In classical mythology, Hermes is a member of the twelve Olympians. He is the messenger of the gods, and is also associated with thieves, commerce and travel. His Roman equivalent is Mercury.
Maia, one of the daughters of the Titans Atlas and Pliionis, was spied on in a cave by Zeus, the Olympian gods' sex-obsessed king. In the dead of night, he entered the cave where he proceeded to have sex with Maia. Nine months later, Hermes, the future messenger of the gods was born.
Even in infancy, Hermes was a trickster and he excelled quickly. The day after his birth, he escaped from his crib and freed the prized cattle of his older brother Apollo, the god of the sun.
Needless to say, Apollo was not pleased when he discovered his cattle were missing and instantly the finger of blame was pointed at Hermes. The two went before Zeus and the sun god told his father about what had happened. Unfortunately for Apollo, Zeus found the whole situation amusing; however, Hermes still had to make up for this. Fortunately, he had an idea: he crafted the lyre for Apollo, as a means of recompense for the prank.
Role in mythology
Hermes is the messenger for the Olympians, but is also associated with commerce, travelers, thieves and boundaries. He plays a prominent role in a number of Greek myths, often coming to the aid of heroes. The following examples include:
When the hero Perseus set out on his quest to battle Medusa, he ended up lost in the wilderness. He prayed to the Olympians and his father Zeus sent down Hermes and Athena. Hermes gave Perseus his winged sandals and also told the hero to locate the Stygian nymphs, who guarded the weapons he needed to kill Medusa.
When Odysseus became stranded on the island of the sorceress Circe, his men were seduced by her and transformed into pigs. Hermes stepped and gave the hero a plant called moly which protected him from her charms. Later on, when Odysseus was stranded on the island of Calypso, he pressured her to release him.