HERMES MYTHS 3
HERMES was the Olympian god of herds, trade, heralds, athletes and thieves.
This page describes stories of Hermes as the personal agent of Zeus, including his role as herald, messenger, enforcer, cattle-herder, thief, merchant, contest-leader, guide of the dead, and deliverer of infants into foster-care.
The other myth pages cover the childhood of the god, his role in the sagas of the gods, as well as his loves, wrath and favour. (See the Hermes pages index for more information.)
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
AGENT OF ZEUS : HERALD & MESSENGER
Homer, Odyssey 5. 4 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Zeus who masses the clouds made answer . . . turned to his dear son Hermes : ‘Hermes, you are always our messenger.’"
Hesiod, Theogony 938 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Glorious (kydimos) Hermes, the herald of the deathless gods (keryx athanaton)."
Hesiod, The Astronomy Frag 1 (from Scholiast on Pindar's Nemean Ode 2. 16) :
"Hermes, the herald of the gods."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 115 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Zeus made Hermes his personal herald."
Orphic Hymn 28 to Hermes (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Hermes . . . messenger of Zeus . . . Celestial messenger of various skill, whose powerful arts could watchful Argos kill. With winged feet 'tis thine through air to course."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 32. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"To Hermes . . . are attached traditions from the poems of Homer: that Hermes is the minister of Zeus."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 708 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"I [Hermes] am he who bears his father's mandates through the sky. My father's Juppiter [Zeus] himself."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 836 ff :
"Jove [Zeus] called his son aside . . . ‘Mercurius [Hermes],’ he said, ‘Trusty executant of my commands, make haste, glide swiftly on your course.’"
Ovid, Metamorphoses 8. 618 ff :
"Here once came Juppiter [Zeus] . . . and with his father herald Atlantiades [Hermes]."
Statius, Silvae 3. 3. 80 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"The winged Arcadian [Hermes] is the messenger of supreme Jove [Zeus]; Juno [Hera] hath power over the rain-bringing Thaumantian [Iris the rainbow]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 3. 373 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Father Zeus sent his quick messenger Maia's son [Hermes] on outspread wings."
I. SUMMONS DIVINITIES TO ATTEND THE WEDDING OF ZEUS & HERA
Servius, On Virgil's Aeneid 1. 505 (Roman grammarian C4th A.D.) :
"For his wedding with Juno [Hera], Jupiter [Zeus] ordered Mercurius [Hermes] to invite all the gods, the men and the animals to the wedding. Everyone invited by Mercurius [Hermes] came, except for Chelone."
For the REST of this story see Hermes Wrath: Chelone
II. FETCHES PHAINON TO HEAVEN FOR ZEUS
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 42 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"One of them [the planets or wandering stars] is the star of Jove [Zeus], Phaenon by name, a youth whom Prometheus made excelling all others in beauty, when he was making men, as Heraclides Ponticus [Greek philosopher C4th B.C.] says. When he intended to keep him back, without presenting him to Jove as he did the others, Cupid [Eros] reported this to Jove, whereupon Mercurius [Hermes] was sent to Phaenon and persuaded him to come to Jove and become immortal. Therefore he is placed among the stars."
III. INSTRUCTS DEUKALION ON THE CASTING OF THE STONES
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 48 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"After the rain [of the Great Deluge] subsided, he [Deukalion] went ashore and made sacrifices to Zeus Phyxios. Zeus sent Hermes to him to grant the wish of his choice. He chose to have people. So Zeus directed him to pick up stones and toss them back over his head. His stones became men, whereas those of Pyrrha tossed became women."
IV. FETCHES PERSEPHONE BACK FROM HAIDES
For the MYTH of Hermes & Persephone see Agent of Zeus: Guide of the Dead
V. COMMANDS PROMETHEUS TO REVEAL THE SECRET OF ZEUS' DOWNFALL
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 904 - 1079 (trans. Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Hermes : To you [Prometheus], the clever and crafty, bitter beyond all bitterness . . . I speak. The Father commands that you tell what marriage you boast of, whereby he is to be hurled from power--and this, mark well, set forth in no riddling fashion, but point by point, as the case exactly stands; and do not impose upon me a double journey, Prometheus--you see Zeus is not appeased by dealings such as yours.
Prometheus : Bravely spoken, in truth, and swollen with pride is your speech, as befits a minion of the gods. Young you are, as young your power, and you think indeed that you inhabit heights beyond the reach of grief. Have I not seen two sovereigns cast out from these heights? A third, the present lord, I shall live to see cast out in ruin most shameful and most swift. Do you think I quail, perhaps, and cower before these upstart gods? Far from it--no, not at all. But scurry back the way you came; for you shall learn nothing about which you question me.
Hermes : Yet it was by such proud wilfulness before, too, that you brought yourself to this harbor of distress.
Prometheus : For your servitude, rest assured, I'd not barter my hard lot, not I.
Hermes : Better, no doubt, to serve this rock than be the trusted messenger of Father Zeus! . . .
Hermes : But you at least have not yet learned to keep a sober mind.
Prometheus : Or else I would not have addressed you, an underling.
Hermes : It seems you will answer nothing that the Father demands.
Prometheus : Yes, truly, I am his debtor and I should repay favor to him.
Hermes : You taunt me as though, indeed, I were a child.
Prometheus : And are you not a child and even more witless than a child if you expect to learn anything from me? There is no torment or device by which Zeus shall induce me to utter this until these injurious fetters are loosed . . . For nothing of this shall bend my will even to tell at whose hands he is fated to be hurled from his sovereignty.
Hermes : Look now whether this course seems to profit you.
Prometheus : Long ago has this my course been foreseen and resolved.
Hermes : Bend your will, perverse fool, oh bend your will at last to wisdom in face of your present sufferings.
Prometheus : In vain you trouble me, as though it were a wave you try to persuade. Never think that, through terror at the will of Zeus, I shall become womanish and, with hands upturned, aping woman's ways, shall importune my greatly hated enemy to release me from these bonds. I am far, far from that.
