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Heracles, Hermes and Cerberus | Athenian red-figure kylix C6th B.C. | Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Heracles, Hermes and Cerberus, Athenian red-figure kylix C6th B.C., Museum of Fine Arts Boston

HERMES was the Olympian god of herds, trade, heralds, athletes and thieves.

This page describes benefactions bestowed by the god on men and women in myth. The most famous of these stories include the assistance he gave Odysseus in his encounter with the witch Kirke (Circe), the rewarding of the hospitable couple Philemon and Baukis, the aid he provided Herakles in his quest for Kerberos (Cerberus), and the help he gave Perseus in his quest for the head of the Gorgon Medousa.


HYRIEUS A childless king of Hyria in Boiotia (central Greece) who hospitably welcomed the disguised gods Zeus, Hermes and Poseidon. As a reward for his hospitality they provided him with the son he so desired, birthing Orion from their own urine.

NEPHELE A cloud-nymph who obtained a flying, Golden-Fleeced Ram from Hermes in order to rescue her mortal children from sacrifice at the hands of their father Athamas.

ODYSSEUS A king of Ithaka (in west-central Greece) and hero of the Trojan War who was assisted by Hermes in his encounter with the witch Kirke.

PHILEMON & BAUKIS (Baucis) Peasants of the Lykian countryside (in Asia Minor) who hospitably welcomed the disguised gods Zeus and Hermes. As a reward for their kindness, the gods transformed their home into a temple, and bound them together as intertwining trees in death.

PHRIXOS (Phrixus) A young prince of Boiotia (in central Greece). Hermes gave his mother Nephele the golden ram which carried him safely away when he was about to be sacrificed to the gods. Later Hermes carried him back to Greece to plead his innocence to his father.

PRIAMOS (Priam) A king of Troy (in Asia Minor) who was guided by Hermes through the camp of the hostile Greeks in order to ransom the body of Hektor from Akhilleus.


HERAKLES (Heracles) The great hero of Tiryns in Argos (southern Greece) was guided by Hermes in his quest to fetch Kerberos up from the Underworld.

LAODAMEIA A queen of Phylake (in Thessalia, northern Greece) who so grieved over the death of her husband Protesilaos that, at Zeus' command, Hermes guided his ghost up from the Underworld to visit her.


AESOP A famous (historical) teller of animal fables who was, according to legend, inspired by Hermes when he prayed to the god for wisdom.

AMPHION A king of Thebes (in central Greece) who was given a lyre by Hermes and taught to play with such skill that he could move stones with his music.

DAPHNIS A Sicilian boy who was taught bucolic poetry by the god Hermes.

KADMOS (Cadmus) A king of Thebes, in Boiotia (central Greece) whose wedding was attended by all the gods including Hermes. His wedding gift was a lyre or sceptre.

ORPHEUS A prince-bard of Pieria in Makedonia (northern Greece) who received the lyre that Hermes had first crafted from a tortoise-shell.


AITHALIDES (Aethalides) A lord of Larissa in Thessalia (northern Greece) who was given an unfailing memory by his father Hermes. He was said to have undergone countless reincarnations, and remembered all of his past lives in each instance.

AUTOLYKOS (Autolycus) A lord andthief of Phokis (in central Greece) who was given the ability to disguise the objects he pilfered under the veil of illusion by his father Hermes.

HERMAPHRODITOS (Hermaphroditus) A boy of Mt Ida (near Troy in Asia Minor) who was transformed into an hermaphrodite after a forcible merging with the Naias Salmakis. He prayed to his parents, Hermes and Aphrodite, for compensation and the two bestowed upon his/her spring the power to turn men effeminate.

MYRTILOS (Myrtilus) The charioteer of King Oinomaos of Pisa, Elis (in southern Greece) who helped the hero Pelops win both the king's daughter and his throne. When Pelops treacherously slew him he called on his father Hermes to curse the family of this man with his dying breath. Hermes brought about his curses and also placed Myrtilos amongst the stars as the constellation Charioteer.


