 
Bronze statuette of Hermes Kriophoros, Pergamon Museum, Berlin at My Favourite Planet

Bronze votive statuette of a bearded
man, wearing a hat, chiton and boots,
carrying a ram in his left hand. Probably
Hermes Kriophoros. The figure held a
kerykeion (caduceus) or shepherd's
staff in the right hand.

550-530 BC. From the sanctuary of
Apollo or the shrine of Pan Nomios
(Νόμιος, shepherd) at Agios Sostis
(Άγιος Σώστης), Mount Lykaion
(Λύκαιον ὄρος), Arcadia, Greece.
Height 9.8 cm.

State Museums Berlin (SMB).
Inv. No. Misc. 10781. Purchased 1906.
Terracotta plaque showing Hermes carrying a ram at My Favourite Planet

Fragment of a terracotta plaque showing a bearded Hermes carrying a ram
on his shoulders. He wears a petasos (πέτασος, broad-brimmed hat), holds
his kerykeion in his right hand, and a cloak hangs from his left arm.

Made in Medma, southern Italy, around 450 BC.

British Museum. GR 1865.7-12.29 (Terracotta 1224).
Altar relief of Hermes Kriophoros in Athens at My Favourite Planet

Detail of a fragmentary altar with a relief of a bearded
Hermes Kriophoros, with a kerykeion (caduceus) in his
left hand, and a cloak hanging from his left forearm.

1st century BC copy of a 5th century BC Archaistic prototype.
Pentelic Marble. Found in Athens. Height 44 cm, width 27 cm.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 54.

Although the relief is badly damaged, the quality of the sculpting can still be appreciated in fine details such as the god's hair, face and torso, as well as the folds of the garment. The long hair at the back of the head is folded up and held in place by a headband. A side lock falls from behind the ear to the chest, and above the forehead are three rows of snailshell curls.

The naked Hermes holds the ram's back legs in his right arm and the front legs in the smaller left hand. Both face in the same direction, to the right, and appear quite relaxed. The god is not necessarily depicted here as very much older than on the statue below, although such bearded figures in ancient art are often referred to as "mature".
 
Statue of Hermes Kriophoros from Corinth at My Favourite Planet

Fragmentary Archaistic statue of a bearded Hermes Kriophoros.
Thick side locks fall from behind each ear to the chest, and
around the forehead are two rows of snailshell curls.

Roman period. From the Forum of Ancient Corinth.

Corinth Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. S-686.

Pausanias mentioned a bronze Hermes standing in the open among statues of other deities (Poseidon, Apollo, Aphrodite, Zeus and Athena) in the Forum of Corinth, and a temple built for another bronze statue of Hermes:

"There are two bronze, standing images of Hermes, for one of which a temple has been made."

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 2, chapter 2, section 8. At Perseus Digital Library.
 
Statue of Hermes Kriophoros, Barracco Museum, Rome at My Favourite Planet

Fragmentary statue of a beardless, youthful Hermes Kriophoros (ram bearer).

Roman period, 1st century BC copy of a Classicistic original.
Found near Rome. Pentelic Marble. Height 43 cm.

Barracco Museum, Rome. Inv. No. MB 83.

The naked, athletic youth appears quite radiant, and the ram too is charming. The young god has three rows of snailshell curls around his forehead, but apart from this Archaic reference the treatment of the two figures reflects the realism of the Classical period. You can almost feel the weight of the ram.  
 

Ceramic figurine of Hermes carrying a ram from Amphipolis at My Favourite Planet

Ceramic figurine of beardless
young Hermes carrying a ram.

Amphipolis Archaeological
Museum.
 
Relief of Cryophorus Pastor, Capitoline Museums, Rome at My Favourite Planet

Relief of Cryophorus Pastor
on the panel of a sarcophagus.

Parian marble. 250-300 AD.
From Porta Salaria, Rome.

The young shepherd wears a short tunic,
high shoes and a shoulder bag, and carries
a ram on his shoulders. The iconograpy of
the cryophorus, known since the 7th century
BC, became associated with happiness,
kindness and philanthropy, and was adopted
as a Christian symbol of salvation through
Christ as the "good shepherd".

Centrale Montemartini,
Capitoline Museums, Rome.
Marble relief of Hermes with a ram, on a pedestal on the Clivus Sacer, Ephesus at My Favourite Planet

Marble relief of young, beardless Hermes with a ram, on a pedestal on the south side
of the "Clivus Sacer" (Sacred Way), Ephesus. Roman period, 1st - 4th century AD.

Ephesus archaeological site, Turkey.

Two matching marble pedestals (bases for statues or pillars, or altars?) stand on either side of the bottom of the "Clivus Sacer" (Sacred Way) in Ephesus, below to the northwesten corner of the Upper "State" Agora. The west sides of the pedestals, facing downhill to the lower city, are each decorated with a similar relief of Hermes leading an animal.

The relief on the south side of the street (on the right as you come up the street, see Ephesus gallery page 12) shows Hermes with a ram (photo above). The messenger god is depicted as a naked, athletic youth with winged sandals, walking to the left. In his left hand he holds a winged kerykeion (caduceus), and with his right hand he holds onto the head of the reluctant-looking ram walking behind him. He steps forwards on the toes of his right foot, while his lower left leg is raised behind him, revealing the ram's rather obvious testicles. To his left is an altar, hung with a wreath and with a phiale (libation bowl) on top, indicating that the image is concerned with a sacrifice, perhaps to Apollo.

Only the bottom half of the relief on the north side (photo right) has survived. Hermes walks to the right and holds the head of a male goat with his left hand. It is almost a mirror image of the other relief, so that the depictions of Hermes face each other and the roadway.

Such Roman period images of Hermes leading an animal to be sacrificed (see also the statue from Troezen and the relief from Odessos, Bulgaria below), bring into question interpretations of the earlier Kriophoros images of the god as the "good shepherd", saving or caring for his flock, a notion developed by Christian tradition. It seems that the god was merely bringing the ram to the slaughter.

The adjacent side of each pedestal, facing the roadway, has a relief of a Delphic tripod with an omphalos and a plaque containing an image of the Mistress of Animals (Potnia Theron), a deity associated with Artemis.

The workmanship of the reliefs is quite poor, although a lot of work has been put into the details, such as the fleece of the ram.

The reliefs may refer to the healing god Asklepios, Apollo's son, and have been associated with an Asklepion or healing centre thought to have been located nearby. Alternatively, they may have been connected with the adjacent Prytaneion, or the Upper Agora.

The pedestals have been dated to somewhere between the 1st and 4th centuries AD (according to one source circa 3rd century AD), which is rather vague, and little seems to have been published about them. On one hand it is wonderful to see them on the street of Ephesus, but strange that they have been left here and not sheltered in the museum.
 
The relief of Hermes with a goat on the north pedestal on the Clivus Sacer, Ephesus My Favourite Planet

The relief of Hermes with a male goat on
the north pedestal on the Clivus Sacer.
Detail of the Hermes statue from Troezen at My Favourite Planet   Marble statue of Hermes from Troezen at My Favourite Planet
Marble statue of a youthful Hermes with a ram.

Pentelic marble. 2nd century AD copy of a late 5th century BC original
attributed to Naukydes of Argos, a sculptor in the school of Polykleitos.

Found in 1890 by archaeologists of the French School in Athens,
at ancient Troezen in the Peloponnese.

Hermes is shown naked except for a chlamys cloak and petasos hat.
With his right hand he holds onto the horns of a ram.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 243.
Marble votive relief of Hermes from Odessos, Bulgaria at My Favourite Planet

Small marble votive relief of youthful Hermes.
2nd - 3rd century AD. From Odessos (Οδησσός; today Varna, Bulgaria),
a Thracian settlement colonized by Miletus in the late 7th century BC.

Hermes stands naked, holding in his disproportionately large
left hand his caduceus, which rests on a cloak draped over
the arm. In his right hand he holds a bag or purse. On the right
stands a ram, and on the left a cockerel stands on a small altar.

Varna Archaeological Museum, Bulgaria.
 
Hermes Youthful, beardless Hermes
The tondo of an Etruscan black-figure little master cup showing Hermes at My Favourite Planet

The tondo of an Etruscan black-figure ("Pontic") little master cup showing
a youthful, beardless of Turms, the Etruscan equivalent of Hermes, running
or flying, wearing a tall hat, cloak and winged boots, and carrying a kerykeion.

Around 530-520 BC. A work of the "Pontic" Group (6th - 5th centuries BC), named
according to the mistaken theory that the early black-figure works found in Etruria
were made by craftsmen from the Black Sea (Pontus). The later theory that they were
made by Ionian Greeks, perhaps immigrants to Italy, is now also questioned; they may
have been created by native Etruscans themselves, influenced by various Greek styles.

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Inv. No. 1969.16.
Purchased with funds from the Campe'schen Historischen Kunststiftung.

See another 6th century BC Etruscan ceramic painting of Hermes below.
 

A bronze statuette of the Etruscan god Turms at My Favourite Planet

A bronze statuette of youthful Turms,
the Etruscan equivalent of Hermes,
wearing a petasos and pointed
winged boots.

5th century BC. Ploughed up at Uffington,
Oxfordshire in the 19th century.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Inv. No. AN1943.38.
Mrs A. E. Preston bequest.
 