Hermes : I think that by speaking much I will only speak in vain; for you are not soothed nor are you softened by my entreaties. You take the bit in your teeth like a new-harnessed colt and struggle against the reins. Yet it is a paltry device that prompts your vehemence, for in the foolish-minded mere self-will of itself avails less than anything at all. But if you will not be won to belief by my words, think of what a tempest and a towering wave of woe shall break upon you past escape. First, the Father will shatter this jagged cliff with thunder and lightning-flame, and will entomb your frame, while the rock shall still hold you clasped in its embrace. But when you have completed a long stretch of time, you shall come back again to the light. Then indeed the winged hound of Zeus, the ravening eagle, coming an unbidden banqueter the whole day long, with savage appetite shall tear your body piecemeal into great rents and feast his fill upon your liver until it is black with gnawing. Look for no term of this your agony until some god shall appear to take upon himself your woes and of his own free will descend into the sunless realm of Haides and the dark deeps of Tartaros. Therefore be advised, since this is no counterfeited vaunting but utter truth; for the mouth of Zeus does not know how to utter falsehood, but will bring to pass every word. May you consider warily and reflect, and never deem stubbornness better than wise counsel.
Chorus : To us, at least, Hermes seems not to speak untimely; for he bids you to lay aside your stubbornness and seek the good counsel of wisdom. Be advised! It is shameful for the wise to persist in error.
Prometheus : No news to me, in truth, is the message this fellow has proclaimed so noisily.Yet for enemy to suffer ill from enemy is no disgrace. Therefore let the lightning's forked curl be cast upon my head and let the sky be convulsed with thunder and the wrack of savage winds . . .
Hermes : Such indeed are the thoughts and the words one hears from men deranged. Where does his prayer fall short of raving? Where does he abate his frenzy?--But, at all events, may you [the Okeanides] who sympathize with his anguish, withdraw in haste from this spot so that the relentless roar of the thunder does not stun your senses.
Chorus : Use some other strain and urge me to some other course in which you are likely to convince me. This utterance in your flood of speech is, I think, past all endurance. How do you charge me to practise baseness? With him I am content to suffer any fate; for I have learned to detest traitors, and there is no pest I abhor more than this.
Hermes : Well then, bear my warning in memory and do not blame your fortune when you are caught in the toils of calamity; nor ever say that it was Zeus who cast you into suffering unforeseen. Not so, but blame yourselves. For well forewarned, and not suddenly or secretly shall you be entangled in the inextricable net of calamity by reason of your folly. [Exit Hermes.]"
VI. ANNOUNCES THE BETROTHAL OF HARMONIA TO KADMOS
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 3. 373 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Father Zeus sent his quick messenger Maia's son [Hermes] on outspread wings to Elektra's house, that he might offer Harmonia to Kadmos for the harmony of wedlock . . .
While Kadmos sat near the prudent queen, into the house came Hermes in the shape of a young man, unforeseen, uncaught, eluding the doorkeeper with his robber's foot . . .
Into a corner of the house he led her in surprise to tell his secrets and spoke in the language of men : ‘. . . From heaven I have been sent by your bedfellow [Zeus], the guests' protector ruling in the heights, on behalf of your own god-fearing guest. Then do you also obey your Kronion, and let your daughter Harmonia go along with her yearsmate Kadmos as his bride, without asking for bridal gifts, Grant this grant to Zeus and the Blessed ones; for when the immortals were in distress, this stranger saved them all by his music [bewitching the monster Typhon]. This man has helped your bedfellow in trouble, this man opened the day of freedom for Olympos! Let not your girl bewitch you with mother-loving groans, but give her in marriage to Kadmos our Saviour, in obedience to Kronion [Zeus] and Ares and Kythereia [Aphrodite].’
With these words, finerod Hermes departed, fanning his light wings, and the flat of his extended shoes oared him as quick as the winds of heaven in their course."
For the MORE information on this goddess see HARMONIA
VII. FORBIDS POSEIDON FROM FLOODING ATTIKA
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 164 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When there was a contest between Neptunus [Poseidon] and Minerva [Athena] as to who should be the first to found a town in the Attic land . . . Minerva [Athena] won . . .
But Neptunus [Poseidon], in anger, wanted to have the sea flood that land. Mercurius [Hermes], at Jove's [Zeus'] command, forbade his doing that."
VIII. DELIVERS THE SCEPTRE OF KINGSHIP TO PELOPS
Homer, Iliad 2. 104 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Powerful Agamemnon stood up holding the sceptre [of kingship] Hephaistos had wrought him carefully. Hephaistos gave it to Zeus the king, the son of Kronos, and Zeus in turn gave it to the courier (diaktoros) Argeiphontes, and Anax (lord) Hermes gave [or delivered] it to Pelops, driver of horses, and Pelops again gave it to [his son] Atreus . . . Atreus dying left it to Thyestes of the rich flocks, and Thyestes left it in turn to Agamemnon to carry and to be lord of many islands and over all Argos."
IX. COMMANDS KING LYKOS YIELD THEBES TO AMPHION & ZETHOS
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 8 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Amphion and Zethos] pursued and rescued their mother [Antiope from Lykos Regent of Thebes], but slew Dirce [her evil step-mother], binding her by the hair to a bull. When they were about to kill Lycus, Mercurius [Hermes] forbade them, and at the same time ordered Lycus to yield the kingdom to Amphion."
X. TURNS THE BOREADES AWAY FROM THEIR PURSUIT OF THE HARPYIAI
Hermes was sent by Zeus to command the Boreades to cease their pursuit of the Harpyiai, the "hounds" of Zeus.
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 42 (from Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius, Arg. 2. 297) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Apollonios indeed says it was Iris who made Zetes and his following turn away [from their pursuit of the Harpyiai], but Hesiod says Hermes."
For the MORE information on the Harpies see HARPYIAI
XI. ADVISES ATREUS HOW TO RECOVER THE THRONE OF MYKENAI
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E2. 12 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Thyestes tricked Atreus out of the kingdom of Mykenai :] and became king. Zeus then sent Hermes to Atreus and told him to get Thyestes to agree that Atreus should rule, if Helios (the sun) should journey backwards. Thyestes agreed, and Helios put his setting where he usually rose."