DAIDALION (Daedalion) A king of Phokis (in central Greece) whose daughter Khione was loved by the gods Hermes and Apollon. He raised their sons as his own, but when her daughter was slain by Artemis, hewas so grief stricken that he threw himself off a cliff. Hermes and Apollon in pity transformed him into a hawk (a bird sacred to both gods).

DIOKSOUROI (Dioscuri) Twin princes of Lakedaimonia (in southern Greece) who won the friendship of Hermes and were given a pair of magical horses by the god.

PERSEUS A king and hero of Mykenai (in southern Greece) who was assisted by Hermes in his Quest to slay the Gorgon Medousa. The god was even said to have loaned him his winged sandals.



Perseus, Hermes, Athena, beheaded Medusa and the Gorgons | Athenian black-figure pyxis C6th B.C. | Musée du Louvre, Paris
Perseus, Hermes, Athena, beheaded Medusa and the Gorgons, Athenian black-figure pyxis C6th B.C., Musée du Louvre

LOCALE : Seriphos (Greek Aegean)

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 37 & 46 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"With Hermes and Athena as his guides Perseus sought out the daughters of Phorkys [the Graiai] who told him where to find the Nymphai (Nymphs) who kept certain treasures of the gods--winged sandals, the kibisis (a sack), and the helmet of Hades] . . . He [Perseus] also received from Hermes a sickle made of adamant . . .
[After his quest was complete:] Perseus gave the sandals, kibisis, and helmet back to Hermes, and the Gorgon's head to Athena. Hermes returned the aforementioned articles to the Nymphai."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 64 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Perseus, flying on Mercurius' [Hermes'] winged sandals, is said to have come there and freed her [Andromeda] from danger [the sea-monster]."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 12 :
"[Perseus] when sent by Polydectes, son of Magnes, to the Gorgons, he received from Mercury [Hermes], who is thought to have loved him, talaria (winged sandals) and petasus (winged cap), and, in addition, a helmet which kept its wearer from being seen by an enemy. So the Greeks have called it the helmet of Haides [the Unseen One], though Perseus did not, as some ignorant people interpret it, wear the helmet of Orcus himself, for no educated person could believe that."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 740 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[After Perseus had slain the Sea-Monster:] water was brought and Perseus washed his hands, triumphant hands . . . Then he built three turf altars to three gods, the left to Mercurius [Hermes], the middle Jove's [Zeus'], the right the warrior queen's [Athena's], and sacrificed a cow to Minerva [Athena], to the wing-foot god [Hermes] a calf and to the king of heaven [Zeus] a bull."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 24. 270 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Nimbleknee Perseus, waving his winged feet, held his course near the clouds, a wayfarer pacing through the air . . . with Hermes' wings . . . he sailed on swiftest shoes."

For MORE information on this hero see PERSEUS


LOCALE : Athamantia, Boiotia (Central Greece)

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 195 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Jove [Zeus], Neptunus [Poseidon], and Mercurius [Hermes] came as guests to King Hyrieus in Thrace. Since they were received hospitably by him, they promised him whatever he should ask for. He asked for children. Mercurius [Hermes] brought out the hide of the bull which Hyrieus had sacrificed to them; they urinated in it, and buried it in the earth, and from it Orion was born."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 34 :
"Aristomachus says that there lived a certain Hyrieus at Thebes--Pindar puts him on the island of Chios--who asked from Jove [Zeus] and Mercurius [Hermes] when they visited him that he might have a child. To gain his request more readily he sacrificed an ox and put it before them for a feast. When he had done this, Jove and Mercurius asked him to remove the hide from the ox; then they urinated in it, and bade him bury the hide in the ground. From this, later on, a child was born whom Hyrieus called Urion (Urine) from the happening, though on account of his charm and affability he came to be called Orion."

