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Hermes is the Messenger of the gods in Greek mythology. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of thieves and road travelers, of orators and wit, of literature and poets, of athletics, of weights and measures, of invention, of general commerce, and of the cunning of thieves and liars. His symbols include the tortoise, the cock, the winged sandals, and the caduceus. The analogous Roman deity is Mercury.

The Homeric hymn to Hermes invokes him as the one "of many shifts (polytropos), blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates, one who was soon to show forth wonderful deeds among the deathless gods."

He protects and takes care of all the travelers, miscreants, harlots, old crones and thieves that pray to him or cross his path. He is athletic and is always looking out for runners, or any athletes with injuries who need his help. Hermes is a messenger from the gods to humans, sharing this role with Iris. An interpreter who bridges the boundaries with strangers is a hermeneus. Hermes gives us our word "hermeneutics" for the art of interpreting hidden meaning. In Greek a lucky find was a hermaion. Hermes delivered messages from Olympus to the mortal world. He wears shoes with wings on them and uses them to fly freely between the mortal and immortal world. Hermes was the second youngest of the Olympian gods, being born before Dionysus.

Hermes, as an inventor of fire, is a parallel of the Titan, Prometheus. In addition to the lyre, Hermes was believed to have invented many types of racing and the sport of wrestling, and therefore was a patron of athletes.

According to prominent folklorist Yeleazar Meletinsky, Hermes is a deified trickster. Hermes also served as a psychopomp, or an escort for the dead to help them find their way to the afterlife (the Underworld in the Greek myths). In many Greek myths, Hermes was depicted as the only god besides Hades, Persephone, Hecate, and Thanatos who could enter and leave the Underworld without hindrance.

Along with escorting the dead, Hermes often helped travelers have a safe and easy journey. Many Greeks would sacrifice to Hermes before any trip.

In the fully-developed Olympian pantheon, Hermes was the son of Zeus and the Pleiade Maia, a daughter of the Titan Atlas.

The name Hermes has been thought, ever since Karl Otfried Müller's demonstration, to be derived from the Greek word herma (ἕρμα), which denotes a square or rectangular pillar with the head of Hermes (usually with a beard) adorning the top of the pillar, and ithyphallic male genitals below; however, due to the god's attestation in the Mycenaean pantheon, as Hermes Araoia ("Ram Hermes") in Linear B inscriptions at Pylos and Mycenaean Knossos (Ventris and Chadwick), the connection is more likely to have moved the opposite way, from deity to pillar representations. From the subsequent association of these cairns — which were used in Athens to ward off evil and also as road and boundary markers all over Greece — Hermes acquired patronage over land travel.

Hermes' epithet Argeiphontes (Latin Argicida), or Argus-slayer, recalls his slaying of the hundred eyed giant Argus Panoptes, who was watching over the heifer-nymph Io in the sanctuary of Queen Hera herself in Argos. Putting Argus to sleep, Hermes used a spell to close all of Argus' eyes and then slew the giant. Argus' eyes were then put into the tail of the peacock, symbol of the goddess Hera.

His epithet of Logios is the representation of the god in the act of speaking, as orator, or as the god of eloquence. Indeed, together with Athena, he was the standard divine representation of eloquence in classical Greece. The Homeric Hymn to Hermes (probably 6th century BCE) describes Hermes making a successful speech from the cradle to defend himself from the (true) charge of cattle theft. Somewhat later, Proclus' commentary on Plato's Republic describes Hermes as the god of persuasion. Yet later, Neoplatonists viewed Hermes Logios more mystically as origin of a "Hermaic chain" of light and radiance emanating from the divine intellect (nous). This epithet also produced a sculptural type