XII. GUIDES PRIAMOS TO AKHILLEUS FOR THE RANSOM OF HEKTOR
For the MYTH of Hermes guiding of Priamos see Hermes & the Trojan War
XIII. SUMMONS THE WINDS FOR AKHILLEUS' PYRE
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 3. 810 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Then, when all things were set in readiness about the pyre [of Akhilleus] . . . For honour to the Goddess [Thetis], Nereus' child, he [Zeus] sent to Aiolos Hermes, bidding him summon the sacred might of his swift Winds, for that the corpse of Aiakos' son must now be burned. With speed he went, and Aiolos refused not. He summoned tempestuous Boreas (the North Wind) in haste, and the wild blast of Zephyros (the West)."
For the MORE information on the wind-gods see ANEMOI
XIV. WARNS AIGISTHOS NOT TO SLAY AGAMEMNON
Homer, Odyssey 1. 38 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Zeus addresses the gods :] ‘Aigisthos outran his allotted portion by taking in marriage the wedded wife [Klytemnestra] of the son of Atreus [Agamemnon] and killing her husband when he returned. Yet he knew what pit of destruction was before him, because we ourselves warned him of it. We sent him Hermes the Keen Watcher (euskopos) Argeiphontes (the Radiant One); we forbade him to kill the king or to woo his wife, under pain of the vengeance for Agamemnon that would come upon him from Orestes when the boy grew up and felt a longing for his own country.’
Thus Hermes warned him, wishing him well, but Aigisthos' heart would not hear reason, and now he has paid all his debts at once."
XV. COMMMANDS KALYPSO TO RELEASE ODYSSEUS
Homer, Odyssey 1. 84 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"All those who had escaped the pit of destruction [the war at Troy] were safe in their own lands, spared by the wars and seas. Only Odysseus was held elsewhere, pining for home and wife; the Nymphe Kalypso, a goddess of strange power and beauty, had kept him captive within her arching caverns . . .
[Athena petitions Zeus :] ‘O son of Kronos, father of us and sovereign ruler, if indeed the blessed gods now wish that shrewd Odysseus should come to his own land again, then let us instruct Hermes the Messenger (diaktoros) Argeiphontes (the Radiant) to go to the island of Ogygia and without delay to tell the Nymphe of the braided tresses [Kalypso] our firm decree that staunch Odysseus is to depart and journey home.’"
Homer, Odyssey 5.28 ff :
"Zeus who masses the clouds . . . turned to his dear son Hermes : ‘Hermes, you are always our messenger; go then to the Nymphe of braided tresses and tell her my firm decree for the homecoming of staunch Odysseus, and how he is to begin his journey back, unescorted by gods and men. It will be on a raft firmly put together; on this, in spite of many troubles, he may come in twenty days' time to fertile Skheria; that is the land of the Phaiakians, a people whose lineage is divine . . .’
So he spoke; and the Messenger (diaktoros) Argeiphontes (the Radiant One) did not disobey. At once he fastened under his feet the immortal sandals of lovely gold that carried him, swift as airy breezes, over ocean and over boundless earth. And he took the rod that lulls men's eyes for him, at his pleasure, or awakens others when they slumber. With this in hand strong (kratus) Argeiphontes (Radiant One) began his flight; over Pieria he passed, then form the upper air dipped down to the sea and sped on over the waves like the seagull that hunts for fishes in the frightening troughs of the barren sea and wets his thick plumage in the brine; like such a bird was Hermes carried over the multitudinous waves. But when he had reached that far-off island he left the violet ocean and took to the land until he came to a great cavern; in this [Kalypso] the Nymphe of the braided tresses had made her home, and inside this he found her now . . .
Even a Deathless One, if he came there [to the beautiful grove of Kalypso], might gaze in wonder at the sight and might be the happier in heart. So he Messenger (diaktoros) Argeiphontes (the Radiant One) stood there and gazed there too; and having gazed to his heart's content, he passed quickly into the ample cavern. When queenly Kalypso saw him face to face, she as sure at once who he was, for the deathless gods are no strangers to one another, though one may live far apart from the rest. But bold Odysseus was not to be found within; as his custom was, he was sitting on the shore and weeping, breaking his heart with tears and sighs and sorrows.
Queenly Kalypso seated Hermes in a gleaming burnished chair. Then she began to question him : ‘What is your errand here, I wonder, Hermes of the golden wand (khrysorrapis)? You are an honoured and welcome guest, although not a frequent one hitherto. Tell me the thing that is in your mind; my heart consents to it already if it is something I can do and something that has been done before.’
And with these words the goddess drew up a table by him, heaping it with ambrosia and mixing the rosy nectar. So Hermes began to eat and drink; when the meal was over and his spirit refreshed with food, he answered Kalypso thus : ‘At my entrance you put a question to me, goddess to god; I will tell you the whole matter frankly, as indeed you wish me to. This visit was not of my own choosing; it was Zeus who commanded me to come. Who of his own free will would traverse those endless briny waters, with not one town to be seen where human beings make sacrifice to the gods and offer choice hecatombs? But when once the master of the aegis has fixed his own purpose, no other god can cross or thwart it. He says that you have with you here a man more luckless than all those others who fought around the great town of Priamos. This man he bade you let go forthwith, because it is not appointed for him to find his end here, far away from his own people; he is destined to see his own kith and kin again and return to his high-roofed house and his own country.’
So he spoke. The queenly goddess Kalypso shuddered, and her words came forth in rapid flight : ‘You are merciless, you gods, resentful beyond all other beings; you are jealous if without disguise a goddess makes a man her bedfellow, her beloved husband . . . But, as you say, when once the master of the aegis has fixed his own purpose, no other god can cross or thwart it; so let the man go - if such is the word and behest of Zeus--go where he will over the barren sea . . .’
And the Messenger (diaktoros) Argeiphontes (the Radiant One) answered her : ‘In that way, then, allow him to go, and have regard to the anger of Zeus; if not, you may feel his displeasure afterwards.’
With these words the strong (kratus) Argeiphontes (Radiant One) departed."
Homer, Odyssey 12. 388 ff :
"[Odysseus addresses Alkinous :] ‘All this [i.e. Helios angered by the slaying of his cattle by Odysseus' men and the god petitioning Zeus to destroy them] I heard from Kalypso of the lovely hair, who herself had heard it, so she told me, from Hermes messenger of the gods (diaktoros).’"
