The Full Wiki

Hermès: Wikis



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hermès International, S.A.
Type Public (Euronext: RMS)
Founded 1837
Founder(s) Thierry Hermès
Headquarters 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris, France
Area served Global locations
Key people Patrick Thomas, GM[1]
Sukri Suid, CEO[1]
Mireille Maury, CEO & CFO[1]
Lionel Martin-Guinard, CFO[1]
Firdaus Nordin, EVP[1]
Wan Zayd, EVP[1]
Jean Paul Gaultier- Womenswear designer
Veronique Nichanian- Menswear designer
Industry High fashion retail
Products Luxury goods
Revenue 1.625 billion (2007)[1][2]
Net income €288 million (2007)[2]
Owner(s) 71% (Hermes Family)
29%(Public shares)
Employees 7,455 (2007)[2]

Hermès International, S.A., or simply Hermès (French pronunciation: [ɛʁmɛs],[3] English: /ɛərˈmɛz/  ( listen)) is a French high fashion house specializing in leather, ready-to-wear, lifestyle accessories, perfumery, and luxury goods. The company is renowned in the fashion world, and its products are considered to be prestigious due to their degree of craftsmanship, reputation, and price. It is recognized by its logo of a Duc carriage with horse.

Established in 1837 by Thierry Hermès as a saddle shop in Paris, the company has grown internationally yet continues to implement its traditional techniques into its creations.[4]

Hermès' competitors include Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Christian Dior.[5]



Those outfitted by the company to some extent include: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ratan Tata, John F. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Romy Schneider, Catherine Deneuve, and Grace Kelly.[4]

Designers throughout the company's history include Lola Prusac, Jacques Delahaye, Catherine de Karolyi, Monsieur Levaillant, Nicole de Vesian, Eric Bergere, Claude Brouet, Tan Giudicelli, Marc Audibet, Veronique Nichanian and Mariot Chane.[6]

Beginnings in the 19th century

Thierry Hermès, founder of Hermès.

The Hermès family, originally Protestant Germans, settled in France in 1828.[6] In 1837, Thierry Hermès (1801–1878) first established Hermès as a harness workshop (on the Grands Boulevards quarter of Paris) dedicated to purveying to European noblemen.[4][5] His goal was to create the finest wrought harnesses and bridles for the carriage trade.[7] The company earned acclaim in 1855, winning first prize in its class at the 1855 Paris Exposition.[7] Monsieur Hermès won the First Class Medal of the 1867 Exposition Universelle as well.[4]

Hermès son, Charles-Emile Hermes (1835–1919),[6] took management from his father, and moved the shop in 1880 to a location near the Palais de l'Elysée at 24 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré. It is at this location where the new leader introduced saddlery and began retail sales.[7] With the aid of his sons (Adolphe and Émile-Maurice Hermès), the company catered to the elite of Europe, North Africa, Russia, Asia, and the Americas. In 1900, the company offered the haut à courroies bag specially designed so that riders could carry their saddles with them.[4]

Hermès Frères era

After Charles-Emile Hermes retired from the company, his sons Adolphe and Émile-Maurice took leadership and renamed the company Hermès Frères.[4] Shortly after, Émile-Maurice furnished the czar of Russia with saddles.[6] By 1914, up to 80 saddle craftsmen became employed under the company. Émile-Maurice later obtained exclusive the rights to use the zipper for leather goods and clothing. He thus became the first to introduce the device in France.[4] The first leather golf jacket with zipper, made by Hermès, was introduced in 1918.[6]

Throughout the 1920s, Émile-Maurice took control as sole head of the business and added new accessory collections.[4][5] Émile-Maurice groomed his three sons-in-law (Robert Dumas, Jean-René Guerrand and Francis Puech) into business partners. Hermès introduced their first leather garment, a zippered golfing jacket for the Prince of Wales.[7] After its exclusive use of the zipper, the mechanism was nicknamed fermature Hermès.[7] In 1922, the first leather handbags were introduced. Émile-Maurice's wife complained of not finding a suitable one to her liking, and so her husband took over the job.[6] creating an array of handbags himself.[6] In 1924, Hermès established a presence in the United States, and opened two shops in French resorts. In 1929, the first women's couture apparel collection was previewed in Paris.[6]

During the 1930s, Hermès produced some of its most recognized original goods.[4] In 1935, the leather Sac à dépêches (later to be renamed as the "Kelly Bag") was introduced, and, later in 1937, the Hermès carré (scarves) were introduced.[4] Featuring a print of white-wigged ladies playing a popular period game, these custom-made accessory scarves were named Jeu des Ombinus et Dames Blanches.[5] Hermès oversaw the production of its scarves from beginning till end: purchasing raw Chinese silk, spinning it into yarn, and weaving it into fabric twice as strong and heavy as most scarves on market.[5] The company's scarf designers spent years creating new prints (individually screen-printed with vegetable dye).[5] Each added color would be allowed a month to dry during the process of its creation before the next was applied.[5] Designers were given the option of choosing from over 200,000 different colors, with the most complicated design featuring 40 colors.[5] In 1937 a dedicated scarf factory was established in Lyon, France.

