The Roman God Mercury: Facts & Symbol

The Roman God Mercury: Facts & Symbol
Coming up next: The Roman God Saturn: Facts & Overview

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 History and…
  • 1:46 Mercury in Roman Culture
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up


Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Explore the mythology and worship of the Roman god Mercury and test your understanding about ancient Roman culture, religion, and life in the colonies.

History and Characteristics of Mercury

When we were kids, they used to tell us not to play with the silvery liquid inside a thermometer. This silver liquid that weighs as much as a solid object is known as mercury. Sleek and fast, this element was named after a Roman god who shared the same characteristics.

Mercury was the Roman god of commerce, eloquence, travelers, communication, messengers, and trickery. He was also the guide who escorted people into the Underworld. Ancient Rome was a polytheistic religion, meaning it had many gods. All of these gods together were called the pantheon, and in this pantheon, the 12 most important (6 gods and 6 goddesses) were called the Dii Consentes. Mercury was one of these. The elevation of twelve gods may be an evolution from the Etruscans (an early kingdom of Italy) combined with mythology from Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. Much of Roman mythology was a mixture of local customs and foreign influences introduced by trade, war, and politics over centuries of development in the Mediterranean.

Mercury did not appear in Roman mythology until around the 4th century BCE, and is probably a adaptation of the Greek god Hermes. Like Hermes, Mercury was a messenger who wore winged sandals and hat and carried a herald's staff called a caduceus. Mercury is often seen with a rooster (the herald of the new day), a ram, to symbolize fertility, or a tortoise. The tortoise may be surprising for a god of speed, but it is a reference to a legend in which Mercury invents the string instrument the lyre from a tortoise shell. Mercury was attributed for leading souls to the afterlife, and, according to the Roman poet Ovid, carried dreams from the god Morpheus to sleeping humans.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account