A statue of Hermes with clouds in the background. The statue rises from a grave in Atlanta's historic Oakland Cemetery. In Greek theology, Hermes' duties included conducting souls to the afterlife.

Here’s the second photo that I worked on recently from Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. This statue appears to be the Greek god Hermes. Hermes is usually portrayed as a young man and sometimes has a pair of small wings, as this statue does.

He’s also known for wearing a cap called a petasos. Originally worn mainly by farmers and travelers, the petasos featured a wide, floppy brim. Over the centuries, however, the petasos evolved into a metal military helmet with a smaller brim. Depictions of Hermes show him wearing either one. If you look at the statue’s head carefully, he does appear to be wearing a flat cap with a small brim, likely the military petasos.

Aside from that, this Hermes is pretty pared-down. Unlike many depictions of Hermes, this one doesn’t wear winged sandals or wings on his cap. The next most popular accoutrement for Hermes is a caduceus. (A staff with two intertwined snakes and a pair of wings at the top. Used today as a medical symbol, the caduceus originally signified commerce.) Although this Hermes might be holding a caduceus in his left hand, it’s impossible to tell from this angle. It would also be an awkward way to hold one.

While Hermes is associated with many different things, including commerce, his role as messenger of the gods is particularly important. Because he easily moves between the mortal and divine worlds, one of his chief duties as messenger is guiding souls to the underworld, Hades. This makes him the perfect graveside companion.

Want to know more about Hermes? Check out this fun overview.

© 2015 Karen Joslin