ABSTRACT

On the very same day of his birth, Hermes, bastard son of Zeus and the nymph Maia, was said to have stolen fifty of the fattest cows from Apollo’s sacred herd. This athletic prankster god of the Greek pantheon was at various times associated with storms and the wind, and was worshipped by travelers and merchants. 1 But it is because Hermes was credited by the Greeks with the discovery of language, and because of his critical role as intermediary between Zeus and mortals that, as early as Plato, his name became the root of the noun “interpretation” (hermeneia), and was eventually invoked to christen the discipline of textual interpretation called hermeneutics (Palmer 1969, 12-13). With winged feet, bounding “over the waters of the sea and over the boundless land, swift as the blasts of the wind,” Hermes carried the words of Zeus, transmuting the unintelligible into a form within human comprehension, and thus became known as the messenger of the gods (Homer 1995, 1: bk. 5, 185; Guirand 1989, 124).