Mercury is the Roman counterpart of Hermes. As Mercury, he is more disciplined, militaristic, and warlike, much like the other Roman counterparts of gods. He has children and descendants at Camp Jupiter in San Francisco. Although the Greeks saw Hermes as a crafty, cunning, and resourceful being, the Romans envisioned Mercury more as the god of commerce and trade rather than just being a god of thievery and travel.
His temple on the Aventine Hill in Rome was dedicated in 495 BC. There he was associated with the goddess Maia, who became identified as his mother through her association with the Greek Maia, mother of Hermes. Both Mercury and Maia are honored in a festival on May 15, the dedication day of Mercury’s temple on the Aventine.
Mercury, the messenger god, was not among the di indigetes ("indigenous gods") of the Ancient Roman religion. He was born of the synchronization of the Greek and Roman religions, during the 4th century BC. He is described as the one who sports winged shoes or talaria and winged pegasus. He is depicted carrying a herald's staff or caduceus, highlighting entwined snakes.
Mercury was worshipped as the icon of grain trade. He was considered the messenger of the gods, who descended to distribute the bounty of commercial success from time to time. Mercury was also revered as the Psychopomp - a figure who served to guide the souls of the deceased to the afterlife. Since the Romans equated Mercury with Hermes, much of the god's myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name Mercury.
While not seen, Ma Gasket and her two sons, Torque and Sump, mention having eaten a child of Mercury with a purple shirt on as their last meal. Jason, while not being able to remember who this person was, feels like he should know him.
Mercury is sometimes represented as holding a purse, symbolic of his business functions. Usually, however, artists borrow the attributes of Hermes irrespective of their appropriateness, and portray him wearing winged sandals or a winged cap and carrying a caduceus (staff). Mercury is sometimes depicted with a cockerel, as herald of the new day, and a ram, as the symbol of fertility. He is also shown with a tortoise shell lyre, that he is believed to have invented himself.
Various Epithets and Names of Mercury
- Mercurius Artaios
- Mercurius Arvernus
- Mercurius Cissonius
- Mercurius Esibraeus
- Mercurius Gebrinius
- Mercurius Moccus
- Mercurius Visucius
- Jack London
- Unnamed son eaten by Ma Gasket and her sons
- Mercury, the first planet from the sun, was named after him.
- The element Mercury is named after him.
- 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.
- The Fetiales (Roman priests whose duty it was to act as guardians of the public faith) refused to recognize the identity of Mercury with Hermes, and ordered him to be represented with a sacred branch as the emblem of peace, instead of the caduceus. In later times however, he was completely identified with the Greek Hermes.
- A Roman historian, Tacitus, associated Mercury with the Norse god Odin.