God of the Week: Mercury

02/27/2012: Mercury

Mercury is the ancient Roman god of commerce. Though he was later identified with the Greek god Hermes, he was worshiped by the Romans prior to the synchronization of Roman and Greek religions and continued to retain an individual identity by Roman priests after.

Mercury was the Roman god of commerce and gain. We find mention of a temple having been erected to him  near the Circus Maximus as early as B.C. 495; and he had also a temple and a sacred fount near the Porta Capena. Magic powers were ascribed to the latter, and on the festival of Mercury, which took place on the 25th of May, it was the custom for merchants to sprinkle themselves and their merchandise with this holy water, in order to insure large profits from their wares.

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.

– Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome, E.M. Berens

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2 Comments on “God of the Week: Mercury”

  1. Kassul Says:

    hrm, sprinkle my merchandise with the water from this fountain that was expelled that day eh?

    I wonder if I can bottle it and sell *that*

    Should have excellent margins on that stuff!
    Hrm, had never heard of this particular aspect of Mercury, though tbh I have never been as up on Roman stuff as the Greek versions.
    Also find it funny that your image of Mercury has a Caduceus given what the Fetiales wanted, but yeah pretty much everything I see for Mercury when googling has it. Kind of makes me feel a bit bad for them. Ah well.

  2. Victor Says:

    Yeah, I couldn’t even find an image without the Caduceus. Looks like they lost the battle.


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