Mercury bronze

Mercury, whose name is connected with "merchandise" (merx), was the Roman divinity of commerce and gain, later identified by the Romans with the Greek Hermes. His mother was Maia, the eldest of the Pleiades, and the most beautiful of the seven sisters. The Ides of May was recognized as his birthday. It became a festival of traders and merchants; Ovid recorded the details of their rites.

With laurel boughs, they sprinkled their goods for sale, along with their hair, with water from a fountain near the Caperna Gate called aqua Mercurii. They offered prayers to Mercury, who in legend had been a thief, for forgiveness for past and future perjuries, for profit, and for the continued ability to cheat customers! It is reasonable to suppose that the guild of merchants spent the evening of the Ides of May dining and feasting together.

The temple of Mercury, located on the slope of the Aventine facing the Circus Maximus, was built in 495 BC. Mercury did not have a flamen because he was not one of the early Roman deities.

Consult these resources for details about Mercury and his worship.

  • An entry at Wikipedia provides an overview of the history and worship of the Mercury of Roman mythology.
  • A translation of Ovid's Fasti, Book V, provides details of the Mercuralia on the Ides of May.
  • A property in the Subura neighborhood at AncientWorlds consists of a shrine and altar dedicated to Mercury Sobrius, an import from Carthage.
  • An entry in Platner's A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome gives information about the Temple of Mercury on the Aventine.

  • photo courtesy of VRoma