A bronze statuette of Hermes from Saponara at My Favourite Planet

A bronze statuette of a naked,
youthful and athletic Hermes
wearing a petasos.

About 150 BC. Said to be from
Saponara, Basilicata, southern Italy.

The lean musculature and elongated
proportions indicate the influence
of Lysippos (mid-late 4th century BC).

British Museum.
Inv. No. GR 1849.6-22.1 (Bronze 1195).
Presented by R. Goff Esq.
Bronze statue of Hermes resting, form Herculaneum at My Favourite Planet A winged sandal of Hermes at My Favourite Planet

A winged sandal (Latin, talaris, of the ankle;
plural talaria) on Hermes' right foot.
Bronze statue of youthful Hermes resting.

End of the 1st century BC. Found in 1758 in the rectangular peristyle of the Villa of the Papyri,
Herculaneum. Thought to have been made locally, modelled on a work by Lysippos or his school
(perhaps the original of the Hermes in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). Height 105 cm.

Hermes sits on a rock, naked apart from his winged sandals (talaria), and
appears to be resting from the exertions of his tasks as messenger of the gods.
He originally held the kerykeion (caduceus) in his left hand.

In World War II the statue was moved for safety to a bomb shelter at Montecassini,
from where it was stolen. It was recovered and returned to the museum in 1947.

National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 5625.
 

A head of Hermes or an idealized portrait of a youth at My Favourite Planet

A marble head of Hermes or
an idealized portrait of a youth.

From Delos, Greece. Early 1st century BC.

Delos Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. 4183.
   
Marble statue of the Hermes Ludovisi type, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome at My Favourite Planet   Detail of the Hermes Ludovisi type statue, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme at My Favourite Planet
Marble statue of the "Hermes Ludovisi" type or "Hermes Loghios" type.

Flavian period, 2nd half of the 1st century AD, copy of a 5th century BC original.
Found in 1932 at the Villa Imperiale, Anzio. Italic marble. Height 130 cm.

Naked youthful Hermes wears a winged petasos and carries a cloak and caduceus
on his left arm. The lower legs and feet are missing, and as in the "Hermes Loghios"
statue above, it is thought that his right arm was extended forward.

Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, National Museum of Rome. Inv. No. 124479.
Statue of Hermes Loghios, Palazzo Altemps, Rome at My Favourite Planet   Detail of the Hermes Ludovisi or Hermes Loghios statue in the Palazzo Altemps at My Favourite Planet
Marble statue known as the "Hermes Ludovisi", also referred to
as "Hermes Loghios" ("Mercurio Oratore", Mercury the Orator).

2nd century AD copy of a 5th century BC Hellenistic bronze original attributed to
Pheidias, around 440 BC. Thought to be one of the earliest statues of Hermes
as youthful and beardless. Pentelic marble. Height 166 cm, with base 183 cm.

Found near the Porta Tiburtina (Porta San Lorenzo), Rome. The statue was acquired in
the 17th century by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi. It was restored by Alessandro Algardi,
who added the arm, outstretched with an oratorical gesture. This led to the interpretration
of the figure as Hermes Loghios, the god of eloquence. The vast Boncompagni Ludovisi
Collection was auctioned in 1901, and many objects, including this statue, were acquired
by the National Roman Museum.

Palazzo Altemps, National Museum of Rome. Inv. No. 8624. Boncampagni Ludovisi Collection.
Detail of the Atalante Hermes at My Favourite Planet   The Atalante Hermes statue at My Favourite Planet
"The Atalante Hermes"

Found at Atalante (Αταλάντη), Phthiotis (Φθιῶτις), central Greece.
Pentelic Marble. 2nd century AD copy of a 4th century BC type
with Lysippean features. Height 196 cm.

A funerary statue of a youth depicted as Hermes. The nude figure has
a chlamys (riding cloak) over his left shoulder and wound around his
left arm. In his left hand he probably held a caduceus, Hermes' wand.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 240.
Detail of the Belvedere Antinous statue of Hermes at My Favourite Planet

A plaster cast of the"Belvedere Hermes",
also known as the "Belvedere Antinous"
or "Hermes of the Museo Pio-Clementino",
a marble statue of Hermes previously
believed to portray Antinous.

Abguss-Sammlung, Semperbau, Dresden.
Inv. No. ASN 2356.
From the plaster cast collection of Anton
Raphael Mengs (see Niobe for further details).

  The so-called Belvedere Antinous statue of Hermes at My Favourite Planet
The original is in the Pio Clementino Museum, Vatican Museums, Rome. Inv. No. 907.

Reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD). Height 195 cm.

The original statue was found around 1540 in the gardens around the Mausoleum of Hadrian (Castel Sant' Angelo) and thus long believed to be a portrait of Antinous, Emperor Hadrian's deified favourite. It was purchased in 1543 by Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese, 1468-1549, Pope 1534-1549) to decorate a niche in the Cortile del Belvedere (the Belvedere Courtyard, also known as the Cortile delle Statue, Courtyard of Statues) of the Vatican Palace. It was at first referred to as the "Antinous Admirandus". Now believed to depict Hermes as Psychopompos, and to have been modelled on bronze statues of the school of Praxiteles.

The nude figure stands in a contrapposto pose, within a chlamys (cloak) draped over his left shoulder and wrapped around the left forearm. His right leg leans against the palm tree stump support. It has been compared to other statues of Hermes associated with Praxiteles: the statue of Hermes carrying the infant Dionysus (see below); and the Andros (or Andros-Farnese) type statues of Hermes, named after the "Hermes Chthonios" in the Andros Archaeological Museum, Inv. No. MA 245 (formerly in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Inv. No. 218).
 
Detail of the Capitoline Antinous statue of Hermes at My Favourite Planet

The so-called "Capitoline Antinous", a marble statue
of Hermes previously believed to be a portrait of
Antinous, Emperor Hadrian's deified favourite.

Roman period copy of a 4th century BC Greek
original. Luni marble. Height 180.1 cm.

Found at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli in 1738 during
excavations financed by Cardinal Alessandro Albani.
Albani ceded his right to it to Pope Clement XII who
donated it to the Capitoline Museums. Taken to
Paris by Napoleon's troops, it was returned in 1815.

The restored figure is thought to have originally
held an inverted kerykeion (with the top pointing
downwards) in his right hand, perhaps conducting
a deceased person to Hades.

Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Rome.
Inv. No. MC 741. From the Albani Collection.
  The so-called Capitoline Antinous statue of Hermes at My Favourite Planet
 

Marble statue of Hermes in the Capitoline Museums, Rome at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue of Mercury/Hermes,
with winged ankles, wearing a
winged helmet and a short cloak
over his shoulders, and carrying
a caduceus and a purse.

Roman copy of an early
4th century BC Greek original.

Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums,
Rome. Inv. No. MC 60.
 
Marble statue of Hermes, Pergamon Museum, Berlin at My Favourite Planet

Restored marble statue of Hermes,
wearing a winged helmet and short
cloak, and carrying a caduceus.

2nd century AD, Antonine age,
with forms and motifs of the
Classical period. Height 150 cm.
width 52 cm, depth 42 cm.

Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
Inv. No. Sk 198.
From the Natali collection, Rome.
Acquired in 1766 by the art dealer
Giovanni Ludovico Bianconi for King
Friedrich II of Prussia (Frederick
the Great) who placed it in the
Neue Palais, Sanssouci, Potsdam.
 

Marble torso of a statuette of Hermes in Milan at My Favourite Planet

Marble torso of a statuette of Mercury/Hermes.

1st - 2nd century AD. Found in 1934 in a well
between Via San Giovanni in Laterano and
Via Visconti, in the area of the present
Piazza Diaz, Milan (ancient Mediolanum).

Perhaps part of the sculptural decoration of
a Roman house. A fragment of a caduceus
is preserved on the cloak. Height 56.5 cm.

Civic Archaeological Museum, Milan.
Inv. No. A 0.9.1161.
 
Statue of a youthful Hermes, Agora Athens at My Favourite Planet   Detail of the youthful Hermes from the Athens Agora at My Favourite Planet
Marble statue of a youthful Hermes, wearing a cloak
and carrying a kerykeion (caduceus) on his left arm.

2nd century AD, copy of a 4th century BC original.
From the Athens Agora.

Agora Museum, Athens. Inv. No. S 1054.
Cast of a Tegel-Stockholm type Hermes statue at My Favourite Planet

Plaster cast of a marble statue of Hermes
of the "Tegel-Stockholm" type in Berlin.

Abguss-Sammlung (Cast Collection),
Semperbau, Dresden. Inv. No. ASN 2251.

The original is in the Antikensammlung, State Museums Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 531. Height 153.5 cm.

The nude Hermes, with a winged head and wearing a chlamys cloak over his shoulders, looks up at a purse which he holds in his raised left hand. The original statue in Berlin is a concoction produced in the Roman workshop of the prodigious sculptor and restorer Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (circa 1715 - 1799), who added the unrelated ancient head, the purse, arms, legs and other parts to the ancient torso. It was purchased in Rome in by Markgräfin Friederike Sophie Wilhelmine von Brandenburg-Bayreuth (1709-1758), who left it in her will, along with other objects from her collection, to her brother King Friedrich II of Prussia (Frederick the Great). It was first set up at Friedrich's Sanssouci palace in Potsdam, and then in the Marmorpalais in Potsdam. It entered the Berlin museum in 1830.

