Hermes was the messenger of the gods, and is frequently shown with a winged helmet and
sandals. Because he was a messenger, he had two other attributes: he was speedy (and was
therefore the god of roads and travel), and he could speak and translate (and was therefore a god of information, and a minor god of poetry). He also had a flair for music.

Hermes was the child of Zeus by Maia, a nymph who lived in Arcadia. On the day Hermes was born, he snuck away from Maia and stole some of Apollo’s cattle, hiding them and covering their tracks. Later that day, he found a tortoise shell and used it to make the first lyre, a kind of musical instrument similar to a harp. When Apollo found out his cattle were missing, he tracked down Hermes, and started to argue with Maia about whether Hermes had taken the cattle. While they were arguing, Hermes played the lyre so beautifully that Apollo decided Hermes could keep the cattle in trade for the lyre, and Apollo was never without the lyre after that.

There is also a story of Hermes that he freed Io from the hundred-eyed Argus. Hera had
discovered that Zeus was in love with Io, and, in her anger at yet another of Zeus’s infidelities, gave Io to Argus to guard. Since he had a hundred eyes, he could let some sleep while keeping the others awake. Hermes, however, had a flute, and played it so beautifully that Argus finally let all his eyes fall asleep, allowing Hermes to escape with Io. Whether from gratitude at his efforts, or anger at his failure, Hera took Argus’s hundred eyes, and scattered them over the tail of the peacock, one of her sacred birds.

Hermes was also responsible for guiding dead souls safely to Hades. He was the only god
allowed to come and go safely within the realm of the underworld – even Persephone could only leave for six months at a time.
Finally, two of Hermes's most famous children include Pan and Hermaphroditus.


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