Ovid, Fasti 5. 493 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Constellation] Boeotian Orion. I should sing the cause of this constellation. Jupiter [Zeus] and his brother who rules the broad sea [Poseidon] were travelling the road with Mercurius [Hermes] . . .
Hyrieus, spots them, Jupiter's [Zeus'] words were : ‘Wish whatever you desire; you shall have it all.’
The kind man's words were : ‘. . . I want to be, not a husband, but a father.’ All nodded; all stood by the hide of the ox. I am ashamed to speak any further [the three gods urinated on the hide]. Then they blanketed the sodden spot with soil. It was now ten months, and a boy was born. Hyrieus calls him Urion from his mode of birth; then the first letter lost its ancient sound. He grew huge."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 96 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Hyria, that hospitable land which entertained the gods, named after hospitable Hyrieus; where that huge giant born of no marriage-bed, threefather Orion, sprang up from his mother earth, after a shower of piss from three gods grew in generative fruitfulness to the selfmade shape of a child, having impregnated a wrinkled of fruitful oxhide. Then a hollow of the earth was made midwife to earth's unbegotten son."

For MORE information on the giant see ORION


LOCALE : Athamantia, Boiotia (Central Greece)

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 80 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The oracle prophesied an end to the dearth if Phrixos were to be sacrificed to Zeus. When Athamas heard this and was pressured by the joint efforts of the inhabitants, he had Phrixos placed on the altar. But Nephele seized both him and her daughter, and gave them a golden-fleeced ram which she had received from Hermes, by which they were borne through the sky over and across the land and the sea . . . [to Kholkis at the far end of the Black Sea]."

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2. 1141 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[Argos son of Phrixos tells the Argonauts the tale of his father :] ‘An Aeolid called Phrixos came to Aea from Hellas. He reached Aeetes' city on the back of a ram which Hermes had turned into gold--you can still see its fleece, spread on the leafy branches of an oak. Phrixos sacrificed the ram at its own suggestion to Zeus alone, because he is the god of fugitives; and Aeetes made him welcome in his palace.’"

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 113 ff :
"Near by [the grove where the Golden Fleece hung], begrimed by smoke, was the base of the altar that Phrixos had set up to Zeus, the friend of fugitives, when he sacrificed the golden wonder, as Hermes had bidden him to do when he met him on the way."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 20 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Phrixus came to the Colchians [on the back of the golden-fleeced ram], and, as we have said, hung up the fleece of the slain ram in a temple. He himself was brought back to Athamas by Mercurius [Hermes], who proved to his father that, relying on innocence, he had fled."

For MORE information on this nymph see NEPHELE


LOCALE : Lydia (Anatolia)