Cavaceppi later sculpted a head based on this one, perhaps copied from a cast, when restoring a statue group of Perseus and Andromeda, found in Rome in 1760. It was sold to Graf Johann Ludwig von Wallmoden-Gimborn in 1765, and is now in the Landesmuseum Hannover.
 
 

Marble head of Hermes, Catania, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of Mercury/Hermes
wearing a winged helmet.

Roman copy of an early
4th century BC Greek model.

Museo Civico, Castello Ursino, Catania,
Sicily. From the Biscari Collection.
 
Marble head of Hermes or Perseus from Corinth at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of Hermes or Perseus
wearing a winged cap or helmet.

Found 1972 in the Forum of Ancient Corinth.
2nd century AD "copy of a 5th century BC
original". Height 30.6 cm.

Corinth Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. S-72-4.
 

Marble head of Hermes in Milan at My Favourite Planet

Marble head from a statue of Hermes/Mercury.

2nd century AD. Origin unknown.

Civic Archaeological Museum, Milan.
Inv. No. A 0.9.1412.
 
Small marble head of Hermes, Barracco Museum, Rome at My Favourite Planet

Small marble head of Hermes.

Roman creation based on a 4th century BC
Greek original. Insular marble.

Barracco Museum, Rome. Inv. No. MB 141.
 

Marble winged head of Hermes from Pergamon at My Favourite Planet

Marble winged head of Hermes from Pergamon.

Roman Imperial period, 1st century AD.
Found in 1909 at the Sanctuary of
Demeter, Pergamon. Height 29 cm.

Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. 2162 T. Cat. Mendel 555.
 
Relief of Mercury from Ostia at My Favourite Planet

Relief of Mercury with winged cap and ankles, cloak,
and caduceus, on the base of a marble candelabrum.

Roman, 2nd century AD. Found in 1940 in the Sanctuary of Attis, Ostia.

One of two large marble candelabra bases found in the sanctuary,
with reliefs of gods and satyrs on each of the three sides. On this
base are Apollo, Mercury and Hercules; on the other are satyrs.

Ostia Archaeological Museum.
Hermes on a red-figure Lucanian red-figure bell krater at My Favourite Planet

Detail of a Lucanian red-figure bell krater showing a priestess offering a wreath to a grotesquely
caricatured Hermes, who wears a petasos and cloak and has another wreath hanging from his
oversize erect penis. The table serves as an altar. A satyr with a thyrsos (see Dionysus) staff
approaches from the right. The irreverent scene probably represents a farce.

Probably made in Metapontion (Μεταπόντιον) on the gulf of Tarentum, Italy,
around 380-360 BC. Attributed to the Brooklyn-Budapest Painter.

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Inv. No. 2008-404.
Justus Brinckmann Gesellschaft.
Hermes on a red-figure neck amphora from Paestum at My Favourite Planet

Neck of a red-figure neck amphora showing Hermes with a female figure.

Made in Paestum, 340-330 BC.

The body of the amphora depicts the birth of Aphrodite in quite a different style.
On the neck, a youthful Hermes stands naked apart from a cloak, golden wreath
and a petasos hat hanging from his neck. He has winged ankles and holds a
kerykeion in his right hand. With his left hand he gestures to an elegantly
dressed young woman, sitting on rocks and holding a casket in her right hand.

National Archaeological Museum of Paestum, Campania, Italy.
Small ceramic plate with a painting of Hermes at My Favourite Planet

Fragment of a small ceramic plate with a painting of Hermes.

1st half of the 3rd century BC. Found in the Tiber River, near the Temple of Portunus
(and the location of the ancient Pons Aemilius bridge) of the Forum Boarium, Rome.

Baths of Diocletian, National Museum of Rome.
A relief of the head of Hermes on the lid of a ceramic vessel from Larino, Italy at My Favourite Planet

A high relief of the head of Hermes wearing a
winged helmet on the lid of a ceramic vessel.

4th century BC. One of several vessels from a Samnite cremation burial,
found in Tomb 23 in the necropolis at Larino, the location of the Samnite
city Larinum, Campobasso province, Molise region, south-central Italy. [2]

Grave goods found in the tomb relate to banqueting and the cult of Dionysus,
adopted by the Samnites from the Greeks of Magna Graecia (southern Italy).

See also:

Pan on the lid of a lebes from Larino

Dionysian imagery on ancient artefacts from Samnium
 
Hermes Hermes Psychopompos
Relief of Hermes Psychopompos at My Favourite Planet

Detail of one side of a base for a funeral vase with a relief of
Hermes as Psychopompos (Ἑρμῆς Ψυχοπομπός, Guide of Souls).

Marble. 410-400 BC. Found in Moschato, Athens.

Hermes wears a short chiton tunic, chlamys cloak and petasos hat. It is thought that
his herald's staff was rendered in paint. Two other sides of the base also have reliefs:
the front shows a young girl and a youth picking apples from a tree, an allusion to
the Elysian Fields and the afterlife; the third shows a priest holding a sacrificial knife.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 4502.
Hermes Psychopompos on the Myrrhine lekythos at My Favourite Planet   The Myrrhine lekythos at My Favourite Planet
The Myrrhine lekythos, a 5th century BC inscribed marble
funerary vase found in Syntagma Square, Athens.

Hermes Psychopompos (Ἑρμῆς Ψυχοπομπός, Guide of Souls) leads the
deceased Myrrhine to the underworld (Hades). Her name, Μυρρίνε (Myrtle),
is inscribed above her head. On the left her relatives bid her farewell.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 4485.

See Athens Acropolis gallery page 11.
Votive relief for Hermes and the nymphs at My Favourite Planet

Marble votive relief for Hermes and the nymphs.

From Greece, 410-400 BC. Found on the Quirinal Hill, Rome.
Height 57 cm, width 78 cm, depth 10 cm.

Hermes is naked apart from a chlamys (χλαμύς, short cloak) hanging from his left shoulder
and a petasos (πέτασος, broad-brimmed hat) hanging behind his head. He leads three nymphs
towards the much smaller figure of the worshipper (the dedicator of the relief) on the far left.

On the right stands the river God Acheloos as a bull with a horned human head. The top right
corner of the relief is missing, but the crossed legs of Pan sitting on a rock ledge can be seen.

Altes Museum. Inv. No. Sk 709 a. Acquired in 1889.
Votive relief showing Hermes, Pan and Hades in the underworld at My Favourite Planet

An Archaistic votive relief showing three nymphs walking hand-in-hand and being led by Hermes,
as Psychopompos (Guide of Souls), into a cave representing the underworld. They stand before
an altar, to the left of which sits Plouton (Πλούτον, also known as Hades, ᾍδης), the god of the
underworld, holding a rhyton (drinking horn). Pan looks on from above, playing his pipes and
holding a lagobolon (curved hunting stick). Hermes wears his trademark petasos (πέτασος,
broad-brimmed hat) and a chlamys (χλαμύς, short cloak).

Hellenistic period. Pentelic marble.

Barracco Museum, Rome. Inv. No. MB 176.

See similar reliefs depicting Hermes, Pan, nymphs
and other deities below and on the Pan page.
Votive relief depicting Hermes with three nymphs in a cave at My Favourite Planet

A votive relief depicting Hermes with three nymphs in a cave.

End of the 4th century BC. Unknown provenance.

Thasos Archaeological Museum.
Vase painting of Hermes and Herakles in Hades at My Favourite Planet

Hermes and Herakles in a scene from the underworld.

Detail of an Attic red-figure bell krater, circa 370 BC. Attributed to the Pourtalès Painter.
Height (restored with modern foot) 35.3 cm, diameter 35.1 cm.

Side B shows three youths draped in cloaks, one holding a strigil and another a diskos.

Antikensammlung, Berlin State Museums (SMB). Inv. No. 31094.
Purchased 1928. Formerly in the Giovanni Carafa Collection, Naples; Champernowne
Collection, London. Known since 1737 when it was in the possession of Matteo Egizio, Naples.

Hermes Psychopompos leads Herakles, who is carrying a bearded male with a cornucopia, probably Plouton (Hades), god of the underworld, through the River Styx. Hermes wears a petasos (πέτασος, a broad-brimmed sun hat, originally from Thessaly) and a chlamys (χλαμύς) cloak, and carries a kerykeion in his right hand.  
Relief of Hermes Psychopompos on a column drum from the Temple of Artemis, Ephesus at My Favourite Planet

Relief of Hermes Psychopompos and a female figure on a marble column
drum from the later Temple of Artemis, Ephesus. 325-300 BC.

Found by the British archaeologist John Turtle Wood at the southwest corner of the later temple, during excavations in 1871. According to Pliny the Elder, thirty six of the temple's columns were decorated with sculpture. Around this column drum, the best preserved, is a sculpted relief of seven figures, two of which have been destroyed.

The three figures in the photo above seem to be the focus of the group. A woman is flanked by two male figures. To her left, the naked, winged youth with a sheathed sword at his side is thought to be Thanatos (Death). The figure to her right is clearly Hermes as Psychopompos. The theme of the scene appears to be the death of the woman, whose identity is unknown, but is thought to be one of the tragic heroines of Greek myth, perhaps Eurydike, Alkestis or Iphigenia.