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 125 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"She [Kalypso], enamoured of the handsome form of Ulysses [Odysseus], kept him a whole year, and was unwilling to release him until Mercurius [Hermes], by Jove's [Zeus'] command, bade her release him."
For the MORE information on this nymph see KALYPSO
XVI. ANNOUNCES A REWARD FOR THE ARREST OF PSYKHE
Apuleius, The Golden Ass Book 4 (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"She [Aphrodite] at once made for the royal citadel of Jupiter [Zeus], and in arrogant tones sought the urgent use of the services of the spokesman-god Mercurius [Hermes]. Jupiter's [Zeus'] lowering brow did not refuse her. Venus [Aphrodite] happily quitted heaven at once with Mercurius [Hermes] accompanying her, and she spoke seriously to him : ‘My brother from Arcadia, you surely know that your sister Venus has never had any success without Mercurius's attendance, and you are well aware for how long I have been unable to trace my maid [Psykhe] who lies in hiding. So I have no recourse other than that you as herald make a public proclamation of a reward for tracking her down. So you must hasten to do my bidding, and clearly indicate the marks by which she can be recognized, so that if someone is charged with unlawfully concealing her, he cannot defend himself on the plea of ignorance.’
With these words she handed him a sheet containing Psyche's name and other details. Then she at once retired home.
Mercurius [Hermes] did not fail to obey her. He sped here and there, appearing before gatherings of every community, and as instructed performed the duty of making proclamation : ‘If anyone can retrieve from her flight the runaway daughter of the king, the maidservant of Venus called Psyche, or indicate her hidden whereabouts, he should meet the herald Mercurius behind the metae Muriae. Whoever does so will obtain as reward from Venus herself seven sweet kisses, and a particularly honeyed one imparted with the thrust of her caressing tongue.’
Longing for this great reward aroused eager competition between men everywhere when Mercurius made the proclamation on these lines, and this above all ended Psyche's hesitation [and came voluntarily to the house of Aphrodite]."
For the MORE information on this maiden see PSYKHE
XVII. SUMMONS THE GODS TO THE WEDDING OF EROS & PSYKHE
Apuleius, The Golden Ass Book 5 :
"He [Zeus] ordered Mercurius [Hermes] to summon all the gods at once to an assembly, and to declare that any absentee from the convocation of heavenly citizens would be liable to a fine of ten thousand sesterces. The theatre of heaven at once filled up through fear of this sanction."
XVIII. FICTIONALLY DELIVERS A BRIDE TO ANKHISES OF IDA
Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite 108 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
"[The goddess Aphrodite disguised as a mortal invents a fictional tale explaining her sudden appearance before Ankhises :] ‘I am but a mortal . . . Otreus of famous name is my father ... and he reigns over all Phrygia rich in fortresses . . . And now Argeiphontes [Hermes] of the golden wand (khrysorrapis) has caught me up from the dance of huntress Artemis, her with the golden arrows. For there were many of us, Nymphai and marriageable maidens, playing together; and an innumerable company encircled us: from these Argeiphontes [Hermes] of the golden wand (khrysorrapis) rapt me away. He carried me over many fields of mortal men and over much land untilled and unpossessed, where savage wild-beasts roam through shady coombes, until I thought never again to touch the life-giving earth with my feet. And he said that I should be called the wedded wife of Ankhises, and should bear you goodly children. But when he had told and advised me, he, strong (kratus) Argeiphontes [Hermes], went back to the families of the deathless gods, while I am now come to you: for unbending necessity is upon me.’ . . .
And Ankhises was seized with love, so that he opened his mouth and said : ‘If you are a mortal . . . and if you are come here by the will of Hermes the immortal Guide (diaktoros athanatos), and are to be called my wife always, then neither god nor mortal man shall here restrain me till I have lain with you in love right now.’"
XIX. MESSENGER IN FABLE (AESOP)
Aesop, Fables 569 (from Phaedrus 4. 19) (trans. Gibbs) (Greek fable C6th B.C.) :
"Once upon a time, the dogs sent ambassadors to Jove [Zeus] to ask him to improve the conditions of their life and to save them from being mistreated by people . . . The ambassadors set out on their mission but were hardly swift of foot: instead they sniffed for food in heaps of manure and did not even come when called. With considerable difficulty Mercurius [Hermes] found them at last and dragged them into heaven [to appear before Zeus]."
Aesop, Fables 27 (from Ademar 21) :
"While the frogs were hopping about in the freedom of their pond they began shouting to Juppiter [Zeus] that they wanted a king who could hold their dissolute habits in check . . . Juppiter [Zeus] was angry that they had made fun of the king he had given them, so he sent them a water-snake, who killed the frogs one by one with her piercing sting. As the water-snake was happily eating her fill, the useless creatures ran away, speechless in their fright. They secretly sent a message to Jove [Zeus] through Mercurius [Hermes], begging him to put a stop to the slaughter."
Aesop, Fables 524 (from Babrius, Fabulae127) :
"Zeus ordered Hermes to write down people's sins and wicked deeds on potsherds [pieces of pottery used for recording votes] and to pile them in a designated box, so that Zeus could then peruse them and exact a penalty from each person as appropriate. Given that the potsherds are all piled up one on top of the other until the moment that Zeus examines them, he gets to some of them quite soon while others have to wait. It is therefore no surprise that there are wicked people who commit a crime in haste but who are not punished until much later."
Aesop, Fables 522 (from Chambry 109) :
"When Zeus had fashioned man and woman, he ordered Hermes to take them to Ge, the Earth, and to show them how to obtain food by digging in the ground [for edible roots]. At first, Ge refused to cooperate in Hermes' mission. Hermes then compelled her, saying that Zeus had ordered her to do so. Ge replied, ‘Then let them dig as much as they like, but they will pay for it with groans and tears!’"