Ovid, Metamorphoses 8. 618 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The power of heaven is great and has no bounds; whatever the gods determine is fulfilled. I give you proof. Among the Phrygian hills [of Lydia in Asia Minor] an oak tree and a lime grow side by side, girt by a little wall . . . not far from these two trees there is a marsh, once habitable land, but water now, the busy home of divers, duck and coot.
Here once came Juppiter [Zeus], in mortal guise, and with his father herald Atlantiades [Hermes], his wings now laid aside. A thousand homes they came to seeking rest; a thousand homes were barred against them; yet one welcomed them, tiny indeed, and thatched with reeds and straw; but in that cottage Baucis, old and good, and old Philemon (he as hold as she) had joined their lives in youth, grown old together, and eased their poverty by bearing it contentedly and thinking it no shame. It was vain to seek master and servant there; they two were all the household, to obey and to command. So when the heavenly ones reached their small home and, stooping, entered in at the low door, the old man placed a bench and bade them sit and rest their weary limbs, and Baucis spread on it a simple rug in busy haste, and from the hearth removed the ash still warm, and fanned yesterday's embers and fed them leaves and bark, and coaxed a flame with her old breath; then from the rafters took split billets and dry twigs and broke them small, and on them placed a little copper pan; then trimmed a cabbage which her spouse had brought in from the stream-fed garden. He reached down with a forked stick from the black beam a chine of smoke-cured pork, and from the long-kept meat cut a small piece and put it in to boil. Meanwhile their talk beguiles the passing hour and time glides unperceived. A beachwood bowl hung by its curving handle from a peg; they fill it with warm water and their guests bathe in the welcome balm their weary feet.
They place a mattress of soft river-sedge upon a couch (its frame and feet were willow) and spread on it their drapes, only brought out on holy days, yet old and cheap they were, fit for a willow couch. The Gods reclined. Then the old woman, aproned, shakily, arranged the table, but one leg was short; a crock adjusted it, and when the slope was levelled up she wiped it with green mint. Then olives, black and green, she brings, the fruit of true Minerva [Athena], autumn cherry plums bottled in wine lees, endive, radishes, and creamy cheese and eggs turned carefully in the cooling ash; all served in earthenware. Next a wine-bowl, from the same ‘silver’ chased, is set and beechwood cups, coated inside with yellow wax. No long delay; the hearth sends forth the steaming feast and wine again is brought of no great age, then moved aside, giving a space to bring the second course. Here are their nuts and figs, here wrinkled dates, and plums and fragrant apples in broad trugs, and sweet grapes gathered from the purple vines, and in the midst a fine pale honeycomb; and--over all--a zeal, not poor nor slow, and faces that with smiling goodness glow.
Meanwhile they saw, when the wine-bowl was drained, each time it filled itself, and wine welled up all of its own accord within the bowl. In fear and wonder Baucis and Philemon, with hands upturned, joined in a timid prayer and pardon sought for the crude graceless meal. There was one goose, the trusty guardian of their minute domain and they, the hosts, would sacrifice him for the Gods, their guests. But he, swift-winged, wore out their slow old bones and long escaped them, till at last he seemed to flee for sanctuary to the Gods themselves. The deities forbade. ‘We two are gods,’ they said; ‘This wicked neighbourhood shall pay just punishment; but to you there shall be given exemption from this evil. Leave your home, accompany our steps and climb with us the mountain slopes.’
The two old folk obey and slowly struggle up the long ascent, propped on their sticks. A bowshot from the top they turn their eyes and see the land below all flooded marshes now except their house; and while they wonder and in tears bewail their lost possessions, that old cottage home, small even for two owners, is transformed into a temple; columns stand beneath the rafters, and the thatch, turned yellow, gleams a roof of gold; and fine doors richly carved they see, and the bare earth with marble paved.
Then Saturnius [Zeus] in gentle tones addressed them : ‘Tell us, you good old man, and you, good dame, his worthy consort, what you most desire.’ Philemon briefly spoke with Baucis, then declared their joint decision to the Gods : ‘We ask to be your priests and guard your shrine; and, since in concord we have spent our years, grant that the selfsame hour may take us both, that I my consort's tomb may never see nor may it fall to her to bury me.’
Their prayer was granted. Guardians of the shrine they were while life was left, until one day, undone by years and age, standing before the sacred steps and talking of old times, Philemon saw old Baucis sprouting leaves and green with leaves she saw Philemon too, and as the foliage o'er their faces formed they said, while still they might, in mutual words ‘Goodbye, dear love’ together, and together the hiding bark covered their lips. Today the peasants in those parts point out with pride two trees From one twin trunk grown side by side. This tale I heard from staid old men who had no reason to deceive. I saw myself wreaths on the boughs and hung a fresh one there, and said : ‘They now are gods, who served the Gods; to them who worship gave is worship given.’"