Following the introduction of the scarves, the accessory became integrated into French culture.[5] The same year, Hermès celebrated its 100th anniversary. In 1938, the Chaîne d’ancre bracelet and the riding jacket and outfit joined the classic collection. By this point, the company's designers began to draw inspirations from paintings, books, and objets d’art.[4] The 1930s also witnessed Hermès' entrance into the United States market by offering its products in a Neiman Marcus department store in New York: However, it later withdrew.[5] 1949 saw the launch of the Hermès silk ties. Also in the same year, the first perfume was produced, Eau d'Hermès.

During sometime in his management, Émile-Maurice summarized the Hermès philosophy as "Leather, sport, and a tradition of refined elegance."[7]


Robert Dumas-Hermès (1898–1978) succeeded Émile-Maurice after his death in 1951, working in close collaboration with brother-in-law Jean-René Guerrand.[4] Technically, Dumas became the first man not directly descended from Hermès père to lead the company (he was connected to the family by marriage). Thus, he incorporated the Hermès last name into his own, Dumas-Hermès. The company also acquired its duc carriage with horse logo and signature orange boxes in the early 50s.[4] Dumas created original handbags, jewelry, and accessories. He was particularly interested in design possibilities with the silk scarves.[4] Ironically, during the mid-20th century, scarf production slackened.[5] World Tempus states that, "Brought to life by the magic wand of Annie Beaumel, the windows of the store on Faubourg Saint-Honoré became a theatre of enchantment and a Parisian meeting-place for international celebrities."[4] In 1956, a photo of Grace Kelly (the new Princess of Monaco) carrying the Sac à dépêches bag appeared in Life: The company renamed it the "Kelly Bag", and became hugely popular. By the late 1950s, the Hermès logo reaches renown status.[4]

In the 1960s, Hermès re-entered the U.S. market by offering its silk ties at Neiman Marcus department stores.[5] Chrystler Fisher, a former executive at Neiman Marcus, oversaw the Hermès American operations, tailoring to customers via a toll-free number, customers' service department, and direct mail. The perfume business is made subsidiary in 1961 concurrently with the introduction of the Calèche perfume (named after the Hermès logo).[5]

The falter of Hermès and revival by Jean-Louis

In the 1970s, Hermès opened multiple locations all over Europe, the United States, and Japan.[4] However, despite the company's apparent success, Hermès began to fall back throughout the 1970s in comparison to other competitors. This was duly because Hermès aimed to use only natural materials for its products, unlike other companies that strived to produce fashions of new man-made materials.[5] During a two-week lapse in orders, the Hermès workrooms were unoccupied.[5] The House formed itself as a holding company in 1976 and continued expansion worldwide. Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermès (son of Robert Dumas-Hermès) became chairman in 1978, concentrating in the areas of silk, leather, and ready-to-wear (adding new product groups to those made with its traditional techniques). Unlike his father, Jean-Louis was connected to the Hermès maternally. The new leader of Hermès also traveled worldwide extensively.[6] Jean-Louis implemented his experiences as a buyer for Bloomingdale's to aid the ailing company by turning around its downhill progression.[5] Dumas brought in designers Eric Bergére and Bernard Sanz to revamp the apparel collection, and, in collaboration, added unusual entries. Such were the python motorcycle jackets and ostrich-skin jeans, which were dubbed as "a snazzier version of what Hermès has been all along". Annual sales in 1978 were reported at $50 Million USD.[5] In 1979, Hermès launched an advertisement campaign featuring a young, denim-clad woman wearing an Hermès scarf. The purpose was to introduce the Hermès brand to a new set of consumers. As one observer noted, "Much of what bears the still-discreet Hermès label changed from the object of an old person's nostalgia to the subject of young peoples' dreams."[5] Also in the 1970s, the subsidiary La Montre Hermès was established in Bienne, Switzerland.

Throughout the 1980s, Dumas strengthened the company's hold on its suppliers.[5] Thus, Hermès gained great stakes in prominent French glassware, silverware, and tableware manufacturers as Puiforcat, St. Louis, and Périgord.[5].The company celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1987 by "affirming its unique identity as a company both industrial and traditional, multi-sited and Parisian, traditional and innovative, and founded on a constant striving for excellence."[5] By now women sporting Hermès carried the Kelly bag, Constance clutch, brightly colored leathers, sensuous cashmeres, bold jewelry, tri-colored spectator shoes and silk ballet slippers.[7] For men, the brand made leather jackets with sherpa lining and trim, gabardine blazers and dashing greatcoats, and richly patterned silk ties.[7]

Hermès' growth

By 1990, annual sales were reported at a profit of $460 million USD. The dramatic rise in revenue was mainly attributed to Dumas' strategy.[5] Fifty percent of sales in the early 1990s were generated from Europe despite Dumas' program of geographical expansion. The United States contributed 11 percent, while the Asia/Pacific region made up one-third of sales.[5] Sales increased with an estimated increase of 23 percent from 1984 to 1994. However, future profits were expected to rise in only single-digit percentages.