Aesop, Fables 171 (from Babrius 117) :
"There was once a ship that sank with all hands on board. A man who saw what had happened said that the gods' judgment was unfair: because of just one sinner who was on board the ship, many men had died together with him, even though they were innocent. While the man was speaking, a swarm of ants started crawling over him as they rushed in their usual frenzy to feed on some bits of wheat chaff. When one of the ants bit the man, he proceeded to trample a considerable number of them underfoot. Hermes then appeared and struck the man with his wand as he said, ‘So, are you going to let the gods pass judgment on you humans just as you have passed judgment on the ants?’"
AGENT OF ZEUS : ENFORCER
I. CHAINING OF PROMETHEUS
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 144 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Men in early times sought fire from the gods, and did not know how to keep it alive. Later Prometheus brought it to earth in a fennel-stalk, and showed men how to keep it covered over with ashes. Because of this, Mercurius [Hermes], at Jove's [Zeus'] command, bound him with iron spikes to a cliff on Mount Caucasus, and set an eagle to eat out his heart."
For the MORE information on the Titan see PROMETHEUS
II. BINDING OF SISYPHOS
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 62 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Mercurius [Hermes], by Jove's [Zeus'] instructions, bound Ixion in the Land of the Dead to a wheel [for attempting to seduce Hera], which is said to be still turning there."
III. SLAYING OF ARGOS-PANOPTES
Hermes was sent by Zeus to destroy the hundred-eyed giant Argos Panoptes.
For the MYTH of Hermes and this giant see Hermes & Argus Panoptes
IV. PUNISHMENT OF THE GIGANTES AGRIOS & OREIOS
Hermes was sent by Zeus to punish the Thrakian giants Oreios and Agrios, who devoured visitors to their home.
For the MYTH of Hermes and these giants see Hermes Wrath: Agrius & Oreius
AGENT OF ZEUS : CATTLE-HERDER
I. THEFT OF THE COW-SHAPED IO
Hermes was sent by Zeus to steal the cow-shaped maiden Io from the hundred-eyed giant Argos Panoptes.
For the MYTH of Hermes and Io's guardian see Hermes & Argus Panoptes
II. SEDUCTION OF EUROPA BY BULL-SHAPED ZEUS
Hermes in the guise of a cattle-herder helped a bull-shaped Zeus seduce Europa.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 836 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Jove [Zeus] called his son aside and, keeping dark his secret passion, ‘Mercurius [Hermes],’ he said, ‘Trusty executant of my commands, make haste, glide swiftly on your usual course down to the land that sees your mother's [the Pleiad Maia's] star high in the southern sky, named by its people the land of Sidon [in Phoinikia]; in the distance there, grazing the mountain pastures, you will find the royal herd; drive them to the sea-shore.’ And presently, as Jove [Zeus] had bidden, the herd, driven from the hillside, headed for the shore, where with her girls of Tyre for company the great king's daughter often used to play [and amongst them Zeus assumed the form of a bull in order to seduce Europa]."
AGENT OF ZEUS : THIEF
I. THEFT OF COW-SHAPED IO FROM ARGOS
Hermes was sent by Zeus to steal the cow-shaped maiden Io from the hundred-eyed giant Argos Panoptes.
For the MYTH of Hermes and Io see Hermes & Argus Panoptes
II. THEFT OF THE SINEWS OF ZEUS FROM TYPHOEUS
Hermes stole the sinews of Zeus back from the monster Typhoeus who has disabled the king of the gods.
For the MYTH of Hermes and Typhoeus see Hermes & the Giant Typhoeus
III. THEFT-RESCUE OF ARES FROM THE ALOADAI GIANTS
Hermes stole Ares away from the Aloadai giants, who had locked him in a brazen jar.
Homer, Iliad 5. 385 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Ares had to endure hard pain when strong Ephialtes and Otos, sons of Aloeus, chained him in bonds that were too strong for him, and three months and ten he lay chained in the brazen cauldron; had not Eeriboia, their stepmother, the surpassingly lovely, brought word to Hermes, who stole Ares away out of it, as he was growing faint and the hard bondage was breaking him."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 55 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[The giants Otos and Ephialtes] set Mount Ossa on top of Mount Olympos, and then placed Mount Pelion on top of Ossa, threatening by means of these mountains to climb up to the sky . . . And they also bound up Ares. But Hermes secretly snatched Ares away."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 1. 145 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"I will shut up the intriguing son of Maia [Hermes] in a brazen jar, prisoned with galling bonds, that people may say, ‘Hermes freed Ares from prison, and he was put in prison himself!’"
For MORE information on these giants see ALOADAI
IV. STEALS HELENE AWAY TO EGYPT AND SUBSTITUTES A PHANTOM
Euripides, Helen 1 ff (trans. Vellacott) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Helene of Troy : ‘The Helene who was sent to Phrygia as a prize for Troy to defend and the Greeks to fight for--that Helene was not I, only my name. Zeus did not forget me: I was taken by Hermes, wrapped in a cloud, borne through the secret places of the upper air, and set down here in the palace of Proteus, whom Zeus picked out as the most honourable of all men, so that I might preserve my chastity inviolate for Menelaus.’"
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E3. 5 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Some say that Helene [when she eloped with Paris], in accordance with the will of Zeus, was kidnapped by Hermes and taken to Aigyptos (Egypt), where she was put in the safekeeping of the Aigyptian king Proteus, and that Alexandros proceeded to Troy with an image of Helene made from clouds."
AGENT OF ZEUS : MERCHANT
I. SALE OF HERAKLES
Hermes, in the guise of slave-trader, put Herakles up for sale.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 131 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Herakles] was told [by the oracle at Delphoi] that the cure for the disease [inflicted upon him for the murder of Iphitos] consisted of his being sold into bondage for three years . . . When the oracle had been given, Hermes put Herakles up for sale. Omphale [queen of Lydia], daughter of Iardanos, bought him."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 32 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Hercules because of this offence [the murder of his children in madness or the theft of Apollon's Delphic tripod] was given in servitude to Queen Omphale by Mercurius [Hermes]."
Hermes sold Herakles to Omphale for the sum of three talents according to Pherecydes cited by the Scholiast on the Odyssey 21.22 (not currently quoted here).
