Hermes in Greek mythology, the herald, messenger, and ambassador of the gods. He was also the god of wealth and good fortune and the patron of travelers and thieves. Hermes conducted the souls of the dead to the underworld. Zeus and Maia were his parents. The Romans identified Hermes with Mercury, their god of commerce. In time, Mercury took on many of the attributes of the Greek god.

When only a few hours old, Hermes escaped from his cradle and invented the lyre by stretching reeds across the shell of a tortoise he had killed. By nightfall he had stolen the cattle of Apollo, making them walk backward so that trailing them would be difficult. When caught by Apollo on Mount Olympus, Hermes traded his lyre for some of the cattle. Apollo gave him the shepherd's staff later called the caduceus. This was encircled by two serpents and had a pair of wings on one end of it.

Hermes performed many feats. He bound Prometheus to Mount Caucasus and Ixion to the wheel, killed the hundred-eyed Argus, led Persephone up from the underworld, and freed Odysseus from Circe. He was also an accomplished thief and stole the bow and quiver of Apollo, the trident of Poseidon, and the sword of Ares.

Hermes usually is represented as wearing very little. He sometimes wore winged sandals and a winged hat. Often he carried the caduceus or a traveler's purse.