From “The Religions of the Ancient World” by George Rawlinson, 1883.
Hermes is the impersonation of commercial dealings, and hence a god who gives wealth and increase, a god of inventive power, and a god of tricks and thievery. He is ” the Olympian man of business,” and therefore employed in embassies and commissions, and even sometimes in the simple carrying of messages. As “the giver of comforts,” he secures his votaries all manner of worldly prosperity. He is industrious and inventive, constructs the seven-stringed lyre before he is* a day old, 3 afterwards invents the pan’s-pipes, and ultimately becomes a god of wisdom and learning generally. His thievishness must be taken to show that commercial fraud is pretty well as ancient as commerce itself, and that ” the good old times ” were not, as sometimes represented, an age of innocence. It has been said that he is more human than any other Olympian god ; and that “he represents, so to speak, the utilitarian side of the human mind’, being active, energetic, fruitful in resource, a keen bargainer, a bold story-teller, and a clever thief. His admission into the number of the Olympians is the strongest possible indication of the inferiority of the moral standard among the Greeks. The special regard paid to him by the Athenians is, however, perhaps the mere consequence of their addiction to the pursuits of commerce.
Hermes is commonly represented as a youth just attaining to manhood. The wings which adorn his head and ankles indicate the celerity of his movements. His caduceus is perhaps the golden rod of wealth given to him by Apollo in exchange for the lyre. It represents also the staff commonly borne by heralds, and in this point of view had white ribands attached to it, which in later times became serpents. Sometimes he holds a purse in his hand,
to mark his power of bestowing riches.
*— Note from Phil – Hermes is closely associated with the Roman God Mercury. Many people also relate him to the Egyptian god Thoth, and although there are a few similarities, there are also many differences. He is also not the same as Hermes Trismegistus. They too share a few similarities, however.