Tactics from the 1980s made tableware one of Hermès' most promising business subsidiaries for the 1990s.[5] The collection of Hermès goods was expanded in 1990 to include over 30,000 pieces. New materials used in the collection included porcelain and crystal.[7] The company also took to releasing two new scarf collections each year throughout the 1990s, some of which were limited designs including The Road (1994) and The Sun(1995)).[5] Hermès relocated its workshops and design studios to Pantin (in the outskirts of Paris) in a spacious modern glass building in 1992.[4] By June 1993, Hermès went public on the Stock exchange. The equity sale generated more excitement than the semiannual sales at Hermès's flagship store: the 425,000 shares floated at FFr 300 (US$55) each were oversubscribed by 34 times.[5] Dumas told Forbes magazine that the equity sale helped lessen family tensions by allowing some members to liquidate their holdings without "squabbling over share valuations among themselves."[5] During that year, Fisher resigned from his position as head of operations for U.S. business in Hermès and was succeeded by a sixth-generation Hermès descendant Laurent Mommeja, who promised to double U.S. company sales by 1998.[5] Shares were trading at FFr 600, by 1995.[5]

To this point, the Hermès family still kept strong hold of about 80 percent in stocks, placing Jean-Louis Dumas and the entire family on the Forbes list of billionaires.[5] Mimi Tompkins of U.S. News & World Report called the company "one of Paris' best guarded jewels." In the next years to follow, Dumas began to decrease Hermès franchises from 250 to 200 and increased company owned stores from 60 to 100 to better control sales of its products.[5] The plan was to cost about FFr 200 million in the short-term, but to increase profits in the long-term. Having around FFr 500 million to invest, Hermès continued ahead, targeting China for company-operated boutiques and finally opening a store in Beijing in 1996. Belgian modernist designer Martin Margiela was brought into the House to supervise women's ready-to-wear soon afterwards.[6] By the late 1990s, Hermès continued to extensively diminish the number of franchised stores, buying up those including in Marseilles, Padua, and Berlin, and opening further more company operated boutiques (among them in Las Vegas and Atlanta). Fashion eyebrows were raised in September 1999 when Hermès paid FFr 150 million for a 35 percent stake in the Jean-Paul Gaultier fashion house.[5] Greeted nonetheless as a positive development both for the relatively small Gaultier group and for Hermès, it was seen as part of a consolidation in the luxury goods market. Over the late dacades of the 1900s, the company also encouraged their clientele to faites nous rêver (make us dream), creating throughout the time some of the most artistically atypical orders.[5]

From the 2000s through today

In 2000, the Hermès boutique on Madison Avenue opened, as well as four stores in Lisbon, Santiago, Barcelona, and Taiwan.[5] The first John Lobb footwear store was also opened that year in New York. During this time, the company renovated its Ginza, Tokyo location and opened a branch in Moscow. In 2003, Margiela retired from Hermès as head designer and so Jean-Paul Gaultier joined in the House (debuting his first collection for Fall/Winter 2004-05).[6][8] Afterwards, Jean Claude Ellena came in as the in-House perfumer, launching the successful Hermessence line of fragrances[9].[6] After twenty-eight years of leadership, Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes, the fifth generation Hermès leader, finally retired from his family's company in January 2006.[6] Patrick Thomas, who joined the company in 1989 and who worked with Jean-Louis as co-CEO since 2005, replaced him that month. He became the first non-Hermès to helm the company. Thomas expressed an interest in continuing 10 percent increase in annum sales and 15 percent profit growth.[6] Revenue for 2006 is reported at 1,514,900 thousand Euros ( $2,406,059.80 thousand USD).[1] In 2007, 630 new staff members joined the company, escalating its employee count to 7,455.[2] In 1st half of 2008 Hermès opened a boutique In New Delhi, India. Throughout 2008, Hermès will continue to open and renovate some 40 boutiques in the United States, Asia, and particularly China.[2]

Hermès today


A Hermes soap bar bearing the logo.

As of 2008, Hermès has 14 product divisions encompassing leather, scarves, ties, menswear, women's fashion, perfume, watches, stationery, footwear, gloves, enamel, art of living, tableware, and jewelry.[4] The use of high-quality materials and appraised hand-craftsmanship drives the price points for Hermès merchandise well into high figures. Examples include an Hermès scarf for $375 USD, a tie for $180 USD, and a Kelly purse for $6,900 USD.[5] Fashion Model Directory states the Hermès look as "the height of luxury with a nod to the house's equestrian heritage."[6]

Professional craftsmanship, originated from the creation of meticulous leather saddles, has been spread into every branch of product making, company-wide.[6] General Hermès sales are made up of around 30 percent leather goods, 15 percent clothes, and 12 percent scarves.[6] The company has never licensed any of its products, but keeps a tight control over the design and manufacture of its vast range of goods.[7] Every Hermès leather bound datebook, porcelain teapot, silk waistcoat, and custom saddle is made under the company name.[7]

The brand also offers office accessories and baby gifts.[6]

Hermès silk


One of Hermès' most recognized products today is its signature silk scarves. The modern Hermès scarf measures 90 cm × 90 cm, weighs 65 grams and is woven from the silk of 250 mulberry moth cocoons. All Hermès scarves are hand-printed using multiple silk screens and the hems are all hand-stitched. Forty-three is the highest number of screens used for one scarf to date (the charity scarf released in 2006), one screen for each color on the scarf. Scarf motives are known to range from germane (the French Revolution, French Cuisine) to the unexpected (such as the flora and fauna of Texas).[5] However, many generally feature equestrian motifs, as well as other symbols of prestige, like coats of arms, banners, and military insignia.[7] Two scarf collections per year are released, along with re-prints of older designs and limited editions. Since 1937, Hermès has produced over 2,500 designs, with the horse motif ones being particularly famous and popular.[6] Production of scarves has ranged from 250,000 in 1978, to 500,000 in 1986, to 1.2 million in 1989.[5] During the holiday season in its Paris boutiques, on average one scarf is sold every twenty seconds.[7]

The per-pound cost of a scarf today is approximately $1,965.00 USD (compared to a pound of steel at $0.19). New scarves still account for a significant percentage of Hermès's turnover. Hermès markets two collections a year of cashmere/silk blend scarves.

