Son of Zeus and the nymph Maia, Hermes was a trickster from birth. His role as the messenger of the gods gave him free ingress and egress from the Underworld and the additional duty of leading souls there after they had departed their bodies. Hermes is also said to have invented the lyre and the flute, the former out of a tortoise shell and the latter out of reeds, after which he invented the musical scale. He also taught the gods to make fire with two sticks, invented astronomy, boxing, and gymnastics and the cultivation of the olive tree. Hermes has no physical weaknesses. Several of his defining traits could be seen as moral weaknesses, however.
Hermes was called the Prince of Thieves. Soon after birth, Hermes slipped out of the house and sneaked out to Thessaly where he made off with fifty of his brother Apollo's cows. To keep Apollo from tracking the purloined herd, Hermes made them walk backwards and he obscured his own footprints with cleverly designed boots. He also looted the homes of several rich mortals to provide for his mother.
After Apollo discovered Hermes' theft, he and Hermes went to Olympus to have the case tried by their father, Zeus. Hermes lied directly and unabashedly to Zeus, insisting that he did not steal the cows. When Zeus told Hermes that he already knew the truth, Hermes confessed. Zeus made him promise not to lie, which Hermes agreed to, but insisted on still being able to not tell the whole truth, which Zeus agreed to.
Deceit and Cunning
Though a strong, athletic youth, Hermes preferred to use cunning and trickery to get his way. He charmed Argus, the 100-eyed monster, to sleep with his flute and cut off its head rather than engage in battle. After stealing Apollo's cattle, Hermes quickly slipped back into his crib and pretended to be a normal baby again to avoid suspicion. He is said to have given Pandora, the first woman, the gifts of deceit and crafty words.
Gambling and Fortunetelling
Hermes invented the knuckle-bones and their use in gaming and later fortune telling. He also learned the art of augury from the Thriae and became a master of telling the future with pebbles in a bowl of water. Though he introduced games of chance to the gods and mortals, he also brings them the means by which they can win. Hermes is called the luck-bringer by Apollo is is made the master of all birds of good omen by his father, Zeus.
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