II. MERCHANT IN FABLE (AESOP)
Aesop, Fables 10 (from Perry 179, Chambry 273) (trans. Gibbs) (Greek fable C6th B.C.) :
"There was a donkey who worked for a gardener. Because the gardener made the donkey work very hard but gave him very little food, the donkey prayed to Zeus to take him away from the gardener and give him to another master, so Zeus sent Hermes to sell the donkey to a potter. The donkey also found this situation unbearable, since he was forced to carry even heavier loads than before. He called upon Zeus again, and this time Zeus arranged for the donkey to be purchased by a tanner. When the donkey saw the kind of work the tanner did, he said, ‘Oh, it would have been better for me to have kept on working for my previous masters in a state of starvation! Now I have ended up in a place where I won't even get a proper burial after I die.’"
AGENT OF ZEUS : GUARDIAN OF HOSPITALITY
I. TESTING OF THE HOSPITALITY OF MAN
Hermes accompanied Zeus in the guise of a traveller to test the hospitality of man.
For a MYTH of Hermes, Zeus and the testing of man see
Hermes Favour: Philemon & Baucis
II. PUNISHES AGRIOS & OREIOS FOR SLAYING STRANGERS
Hermes was sent by Zeus to punish the Thrakian giants Oreios and Agrios, who devoured visitors to their home.
For the MYTH of Hermes and these giants see Hermes Wrath: Agrius & Oreius
III. REWARDS THE HOSPITABLE HYRIEUS WITH A SON
Hermes, Poseidon and Zeus visited Lord Hyrieus of Hyria, disguised as travellers. As reward for his generous hospitality in accordance with the laws of hospitality, they provided him with a wish. He requested a son, so the three gods urinated on the hide of a cow, buried it in the ground, and from it birthed the giant Orion, as the son Hyrieus had desired.
For the MYTH of Hermes and Hyrieus see Hermes Favour: Hyrieus
AGENT OF ZEUS : CONTEST-LEADER
I. CONTESTS FOR THE MARRIAGE OF THE DANAIDES
Hermes organised a gymnastic contest to marry off the 49 murderous Danaides without the usual bridal-gift.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 22 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"At Zeus' command, Athena and Hermes purified the daughter [of Danaus who murdered their husbands] . . . and he [their father] married off his daughters to the victors of a gymnastic contest."
II. FUNERAL-GAMES OF PELIAS
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."
III. CONTEST OF THE GODDESSES FOR THE GOLDEN APPLE
Stasinus of Cyprus or Hegesias of Aegina, Cypria Fragment 1 (as summarized in Proclus, Cherstomathia 1) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"The [Homeric] epic called The Cypria which is current is eleven books. Its contents are as follows. Zeus plans with Themis to bring about the Trojan war. Eris (Strife) arrives while the gods are feasting at the marriage of Peleus and starts a dispute between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite as to which of them is fairest. The three are led by Hermes at the command of Zeus to Alexandros [Paris] on Mount Ida for his decision, and Alexandros, lured by his promised marriage with Helene, decides in favour of Aphrodite."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E3. 2 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Eris (Strife) tossed an apple to Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, in recognition of their beauty, and Zeus bade Hermes escort them to Alexandros [Paris] on Ida to be judged by him."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 18. 12 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Depicted on the throne of the Amyklaian:] Hermes is bringing the goddesses to Alexander to be judged."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 19. 5 :
"[Depicted on the chest of Kypselos:] there is also Hermes bringing to Alexandros [Paris] the son of Priamos the goddesses of whose beauty he is to judge, the inscription on them being: Here is Hermes, who is showing to Alexandros, that he may arbitrate concerning their beauty, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 92 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Jove [Zeus] is said to have invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis all the gods except Eris, or Discordia (Strife). When she came later and was not admitted to the banquet, she threw an apple through the door, saying that the fairest should take it. Juno [Hera], Venus [Aphrodite], and Minerva [Athene] claimed the beauty prize for themselves. A huge argument broke out among them. Jupiter [Zeus] ordered Mercurius [Hermes] to take them to Mt Ida to Paris Alexander and order him to judge."
Apuleius, The Golden Ass 10. 30 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"[Description of an ancient Greek play portraying the Judgement of Paris :] Standing by him [the shepherd Paris seated on Mt Ida] appeared a radiant boy . . . the herald's staff and the wand which he carried identified him as Mercurius [Hermes]. He danced briskly forward, holding in his right hand an apple gilded with gold leaf, which he handed to the boy playing the part of Paris. After conveying Jupiter's [Zeus'] command with a motion of the head, he at once gracefully withdrew and disappeared from the scene."
Colluthus, Rape of Helen 38 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poetry C5th to 6th A.D.) :
"Eris (Strife) took the fruit that should be the harbinger of war, even the apple, and devised the scheme of signal woes. Whirling her arm she hurled into the banquet the primal seed of turmoil and disturbed the choir of goddesses. Hera, glorying to be the spouse and to share the bed of Zeus, rose up amazed, and would fain have seized it. And Kypris [Aphrodite], as being more excellent than all, desired to have the apple, for that it is the treasure of the Erotes (Loves). But Hera would not give it up and Athena would not yield. And Zeus, seeing the quarrel of the goddesses, and calling his son Hermaon [Hermes], who sat below his throne, addressed him thus : ‘If haply, my son, thou hast heard of a son of Priamos, one Paris, the splendid youth, who tends his herds on this hills of Troy, give to him the apple; and bid him judge the goddesses' meeting brows and orbed eyes. And let her that is preferred have the famous fruit to carry away as the prize of the fairer and ornament of the Loves.’
So the father, the son of Kronos, commanded Hermaon. And he hearkened to the bidding of his father and led the goddesses upon the way and failed not to heed . . .
As he [the shepherd Paris, seated on Mt Ida] made shrill music under the high-roofed canopy of trees, he beheld from afar the messenger Hermaon. And in fear he leapt up and sought to shun the eye of the gods. He leaned against an oak his choir of musical reeds and checked his lay that had not yet laboured much. And to him in his fear wondrous Hermes spake thus : ‘Fling away thy milking-pail and leave thy fair flocks and come hither and give decision as judge of the goddesses of heaven. Come hither and decide which is the more excellent beauty of face, and to the fairer give this apple's lovely fruit.’