The company's scarves are very popular.[7] Some find themselves even made into pillows or otherwise as framed wall-hangings.[7] Famous lovers of the Hermès scarf include Queen Elizabeth II (who wore one in a portrait for a British postage stamp in the 1950s), Grace Kelly (who used an Hermès scarf as a sling for her broken arm), Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve, and Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis. More recently, Sharon Stone, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hillary Clinton, Mariah Carey, Elle McPherson, Madonna and Oprah Winfrey, Giuliana Rancic have all been photographed wearing the scarves. Notoriously, Stone used one for a bondage scene in the film Basic Instinct.

Hermès silk ties.

In addition to silk scarves, men's neckties are made out of the same silks.[10]

Partnership with the Tuareg

For years Hermès has partnered with Tuareg tribesmen on silver jewelry. The famous Saharan nomads' traditional motifs are often imitated by various Hermès products, including some of the French company's trademark scarves.


Hermès is also recognized for its handmade luggage and handbag collections. Hermès does not use assembly lines; only one craftsman may work on one handbag at a time, hand-stitching each individual piece. Due to the labour-intensive nature of Hermès production methods and the use of rare materials (sometimes including exotic skins as well as precious metals), one bag can take 18 to 24 hours to create. The construction of each Kelly bag, for example, requires 18 hours of work by a single artisan.[5] Hermès' leathers include those of alligator from Florida, buffalo from Pakistan, crocodile from Australia, shark from Thailand, lizard from Malaysia, and oxen, deer, calf, goat, and ostrich from all over the world.[6] The leathers are professionally treated, dyed in an extensive range of colors, and handcrafted into bags of all sizes, small leather goods, and additional accessories.[6] When Hermès leather goods require repair, owners are encouraged to bring the item back to any Hermès store where it can be shipped to the factory in Paris for repair or reconditioning.

Bags made popular through high-profile clientele include the "Kelly Bag", named after Grace Kelly for her many appearances with it (first introduced in the 1930s, see history), and the Constance shoulder bag (with a double strap and large H clasp) and the Trim shoulder bag preferred by Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis. Both Kelly and Constance bags remain in demand and there has historically been a one year waiting list for these bags.[6] Following the global economic meltdown, demand fell and wait lists were eliminated or substantially reduced in many retail locations. Despite the apparent availability of the most sought-after models, Hermès reported profits for the worst fiscal quarters of 2008.

A Hermès Birkin bag.

Another famous handbag, the Birkin, was named for actress Jane Birkin, who co-designed the bag with company president Jean-Louis Dumas after complaining that her Kelly bag was not practical for everyday use. Jane Birkin has since stopped carrying her namesake bag, saying it contributed to her tendinitis.[11] The bag remains among the most requested and has the strongest waiting list of any other luxury Hermès good.[6] The wait for a special order Birkin can be up to six years, based on the type of leather or skin requested.[6] The price of the smallest Birkin reaches into five and six figures for larger sizes, different leathers, and special orders (which can include, but are not limited to, bi- and tri-color orders). In popular culture, the Birkin bag has been featured in television shows such as Gilmore Girls, Sex and the City, Will & Grace, Gossip Girl and Girlfriends, as well as on the arms of well-heeled celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Coleen Rooney, Alex Curran, Kate Moss, Martha Stewart, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Oprah Winfrey; and the subject of a tell-all memoir, Bringing Home the Birkin (published by HarperCollins, 2008) by Michael Tonello.

To benefit the International Federation of Human Rights in 2009, Jane Birkin herself auctioned off a black calfskin version of the Birkin model, which now holds the world record at (€74,352 or $101,000).[12]

In November 2009, model Naomi Campbell consigned a Birkin in pale green alligator to Artcurial of Paris's auction sale with the proceeds towards the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood.[12]


Hermès started its fragrance line in 1951. Over the past 57 years, the company has created several fragrances for both men and women. Women's fragrances include the newly created Kelly Calèche, Eau des Merveilles, 24, Faubourg, Calèche, Rouge Hermès, Hiris, Parfum d'Hermès and Amazone. Men's fragrances include Terre D'Hermès, Rocabar, Équipage, and Bel Ami. Fragrances that are made for both men and women include: Eau d'Orange Verte, Un Jardin sur le Nil, Un Jardin en Méditerranée, Eau D'Hermès, and eight scents in the Hermessence series which are exclusive to Hermès stores.

Shop Locations

An Hermès boutique in Ginza, Tokyo.

