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God of financial gain, commerce, messages/communication, travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery, merchants, thieves
""Crude stone relief carving of two standing male figures, facing the viewer and flanked by columns under a peaked roof; the taller figure is mostly nude and holds a bag or purse toward the shorter figure, who holds a goat by the horns
Consecration relief with the god Mercury (right). A man is offering a goat at an altar
Symbol "Caduceus, winged sandals, winged hat, tortoise, ram and rooster
Personal information
Consort "Larunda
Children "Lares
Parents "Maia and "Jupiter
Greek equivalent "Hermes
""alt=Illustration of bronze statue of a nude male youth, seated on a rock with one leg outstretched, leaning on the opposite thigh, from the 1908 volume Buried Herculaneum by Ethel Ross Barker; caption reads "Mercury in Repose"
"Seated Hermes, excavated at the "Villa of the Papyri.

Mercury ("/ˈmɜːrkjʊri/; "Latin: Mercurius "[mɛrˈkʊriʊs] ""About this sound listen ) is a major god in "Roman religion and "mythology, being one of the "Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman "pantheon. He is the god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence (and thus poetry), messages, communication (including "divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he also serves as the guide of souls to the underworld.[1][2] He was considered the son of "Maia, who was a daughter of the Titan "Atlas, and "Jupiter in "Roman mythology. His name is possibly related to the Latin word merx ("merchandise"; cf. merchant, commerce, etc.), mercari (to trade), and merces (wages); another possible connection is the Proto-Indo-European root merĝ- for "boundary, border" (cf. "Old English "mearc", "Old Norse "mark" and Latin "margō") and Greek οὖρος (by analogy of Arctūrus/Ἀρκτοῦρος), as the "keeper of boundaries," referring to his role as bridge between the upper and lower worlds.["citation needed] In his earliest forms, he appears to have been related to the "Etruscan deity "Turms; both gods share characteristics with the "Greek god "Hermes. He is often depicted holding the "caduceus in his left hand. Similar to his "Greek equivalent "Hermes, he was awarded the caduceus by "Apollo who handed him a magic wand, which later turned into the caduceus.



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 hat ("petasos), 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.

"Hendrik Goltzius: Mercury, with his symbols

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.[3] He was also, like Hermes, the Romans' "psychopomp, leading newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Additionally, "Ovid wrote that Mercury carried "Morpheus' dreams from the valley of "Somnus to sleeping humans.[4]

Archeological evidence from Pompeii suggests that Mercury was among the most popular of Roman gods.[5] The god of commerce was depicted on two early bronze coins of the "Roman Republic, the "Sextans and the "Semuncia.[6]

Mercury portrait on a bronze "Semuncia (215–211 BC)


When they 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 Empire conquered; "Julius Caesar wrote of Mercury being the most popular god in Britain and Gaul, regarded as the inventor of all the arts.[7] This is probably because, in the Roman "syncretism, Mercury was equated with the "Celtic god "Lugus, 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.[4]

Romans associated Mercury with the "Germanic god "Wotan, by "interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer "Tacitus identifies him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples.[8]

Names and epithets[edit]

Mercury is known to the Romans as Mercurius and occasionally in earlier writings as Merqurius, Mirqurios or Mircurios, had a number of "epithets representing different aspects or roles, or representing syncretisms with non-Roman deities. The most common and significant of these epithets included the following:

In ancient literature[edit]

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, falls in love with Larunda and makes love to her on the way. Larunda thereby becomes mother to two children, referred to as the "Lares, invisible "household gods.


Mercury's temple in Rome was situated in the "Circus Maximus, between the "Aventine and "Palatine hills, and was built in 495 BC.[12]

That year saw disturbances at Rome between the patrician senators and the "plebeians, which led to a "secession of the plebs in the following year. At the completion of its construction, a dispute emerged between the consuls "Appius Claudius Sabinus Regillensis and "Publius Servilius Priscus Structus as to which of them should have the honour of dedicating the temple. The senate referred the decision to the popular assembly, and also decreed that whichever was chosen should also exercise additional duties, including presiding over the markets, establish a merchants' guild, and exercising the functions of the "pontifex maximus. The people, because of the ongoing public discord, and in order to spite the senate and the consuls, instead awarded the honour of dedicating the temple to the "senior military officer of one of the legions named "Marcus Laetorius. The senate and the consuls, in particular the conservative Appius, were outraged at this decision, and it inflamed the ongoing situation.[13]

The dedication occurred on 15 May, 495 BC.[14]

The temple was 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.["citation needed]


Because Mercury 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 15 May, the "Mercuralia. During the Mercuralia, merchants sprinkled water from his sacred well near the "Porta Capena on their heads.

In popular culture[edit]

Mercury as the winged messenger on a 1949 "St. Lucia stamp issued in connection with the "Universal Postal Union
1956 Mercury Montclair hardtop


  1. ^ Glossary to Ovid's Fasti, Penguin edition, by Boyle and Woodard at 343
  2. ^ Rupke, The Religion of the Romans, at 4
  3. ^ Caesar, Gallic War, at 55
  4. ^ a b Littleton, C. Scott (Ed.) (2002). Mythology: The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth and Storytelling (pp. 195, 251, 253, 258, 292). London: Duncan Baird Publishers. "ISBN "1-904292-01-1.
  5. ^ Beard, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town at 295–298
  6. ^ Sear, David R. (2000). Roman Coins and Their Values – The Millennium Edition. Volume I: The Republic and The Twelve Caesars, 280BC-AD96 (pp. 187–189). London: Spink. "ISBN "1-902040-35-X
  7. ^ De Bello Gallico 6.17
  8. ^ Germania 9
  9. ^ a b c d e f Green, Miranda J. (1992). Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Leg,end (pp. 148–149). London: "Thames and Hudson. "ISBN "0-500-01516-3.
  10. ^ Alarcão, Jorge de (1988). Roman Portugal. Volume I: Introduction (p. 93). Warminster: Aris and Phillips.
  11. ^ Espérandieu, E. (1931). Recueil Général des Bas-relief, Statues et Bustes de la Germanie Romaine. Paris and Brussels.
  12. ^ "Livy, "Ab urbe condita, 2:21
  13. ^ "Livy, "Ab urbe condita, 2.27
  14. ^ "Livy, "Ab urbe condita, 2.21
  15. ^ "1916-1945 Mercury Silver Dime Value - Coinflation (Updated Daily)". 

External links[edit]

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