Why Did the Romans Call Hermes Mercury?

The Roman pantheon of gods and goddesses is one of the most fascinating aspects of ancient Roman culture. The Romans adopted many of the Greek gods and goddesses and integrated them into their own pantheon, often giving them a new name.

One such god was Hermes, who was known as Mercury in Roman mythology. In this article, we will explore why the Romans called Hermes Mercury.

Hermes in Greek Mythology

Hermes was one of the twelve Olympian gods in Greek mythology, and he was the son of Zeus and Maia. He was known as the messenger god, and he had many responsibilities, including guiding souls to the underworld and protecting travelers. Hermes was also a patron of athletes, thieves, and merchants.

The Origins of Mercury

When the Romans conquered Greece in 146 BCE, they adopted many aspects of Greek culture, including their mythology. However, they often gave the gods new names or combined them with existing Roman deities. This process is known as syncretism.

In the case of Hermes, he was identified with a Roman god named Mercury. Mercury was a minor god in Roman mythology who was associated with commerce, financial gain, and messages. Like Hermes, he was depicted wearing winged sandals and carrying a staff.

The Similarities between Hermes and Mercury

The identification of Hermes with Mercury made sense because they had many similarities in their roles and attributes. Both were messenger gods who traveled quickly between worlds (the heavens, earth, and underworld). They were also patrons of commerce and trade.

Furthermore, both gods were associated with cunning and trickery; Hermes was known for his ability to deceive others while Mercury was associated with financial gain through deceitful means.

The Legacy of Mercury

Mercury became an important figure in Roman mythology because he represented many aspects of Roman life that were valued, such as commerce and financial gain. He was often depicted on coins and was associated with the Roman god Mars, who represented military power.

In art, Mercury was often portrayed as a young man wearing a winged helmet and sandals. He was also depicted with a caduceus, which was a staff with two snakes coiled around it. This symbol is still used today as a symbol of medicine.


The Romans called Hermes Mercury because they identified him with their own god of commerce and financial gain. The two gods had many similarities in their roles and attributes, making it an easy transition for the Romans to adopt Hermes into their own pantheon. Today, the legacy of Mercury lives on through his association with commerce and his enduring presence in art and literature.