Hermès boutiques are located worldwide in upscale locations like in Ginza district, Tokyo. The image of the stores, however, most integrate with a respect of the culture in the location.The world Hermès flagship boutiques are in the Ginza and in Shanghai [4]

By 2009, Hermes had these boutiques in the United States alone:

Plans for future Hermès boutique locations include:

  • New York City 2009 Fifth Avenue
  • New York City 2010 Soho


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Euronext - Company profile". Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Informations financières". Hermes International, S.A.. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  3. ^ Le Trésor de la Langue Français informatisé
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Hermès International S.A.". World Tempus. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al "Hermès".;s-International-SA-Company-History.html. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "View the Profilepage of Designer: Hermes". Fashion Model Directory. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Martin, Richard (1995). Contemporary fashion. London: St. James Press. p. 750. ISBN 1-55862-173-3. 
  8. ^ "Jean Paul Gaultier News". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ Hermes Fragrances
  10. ^ "Hermes ties in hot pink". 
  11. ^ "Heritage & Culture". 
  12. ^ a b Rafferty, Jean Bond. "In the Bag" Art+Auction, November 2009.

Further reading

  • "A Boutique Where You Don’t Just Buy – Your invest," in ‘’Vogue’’, October 1974.
  • Van Dyke, Grace, "Hermès: Old World Luxury in the New World," in ‘’USA Today’’, July 1994.
  • Dryansky, G.Y., "Hermès: Quality with a Kick," in the ‘’Harper's Bazaar’’, April 1986.
  • Berman, Phyllis, "Mass Production? Yech!" in ‘’Forbes’’ (New York, September 22, 1986.
  • "Scarves Everywhere," in ‘’The New Yorker’’, January 30, 1989.
  • Aillaud, Charlotte, "The Hermès Museum: Inspiration for the Celebrated Family Firm," in ‘’Architechtural Digest’’ (Los Angeles), January 1989.
  • Tompkins, Mimi, "Sweatshop of the Stars," in ‘’U.S. News and World Report’’, February 12, 1990.
  • Gandee, Charles, "Jean-Louis Dumas- Hermès Is Flying High," in ‘’House & Garder’’ (New York), August 1990.
  • "The Handbags to Have," in ‘’The New York Times’, April 14, 1991.
  • " Hermès: Still in the Saddle," in ‘’Women's Wear Daily’’ (New York), September 25, 1991.
  • " Hermès of Paris, Inc.," in ‘’The New York Times’’, October 5, 1991.
  • Slesin, Susan, "Ah, the Horse," in the ‘’New York Times’’, May 21, 1992.

External links

Coordinates: 48°52′8.16″N 2°19′18.33″E / 48.8689333°N 2.3217583°E / 48.8689333; 2.3217583

File:Hermes Logios Altemps
Logios Hermes copy of Greek original
Messenger of the Gods, God of commerce and thieves
Abode Mount Olympus
Symbol Caduceus, winged sandals, tortoise
Parents Zeus and Maia
Children Pan, Hermaphroditus, Tyche, Abderus, Autolycus
Roman equivalent Mercury

Hermes (pronounced /ˈhɜrmiːz/; Greek Ἑρμῆς) is the Messenger of the Gods in Greek mythology. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of thieves and road travelers, of orators and wit, of literature and poets, of athletics, of weights and measures, of invention, of general commerce, and of the cunning of thieves and liars.[1] His symbols include the tortoise, the cock, the winged sandals, and the caduceus. The analogous Roman deity is Mercury.

The Homeric hymn to Hermes invokes him as the one "of many shifts (polytropos), blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates, one who was soon to show forth wonderful deeds among the deathless gods."[2]

He protects and takes care of all the travelers, miscreants, harlots, old crones and thieves that pray to him or cross his path. He is athletic and is always looking out for runners, or any athletes with injuries who need his help. Hermes is a messenger from the gods to humans, sharing this role with Iris. An interpreter who bridges the boundaries with strangers is a hermeneus. Hermes gives us our word "hermeneutics" for the art of interpreting hidden meaning. In Greek a lucky find was a hermaion. Hermes delivered messages from Olympus to the mortal world. He wears shoes with wings on them and uses them to fly freely between the mortal and immortal world. Hermes was the youngest of the Olympian gods.

Hermes, as an inventor of fire,[3] is a parallel of the Titan, Prometheus. In addition to the lyre, Hermes was believed to have invented many types of racing and the sport of wrestling, and therefore was a patron of athletes.[4]

According to prominent folklorist Yeleazar Meletinsky, Hermes is a deified trickster.[5] Hermes also served as a psychopomp, or an escort for the dead to help them find their way to the afterlife (the Underworld in the Greek myths). In many Greek myths, Hermes was depicted as the only god besides Hades, Persephone, Hecate, and Thanatos who could enter and leave the Underworld without hindrance.

Along with escorting the dead, Hermes often helped travelers have a safe and easy journey. Many Greeks would sacrifice to Hermes before any trip.

In the fully-developed Olympian pantheon, Hermes was the son of Zeus and the Pleiade Maia, a daughter of the Titan Atlas. Hermes' symbols were the cock and the tortoise, and he can be recognized by his purse or pouch, winged sandals, winged cap, and the herald's staff, the kerykeion. Hermes was the god of thieves because he was very cunning and shrewd and was a thief himself from the night he was born, when he slipped away from Maia and ran away to steal his elder brother Apollo's cattle.

In the Roman adaptation of the Greek religion (see interpretatio romana), Hermes was identified with the Roman god Mercury, who, though inherited from the Etruscans, developed many similar characteristics, such as being the patron of commerce.



's Mercury in fountain of the Alameda Central, Mexico City.]] The name Hermes has been thought, ever since Karl Otfried Müller's demonstration,[6] to be derived from the Greek word herma (ἕρμα), which denotes a square or rectangular pillar with the head of Hermes (usually with a beard) adorning the top of the pillar, and ithyphallic male genitals below; however, due to the god's attestation in the Mycenaean pantheon, as Hermes Araoia ("Ram Hermes") in Linear B inscriptions at Pylos and Mycenaean Knossos (Ventris and Chadwick), the connection is more likely to have moved the opposite way, from deity to pillar representations. From the subsequent association of these cairns — which were used in Athens to ward off evil and also as road and boundary markers all over Greece — Hermes acquired patronage over land travel.

Epithets of Hermes


Hermes' epithet Argeiphontes (Latin Argicida), or Argus-slayer, recalls his slaying of the hundred eyed giant Argus Panoptes, who was watching over the heifer-nymph Io in the sanctuary of Queen Hera herself in Argos. Putting Argus to sleep, Hermes used a spell to close all of Argus' eyes and then slew the giant. Argus' eyes were then put into the tail of the peacock, symbol of the goddess Hera.


His epithet of Logios is the representation of the god in the act of speaking, as orator, or as the god of eloquence. Indeed, together with Athena, he was the standard divine representation of eloquence in classical Greece. The Homeric Hymn to Hermes (probably 6th century BCE) describes Hermes making a successful speech from the cradle to defend himself from the (true) charge of cattle theft. Somewhat later, Proclus' commentary on Plato's Republic describes Hermes as the god of persuasion. Yet later, Neoplatonists viewed Hermes Logios more mystically as origin of a "Hermaic chain" of light and radiance emanating from the divine intellect (nous). This epithet also produced a sculptural type.

's Mercury]]


Other epithets included:

  • Diaktoros, the messenger
  • Dolios, the schemer
  • Enagonios, lord of contests
  • Enodios, on the road
  • Epimelius, keeper of flocks
  • Eriounios, luck bringer
  • Polygius
  • Psychopompos, conveyor of souls


, 1611 (Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem)]]

General article: Cult (religion).

Though temples to Hermes existed throughout Greece, a major center of his cult was at Pheneos in Arcadia, where festivals in his honor were called Hermoea.

As a crosser of boundaries, Hermes Psychopompos' ("conductor of the soul") was a psychopomp, meaning he brought newly-dead souls to the Underworld and Hades. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Hermes conducted Persephone the Kore (young girl or virgin), safely back to Demeter. He also brought dreams to living mortals.

Among the Hellenes, as the related word herma ("a boundary stone, crossing point") would suggest, Hermes embodied the spirit of crossing-over: He was seen to be manifest in any kind of interchange, transfer, transgressions, transcendence, transition, transit or traversal, all of which involve some form of crossing in some sense. This explains his connection with transitions in one’s fortune—with the interchanges of goods, words and information involved in trade, interpretation, oration, writing—with the way in which the wind may transfer objects from one place to another, and with the transition to the afterlife.

Many graffito dedications to Hermes have been found in the Athenian Agora, in keeping with his epithet of Agoraios and his role as patron of commerce.[7]

Originally, Hermes was depicted as an older, bearded, phallic god, but in the late 4th century BCE, the traditional Hermes was reimagined as an athletic youth (illustration, top right). Statues of the new type of Hermes stood at stadiums and gymnasiums throughout Greece.


, Hermes (1939). Library of Congress John Adams Building, Washington, D.C.]] In Ancient Greece, Hermes was a phallic god of boundaries. His name, in the form herma, was applied to a wayside marker pile of stones; each traveller added a stone to the pile. In the 6th century BCE, Hipparchos, the son of Pisistratus, replaced the cairns that marked the midway point between each village deme at the central agora of Athens with a square or rectangular pillar of stone or bronze topped by a bust of Hermes with a beard. An erect phallus rose from the base. In the more primitive Mount Kyllini or Cyllenian herms, the standing stone or wooden pillar was simply a carved phallus. In Athens, herms were placed outside houses for good luck. "That a monument of this kind could be transformed into an Olympian god is astounding," Walter Burkert remarked (Burkert 1985).

In 415 BCE, when the Athenian fleet was about to set sail for Syracuse during the Peloponnesian War, all of the Athenian hermai were vandalized one night. The Athenians at the time believed it was the work of saboteurs, either from Syracuse or from the anti-war faction within Athens itself. Socrates' pupil Alcibiades was suspected of involvement, and Socrates indirectly paid for the impiety with his life.

From these origins, hermai moved into the repertory of Classical architecture.

Hermes' iconography

Hermes was usually portrayed wearing a broad-brimmed traveler's hat or a winged cap (petasus), wearing winged sandals (talaria), and carrying his Near Eastern herald's staff – either a caduceus entwined by serpents, or a kerykeion topped with a symbol similar to the astrological symbol of Taurus the bull. Hermes wore the garments of a traveler, worker, or shepherd. He was represented by purses or bags, cocks (illustration, left), and tortoises. When depicted as Hermes Logios, he was the divine symbol of eloquence, generally shown speaking with one arm raised for emphasis.


Hermes was born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. As the story is told in the Homeric Hymn, the Hymn to Hermes, Maia was a nymph, but Greeks generally applied the name to a midwife or a wise and gentle old woman; so the nymph appears to have been an ancient one, or more probably a goddess. At any rate, she was one of the Pleiades, daughters of Atlas, taking refuge in a cave of Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. They were discovered by the local king, Acacus, who raised Hermes as his foster son.

The infant Hermes was precocious. His first day he invented the lyre. By nightfall, he had rustled the immortal cattle of Apollo. For the first sacrifice, the taboos surrounding the sacred kine of Apollo had to be transgressed, and the trickster god of boundaries was the one to do it.

Hermes drove the cattle back to Greece and hid them, and covered their tracks. When Apollo accused Hermes, Maia said that it could not be him because he was with her the whole night. However, Zeus entered the argument and said that Hermes did steal the cattle and they should be returned. While arguing with Apollo, Hermes began to play his lyre. The instrument enchanted Apollo and he agreed to let Hermes keep the cattle in exchange for the lyre.

Hermes' offspring


The satyr-like Greek god of nature, shepherds and flocks, Pan was often said to be the son of Hermes through the nymph Dryope. In the Homeric Hymn to Pan, Pan's mother ran away from the newborn god in fright from his goat-like appearance.


Hermaphroditus was an immortal son of Hermes through Aphrodite. He was changed into an intersex person when the gods literally granted the nymph Salmacis' wish that they never separate.


The god Priapus was a son of Hermes and Aphrodite. In Priapus, Hermes' phallic origins survived. According to other sources, Priapus was a son of Dionysus and Aphrodite


According to some sources, the mischievous winged god of love Eros, son of Aphrodite, was sired by Hermes, though the gods Ares and Hephaestus were also among those said to be the sire, whereas in the Theogeny, Hesiod claims that Eros was born of nothing before the Gods. Eros' Roman name was Cupid.


The goddess of prosperity, Tyche (Greek Τύχη), or Fortuna, was sometimes said to be the daughter of Hermes and Aphrodite


Abderus was devoured by the Mares of Diomedes. He had gone to the Mares with his friend Heracles.


Autolycus, the Prince of Thieves, was a son of Hermes and grandfather of Odysseus.

List of Hermes' consorts and children

, (Musée du Louvre)]]

  1. Aglaurus Athenian priestess
    1. Eumolpus warlord
  2. Amphion King of Thebes in Boiotia
  3. Antheus
  4. Antianeira Malian princess
    1. Echion Argonaut
  5. Apemosyne Cretan princess
  6. Aphrodite
    1. Epoties King of Troy and died in Athena arms when the war was over.
    2. Hermaphroditus
    3. Peitho
    4. Priapus (in some traditions)
    5. Rhodos
    6. Tyche
  7. Carmentis Arcadian nymph
    1. Evander founder of Latium
  8. Chione Phocian princess
    1. Autolycus thief
  9. Chryses priest of Apollo
  10. Crocus who died and became the crocus flower
  11. Dryope Arcadian nymph
    1. Pan rustic god
  12. Eupolomia Phthian princess
    1. Aethalides Argonaut herald
  13. Herse Athenian priestess
    1. Cephalus hunter
    2. (Also Ceryx)
  14. Pandrosus Athenian priestess
    1. Ceryx Eleusinian herald
  15. Peitho ("Persuasion" his wife according to Nonnos)
  16. Penelope Arcadian nymph (or wife of Odysseus)
    1. Pan (according to one tradition)
  17. Persephone (according to one tradition)
  18. Perseus
  19. Polymele (daughter of Phylas according to Iliad)
    1. Eudorus (myrmidon; soldier in Trojan War)
  20. Sicilian nymph
    1. Daphnis rustic poet
  21. Theobula Eleian prince
    1. Myrtilus charioteer
  22. Therses
  23. Born of the urine of Hermes, Poseidon and Zeus
    1. Orion giant hunter (in one tradition)
  24. Unknown mothers
    1. Abderus squire of Heracles

Hermes in myth

The Iliad

In Homer's Iliad, Hermes helps King Priam of Troy (Ilium) sneak into the Achaean (Greek) encampment to confront Achilles and convince him to return Hector's body.

The body of Sarpedon is carried away from the battlefield of Troy by the twin winged gods, Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death). The pair are depicted clothed in armour, and are overseen by Hermes Psychopompos (Guide of the Dead). The scene appears in book 16 of Homer's Iliad:

"[Apollon] gave him [the dead Sarpedon] into the charge of swift messengers to carry him, of Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death), who are twin brothers, and these two presently laid him down within the rich countryside of broad Lykia." [8]

The Odyssey

In book 5, Hermes is sent to demand from Calypso Odysseus's release from the island of Ogygia; in book 10, he protects Odysseus from Circe by bestowing upon him a herb, moly, which protects him from her soporific spell. Hermes also appears in book 24, where he plays the role of psychopomp and leads the freshly slain suitors and disloyal maids to the underworld. Odysseus, the main character of the Odyssey, is of matrilineal descent from Hermes.[5]


Hermes aided Perseus in killing the gorgon (Medusa) by giving Perseus his winged sandals and Zeus' sickle. He also gave Perseus Hades' helmet of invisibility and told him to use it so that Medusa's immortal sisters could not see him. Athena helped Perseus as well by lending him her polished shield. Hermes also guided Perseus to the Underworld.


