by Alexia Vlachou
ATHENS, June 8 (Xinhua) -- An ancient marble head depicting god Hermes in Greek mythology returned to Greece on Monday from the British auction house Bonhams after being illicitly removed from the country in 1987.
"This is a reply to some of the exaggerated claims that we don't pursue stolen or auctioned antiquities," Deputy Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis said at a ceremony held at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
The ancient marble head, about 24-cm high, is a unique Roman copy of a major Classical-era Greek sculpture by Alkamenes, originally in the south wing of the Acropolis Propylaea.
The marble head was to be auctioned off at Bonhams in October 2014 and was pulled out at the last moment.
Officials from the Directorate of Documentation and Protection of Cultural Property spotted the artifact on the auction house's website and immediately contacted Bonhams in order to verify its origin and proceed with immediate withdrawal of the stolen antiquity.
"The effort made by Greece for the protection of cultural heritage is permanent," stressed Xydakis, underlining that such initiatives have given great prestige in the country and the ability to have significant influence within international organizations.
Hermes was the Greek god of commerce, son of Zeus and Maia. Quick acting and cunning, he was able to move swiftly between the world of man and the world of gods, acting as a messenger of the gods and the link between mortals and the Olympians.
He was the protector of travelers, thieves and athletes. He occassionally tricked the other gods for his own amusement or in an effort to protect humans. With the ability to move freely between worlds, he also served as the guide of the souls of the dead to the underworld and the afterlife.
When Hermes was born, he jumped out of his crib, stole Apollo's cattle and then went back to his crib playing innocent. However, Apollo figured it out, grabbed Hermes and went to Zeus to complain. The father of gods simply laughed and didn't punish Hermes. To apologise, Hermes gave Apollo the lyre which he had just invented. Hermes appeared in many other myths; in the Odyssey, Odysseus was instructed by the god to chew a magic herb with which he would be able to avoid Circe's powers and not be transformed to animals like his companions; in the myth of Pandora, when the gods provided a trait to her, Hermes gave her the ability to lie and seduce with her words.
More: Zeus, Mount Olympus, Apollo, Pandora
Hermes is also called Mercury.