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Mercury in Amsterdam


Mercury on the VOC-ship "Amsterdam". Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the VOC-ship "Amsterdam" 
For Shirin,
who will soon settle in this city

The Roman deity Mercury, or Mercurius, or Hermes (to use his ancient Greek name) was the protector of anyone on the road. That means in the first place that he was the god of the heralds and the merchants, who had to travel wide and far. However, in the age before capitalism, making profit was considered to be something close to stealing, so Mercury was also believed to be the protector of the thieves.

Among the greatest risks facing any Greek or Roman traveller was the meeting with a dog. They were not the nice animals of today: shepherds used them to keep wolves and bears away, so the shepherd's dogs were not afraid of human beings, and might attack them. The ancient Greeks therefore venerated their Hermes also as the killer of Argos (a mythological watchdog with a hundred eyes).



A third task of Mercury was the protection of the souls of the departed who had to descend into the Netherworld (the house of Hades). One of his titles was ψυχοπομπός (psychopompos, "guide of the souls"). Among his other responsibilities were the protection of messengers and people who had to speak in public, and from this, he became the protector of sophists.



You will not see Mercury performing those tasks in Amsterdam, but there are many statues, busts, and other representations, including houses and offices, all dating back to the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, which show the ancient god as the protector of trade. Occasionally, you will find a Mercury killing a monster, and of course you're always allowed to think about the protector of thieves after your encounter with an Amsterdam pickpocket.

Among Mercury's attributes are a winged hat or helmet, winged sandals, and especially his herald's staff or caduceus: a winged scepter surrounded by snakes. Sometimes, you will see only Mercury's hat or staff, but they will still remind you that Amsterdam owes its prosperity to international trade.
 

Mercury on the Palace on Dam Square. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the Herengracht. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the Herengracht 220. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the Herengracht 141. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the palace on Dam Square Mercury on the Herengracht Herengracht 220 Herengracht 141
Mercury in the Frankendael Park. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the Stock Exchange Building. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the Stock Exchange Building. Photo Jona Lendering. Mercury on the facade of the Railroad Station. Photo Jona Lendering.
Frankendael Park Stock Exchange Building Stock Exchange Building The façade of the Railroad Station
Mercury on the "Mercurius Building". Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the Herengracht 255. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the Singel 36. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the Singel 116. Photo Jona Lendering.
"Mercurius Building" Herengracht 255 Singel 36 Singel 116
Mercury's staff at the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal  162. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury's staff at the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal  182. