Various forms of messenger services have been employed dating back to the ancient world. Simple yet effective means to ensure communique was delivered. These early ‘postal’ services had two main purposes:
- The king or emperor sending instructions to their armies, wherever they may be;
- And sending out governmental decrees
In addition, only the wealthy could afford to operate and set up their own form of message service.
There was the messenger who travelled by foot or by horse. Sometimes the message was conveyed orally as in the case of Pheidippides who ran from Athens to Sparta requesting aid and back to Athens with their answer. Communication was also inscribed on clay tablets, as the Assyrian Empire used or on parchment by the Romans. Even the gods had their own messenger; Hermès who would travel from the realm of the gods to the mortal world delivering Zeus’ missives.
Hermès was responsible for motion, transfer and exchange: god of communication and Divine Messenger. He’s usually depicted wearing a traveller’s hat and winged sandals, and carried a herald’s staff otherwise known as a caduceus (Latin term). Today this symbol is used to represent modern medicine. The image of Hermès and name including the Roman equivalent Mercury is also used by many companies: the famous scarf Hermès, data-communications, webmail services, manufacturing, health; he is a busy god!
Hermès was one of the youngest gods in the Olympian pantheon. He was the son of Zeus and Maia, daughter of Atlas. He was credited with honouring the gods by being the first to sacrifice oxen to them. Never mind the fact he stole the animals to begin with! In earlier myths he was regarded a thief and in one such story he came to the attention of Apollo. It was his stock Hermes had stolen. Apollo took Hermès to Zeus and demanded his oxen returned. Zeus made Hermès give them back.
This youthful god was also the inventor of the lyre and other string instruments. He had made one from the shell of a tortoise and used the guts of the oxen or sheep, depending on the myth, to make the strings. Apollo so charmed by the sounds of the lyre he allowed Hermès to keep six oxen. They became close companions.
Hermès was more renowned for being the messenger of the gods, in particular for Zeus. He would take messages from Zeus and convey them to man in the form of dreams. Such was his power, people believed he could give them either a refreshing sleep or a night of troubled dreams.
Being a herald, he also helped the shades of the dead by taking them to Hades’ realm. He protected travellers and was regarded the promoter of social interaction and commerce between nations. He was perhaps one the most diversified of the Olympian Gods.