Below follows an excerpt of a fine paper submitted by a student for the LIT 335 midterm museum assignment. The excerpt includes the first page and a half of the paper, with the corresponding footnotes and references.

The paper is used with the student's permission, and is intended as a model only. Its words or ideas may not be copied without explicit acknowledgement and proper attribution in your paper. In fact, you are not likely to do well by copying this paper, even with acknowledgement: use it as a model, but find your own words and ideas to complete the assignment. Do not just plug your own artifacts into the framework of the model.

Noteworthy characteristics of this paper:

  • Links objects found in the Museum to ideas discussed in class and details found in the class reading.
  • Describes artifacts in detail, connecting that description to the points being made in the paper.
  • Synthesizes (that is, makes connections between) material found at the museum with material read for class.

Images of Athena and Hermes in Greek Artifacts

Life in ancient Greek society was affected to a large extent by the dominant religious belief system of mythology. The various gods and goddesses were worshipped and entreated for help in different areas of life, and the gods and goddesses had their own realm of special influence and their own special devotees. Mythology not only filled the role of religion, it also had other roles in helping the ancient Greeks understand themselves and their relationship to the universe, society and each other. The use of the images of Athena and Hermes in Greek art, coins and monuments shows how these gods fulfilled the social, psychological, metaphysical and cosmological functions of myth.

Hermes was the son of Zeus by the nymph Maia. On the same day that he was born, Hermes built a lyre, composed songs and played music on it, and killed two of the cattle of Apollo, his older brother. Hermes used his charm and cleverness to avoid punishment for this deed. In fact, Hermes charmed Apollo with the music of his lyre and gave the instrument to him as a gift. In return, Apollo rewarded him saying:

"And now, because you are, in truth, so clever, even though you are little, honor among the immortal gods will be bestowed on you...I shall make you a glorious and blessed leader among the immortal gods." (Hendricks 90)

Thus, Hermes became the god of thieves, travelers, and crossroads (Hendricks 84), as well as the protector of cattle.

The ancient Greeks erected monuments called herms, named after the god Hermes. These were "set up as dedications to him at halfway markers between the city and the rural territories of Attica, at the city gates, and at the entrances to important public places"("Herm Head." 30-51-1. Gallery Notes). One of these statues consists of a square pillar with a sculpted head of Hermes on top, and male genitals on the front ("Herm Head." 30-51-1). The placement of these at entrances, gates, and halfway points along city journeys refers to his position as god of travel and trade ("Herm Head." 30-51-1. Gallery Notes).

For the ancient Greeks, the herms fulfilled two of the four functions of myth. First, the herms had a sociological function (Campbell). The Greeks realized the danger involved in travel at that time, and cattle and trade were important to them, so Hermes was the relevant god to beseech for these intentions. Greek society looked to Hermes to guard the entrances and paths towards their cities, and belief in the power of Hermes was a unifying force in their society.

The use of herms also shows the metaphysical function that faith in Hermes fulfills. The Greeks were aware of their mortality, and looked to Hermes with "a sense of awe, gratitude and even rapture" (Campbell), as he was a god, and they recognized his power as greater than their own. He fulfilled the role of protector for the humble and faithful Greek mortals.


Reference List


"Herm Head." 30-51-1. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.



Text Resources:

Rhoda A. Hendricks. Classical Gods and Heroes (New York: Morrow Quill Paperbacks, 1974).

Joseph Campbell. Handout from Mythology class: (compiled by Eva Thury). Four Functions of Mythology According to Joseph Campbell.

"Herm Head." 30-51-1. Gallery Notes. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology


For information on citing artifacts, see this link.