The Greek god Hermes was the son of Zeus (before he married Hera) and of the nymph Maia (daughter of the titan Atlas). He was the god of shepherds, travellers, merchants, and even thieves, and he also had the role of herald (messenger) of the gods. His Roman name was Mercury.
The baby was born in the morning, in a cave on Mount Cyllene. Tired after the birth, his mother put him into the cradle, then she fell asleep. But the mischievous baby got out of the cradle and went as far as Pieria, where Apollo's herds were grazing. He stole them and drove them home, but he was clever enough to make some of them walk backwards, so as to lose their tracks. On his way home, he also found a tortoise, that he killed and cleaned of its entrails, then took it with him.
When he got home, he sacrificed two of the cows to the Olympian gods. The he took the intestines of the sacrificed cows and put them on the hollow shell of the tortoise, inventing the first lyre. It had nine chords, in honour of the nine muses (he surely knew how to gain the favours of the other gods!).
Having accomplished all these before noon, the poor little baby was tired, so he went back to his cradle, where he fell asleep.
When Apollo discovered his cows were stolen, he was very angry. He managed to find baby Hermes the god and told his mother what her son had done. Maia, very astonished, told him to look at the cradle and see how the little "angel" was sleeping. How could he accuse of such things an innocent baby? Apollo didn't know how to prove he was right, but then he saw the lyre, made with the intestines of his cows, and had a confirmation of the theft.
Thus, baby Greek god Hermes was brought in front of Zeus (I suspect that the elder brother was a little bit jealous about the new-born baby). Zeus, who has seen everything and who told him to render Apollo his cattle (but I also think that he was very proud, in his heart, for what his little son had done - so little, yet so cunning!)
But Hermes started to play the lyre and Apollo was enchanted by this music, so he decide to let Hermes keep the cattle, in exchange for the lyre (which later became one of Apollo's attributes).
Little Hermes couldn't live without music, so soon he invented the syrinx (pan-pipe), which Apollo liked too, so he offered Hermes his golden staff, called
kerykeion in Greek, better known with the Roman name: caduceus.
Greek god Hermes' attributes are a winged traveler's cap, the caduceus with the two intertwined serpents and the winged sandals. He was represented as an athletic young man.
One of his tasks was to guide the souls of the dead to the underworld, that's why he was called pscychopomp (guide od the dead). He was the one who took Eurydice back to Hades, after Orpheus took her out. At the end of the Odyssey, he takes the souls of the dead suitors to the underworld.
The Greek god Hermes received the mission to save Zeus' lover, Io, who has been transformed into a cow. Hera wanted to have that cow and ordered Argus, the hundred-eyed giant, to... keep an eye on her ;-) But Hermes played a beautiful music, which made Argus fall asleep, then he killed him.
He also had the mission of leading the three goddesses, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, to mount Ida, where the shepherd Paris would decide which one was the most beautiful.
Greek god Hermes was the one that took care of baby Dyonisus and took him to king Athamas, who was to bring him up.
Being a messenger, Hermes the god was very active: he persuaded Calypso anc Circe to leave Ulysses alone, during his trip back home, and he gave the ram with the golden fleece to Nephele, to help her save her children.
Greek God Hermes' children:
- with Aphrodite: Hermaphroditus (they didn't have too much fantasy as regards the name, so they just gave him both their names)
- with a Dryope nymph: Pan. His mother was so scared when she saw him, that she ran away. But Greek god Hermes took baby Pan to the Olympus, where the gods liked his laughter.
- with an unknown mother: Priapus
Other pictures of the Greek god Hermes:
On a poster for the international fair in Prague, in 1922 (which was quite logical, as he was the god of trade, commerce and merchants):