Hermes stands naked with a cloak wrapped around his left arm and holding a kerykeion in his right hand. He appears to be stepping forward and looking up - at what can only be guessed.

Height 1.84 metres, diameter 1.97 metres.

British Museum. Inv. No. GR 1872.8-3.9 (Sculpture 1206).
 
The Orpheus Relief, showing Hermes, Eurydice and Orpheus in the Underworld at My Favourite Planet

Marble relief, known as the "Orpheus Relief", showing
Hermes, Eurydice and Orpheus in the Underworld.

Found at Torre del Greco, Bay of Naples. Height 118 cm, width 100 cm.

National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6727. Carafa di Noja Collection.

The relief was made in the 1st century AD, during the Augustan period, and before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. It is thought to be a copy of a Greek original of the second half of the 5th century BC, in the High Classical style of the sculptures of the Parthenon, and has been attributed to Alkamenes, pupil of Pheidias.

This is one of six almost identical surviving Roman period reliefs; two other almost complete examples are in the Villa Albani, Rome and the Louvre, Paris. The type is the earliest extant depiction of the well-known myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Underworld (Hades).

Distraught with grief by the death of his bride Eurydice, Orpheus descended to the Underworld in search of her. He charmed the gods there with his music and they permitted him to return with Eurydice to the land of the living, on the condition that he did not look back at her during the long journey. However, when they had almost reached the boundary of the Underworld, Orpheus could not resist his longing to see her face. He turned and lifted her veil to look at her, breaking the condition set by the gods, and she was forced to remain in the realm of the dead.

In the relief Eurydice is shown unveiled, and she and Orpheus touch each other tenderly. But Hermes, as Psychopompos (Guide of Souls), has already taken hold of her arm to lead her back down to Hades.

The names of the figures are inscribed above their heads. Hermes is also identifiable by the petasos (broad-brimmed sun hat) hanging behind his head. The name of Orpheus, with his Phrygian cap and lyre, is written back-to-front, perhaps to indicate that he comes from the world of the living.
 
 
 
 
 
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The propylon of the Sanctuary of Apollo, Delos at My Favourite Planet

The remains of the propylon (or propylaia) of the Sanctuary of Apollo, Delos.

The monumental entrance at the south of the sanctuary was built by the Athenians around
150 BC to replace an earlier gateway. The modern copy of the herm of Hermes can be see on
the right of the steps up to the entranceway. The original is in the Delos museum (see above).
A modern copy of a herm of Hermes in the remains of the Prytaneion, Delos at My Favourite Planet

The modern copy of a large herm of Hermes among the remains
of the Prytaneion, southeast of the Sanctuary of Apollo, Delos.

The original herm is in the Delos museum (see above).
 
Hermes Hermes with other gods
An Attic black-figure amphora depicting Hermes and Zeus at My Favourite Planet

Detail of an Attic black-figure amphora with a depiction of
Hermes standing before Zeus, who is sitting on his throne.

Made in Athens around 540-520 BC. Attributed to The Affecter.

British Museum. GR 1837.6-9.66 (Vase B 149).
Herakles wrestles with Nereus, watched by Hermes at My Favourite Planet

Herakles wrestles with the sea god Nereus (Νηρεύς), watched by two bearded
male figures (left) holding spears and bearded Hermes holding a kerykeion (right).
An episode from the hero's wanderings in the land of the Hesperides.

An Attic black-figure column krater painted by Sophilos around 590 BC.
Provenance unknown. Height 36 cm, diameter of rim 42 cm, diameter of base 19.4 cm.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 12587.

Nereus had the power to change form. One of the twelve labours of Herakles was to obtain the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, but he first has to capture Nereus to discover from him the location of the Garden of the Hesperides. Hereakles, dressed in a short chiton (tunic) and with a sword and quiver, jumps on the sea god who changes his form in an attempt to escape. Here Nereus is depicted in a similar way to Triton, with the body of a bearded man, while his lower half is in the form of a long fish-like sea creature. He holds a serpent in his right hand, and his left arm is extended towards Hermes.

Exhibited during the temporary exhibition The Europe of Greece: Colonies and Coins from the Alpha Bank Collection (Η Ευρώπη της Ελλάδος Αποκίες και Νομίσματα από τη Συλλογή της Alpha Bank), Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, 11 April 2014 - 19 April 2015.
Herakles with Cerberus in the presence of Athena and Hermes at My Favourite Planet

Detail of an Attic black-figure krater showing Herakles holding
Cerberus on leashes in the presence of Athena and Hermes.

National Etruscan Museum, Villa Giulia, Rome.
Hermes and Athena attending the apotheosis of Herakles at My Favourite Planet

Detail of an Attic black-figure skyphos (deep drinking cup) depicting
Hermes and Athena attending the apotheosis of Herakles.

Second half of the 6th century BC. Height 18.6 cm.

Studiendepot, Skulpturensammlung, Albertinum, Dresden. Inv. No. Hm 240 (Zv 1680).

  In the centre, Herakles, wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion, sits on what appears to be a small altar. He holds his wooden club in his left hand, and in the right he holds a phiale (libation bowl), into which Athena, standing to the right, pours wine from a jug. Behind the phiale is the stem of an ivy plant, the branches of which extend between and behind the figures.

Hermes, with long hair and beard, stands on the left playing an aulos (double pipes). He wears a petasos (broad-brimmed hat), himation (cloak) and winged high sandals.
 
Hermes playing an aulos at My Favourite Planet

Hermes playing an aulos.
Detail of an Attic calyx-krater by Exekias depicting Hermes at My Favourite Planet

Detail of an inscribed Attic black-figure calyx-krater by Exekias,
showing Hermes and other deities taking part in the deification
of Herakles and his introduction to Olympus.

530 BC. Found in 1937 in a well in the Athenian Agora.

Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens. Inv. No. AP 1044.

The name ΗΕΡΜΕΣ (Hermes) is painted clearly above the god's head. Typical of Exekias' style are the bold composition and the finely incised drawing of contours and details, such as Hermes' hair and beard, and the patterns of his garments: the meander on the collar of his tunic, and flowers/stars and swastikas on his cloak.

Hermes is finely dressed for the special occasion. He carries a long kerykeion (caduceus), and wears a petasos over his elaborately styled hair. To the right, tendril-like vines, loaded with bunches of grapes, fill the space and seem to dance in the breeze. The grapes are made plastic by the simple trick of indicating the highlights of individual fruits with C-shaped incisions.

Side B of the krater shows the fight between Greek and Trojan warriors over the body of the fallen Patrokles; in the lower zone lions attacking a bull.
Hermes and Athena on an Attic red-figure lekythos from Akragas, Sicily at My Favourite Planet   An Attic red-figure lekythos attributed to the Providence Painter, Agrigento, Sicily at My Favourite Planet
Athena and Hermes on an Attic red-figure lekythos. Made in Athens 475-460 BC.

From the cemetery at Poggio Giache, Akragas (Agrigento), Sicily.
Attributed to the Providence Painter.

On the left Athena, wearing a peplos with a decorated border and
a quiver over her shoulder, holds a spear and offers a helmet to
Hermes. He wears a chlamys, a petasos tied to his neck hangs behind
his head, and he holds a spear in his left hand (not visible in photo).

Agrigento Regional Archaeological Museum, Sicily.
Hermes and Nike at an altar on an Apulian oinochoe at My Favourite Planet

Detail of an Apulian red-figure, long-necked oinochoe (wine jug) depicting
Hermes and Nike making sacrifices and offerings of first fruits at a burning altar.

Mid 4th century BC.

Hermes wears a wreath, cloak and high sandals, with a petasos hanging from
his neck, and holds his kerykeion in his left hand. He stands to the left of a small
altar, notably shown in perspective, pouring a liquid (wine?) from a jug onto the
flames. Winged Nike, wearing a wreath and peplos, stands to the right of the altar
holding a bowl with offerings in her right hand, and a bunch of grapes in the left.
A garlanded boukranion (ox skull) hangs above them.

Civic Archaeological Museum, Milan. Inv. No. A 1997.01.215. From the Lagioia Collection.
Hermes holding Nike in a phiale from Asia Minor at My Favourite Planet

The inside of a steatite phiale (libation bowl) with Hermes holding
Nike (Victoria) in his outstretched hand. Either side of him stand
a female and male figure. From Asia Minor, 2nd - 3rd century AD.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
Archaistic relief showing Hermes approaching a flaming altar at My Favourite Planet

Detail of a circular marble base, with an Archaistic relief
depicting Hermes, Apollo and Artemis around a flaming altar.

Roman Imperial period, 2nd century AD.

Salone, Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Rome.
Inv. No. MC1995. From the Albani Collection.

Hermes, shown in profile walking on tiptoe to the left, holds a small kerykeion (caduceus) delicately between the forefinger and thumb of his raised right hand. He approaches a flaming altar, to the left of which can be seen the rear of the figure of Artemis who holds a long torch. On the other side of the base, between Artemis and Hermes, Apollo walks holding a bow and an arrow. The base has been used since the time it entered the museum as a pedestal for a black marble statue of "Zeus", Inv. No. MC655 (see Asklepios).
Relief of Hermes, Athena, Apollo and Artemis from Delos at My Favourite Planet

An Archaistic relief depicting Hermes leading Athena, Apollo and Artemis in a procession.
Above the figures hangs a row of five boukrania (ox skulls) hung with swags.