So he cried. And Paris bent a gently eye and quietly essayed to judge the beauty of each. He looked at the light of their grey eyes, he looked on the neck arrayed with gold, he marked the bravery of each; the shape of the heel behind, yea and the soles of their feet."
For the MORE information on the judgement see THE JUDGEMENT OF PARIS
IV. MUSIC-CONTEST OF THE MOUNTAINS KITHAIRON & HELIKON
Corinna, Fragment 654 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (C5th B.C.) :
"[The mountain Kithairon sang in a contest against mount Helikon :] and at once the Mousai instructed the blessed ones to put their secret voting-pebbles into the gold-shining urns; and they all rose together, and Kithairon won the greater number; and Hermes promptly proclaimed with a shout that he had won his desired victory, and the blessed ones adorned him with garlands of firs."
V. CONTEST-LEADER IN FABLE (AESOP)
Aesop, Fables 182 (from Babrius, Fabulae 68) (trans. Gibbs) (Greek fable C6th B.C.) :
"As he made a distant shot with his bow and arrow, Apollon said to the gods, ‘No one can shoot farther than I, not even Zeus.’ Zeus played along and agreed to a contest. Hermes shook the lots in the helmet of Ares. The lot fell to Apollon, who went first . . ."
Aesop, Fables 329 (from Aphthonius 31) :
"A beauty contest was held and all the birds went to be judged by Zeus. Hermes fixed the appointed day and the birds flocked to the rivers and ponds where they shed their shabby feathers and preened their finer ones . . . [and then] went before the judgment of Zeus."
AGENT OF ZEUS : GUIDE OF THE DEAD
I. FETCHES PERSEPHONE BACK FROM HAIDES
Orphic Hymn 57 to Chthonian Hermes (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Persephone, through Tartaros dark and wide, gave thee for ever flowing souls to guide. Come, blessed power, the sacrifice attend, and grant thy mystics' works a happy end."
Ovid, Fasti 4. 417 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The winged Herald [Hermes] visits Tartarus as ordered [by Zeus to recover Persephone from Haides], returns quicker than hope, tells what he witnessed. ‘The ravished girl,’ he said, ‘broke her fast with three seeds buried in a pomegranate's tough rind.’"
For the MORE information on this goddess see PERSEPHONE
II. GUIDES HERAKLES TO HAIDES IN QUEST FOR KERBEROS
III. FETCHES SISYPHOS BACK TO HAIDES
Aeschylus, Sisyphus the Runaway (lost play) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
Weir Smyth (L.C.L.) quotes Pherecydes, a C5th B.C. mythographer, in his discussion of the plot of this lost play : "Sisyphos drapetês (the Runaway) was satyric; its theme, the escape from Haides of the crafty Korinthian king. According to the fabulous story told by Pherekydes (Frag. 78 in Müller, Fragmenta Historicum Graecorum) . . . Before he died Sisyphos directed his wife Merope to omit his funeral rites, so that Haides, being deprived of his customary offerings, was persuaded by the cunning trickster to let him go back to life in order to complain of his wife's neglect. But, once in the upper world, he refused to return, and had to be fetched back by Hermes."
IV. GUIDES THE GHOST OF PROTESILAOS TO HIS MOURNING WIFE
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E3. 30 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Laodameia [the wife of Protesilaos who was the first to be killed at Troy] continued to love him even after his death: she fashioned an image very similar to Protesilaos and had intercourse with it. The gods felt pity for her, and Hermes led [the ghost of] Protesilaos up from Hades' realm. When Laodameia saw him, in joy she thought it was her husband returning from Troy, but as he was led back below again, she killed herself."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 103 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When his [Protesilaos, the first Greek to die at Troy] wife Laodamia, daughter of Acastus, heard that he had died, she wept and begged the gods that she be allowed to speak with him for three hours. It was granted, and when he was led back by Mercurius [Hermes], she spoke with him for three hours. But when Protesilaus died a second time, Laodamia, could not endure her grief."
AGENT OF ZEUS : DELIVERER OF FOSTERED INFANTS
I. RESCUE & FOSTERING OF THE INFANT ARKAS
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 3. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Kallisto . . . was loved by Zeus and mated with him. When Hera detected the intrigue she turned Kallisto into a bear, and Artemis to please Hera shot the bear. Zeus sent Hermes with orders to save the child [Arkas] that Kallisto bore in her womb."
II. FOSTERING OF THE INFANT DIONYSOS
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 28 - 29 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Zeus loosed the stitches [from his thigh] and gave birth to Dionysos, whom he entrusted to Hermes. Hermes took him to Ino and Athamas, and persuaded to bring him up as a girl . . . [After Hera drew the pair mad but] Zeus, escaped Hera's anger by changing Dionysos into a baby goat. Hermes took him to the Nymphai of Asian Nysa, whom Zeus in later times placed among the stars and named the Hyades."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 1128 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"It was Makris [daughter of Aristaios], who in Abantian Euboia, took the infant Dionysos to her bosom and moistened his parched lips with honey, when Hermes had rescued him from the flames and brought him to her."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 18. 11 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Depicted on the throne of the Amyklaian:] Hermes is bearing the infant Dionysos to heaven."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 2. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Zeus taking up the child [Dionysos from the body of its mother Semele], handed it over to Hermes, and ordered him to take it to the cave in Nysa, which lay between Phoinikia [modern day Lebanon] and the Neilos [River Nile in Egypt], where he should deliver it to the Nymphai that they should rear it and with great solicitude bestow upon it the best of care."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 179 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Semele asked Jove [Zeus] to come to her in this way [as he came to Hera]. Her request was granted, and Jove [Zeus], coming with lightning and thunder, burned Semele to death. From her womb Liber [Dionysos] was born. Mercurius [Hermes] snatched him from the fire and gave him to Nysus to be reared."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 8. 402 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Semele [consumed in the fire of Zeus lightning] saw her fiery end, and perished rejoicing in a childbearing death [the baby Dionysos] . . . So the babe half-grown, and his limbs washed with heavenly fire, was carried by Hermes to his father for the lying-in [placed within the thigh of the god]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 9. 28 ff :
"[Hermes] gave him [the new born babe Dionysos just delivered from Zeus' thigh] to the [Lamides] daughters of Lamos, river Nymphai--the son of Zeus, the vineplanter. They received Bakkhos into their arms; and each of them dropt the milky juice of her breast without pressing into his mouth . . .
