Hermes was the son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, daughter of Atlas. Born on Mt Kyllene, Hermes immediately showed signs of cunning resourcefulness, stealing Apollo’s cattle and promptly crafting the first lyre to appease him. Known as dolios, i.e. the schemer, Hermes was the divine trickster and patron of thieves. But, above all, he was the herald of the gods, which is why he was traditionally depicted wearing winged shoes, sporting a petasos (a broad-brimmed hat worn by travellers) and holding a caduceus. As psychopompos (i.e. conveyor of souls), he guided the souls of the deceased to the underworld. He was the protector of shepherds, tradesmen, as well as travellers. In fact, the road markers of the ancient Greeks were called herms, i.e. rectangular shafts topped by the head of hodios Hermes (i.e. Hermes of the roads). Given his additional status as patron of athletes, statues of him often adorned gymnasiums and stadiums. His varied roles, together with his playfulness, made Hermes the friendliest of the Olympian gods.
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