Hermes was a Greek god of transitions and boundaries. He was quick and cunning, and moved freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine, as emissary and messenger of the gods, intercessor between mortals and the divine, and conductor of souls into the afterlife. He was protector and patron of travelers, herdsmen, thieves, orators and wit.
While the sculpture Hermes with Dionysius may not be as well known as other famous statues, it is truly one of the greatest works of art that exists today. It is one of the only remaining masterpieces of the Ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles dating back to 343 BC. Found at Olympia, intact and on its base, it still resides at the Archaeological Museum at Olympia. Although the bust of the Greek God Hermes is actually part of this entire statue, Praxiteles mastery of facial details and hair has made it one of the most revered and studied busts in the world of sculpture. To this day his skills in this arena remain unrivaled.
Hermes was a patron of travellers. His busts and statueswere set up as dividing marks at crossroads or street corners toguide passersby. The Hermes,as these statues were called,were regarded as sacred,and their mutilation was sacrilegiousand punishable by death. The destruction of the numerous Hermes within the city of Athens caused a terrible excitement amongits citizens that it might be no exaggeration to state that itchanged the whole course of historic development of Athens .
The earliest center of Hermes' cult was ARCADIA, where he was worshiped as a god of fertility with phallic images called hermae. These were heaps of stones set up by the ancient Greeks to mark boundaries or distances along roads. With the development of artistic taste, in the fifth century B.C. these crude piles became pillars crowned with the head of Hermes.
His cult was centred in the Peloponnese. Arguably his most important shrine was that of Mount Kyllene in Arkadia, where he was reputed to have been born. In classical and Hellenistic art Hermes was usually depicted as a handsome, athletic youth, with short, curly hair. He was commonly depicted nude, with a robe draped over his shoulder and arm. Sometimes he was equipped with a winged cap. In older Greek art Hermes was portrayed as a more mature, bearded god, a representation which remained popular on Herma (phallic bust-topped pillar-statues) well into classical times.
In ancient times, trade was conducted chiefly by means of the exchange of cattle. Hermes, therefore, as god of herdsmen, came to be regarded as the protector of merchants, and, as ready wit and adroitness are valuable qualities both in buying and selling, he was also looked upon as the patron of artifice and cunning. Indeed, so deeply was this notion rooted in the minds of the Greek people, that he was popularly believed to be also god of thieves, and of all persons who live by their wits. As the patron of commerce, Hermes was naturally supposed to be the promoter of intercourse among nations; hence, he is essentially the god of travellers, over whose safety he presided, and he severely punished those who refused assistance to the lost or weary wayfarer.
In his role as guide, Hermes was said to have led the three goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite to the competition where they were judged by Paris for the prize of being the most beautiful, the event that instigated the Trojan War. Hermes also led the goddess Persephone back from Hades. […] Hermes guided the hero Perseus to the Phorcides, old women who could tell hi where to find the Gorgon Medusa, whom he had been sent to kill.
When Zeus appointed Hermes the Divine Herald, he awarded him a cap with two small wings and a pair of winged sandals that could carry him across water as well as land. Zeus ordered everyone to give Hermes their full respect. [...] Zeus also gave him a herald's staff, encircled with two white ribbons. Later these ribbons were replaced by two snakes, entwined around the staff.
Greek mythology tells us that within hours of Hermes birth he flew off and stole the precious cattle of his half-brother Apollo, invented divine worship through sacrifice, and created the Lute before returning to his crib. That's quite diligent for a newborn baby, even a newborn god. Of course, Apollo, being the god of prophecy, amongst other things, quickly figured out what had happened and went to confront the parents of Hermes, Greek god Zeus and Greek goddess Maia. Hermes took Apollo to his cattle and played him a song on the lute so impressive that Apollo not only forgave Hermes for his crime, but let him keep the cattle. The two gods were said to have formed a tight friendship after this event.
Known for his swiftness and athleticism, Hermes was given credit for inventing foot-racing and boxing. At Olympia a statue of him stood at the entrance to the stadium and his statues where in every gymnasium throughout Greece. Apart from herms, Hermes was a popular subject for artists. Both painted pottery and statuary show him in various forms, but the most fashionable depicted him as a good-looking young man, with an athletic body, and winged sandals and his heralds staff. His Roman counterpart Mercury inherited his attributes, and there are many Roman copies of Greek artistic creations of Hermes.
Hermes is the god of shepherds, land travel, merchants, weights and measures, oratory, literature, athletics and thieves, and known for his cunning and shrewdness. Most importantly, he is the messenger of the gods. Besides that he was also a minor patron of poetry. He was worshiped throughout Greece -- especially in Arcadia -- and festivals in his honor were called Hermoea.
The wing shod messenger of the Olympians, Hermes was the beloved son of Zeus and Maia (the daughter of the Titan, Atlas). As friend to the mortals, he introduced weights and measures (as well as dice); he also escorts the dead to Hades. He is the giver of good luck and has a hand in all secret dealings and stratagems. He is, of course, sacred to all heralds. He taught mortals all arts... also, his domain includes roads, traffic and markets.