Hermes, Heracles and Nike | Lucanian red-figure krater C4th B.C. | Musée du Louvre, Paris
Hermes, Heracles and Nike, Lucanian red-figure krater C4th B.C., Musée du Louvre

LOCALE : The Underworld

Homer, Odyssey 11. 626 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"He [Eurystheus] once sent me [Herakles] even here [the Underworld] to fetch away the hound of Haides, for he thought no taks could be more fearsome for me than that. But I brought the hound out of Haides' house and up to earth, because Hermes helped me on my way, and gleaming-eyed Athene."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 71 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[After completing his eduction the young :] Herakles was given a sword from Hermes, bow and arrows from Apollon, chest-armour of gold from Hephaistos, and a peplos from Athena."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 123 :
"[Herakles descended into Haides on one of his Labours :] All the souls who saw him ran away, except Meleagros and Medousa the Gorgon. Herakles drew his sword against the Gorgon, assuming her to be alive, but from Hermes he learned that she was an empty wraith."


LOCALE : Aiaia (Mythical Island)

Homer, Odyssey 10. 277 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"I [Odysseus] left the ship and shore and took the path upward; but as I traversed those haunted glades, as I came close to Kirke's house and neared the palace of the enchantress, I was met by Hermes golden-wanded (khrysorrapis); he seemed a youth in the lovely spring of life, with the first down upon his lip. He seized my hand and spoke thus to me : ‘Luckless man, why are you walking thus alone over these hills, in country you do not know? Your comrades are yonder in Kirke's grounds; they are turned to swine, lodged and safely penned in the sites. Is your errand her to rescue them? I warn you, you will never return yourself, you will only be left with the others there. Yet no--I am ready to save you from all hazards, ready to keep you unscathed. Look. Here is a herb of magic virtue; take it and enter Kirke's house with it; then the day of evil never will touch your head. I will tell you of all her witch's arts. She will brew a potion for you, but with good things she will mingle drugs as well. Yet even so, she will not be able to enchant you; my gift of the magic herb will thwart her. I will tell you the rest, point by point. When Kirke strikes you with the long wand she has, draw the keen sword from beside your thigh, rush upon her and make as if to kill her. She will shrink, back, and then ask you to lie with her. At this you must let her have her way; she is a goddess; accept her bed, so that she may release your comrades and make you her cherished guest. But first, make her swear the great oath of the Blessed Ones [by the river Styx] to plot no mischief to you thenceforward--if not, while you lie naked there, she may rob you of courage and of manhood.’
So spoke Argeiphontes (the Radiant One); then gave the magic herb, pulling it from the ground and showing me in what form it grew; its root was black, its flower milk-white. Its name among the gods is ‘moly’. For mortal men it is perilous to pluck it up, but for the gods all things are possible.
Then Hermes departed over the wooded island went his way to the mountain of Olympos. I myself passed on to Kirke's palace . . . In a golden goblet she brewed a potion for me to drink, and treacherously mingled her drug with it. When I had taken and drunk it up and was unenchanted still, she struck at me with her wand, and ‘Now’ she said ‘be off to the sty, to wallow with your companions there.’
So she spoke, but I drew the keen sword from beside my thigh, rushed at her and made as if to kill her. She shrieked, she slipped underneath my weapon, she clasped my knees and spoke in rapid appealing words : ‘Who are you, and from where? . . . It bewilders me that you drank this drug and were not bewitched. Never has any other man resisted this drug, once ha head drunk it and let it pass his lips. But you have an inner will that is proof against sorcery. You must surely be that man of wide-ranging spirit, Odysseus himself; Argeiphontes (the Radiant One) of the golden wand (khrysorrapis) [Hermes] has told me of you; he always said that Odysseus would come to me on his way from Troy in his dark and rapid vessel. But enough of this; sheathe your sword; then let us go to bed together, and embracing there, let us learn to trust in one another.’"

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E7. 16 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Odysseus went to see Kirke with some moly, which Hermes had given him, and by adding it to her drugs he alone was able to drink without being enchanted."

Lycophron, Alexandra 672 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"What beast-molding Drakaina [Kirke] shall he [Odysseus] not behold, mixing drugs with meal, and beast-shaping doom? And they, hapless ones, bewailing their fate shall feed in the pigstyes, crunching grapestones mixed with grass and oilcake. But him the drowsy root shall save from harm and the coming of Ktaros [Hermes]."