In the ancient play Prometheus Bound, attributed to Aeschylus, Zeus sends Hermes to confront the enchained Titan Prometheus about a prophecy of the Titan's that Zeus would be overthrown. Hermes scolds Prometheus for being unreasonable and willing to endure torture, but Prometheus refuses to give him details about the prophecy.


When Hermes loved Herse, one of three sisters who served Athena as priestesses or parthenos, her jealous older sister Aglaurus stood between them. Hermes changed Aglaurus to stone. Hermes then impregnated Aglaurus while she was stone. Cephalus was the son of Hermes and Herse. Hermes had another son, Ceryx, who was said to be the offspring of either Herse or Herse's other sister, Pandrosus. With Aglaurus, Hermes was the father of Eumolpus.

Other stories

In the story of the musician Orpheus, Hermes brought Eurydice back to Hades after Orpheus failed to bring her back to life when he looked back toward her after Hades told him not to.

Hermes helped to protect the infant god Dionysus from Hera, after Hera destroyed Dionysus' mortal mother Semele through her jealousy that Semele had conceived an immortal son of Zeus.

Hermes changed the Minyades into bats.

Hermes learned from the Thriae the arts of fortune-telling and divination.

When the gods created Pandora, it was Hermes who brought her to mortals and bestowed upon her a strong sense of curiosity.

King Atreus of Mycenae retook the throne from his brother Thyestes using advice he received from the trickster Hermes. Thyestes agreed to give the kingdom back when the sun moved backwards in the sky, a feat that Zeus accomplished. Atreus retook the throne and banished Thyestes.

Diogenes, speaking in jest, related the myth of Hermes taking pity on his son Pan, who was pining for Echo but unable to get a hold of her, and teaching him the trick of masturbation to relieve his suffering. Pan later taught the habit to shepherds.[9]

Battus, a shepherd from Pylos, witnessed Hermes stealing Apollo's cattle. Though he promised his silence, he told many others. Hermes turned him to stone.

Hermes in classical art

The most famous depiction of Hermes in classical art is perhaps the Hermes and Dionysus group by Praxiteles, son of Kephisodotos, which is dated to about 360–350 BC. The group shows Hermes playing with the baby Dionysus, and although we have lost the hand that held the baby's interest, it is probable that it held a bunch of grapes (a nod to the fact that Dionysus became the god of wine).

In popular culture

  • Hermes bestows the gift of super speed and flight to Wonder Woman in her origin story.
  • The winged sandal of Hermes is used as the icon of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
  • Hermes' caduceus is sometimes (mistakenly) used as a symbol of health and medicine.
  • In the video game, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, Hermes is the initial persona of Junpei Iori.
  • In the book Gods Behaving Badly, Hermes lives with several other Olympic gods in a modern London townhouse.
  • In the cartoon Futurama, Hermes Conrad is named so due to his bureaucratic role in Planet Express; processing and delivering statistics.
  • On 11 January 2007 in the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh, J.K. Rowling (author of the popular Harry Potter series) scrawled a message on the back of a bust of Hermes. It read: "J. K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (652) on 11 January 2007."

Hermes is also featured as the god of thieves and travelers as a fictional character in the young adults novel The Lightning Thief, the first in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, which follows the adventures of a young Percy Jackson as he finds the Greek gods are not just the things of legends and that he is actually the son of one: Poseidon, god of the sea.


  1. ^ Walter Burkert, Greek Religion 1985 section III.2.8; "Hermes." Encyclopedia Mythica from Encyclopedia Mythica Online. Retrieved October 04, 2006.
  2. ^ Hymn to Hermes 13. The word polutropos ("of many shifts, turning many ways, of many devices, ingenious, or much wandering") is also used to describe Odysseus in the first line of the Odyssey.
  3. ^ In the Homeric hymn, "after he had fed the loud-bellowing cattle... he gathered much wood and sought the craft of fire. He took a splendid laurel branch, gripped it in his palm, and twirled it in pomegranate wood" (lines 105, 108–10)
  4. ^ "First Inventors ... Mercurius [Hermes] first taught wrestling to mortals." – Hyginus (c.1st CE), Fabulae 277.
  5. ^ a b Meletinsky, Introduzione (1993), p. 131
  6. ^ K.O. Müller, Handbuch der Archäologie 1848.
  7. ^ a b Mabel Lang (1988) (PDF). Graffiti in the Athenian Agora. Excavations of the Athenian Agora (rev. ed.). Princeton, NJ: American School of Classical Studies at Athens. p. 7. ISBN 87661-633-3. Retrieved on 2007-04-14. 
  8. ^ Homer, Iliad 16.681
  9. ^ Dio Chrysostom, Discourses, vi.20


  • Walter Burkert, 1985. Greek Religion (Harvard University Press)
  • Kerenyi, Karl, 1944. Hermes der Seelenführer.
  • Ventris, Michael and Chadwick, John (1956). Documents in Mycenaean Greek. Second edition (1974). (Cambridge UP) ISBN 0-521-08558-6.
  • Meletinskii, Eleazar M. 1986, Vvedenie v istoričeskuû poétiku éposa i romana. Moscow, Nauka.(Russian)
    • Introduzione alla poetica storica dell'epos e del romanzo (1993) (Italian)

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Hermes


Proper noun

Hermès m.

  1. Hermes (god)

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 14, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Mercury (planet), which are similar to those in the above article.

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address