Second half of the 2nd century - early 1st century BC. From the House of the Lake, Delos.

The style of the relief and the pose and dress of the figures is similar to
the altar relief in Rome (see above), although not as finely executed.

Delos Archaeological Museum, Greece. Inv. No. A 9.
Marble relief of the gods Okeanos, Hermes and Poseidon at My Favourite Planet

Marble relief of the gods Okeanos (god of the rivers), Hermes and Poseidon.

From Nikomedia (Izmit), Turkey. Roman Imperial period, 2nd century AD.

Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 5344 T.
 
Hermes Hermes with the infant Dionysus

See other depictions of the infant Dionysus on the Dionysus page.
Statue of Hermes carrying the infant Dionysus from the temple of Hera at Olympia, Greece at My Favourite Planet   Statue the infant Dionysus from Olympia at My Favourite Planet
Plaster cast of the statue of Hermes carrying the infant Dionysus from Olympia.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Inv. No. C113.

The original is in the Olympia Archaeological Museum, Greece.

The original 2.15 cm high marble statue was found on 12th May 1887 in the Archaic temple of Hera at Olympia, Greece. The right foot was found on 23rd December 1879, and the head of the infant on 27th March 1880. The original may be the statue mentioned by Pausanias in the 2nd century AD (Description of Greece, Book 5, chapter 17, section 3), who wrote that it was made by Praxiteles (around 340 BC), although it may be a Hellenistic copy. [3]

According to one version of Greek myths about Dionysus, after his birth, Zeus ordered Hermes to take the infant to be raised secretly either by King Athamas and his wife Ino (Dionysus' aunt), or according to another version, to the Hyades, rain nymphs of Nysa (a mythological place in Phoenicia, Arabia, Ethiopia or Libya). See the Dionysus page of the People section.

See also a mosaic showing Pan carrying the infant Dionysus in Istanbul.
Head of the statues of Hermes from Olympia at My Favourite Planet

Head of the plaster cast of the Hermes statue
from Olympia (see above).
  Statue of Hermes carrying the infant Dionysus in Bergama Archaeological Museum, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Torso of a statue of Hermes
carrying the infant Dionysus.
From the Pergamon Asclepieion.
Marble, Roman period.

Bergama Archaeological Museum.
A herm as a base for a statue of Hermes carrying the infant Dionysus at My Favourite Planet

Detail of a marble herm of Hermes as a base for
a statue of Hermes carrying the infant Dionysus.

Roman period copy, perhaps of a statue group by Kephisodotos the Elder
(flourished around 400-360 BC), thought to be the father or uncle of Praxiteles.

Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens. Inv. No. S 33.

See more photos and information about herms on
Pergamon gallery 2, page 15.
Relief showing Hermes carrying the infant Dionysus at My Favourite Planet

Late Hellenistic relief on a marble puteal (well-head; Greek, περιστόμιον, peristomion)
showing Hermes carrying the infant Dionysus, followed by a dancing maenad playing
a tympanon and a satyr playing a double flute (aulos). In front of Hermes a seated
nymph waits to receive the infant, and holds out a cloth to cover him.

White, fine crystalline marble. Height 82.5 cm, diameter 82.0 cm.

Skulpturensammlung, Albertinum, Dresden. Inv. No. ZV 4125.

The scene is similar to other extant reliefs, particularly a puteal
in the Vatican Museums, Rome, dated to the 4-3rd century BC.
Marble votive relief depicting Hermes presenting the infant Dionysus to the Nymphs in a cave at My Favourite Planet

Inscribed marble votive relief thought to depict Hermes presenting
the infant Dionysus to a nymph in a cave, witnessed by other deities.

Pentelic marble. From Athens. Dedicated to Pan and the nymphs
by Neoptolemos of Melite, about 330 BC. Height 64.5 cm.

Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens. Inv. No. I 7154.

Exhibited in the lower portico (ground floor) of the
Stoa of Attalus, in which the museum is housed.

Excavated in 1970 south of the Athenian Agora, in the remains of a Late Roman house on the north slope of the Areopagus. It is possibly from the Cave of Pan, above the the Klepsydra on the north slope of the Acropolis.

The relief is thought to have been deliberately mutilated, perhaps by Christians. The faces and objects held by most of the ten figures are missing, making identification difficult. The scene has been described simply as "ten figures watching or participating in a sacrifice in a cave". However, it has also been interpreted as Hermes bringing the infant Dionysus to safety and into the care of a nymph (perhaps one of the Hyades or Ino). The figures have been identified (with some alternative identifications) by comparison with similar reliefs and other sculptures.

Zeus reclines on a rock above the other figures. Below him, from left to right: Persephone (Kore) standing; Dionysus (or Silenus?) seated, holding a thyrsos; Demeter standing (both arms missing), looking down at Dionysus; Hermes, holding the infant Dionysus in both arms, his left foot resting on a rock behind an altar so that his raised left knee can support the infant; a nymph facing him receives the infant; Apollo (or a nymph) seated, facing left; Artemis (or a nymph) stands behind him with her right arm raised; Pan sits below them with a wineskin. There may have been another figure, perhaps a nymph, on the broken right side of the relief.

The figures thought to be nymphs (including the supposed Apollo and Artemis) have been described as smaller in scale than the others. But the only figure who appears smaller is the supposed Hermes, who is half a head shorter than the female figure facing him. It seems unlikely that this figure could be the dedicator of the relief, as in such reliefs mortal worshippers are usually shown considerably smaller and separated from deities, usually standing on the edge of the scene (see, for example, reliefs on the Pan page). Two of the few artworks to show a mortal among gods is the much later Apotheosis of Homer (3rd or 2nd century BC) and the so-called "Ikarios reliefs" (perhaps 2nd century BC).

The inscription on the lower border of the relief is a dedication by Neoptolemos, son of Antikles, of the Attic deme of Melite, thought to be the wealthy Athenian citizen known from literary sources and other inscriptions.

[Νεο]πτόλε[μος] [Ἀν]τικλέ[ους] [Με]λιτε[ὺς] [ἀν]έθη[κεν]

Inscription IG II(2) 4901.
A silver stater of Pheneos showing Hermes carrying the infant Arkas at My Favourite Planet

A silver stater of Pheneos showing Hermes
carrying the infant Arkas. Circa 360-340 BC.

Numismatic Collection, Bode Museum, Berlin.

Hermes, nude except for a petasos and a chlamys (short cloak), holds a kerykeion in his right hand and the infant Arkas in the left. He moves to the left, his head turned back to the right to look at Arkas, who raises his right hand towards Hermes' face. On the right is the inscription ΦΕΝΕΩΝ.

Pheneos (Φενεός, Feneos) was a city in Arcadia, northeastern Peloponnese, Greece. Today it is in the Prefecture of Corinthia. It stood at the foot of Mount Kyllene, the mythical birthplace of Hermes, was an important cult centre for the god, and the location of an annual festival of the Hermaea. It also had sanctuaries for Demeter and Asklepios.

The obverse side of the coin shows the head of Demeter (see the photo of another coin of this type in Demeter part 2).

In mythological tales similar to those concerning Hermes and the infant Dionysus, the messenger god also rescued Arkas, the son of Zeus and the nymph Kallisto (and therefore his half-brother). After either Artemis or Zeus' jealous wife Hera had turned Kallisto into a bear, Zeus asked Hermes to take the infant Arkas (Αρκάς; from Arktos, bear) to safety at the home of his mother Maia on Mount Kyllene. Arkas became king of Arkadia, which was named after him, and taught people the art of weaving and bread-baking. Zeus later transformed Kallisto and Arkas into the constellations Ursa Major (Great Bear) and Ursa Minor (Little Bear).
 
Hermes Inscriptions and dedications to Hermes
A dedication to Mercury from Mediolanum at My Favourite Planet

An inscribed marble tablet with a dedication to Mercury.

Candoglia marble. 1st century AD. Thought to have been found
at the church of Santo Stefano, Milan (ancient Mediolanum).

The ex-voto dedication to Mercury was made by the freedman
Lucius Satrius Amandus in thanks for the granting of a request.

Mercurio
sacrum
L(ucius) Satrius
Amaranti l(ibertus)
Amandus
v(otum) s(olvit)

Civic Archaeological Museum, Milan. Inv. No. A 0.9.11008.

A triangular marble base dedicated to Mercury at My Favourite Planet

A triangular marble base dedicated to Mercury.

Mid 1st century AD. Origin unknown, possibly from the
ancient Roman city Mediolanum (Milan). Height 62 cm.

Civic Archaeological Museum, Milan. Inv. No. A 0.9.1072.

The base, thought to have originally stood in a sanctuary of Mercury, supported an offering of a large tripod and gold serpents weighing five Roman pounds (1650 grams). The base is supported at each of the three corners by an eagle with outstretched wings, and in the centre by a lotus blossom (symbols of Zeus/Jupiter). Above each corner is a ram's head, and on the top stands a tortoise. On one side is a dedicatory inscription by Sextus Veracilius, a member of the college of four magistrates in charge of the administration of justice (iure dicundo), the supply of foodstuffs and public works:

Mercurio
Sex(tus) Veracilius
Sex(ti) F(ilius) Ouf(entina tribu)
Priscus IIII vir i(ure) d(icundo)
ex voto don(o) ded(it)
dracones aureos
libr(arum) quinque
adiectis ornament(is)
[e]t cortina

On the other two sides are reliefs:

The relief in the photo above depicts a bearded herm of Mercury or Dionysus/Bacchus in front of a table on which stands a jug for libations or as a prize for a contest, suggested by the victory palm above. Behind the table is a trochus, a large circle with rings, a gymnastic apparatus which was turned with a pole. The tripod, victory palm and trochus indicate that the monument honoured Mercury as the protector of athletic games.