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 10e (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"By way of denouncing drunkenness the poet [Homer] . . . changes the men who visited Kirke into lions and wolves because of their self-indulgence, whereas Odysseus is saved because he obeys the admonition of Hermes, and therefore comes off unscathed."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 125 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"He [Odysseus] came to the island of Aenaria, to Circe, daughter of Sol [Helios], who, by giving a potion, used to change men into wild beasts . . . Ulysses [Odysseus] went along to her [Kirke], but on the way Mercurius [Hermes] gave him a charm, and showed him how to deceive Circe. After he came to Circe and took the cup from her, at Mercurius' [Hermes'] suggestion he put in the charm, and drew his sword, threatening to kill her unless she restored his comrades. Then Circe knew that this had not happened without he will of the gods, and so, promising that she would not do the like to him, she restored his comrades to their earlier forms."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 291 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Ulixes [Odysseus] . . . learnt of our [his men's] ruin [they had been transformed into animals by the witch Kirke] and came to Circe for revenge. He had been given by Cyllenius [Hermes], who brings the boon of peace, a flower which the gods call moly, a white bloom with root of black. Secure with this and heaven's guiding grace, he entered Circe's halls and as she coaxed him to the treacherous cup and with her wand was trying to stroke his hair, he thrust her off and drew his sword, and back she shrank in dread. Then trust was pledged and hands were clasped; she took him to her bed, and he, for wedding gift, called for his comrades' shape to be restored. So we were sprinkled with the saving juice of some strange herb and on our heads he wand was touched reversed, and words of countering power were chanted to unspell the chanted spells."

Hermes was later sent by Zeus to command Kalypso to release Odysseus.
For this MYTH see Hermes Agent of Zeus: Herald
For MORE information on the goddess Kirke see KIRKE


LOCALE : Thebes, Boiotia (Central Greece)

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 43 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Amphion [of Thebes, son of Zeus] pursued a career in singing, after Hermes presented him with a lyre."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 5. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The writer of the poem on Europa says that Amphion was the first harpist, and that Hermes was his teacher."

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 10 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"The clever device of the lyre, it is said, was invented by Hermes, who constructed it of two horns and a crossbar and a tortoise-shell; and he presented it first to Apollon and the Mousai, then to Amphion of Thebes. And Amphion, inasmuch as the Thebes of his day was not yet a walled city, has directed his music to the stones, and the stones run together when they hear him. This is the subject of the painting.
Look carefully at the lyre first, to see if it is painted faithfully. The horn is the horn ‘of a leaping goat,’ as the poets say, and it is used by the musician for his lyre and by the bowman for his bow. The horns, you observe, are black and jagged and formidable for attack. All the wood required for the lyre is of boxwood, firm and free from knots--there is no ivory anywhere about the lyre, for men did not yet know wither the elephant or the use they were to make of its tusks. The tortoise-shell is black, but its portrayal is accurate and true to nature in that the surface is covered with irregular circles which touch each other and have yellow eyes; and the lower ends of the strings below the bridge lie close to the shell and are attached to knobs, while between the bridge and the crossbar the strings seem to be without support, this arrangement of the strings being apparently best adapted for keeping them stretched taut on the lyre . . .
His [Amphion's] hair is lovely and truthfully depicted, falling as it does in disorder on his forehead and mingling with the downy beard beside the ear, and showing a glint of gold; but it is lovelier still where it is held by the headband--the headband ‘wrought by the Kharites (Graces), a most lovely ornament,’ as the poets of the Secret Verses say--and quite in keeping with the lyre. My own opinion is that Hermes gave Amphion both these gifts, both the lyre and the headband, because he was overcome by love for him. And the chlamys he wears, perhaps that also came from Hermes; for its colour does not remain the same but changes and takes on all the hues of the rainbow [N.B. Hermes as god of messengers governed Iris the rainbow]."