The consort of Zeus [Hera] beheld the babe, and suffered torments. Through the wrath of resentful Hera, the daughters of Lamos were maddened by the lash of that divine mischiefmaker. In the house they attacked the servants, in threeways they carved up the wayfaring man with alienslaying knife . . . Indeed they would have chopt up little Bakkhos [Dionysos] a baby still piecemeal in the distracted flood of their vagabond madness, had not Hermes come on wing and stolen Bakkhos again with a robber's untracked footsteps."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 9. 59 ff :
"The god [Hermes, bringing the babe Dionysos from the mad-struck Lamides] spoke to her [Ino] in friendly coaxing tones, and let pass a divine message from his prophetic throat : ‘Madam, receive a new son [the baby Dionysos]; lay in your bosom the child of Semele your sister. Not the full blaze of the lightning destroyed him in her chamber; even the sparks of the thunderbolt which killed his mother did him no harm. Let the child be kept safe in a gloomy room, and let neither the Sun's eye by day nor the Moon's eye by night see him in your roofed hall. Cover him up, that jealous resentful Hera may never see him playing, though she is said to have eyes to se a bull. Receive your sister's boy, and you shall have from Kronion a reward for his nurture worthy of your pains. Happy are you among all the daughters of Kadmos! . . . [for] you alone shall be proud; you shall inhabit the mighty sea and settle in Poseidon's house; in the brine like Thetis, like Galateia, your name shall be Ino of the Waters. Kithairon shall not hide you in the hollow earth, but you shall be one of the Nereides. Instead of Kadmos, you shall call Nereus father, with happier hopes. You shall ever live with Melikertes your immortal son as Leukothea, holding the key of calm waters, mistress of good voyage next to Aiolos. The merchant seaman trusting in you shall have a fineweather voyage over the brine; he shall set up one altar for the Earthshaker and Melikertes, and do sacrifice to both together; Seabluehair shall accept Palaimon as guide for his coach of the sea.’
With these words Hermes was off into the sky unapproachable, twirling in the air the windswift soles of his shoes."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 9. 136 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Dionysos was fostered by Ino of Thebes until she and her husband were driven mad by Hera, and] she [the goddess Hera] would have destroyed the son of Zeus [Dionysos]; but Hermes caught him up, and carried him to the wooded ridge where Kybele dwelt. Moving fast, Hera ran swift-shoe on quick feet from high heaven; but he was before her, and assumed the eternal shape of first-born Phanes [one of the first born gods]. Hera in respect for the most ancient of the gods, gave him place and bowed before the radiance of the deceiving face, not knowing the borrowed shape for a fraud. So Hermes passed over the mountain tract with quicker step than hers, carrying the horned child folded in his arms, and gave it to Rheia, nurse of lions, mother of Father Zeus, and said these few words to the goddess mother of the greatest : ‘Receive, goddess, a new son of your Zeus! He is to fight with the Indians, and when he has done with earth he will come into the starry sky, to the great joy of resentful Hera! Indeed it is not proper that Ino should be nurse to one whom Zeus brought forth. Let the mother of Zeus be nanny to Dionysos--mother of Zeus and nurse of her grandson!’
This said he put off the higher shape of selfborn Phanes and put on his own form again, leaving Bakkhos to grow a second time in the Meter's (Mother's) nurture."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 47. 678 ff :
"I [Hermes] saved you [Dionysos] from heaven, and entrusted you to those Nymphai, the daughters of river Lamos, when still a child."
For MORE information on the birth of Dionysos see DIONYSOS MYTHS 1
III. RESCUE & FOSTERING OF THE INFANT ASKLEPIOS
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 26. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Koronis, they say, when with child with Asklepios [was unfaithful to Apollon and] . . . was killed by Artemis to punish her for the insult done to Apollon, but when the pyre was already lighted Hermes is said to have snatched the child from the flames."
For the MORE information on this god see ASKLEPIOS
IV. RESCUE & FOSTERING THE INFANT ARISTAIOS
Pindar, Pythian Ode 9 ant3 (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"There [in Libya] shall she [Kyrene] bear a son [Aristaios] [to Apollon], whom glorious Hermes will take from his fond mother's breast, and carry to the enthroned Horai (Seasons) and Mother Gaia (Earth); and they will gently nurse the babe upon their knees, and on his lips distil ambrosia and nectar, and shall ordain him an immortal being."
For the MORE information on this god see ARISTAIOS
V. FOSTERING OF THE DIOSKOUROI
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 26. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"In front of it [Pellana, Lakedaimonia] lies a small island no larger than a big rock, also called Pephnos. The people of Thalamai say that the Dioskouroi were born here. I know that Alkman too says this in a song: but they do not say that they remained to be brought up in Pephnos, but that it was Hermes who took them to Pellana."
VI. FOSTERING OF HELENE
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 7 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"But Nemesis [impregnated by Zeus in the guise of a swan], as if wedded to the tribe of birds, when her months were ended, bore an egg. Mercury [Hermes] took it away and carried it to Sparta and threw it in Leda's lap. From it sprang Helen, who excelled all other girls in beauty. Leda called her her own daughter."
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragments - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th - 4th B.C.
- Epic Cycle, The Cypria Fragments - Greek Epic C7th - 6th B.C.
- Aesop, Fables - Greek Fables C6th B.C.
- Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Greek Lyric III Stesichorus, Fragments - Greek Lyric C7th - 6th B.C.
- Greek Lyric IV Corinna, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Fragments - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Euripides, Helen - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns C3rd B.C. - C2nd A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Colluthus, The Rape of Helen - Greek Epic C5th - 6th A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Ovid, Fasti - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Propertius, Elegies - Latin Elegy C1st B.C.
- Statius, Silvae - Latin Poetry C1st A.D.
- Apuleius, The Golden Ass - Latin Novel C2nd A.D.
- Servius, Ad Virgil's Aeneid - Latin Scholiast C5th A.D.