The relief on the other side (see photo below) depicts a herm of Mercury (without a beard), the head draped with a cloth which hangs from a tree, with a ram and a caduceus beside it.
The relief on the other side of the triangular base in Milan at My Favourite Planet

The relief on one of the other sides of the
triangular base dedicated to Mercury in Milan.
Roman relief of a child as Hermes at My Favourite Planet

Relief on the top of the inscribed funeral stele of Sextus Rufius Achilleus,
who died at the age of 7 years and 9 days. The deceased child is depicted
as Hermes, with a petasos, chlamys, caduceus and a purse. To the left
is a cockerel, and to the right a tortoise.

"To the divine Spirits, to Sextus Rufius Achilleus. He lived seven months,
nine days. Sextus Rufius Decibalus made this for his sweetest son."

Inscription CIL VI, 25572.

100-150 AD. Unknown origin. It has been suggested that the
child's father Decibalus may have been a freed slave from Dacia.

Baths of Diocletian, National Museum of Rome. From the Kircherian Museum.
 
Hermes Hermes, Io and Argos
Fresco depicting Io, Hermes and Argos from Herculaneum at My Favourite Planet

Fresco depicting Io, Hermes and Argos Panoptes.

From the central area of the north wall of the ekklesiasterion in the
Temple of Isis, Pompeii. 1st century AD. 4th Pompeian style (62-79 AD).

National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 9548 (Cat. 1.69).

As with other Greek myths, there are several versions of the story of Io (Ἰώ). She was a nymph and/or a priestess of the goddess Hera in the Argolid (northeast Peloponnese) who became a reluctant lover of Zeus. He transformed her into a heifer in order to hide her from his jealous wife Hera (in another version Hera transformed her). Seeing through the ruse, Hera sent the never-sleeping, hundred-eyed giant Argos Panoptes (Ἄργος Πανόπτης, Argos the All-seeing) to watch her and prevent Zeus from visiting her.

Not to be outwitted, Zeus sent Hermes to kill Argos by first lulling him to sleep with the enchanting music of the syrinx (Pan pipes) and telling stories, or by charming him with his kerykeion (caduceus). Hera honoured her watchman by putting his eyes on the tails of the peacock, her sacred bird. Hermes earned the epiphet Argeiphontes (Ἀργειφόντης, Argos Slayer), first mentioned by Homer (Iliad, Book II, line 103). [4]

In the fresco, Io, seated left, is shown in human form but with small horns. Argos, also in human form and naked, sits on the right with a red cloak and a stick. Hermes, in the centre holding his kerykeion in his left arm, bends forward to offer Argos the syrinx. In the background, right, the Argolid temple of Hera stands on a hill. [5] Depictions of this scene are thought to have been influenced by a work of the 4th century BC Athenian painter Nikias.

See also the painting Mercury and Argus by Rubens below.
Mercury and Argus by Peter Paul Rubens at My Favourite Planet

Mercury and Argus by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).

Oil on oak panel, circa 1635/1638. Height 63 cm, width 87.5 cm.

Old Masters Gallery (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister), Semperbau, Dresden. Inv. No. 962 C.
Purchased in Paris in 1742 from the art dealer Noel Araignon.

Mercury, with winged cap and red cloak, lulls the all-seeing Argus to sleep with the music of his pipe or flute, while Io, transformed into a white cow by Zeus, looks on. High above the idyllic pastoral landscape, Zeus is already on his way to his date with Io, driving through stormy clouds in a chariot drawn by two eagles.

The painting appeared on a 15 pfennig postage stamp of the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR), issued on 28th June 1977 to commemorate Rubens' 400th birthday, and to earn hard currency from stamp collectors worldwide.

The story of Hermes and Argos was also depicted by other artists, including Jakob Jordaens around 1620 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons), Diego Velazquez in 1659 (Museo del Prado, Madrid) and Barent Fabritius in 1662 (Gemäldegalerie alte Meister, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Inv. No. GK 262).

Rubens had already painted Juno and Argus around 1611, depicting Juno (Hera) with her retinue, collecting the head of the decapitated Argos, whose many eyes were to appear on the tail of the peacock, her symbolic animal (Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Inv. No. WRM 1040).
 
Hermes The Judgement of Paris
Hydria depicting a scen from the myth of the Judgement of Paris at My Favourite Planet

Black-figure hydria (water jar) depicting a scene from
the myth of the Judgement of Paris. Mid 6th century BC.

Paris, right, is approached by Hermes, leading Athena, Hera and Aphrodite.

Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Inv. No. 59.

The wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the future parents of the Homeric Greek hero Achilles, was attended by all the gods except Eris (Ἔρις, Discord, Strife; Roman equivalent, Discordia), the goddess of Discord, who was not invited. She nevertheless appeared at the wedding feast and stirred up trouble by encouraging the rivalry between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite by offering the Golden Apple from the Garden of the Hesperides (referred to by later writers as the Golden Apple of Discord, μῆλον τῆς Ἔριδος) as the prize for the most beautiful of the three goddesses. To settle the matter, it was decided to hold a beauty contest between the three.

Wishing to avoid the risk of angering any of the females, Zeus refused to judge the competition, and the task was given to Alexander (Ἀλέξανδρος, Alexandros), the mortal son of King Priam of Troy, who had been secretly raised and renamed Paris (Πάρις) by the Trojan herdsman Agelaos (see Homer). Hermes led the three goddesses to Paris who was herding animals on Mount Ida, near Troy (Ilion), and ordered him to judge which of them was the most beautiful.

Hera and Athena attempted to bribe Paris with power and fame, but Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, promised him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. He chose Aphrodite, and his decision eventually led to him falling in love with and abducting Helena (Ἑλένη, Eleni, later known as Helen of Troy), the wife of Menelaos, king of Sparta. This affront was used as a pretext by Agamemnon, Menelaos' brother, to gather an army of Greek allies and wage war against Troy.

In this myth Hermes fulfills his duties as a messenger of the gods as well as intermediary between gods and mortals. Although not much has been made of his other functions in this context, he was also the god of herdsmen and shepherds (see Hermes Kriophoros above) which made him the natural choice as the deity chosen to approach Paris in this matter.

The myth of the Judgement of Paris is in itself a good yarn with more than one moral, and includes narrative strands of several ancient tales describing chains of cause and effect in the affairs of mortals influenced by those of the gods. Such stories provided the core of ancient Greek religion, mythology, literature and art, and they were continually developed, reworked and embellished by poets, dramatists and artists into Roman times.

Helena was a sister of the Dioskouri.
Detail of the painting of the Judgement of Paris hydria at My Favourite Planet

Detail of the painting of the Judgement of Paris on the hydria above.

See a fragment of a relief from Delphi below, with Hermes
in a scene thought to depict the Judgement of Paris, and a
relief of the Judgement of Paris in the Palazzo Altemps, Rome.
A Laconian ivory comb with a depiction of the Judgement of Paris at My Favourite Planet

Drawing of a fragment of a Laconian ivory comb with a carving depicting the Judgement of Paris.

Around 630-600 BC. Excavated at the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia in Sparta. Width 8 cm.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 15368.

This is one of the oldest depictions of the Judgement of Paris so far found, although Hermes is not included in the small carving. The three goddesses in the beauty contest stand facing Paris, the judge, who is seated on the left. In front is Aphrodite holding a dove, one of her attributes. Athena, in the centre, wears her crested helmet. In the rear Hera is followed by a long-necked bird, either her symbolic peacock or a water fowl. Alternatively, Hera may be in front with a cuckoo, and Aphrodite last with a goose. The bearded Paris holds out the Golden Apple from the Garden of the Hesperides as the prize for the goddess he must judge to be the most beautiful.

The carving on the other side of the comb shows two sphinxes holding a male figure upside down in their claws. It has been suggested that the image may be a comment on the consequences of Paris' decision, which led to the Trojan War.

Image source: Richard MacGillivray Dawkins (editor), The Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia at Sparta, excavated and described by members of the British School at Athens, 1906-1910, Plate 127 and text on page 223. The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, Supplementary Paper No. 5. Macmillan, London, 1929. At the University of Chicago Library.

See also early depictions of the Gorgon Medusa from the sanctuary on the Medusa page.

Other objects considered to show the earliest known depictions of the Judgement of Paris include:

The "Chigi vase", a fragmentary Late Protocorinthian olpe (jug), around 640 BC, with fragments of the Judgement scene. National Etruscan Museum, Villa Giulia, Rome. Inv. No. 22679.

A polychrome crateroid-amphora, in the Melian (Cycladic) style, thought to have been made in a Parian workshop. 7th century BC. The bold painting on the body of the amphora shows three goddesses walking in line behind a male figure, presumably Hermes, who is unusually accompanied by a lion. Paros Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 2652.
Boccanera plaques of the Greek gods Hermes, Athena, Hera and Aphrodite at My Favourite Planet

Etruscan terracotta plaques, around 560-550 BC, showing a scene from the Greek myth
of the Judgement of Paris. Paris, left, is approached by a procession of gods (left-right):
Hermes (known to the Etruscans as Turms), Athena, Hera and Aphrodite.