LOCALE : Sikelia (Sicily)

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 10. 18 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Some say the herdsman Daphnis was the favourite boy of Hermes, others that he was his son."


LOCALE : Samothrake (Greek Aegean) OR Thebes, Boiotia (Central Greece)

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 48. 2 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Kadmos came . . . to the Samothrakians, and after participating in the initiation he married Harmonia . . . This wedding of Kadmos and Harmonia was the first, we are told, for which the gods provided the marriage-feast, and Demeter . . . presented him with the fruit of the corn, Hermes gave a lyre, Athene the renowned necklace and a robe and a flute."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 5. 88 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[The gods arrive at the wedding of Kadmos and Harmonia bearing gifts :] Hermes gave a sceptre, Ares a spear, Apollon a bow."


LOCALE : Pieria, Makedonia (North of Greece)

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 7 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The Lyre was put among the constellations for the following reason, as Eratosthenes [Greek writer C3rd B.C.] says. Made at first by Mercury [Hermes] from a tortoise shell, it was given to Orpheus, son of Calliope and Oeagrus, who was passionately devoted to music . . . [after Orpheus' death] they [the gods] put as a memorial his lyre, pictured with stars, among the constellations . . .
Others say that when Mercury [Hermes] first made the lyre on Mount Cyllene . . . Apollo took the lyre, and is said to have taught Orpheus on it, and after he himself had invented the cithara, he gave the lyre to Orpheus."


LOCALE : Alope, Phthiotis (Northern Greece)

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1. 641 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"From the ship the chiefs [of the Argonauts] had sent Aithalides the swift herald, to whose care they entrusted their messages and the wand of Hermes, his sire, who had granted him a memory of all things, that never grew dim; and not even now, though he has entered the unspeakable whirlpools of Akheron, has forgetfulness swept over his soul, but its fixed doom is to be ever changing its abode; at one time to be numbered among the dwellers beneath the earth, at another to be in the light of the sun among living men."


Hermes, Heracles and Athena | Athenian black-figure skyphos C6th B.C. | Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley
Hermes, Heracles and Athena, Athenian black-figure skyphos C6th B.C., Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

LOCALE : Phokis (Central Greece)

Homer, Odyssey 19. 396 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Autolykos was the noble father of Odysseus' own mother [Antikleia], and excelled all mankind in thieving and subtlety of oaths, having won this mastery from the god Hermes himself, who welcomed his many sacrifices of lambs and young goats and who gladly seconded his actions."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 201 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Mercurius [Hermes] gave to Autolycus, who he begat by Chione, the gift of being such a skilful thief that he could not be caught, making him able to change whatever he stole into some other form--from white to black, or from black to white, from a hornless animal to a horned one, or from horned one to a hornless. When he kept continually stealing from the herds of Sisyphus and couldn't be caught, Sisyphus was convinced he was stealing because Autolycus' number was increasing while his was growing smaller. In order to catch him, he put a mark on the hooves of his cattle. When Autolycus had stolen in his usual way, Sisyphus came to him and identified the cattle he had stolen by their hooves, and took them away."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 11. 301 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"To the wing-foot god a wily brat was born, Autolycus, adept at tricks off every kind, well used to make black white, white black, a son who kept his father's skill."

According to the ancient Scholiast on the Odyssey 19.432 the story of Autolykos goes back to Pherecydes (poet C6th BC).


LOCALE : Halikarnassos, Karia (Anatolia)

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 285 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"When he [Hermaphroditos] saw the waters of the pool, where he had dived a man, had rendered him half woman [he was merged with the Nympha Salmakis by her prayer] and his limbs now weak and soft, raising his hands, Hermaphroditus cried, his voice unmanned, ‘Dear father [Hermes] and dear mother [Aphrodite], both of whose names I bear, grant me, your child, that whoso in these waters bathes a man emerge half woman, weakened instantly.’ Both parents hears; both, moved to gratify their bi-sexed son, his purpose to ensure, drugged the bright water with that power impure."

