a major Roman god, being one of the Dii
Consentes within the
ancient Roman pantheon. He is the patron god of financial gain,
commerce, eloquence (and thus poetry), messages/communication (including
divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he is
also the guide of souls to the underworld. He
was considered the son of Maia and Jupiter in Roman
mythology. His name is possibly related to the Latin word merx ("merchandise";
compare merchant, commerce,
trade), and merces (wages). In
his earliest forms, he appears to have been related to the Etruscan
with characteristics and mythology subsequently borrowed from the
analogous Greek god, Hermes.
Latin writers rewrote Hermes' myths and substituted his name with that
of Mercury. However, there are at least two myths that involve Mercury
that are Roman in origin. In Virgil's Aeneid,
Mercury reminds Aeneas of
his mission to found the city of Rome. In Ovid's Fasti,
Mercury is assigned to escort the nymph Larunda to
the underworld. Mercury, however, fell in love with Larunda and made
love to her on the way. Larunda thereby became mother to two children,
referred to as the Lares,
influenced the name of many things in a variety of scientific fields,
such as the planet Mercury,
and the element mercury. The
word mercurial is
commonly used to refer to something or someone erratic, volatile or
unstable, derived from Mercury's swift flights from place to place. He
is often depicted holding the caduceus in
his left hand.
Mercury did not
appear among the numinous di
indigetes of early Roman
religion. Rather, he subsumed the earlier Dei
Lucrii as Roman religion
was syncretized with Greek
religion during the time
of the Roman
Republic, starting around the 4th century BC. From the beginning,
Mercury had essentially the same aspects as Hermes,
wearing winged shoes (talaria)
and a winged (petasos),
or hat, and carrying the caduceus,
a herald's staff with two entwined snakes that was Apollo's
gift to Hermes. He was often accompanied by a cockerel,
herald of the new day, a ram or goat, symbolizing fertility,
and a tortoise, referring to Mercury's legendary invention of the lyre from
a tortoise shell.
Like Hermes, he
was also a god of messages, eloquence and of trade, particularly of the grain trade.
Mercury was also considered a god of abundance and commercial success,
particularly in Gaul,
where he was said to have been particularly revered. He
was also, like Hermes, the Romans' psychopomp,
leading newly-deceased souls to the afterlife. Additionally, Ovidwrote
that Mercury carried Morpheus'
dreams from the valley ofSomnus to
evidence from Pompeii suggests that Mercury was among the most popular
of Roman gods. The god of
commerce was depicted on two early bronze coins of theRoman
Republic, the Sextans and
described the gods of Celtic and Germanic tribes, rather than
considering them separate deities, the Romans interpreted them as local
manifestations or aspects of their own gods, a cultural trait called the interpretatio
Romana. Mercury in particular was reported as becoming extremely
popular among the nations the Roman
Caesar wrote of Mercury
being the most popular god in Britain and Gaul, regarded as the inventor
of all the arts. This is
probably because in the Roman syncretism,
Mercury was equated with the Celtic
and in this aspect was commonly accompanied by the Celtic goddess Rosmerta.
Although Lugus may originally have been a deity of light or the sun
(though this is disputed), similar to the Roman Apollo,
his importance as a god of trade made him more comparable to Mercury,
and Apollo was instead equated with the Celtic deity Belenus.
associated Mercury with the Germanic
Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies
him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples.
In Celtic areas,
Mercury was sometimes portrayed with three heads or faces, and at Tongeren, Belgium,
a statuette of Mercury with three phalli was
found, with the extra two protruding from his head and replacing his
nose; this was probably because the number 3 was
considered magical, making such statues good luck and fertility charms.
The Romans also made widespread use of small statues of Mercury,
probably drawing from the ancient Greek tradition of hermae markers.
Mercury is known
to the Romans as Mercurius and occasionally in earlier writings as Merqurius, Mirqurios or Mircurios,
had a number ofepithets representing
different aspects or roles, or representing syncretisms with non-Roman
deities. The most common and significant of these epithets included the
- Mercurius Artaios, a
combination of Mercury with the Celtic god Artaios,
a deity of bears and hunting who was worshiped atBeaucroissant,
- Mercurius Arvernus, a
combination of the Celtic Arvernus with
Mercury. Arvernus was worshiped in the Rhineland,
possibly as a particular deity of the Arverni tribe,
though no dedications to Mercurius Arvernus occur in their territory
in the Auvergne region
of central France.
- Mercurius Cissonius, a
combination of Mercury with the Celtic god Cissonius,
who is written of in the area spanning from Cologne,
Germany to Saintes,
- Mercurius Esibraeus, a
combination of the Iberian deity Esibraeus with
the Roman deity Mercury. Esibraeus is mentioned only in an
inscription found at Medelim,
Portugal, and is possibly the same deity as Banda Isibraiegus, who
is invoked in an inscription from the nearby village of Bemposta.
- Mercurius Gebrinius, a
combination of Mercury with the Celtic or Germanic Gebrinius,
known from an inscription on an altar inBonn,
- Mercurius Moccus, from a
Celtic god, Moccus,
who was equated with Mercury, known from evidence at Langres,
France. The name Moccus ("pig") implies that this deity was
connected to boar-hunting.
- Mercurius Visucius, a
combination of the Celtic god Visucius with
the Roman god Mercury, attested in an inscription from Stuttgart,
Germany. Visucius was worshiped primarily in the frontier area of
the empire in Gaul and Germany. Although he was primarily associated
with Mercury, Visucius was also sometimes linked to the Roman god Mars,
as a dedicatory inscription to "Mars Visucius" and Visucia,
Visicius' female counterpart, was found in Gaul.
Vulcan created a net out
of unbreakable steel so that he could catch Venus,
the goddess of beauty, and Mars,
the god of war, in the act of making love. He was jealous of their
relationship, because Venus was his wife. Vulcan managed to catch them
but, afterwards, Mercury stole the net from the blacksmith god so that
he could catch Cloris,
a nymph whom he admired. Cloris was tasked with flying after the sun
while it rose and scattering lilies, roses and violets behind it.
Mercury lay in wait for at least several days until he caught her wing
in the net over an unnamed great river in Ethiopia. Mercury then gave
the net to the temple of Anubis at Canopus to protect the sacred spot.
Furioso, the net is stolen 3,000 years later by Caligorant,
who goes on to destroy the temple and the city.
in the Circus
Maximus, between the Aventine and Palatine hills,
was built in 495 BC. This was a regarded as a fitting place to worship a
swift god of trade and travel, since it was a major center of commerce
as well as a racetrack. Since it stood between the plebeian stronghold
on the Aventine and the patrician center
on the Palatine, it also emphasized the role of Mercury as a mediator.
was not one of the early deities surviving from the Roman
Kingdom, he was not assigned a flamen ("priest"),
but he did have his own major festival, on May 15, the Mercuralia.
During the Mercuralia, merchants sprinkled water from his sacred well
near the Porta
Capena on their heads.
- DC Comics character The
Flash borrows some
aspects of his appearance and powers from Mercury. The Flash
possesses tremendous speed, and similarly to Mercury's helmet and
sandals, he wears a winged mask & boots. The original Golden Age
Garrick, wore the same metal winged helmet that Mercury is often
- The now defunct Mercury car brand
was named after the Roman god. The first
logo the Mercury brand used was
a side profile of Mercury's head, complete with winged helmet.
- The United States' so called Mercury
dime, issued from 1916 to 1945, actually features a Winged
Liberty and not the god Mercury, but is so named because of the
uncanny similarity between the two.