British Museum. GR 1889. 4-10 1 to 5 (Paintings 5a-e).

From a series of five painted terracotta plaques from a small chamber tomb in the Banditaccia cemetery, Cerveteri, Tuscany. They are known as the Boccanera plaques after the two brothers who discovered them in 1874. The style and colours reflect Corinthian vase painting; other features, such as clothing details, are typically Etruscan. Hermes carries a herald's staff or sceptre topped by a figure of a bull.

See also The Jugement of Paris by Rubens below.
Hermes on the west relief of the Siphian Treasury, Delphi at My Favourite Planet

Hermes depicted on a fragmentary Archaic relief thought to show the
myth of the Judgement of Paris, from the Siphian Treasury, Delphi.

Fragmentary slab of the left side of the west frieze of the Ionic treasury,
built for the people of Siphnos around 525 BC (before 524 BC).
The west frieze is thought to have been made by a sculptor from Ionia.

Hermes stands on the left, wearing a chiton and holding his kerykeion in his right hand.
On the right, a headless female figure, thought to be Athena, appears to be mounting her
chariot. The next slab shows another female figure, perhaps Aphrodite, stepping off her
chariot, and the missing third slab possibly depicted the third contestant Hera and Paris.

Delphi Archaeological Museum, Greece.
The Judgement of Paris on a lekythos from Kerameikos at My Favourite Planet

Detail of the body of an inscribed black-figure lekythos depicting
the Judgement of Paris. Hermes leads Hera and Athena.

Around 500-490 BC. Attributed to the Diosphos Painter.
From a grave in the necropolis of Kerameikos, Athens.

Kerameikos Archaeological Museum.
Marble relief of the Judgement of Paris at My Favourite Planet

Fragment of a marble relief of the Judgement of Paris.

1st half of the 2nd century AD. Proconnesian marble.

Palazzo Altemps, National Museum of Rome, Rome. Inv. No. 8563. Boncompagni Ludovisi Collection.

The relief, believed to be part of a large sarcophagus, was extensively restored and altered in the 17th century by Alessandro Algardi, whose stucco additions were removed in 1901.

Hermes and deities on Mount Ida, participating in the judgement of the Trojan prince Paris, who has to choose whether Hera, Athena or Aphrodite is the most beautiful. Paris chooses Aphrodite due to the intercession of Eros (her son). She gives Paris Helen as a reward, and his abduction of Helen leads to the Trojan War.

Left to right: Hera, Athena (wearing a helmet), Hermes (with caduceus), Aphdrodite, the shepherdess Oenone (Paris's companion on Mount Ida, holding a syrinx), Paris (wearing a Phrygian cap) with Eros, and the naked, bearded personification of Mount Ida sitting in a tree.
The judgement of Paris by Peter Paul Rubens at My Favourite Planet

The Judgement of Paris by the studio of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).

Oil on oak panel, circa 1635. Height 49 cm, width 63 cm.

Old Masters Gallery (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister), Semperbau, Dresden.
Inv. No. 962 B. From the private collection of Heinrich Graf von Brühl.
First recorded in the inventory of the royal collection in Dresden in 1809.

See ancient depictions of the myth of the Judgement of Paris above.

This may be either a copy or an earlier version of the larger Judgement of Paris painted by Rubens between 1632 and 1635, now in the National Gallery, London. Inv. No. NG 194. Oil on oak panel. Height 144.8, width 193.7 cm. The compositions of the two paintings are almost identical, but they vary in several details.

Mercury, wearing a winged cap and red cloak and holding a caduceus, rests against a tree behind Paris, who is dressed like a simple herdsman (see Homer), with a sun hat and crook, and accompanied by a dog and two sheep. He is seated on a rock and holds in his right hand the Golden Apple from the Garden of the Hesperides, meant as a prize for the goddess he judges to be the most beautiful. The two males admire the three goddesses, who have disrobed for the beauty competition. The divine contestants are attended by three cupids or putti.

On the left, Minerva (Athena) can be identified by her owl in the tree (far left), the spear and the shield decorated with the head of Medusa. In the centre stands Venus (Aphrodite), without any identifying attributes apart from her beauty. In ancient depictions of the scene, she is the only goddess who is sometimes shown naked. On the right Juno (Hera) stands next to her peacock.

The sketchy naked male figures in the tree at the top left of the picture are more detailed in the London version, in which three grinning satyrs can be seen enjoying the show from their hidden vantage point. The London painting shows the right-most satyr with his finger to his lips, trying to keep the other two voyeurs quiet.

In the clouds above, the flying female figure with a torch and a serpent has long been thought to represent Eris (Ἔρις, Discord, Strife; Roman equivalent, Discordia), the goddess of Discord who offered the Golden Apple (the Golden Apple of Discord, μῆλον τῆς Ἔριδος) as the prize at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. However, it has been suggested that the figure is Alecto (Ἀληκτώ, implacable or unceasing anger), one of the Furies (Erinyes) who was associated with war. Although she is not mentioned in any of the versions of the Judgement of Paris story, the identification is based on the idea that she appears here as a portent of the Trojan War which was a consequence of Aphrodite bribing Paris with the promise of the love of the most beautiful woman in the world would, who turned out to be Helena. The other reason is that Alecto features in other paintings by Rubens, such as Peace and War, and may have been included here as an allusion to the political turmoil of his own time. [6]

Renewed interest in the subject of the Judgement of Paris began in the Middle Ages, when a number of images were made in a variety of media. Several painters depicted the story, particularly Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), who painted as many as twenty two versions. At least eight versions are attributed to Rubens or his studio, the first painted early in his career, and the last was one of his final works. The other six are:

Probably between 1597 and 1599. Oil on canvas. Height 144.8 cm, width 193.7 cm.
National Gallery, London. Inv. No. NG 6379.

Around 1600-1605. Rubens or his studio. Oil on oak panel. Height 67 cm, width 78 cm.
Private collection.

Unknown date. Rubens' studio. Oil on oak panel. Height 48 cm, width 63 cm.
Private collection, Zurich.

Around 1606. Oil on copper plate. Height 32.5 cm, width 43.5 cm.
Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna. Inv. No. 644.

Around 1606-1608. Oil on panel. Height 89 cm, width 114.5 cm.
Museo Del Prado, Madrid. Inv. No. P001731.

Around 1638-1639. Oil on panel. Height 199cm, width 381 cm.
Museo Del Prado, Madrid. Inv. No. P001669.
 
Hermes Hermes / Mercury and commerce

The head of Mercury on a denarius of the Roman Republic at My Favourite Planet

The head of Mercury wearing a winged helmet on a
denarius of the Roman Republic. Rome mint, 122 BC.

Thebes Archaeological Museum, Greece.
 
A Roman denarius showing the head of Mercury at My Favourite Planet

A Roman denarius serratus issued by the magistrate
C. Mamilius Limetanus (Gaius Mamilius Limetanus) showing
the head of Mercury with a winged petasos and caduceus. 82 BC.

The reverse side shows Ulysses (Odysseus) standing right,
holding a staff and his extending hand to his dog Argos.
When Odysseus finally returned home to Ithaca, disguised
as a beggar, the aged dog recognized him and died of joy
at seeing his former master. [7]

Numismatic Collection, Bode Museum, Berlin.
Fresco showing Mercury and Dionysus in a tavern in Pompeii at My Favourite Planet

Fresco showing Mercury and Dionysus, protectors of commerce and wine, on the wall of a tavern in Pompeii.

In situ in Thermopolium Lucius Vetutius Placidus, Pompeii.
 
  The scene is set in a painted lararium (shrine) in the form of a temple with Corinthian columns, on a wall in the thermopolium. Mercury stands on the far left, and Dionysus (Bacchus) on the far right with his panther. In the centre the house gods and the Genius, holding a cornucopia, sacrifice at a tripod altar.

Below the figures are two agatodemone snakes, deities of prosperity and abundance, either side of an altar.
 
Mercury with a caduceus and a purse in Pompeii at My Favourite Planet

Mercury with his caduceus and a purse.
Head of Mercury on a liguid measure from Herculaneum at My Favourite Planet

Roman bronze balance for measuring liquids, with a counter-weight in
the form of a head of Mercury with a winged helmet. From Herculaneum.

National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
A Roman lead ingot stamped with a caduceus at My Favourite Planet

A Roman lead ingot stamped with a dolphin, the name of the merchant
Marcus Octavius and a caduceus, the symbol of the money god Mercury.

100 BC - 100 AD. One of a number of ingots from a shipwreck found in the
sea off Cape Passero, Sicily. The lead is thought to have been from mines
in Spain, which the Romans controlled following their defeat of Carthage.

Soprintenderiza per i Beni culturali e ambientali del Mare, Palermo, Sicily. Inv. No. 33.

Exhibited in the exhibition "Storms, war and shipwrecks:
Treasures from the Sicilian Seas", Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2016.
Clay disc depicting Nike crowning Hermes at My Favourite Planet

Clay disc depicting Nike crowning Hermes. 2nd century AD.