For MORE information on this demi-god see HERMAPHRODITOS


LOCALE : Pisa, Elis (Southern Greece)

Myrtilos was the charioteer of Oinomaos King of Pisa, who helped the hero Pelops win the king's daughter and his throne. When Pelops treacherously slew him, he called on his father Hermes to curse the hero and his descendants with his dying breath. Hermes fulfilled his desire, first bringing about discord in the family of Pelops, leading to the exile of his sons, and later to the blood feud between the brothers Atreus and Thyestes in their competition for the throne of Mykenai.

For the MYTH of the curse of Myrtilos see Hermes Wrath: Pelops

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 224 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Mortals who were made immortal [as constellations] . . . Myrtilus, son of Mercurius [Hermes] and Theobule, as the Charioteer."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 13 :
"Others identified him [the constellation Auriga] as the son of Mercury [Hermes] and Clytie, Myrtilus by name, the charioteer of Oenomaus. After his death, the manner of which is common knowledge, his father [Hermes] is said to have put his form in the sky."


LOCALE : Lakedaimonia (Southern Greece) OR Iolkos, Thessalia (Northern Greece)

Stesichorus, Fragment 178 (from Etymologicum Magnum) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (C7th to 6th B.C.) :
"Stesichorus in his Funeral Games of Pelias says that Hermes gave the Dioskouri [who were competing in the chariot-race] Phlogeus and Harpagos, swift foals of Podarge, while Hera gave them Xanthos and Kyllaros."

Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 7(summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"Hermes, beloved of Polydeukes, one of the Dioskourides, made him a gift of Dotor, the Thessalian horse."

For MORE information on these demi-gods see DIOSKOUROI


LOCALE : Arkadia (Southern Greece)

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5. 15 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to 2nd A.D.) :
"My mother taught me a story about the wisdom of Aesop . . . he [Aesop] was once a shepherd, and was tending his flocks hard by a temple of Hermes, and that he was a passionate lover of wisdom and prayed to Hermes that he might receive it. Many other people, she said, also resorted to the temple of Hermes asking for the same gift, and one of them would hang on the altar gold, another silver, another a herald's wand of ivory, and others other rich presents of the kind. Now Aesop, she said, was not in a position to own any of these things; but he saved up what he had, and poured a libation of as much milk as a sheep would give at one milking in honour of Hermes, and brought a honeycomb and laid it on the altar, big enough to fill the hand, and he thought of regaling the god with myrtle berries, or perhaps by laying just a few roses or violets at the altar. ‘For,’ said he, ‘would you, O Hermes, have me weave crowns for you and neglect my sheep?’
Now when on the appointed day they arrived of the distribution of the gifts of wisdom, Hermes as the god of wisdom and eloquence and also of rewards, said to him who, as you may well suppose, had made the biggest offering: ‘Here is philosophy for you’; and to him who had made the next handsomest present he said : ‘Do you take your place among the orators’; and to others he said : ‘You shall have the fits of astronomy or you shall be a musician, or you shall be an epic poet and write in heroic metre, or you shall be a write of iambics.’
Now although he was a most wise and accomplished go he exhausted, not meaning to do so, all the various departments of wisdom, and then found that he had quite forgotten Aesop. Thereupon he remembered the Horai, by whom he himself had been nurtured on the peaks of Olympos, and bethought how once, when he was still in swaddling clothes, they had told him a story about the cow, which had a conversation with the man about herself and about the earth, and so set him aflame after the cows of Apollon. Accordingly forthwith he bestowed upon Aesop the art of fable called mythology, for that was all that was left in the house of wisdom, and said : ‘Do you keep what was the first thing I learnt myself.’ Aesop then acquired the various forms of his fart from that source, and the issue was such as we see in the matter of mythology."






A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.