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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2011
  • First published in: 1909

CHAPTER II - CULT-MONUMENTS OF HERMES

Summary

Being an eminently popular god of varied functions, Hermes becomes a frequent figure of Greek art in its various branches. But the surviving representations of him that can be shown to be derived from the public worship are not numerous. The records of the aniconic period, to which his earliest history goes back, have already been discussed, and they have given us reason to believe that such mere fetich-things as the phallos or the pile of stones by the wayside were once erected as his emblems or as objects in which he was immanent. But the monuments that have come down to us do not exemplify this earliest era of his cult, but rather the next, which was advancing towards eikonism; and we have many examples surviving of the ‘terminal’ type, the bearded head of Hermes above a four-square shaft, in the centre of which a phallos is carved, as the mark of his fertilizing power originally, but later also as an ‘apotropaion’ intended to ward off the evil eye. The same type may have occasionally occurred in other worships, such as those of Dionysos and Priapos; but in the absence of any special feature which prevents us, we may safely interpret these as Hermes-columns; and their association with this god is often made clearer still by the ‘kerykeion,’ or herald's-rod, carved up one of the sides of the shaft.

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