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 records 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.

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