Nike, the greek goddess of victory, stands behind Hermes, holding a victor's wreath above
his head with her right hand. In her left hand she holds a palm branch. Hermes, naked apart
from a petasos sun hat and winged sandals, sits on what appears to be a rock, perhaps
covered by his cloak. In his right hand he holds his kerykeion (caduceus). The legend
ΠΑΡΝΑΣΟΥ (Parnassos) may refer to the merchant who dedicated the disc to his patron god.

Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 5344 T.
 

Small bronze statuette of Mercury at My Favourite Planet

A small bronze statuette of Mercury with
winged cap, cloak, caduceus and a purse.
A small ram sits at his right foot.

Roman, 2nd century AD.

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.
Inv. No. 1917.365.
 
Bronze statuette of Mercury, Catania, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

A small bronze statuette of Mercury.

1st - 3rd century AD.

Museo Civico, Castello Ursino,
Catania, Sicily. Inv. No. 3199.
Fresco depicting Mercury by Raphael, Villa Farnesina, Rome at My Favourite Planet

Frescoes depicting Mercury flanked by cupids on the ceiling of the Loggia of Cupid and Psyche
in the Villa Farnesina, Trastevere, Rome. Designed and painted by Raphael and his workshop,
Giulio Romano and Giovan Francesco Penni, Giovanni da Udine and Raphaellino del Colle, in
1517-1518, the fresco panels in the loggia depict the "Fable of Cupid and Psyche" from the
novel The golden ass by Apulius (2nd century AD).

See also The Wedding of Alexander the Great and Roxana.
a fresco by Sodoma in the Villa Farnesina.
A statue of Mercury on the Porta Venezia, Milan at My Favourite Planet

A modern statue of Mercury by Benedetto Cacciatori (1794-1871)
on the north side of the west tower of Porta Venezia, Milan.

The Porta Venezia stands on the site of an ancient gate of the Roman city Mediolanum (Milan). Rebuilt a number of times and known by various names, including Porta Orientale and Porta Renza, the present monumental neoclassical gateway is based on an initial design Giuseppe Piermarini (1734-1808), whose work was continued after his death by his student Luigi Cagnola (1762-1833). Consisting of two massive sandstone towers on either side of the road, each with Doric porticos on three of the fours sides, it was completed 1827-1828.

The neoclassical reliefs depicting historical scenes and statues of Roman gods, sculpted by a number of Italian artists, were added in 1833. The statues on the west side: Mercury, Vulcan (Hephaistos), Abundantia (Abundance) and Justitia (Lady Justice). The statues on the east side: Minerva (Athena), Ceres (Demeter), Eternita (Eternity) and Fedelta (Fidelity).

The figure of Hermes/Mercury is based on Roman period statues depicting the god naked, apart from the fig leaf covering his genitals. He wears the winged basin-shaped sun hat or helmet, and a cloak is draped over his left shoulder and arm. His sandals are also winged. In his lowered left hand he holds a purse, and his raised right hand, now damaged, presumably held a caduceus. Like the other statues on the Porta Venezia, a sensitive, thoughtful and dignified work.
A statue of Hermes on a house facade Berlin at My Favourite Planet

A modern statue of Hermes/Mercury on the facade of an early 20th century
house in the Luisenbad area of the Wedding district, Berlin, Germany.

The Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) apartment and commercial house, Badstrasse 35-36, was built 1904-1905 by the carpenter, landowner and builder Carl Galuschki (1844–1910) and his architect brother Emil Galuschki. It featured shops on the ground floor, which perhaps explains the presence of Hermes as the god of merchants and commerce. Luisenbad, named after Queen Luise in 1799, had been famous since the early 18th century for its curative spring water, and was a popular leisure area on the edge of the city, among fields and windmills. The spring was destroyed during the construction of Galuschki's buildings on the site, and the water seeped into the sewers. It is a fine example of a building boom destroying the very qualities which made an area attractive in the first place.
 
Hermes Notes, references and links

1. "Youth holding a ram" from Boeotia

The painted terracotta statuette is similar to one in the Louvre, Paris, dated to circa 450 BC, and probably from the same workshop.

"Youth holding a ram". Musée du Louvre. Inv. No. CA 626. Height 18 cm.

2. Head of Hermes on the lid of a ceramic vessel from Larino

The vessel was exhibited as part of the temporary exhibition The gift of Dionysos in the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, 13 July 2011 - 30 September 2012. So far I have been unable to discover further details of the exhibits on loan from the Molise region of south-central Italy.

For further details see the note on the Dionysus page.

3. The Statue of Hermes with the infant Dionysus in Olympia

"The famously smooth and skilful 'Hermes of Praxiteles' in the Olympia museum. Its pedestal is Hellenistic or Roman, the legs except for the right foot are modern; the conception is that of Praxiteles working about 325 B.C., and the finish is glittering, but this is not the original statue; it is a fine Hellenistic copy. This sad but important truth is argued irrefutably by Sheila Adam in The technique of Greek sculpture (1966), pp. 124-8."

Peter Levi, in his translation of Pausanias, Guide to Greece, Volume 2: Southern Greece, note 164, page 248. Penguin Classics, 1979.

4. Argeiphontes and peacock eyes

"Then King Agamemnon rose, holding his scepter. This was the work of Hephaistos, who gave it to Zeus the son of Kronos. Zeus gave it to Hermes, slayer of Argos, guide and guardian. King Hermes 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."

Samuel Butler (translator), The Iliad of Homer, Book II. Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York and Bombay. 1898 (?). At Perseus Digital Library.

The conventional translation of the name Argeiphontes as "Argos Slayer" has been recently questioned. It has also been suggested that the eyes of Argos on the tails of peacocks is a later addition to the story, since it is thought that the oriental birds were unknown to the Greeks until the Hellenistic period. Writing in the 2nd century AD, Pausanias, described the Temple of Hera near Argos (see note below) and mentioned that Emperor Hadrian dedicated a golden peacock decorated with jewels:

"Of the votive offerings the following are noteworthy. There is an altar upon which is wrought in relief the fabled marriage of Hebe and Heracles. This is of silver, but the peacock dedicated by the Emperor Hadrian is of gold and gleaming stones. He dedicated it because they hold the bird to be sacred to Hera."

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 2, chapter 17, section 6. At Perseus Digital Library.

5. The Argolid Sanctuary of Hera

The archaeological site of the Heraion of Argos (Ἡραῖον Ἄργους) is around 10 kilometres northeast of Argos and just south of Mycenae, off the road between Corinth and Argos. It was discovered in 1831 by the British army officer and historian Major-General Thomas Gordon (1788-1841), who excavated there briefly in 1836.

6. Alecto in The Judgement of Paris by Rubens

The suggestion was first made by Gregory Martin in The Flemish School, c.1600 - c.1900, National Gallery Catalogue, London, 1970, pages 153-163, especially page 154, page 8.

See: Lois Oliver, Fiona Healy, Ashok Roy and Rachel Billinge, The evolution of Rubens's Judgement of Paris (NG 194) (PDF document). National Gallery Technical Bulletin, Volume 26, London 2005.

A number of publications state that Rubens' Judgement of Paris paintings were based on the versions of the story in Judgement of the Goddesses, from Dialogues of the Gods by Lucian of Samosata, and Ovid's, Heroides XVI, Paris to Helen, lines 64-93. Neither of these passages mention Alecto. Apart from the two National Gallery publications, others which state that Alecto appears in the London or Dresden paintings do not give reasons for this assumption.

7. Odysseus and his dog Argos

See: Homer, Odyssey, Book 17, lines 290-327. At Perseus Digital Library.
 
 
Photos on this page were taken during
visits to the following museums:

Bulgaria
Varna Archaeological Museum

Germany
Berlin, Altes Museum
Berlin, Bode Museum
Berlin, Pergamon Museum
Dresden, Albertinum, Skulpturensammlung
Dresden, Semperbau, Abguss-Sammlung
Dresden, Semperbau, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe

Greece
Amphipolis Archaeological Museum
Athens, Agora Museum
Athens, National Archaeological Museum
Corinth Archaeological Museum
Delos Archaeological Museum
Delphi Archaeological Museum
Thasos Archaeological Museum
Thebes Archaeological Museum
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum

Italy
Milan, Civic Archaeological Museum
Naples, National Archaeological Museum
Ostia Archaeological Museum
Paestum, National Archaeological Museum, Campania
Pompeii archaeological site
Rome, Barracco Museum
Rome, Capitoline Museums, Centrale Montemartini
Rome, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo dei Conservatori
Rome, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo Nuovo
Rome, National Etruscan Museum, Villa Giulia
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Baths of Diocletian
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Altemps
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

Italy - Sicily
Agrigento Regional Archaeological Museum
Catania, Museo Civico, Castello Ursino

Turkey
Bergama Archaeological Museum
Ephesus archaeological site
Istanbul Archaeological Museums

United Kingdom
London, British Museum
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum

Many thanks to the staff of these museums.

The winged head of Mercury as a water spout in Pompeii at My Favourite Planet

A relief of the head of Mercury with a winged helmet
and caduceus. From his open mouth protrudes a metal
water spout of a public fountain on a street of Pompeii.
 
A relief of Mercury on a modern building in Rome at My Favourite Planet

A relief of the head of Mercury with a winged helmet
on the facade of a modern building in Rome.
Photos and articles © David John, except where otherwise specified.

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