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[mur' kye rE] Roman messenger of the gods; god of roads and travel, commerce, property, and wealth


Because he was considered crafty and deceptive, criminals saw Mercury as their protector. The Romans "borrowed" Mercury from the Greeks, whose Hermes had a role very similar to Mercury's.

Mercury was able to deliver messages with miraculous speed because he wore winged sandals called talaria. He also wore a broad-brimmed wing hat called a petasus and carried a winged staff. The Latin word for messenger was caduceus, and that word came to be applied to Mercury's staff. Mercury's caduseus had snakes coiled around it to protect him on his travels. In ancient times most messengers and travelers wore a hat simmilar to Mercury's petasus, and many also carried a staff similar to the caduseus as a means of identifying themselves to fellow messengers and travelers. Mercury later became associated with magic and science, and his caduceus has come to symbolize medicine.

According to Roman mythology, Mercury was the son of Jupiter, the king of the gods, and Maia, a minor goddess. Artists portrayed him as a handsome young man, with an expression of alertness and intelligence.

The English words commerce, merchandise, and merchant are all derived from his name. The name "Mercury" has also been applied to the innermost planet of the Solar System, an element, and even a car model.

World Book Encyclopedia Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International, 1978

Mercury (planet)
Mercury (element)

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This page was last updated on October 26, 2017.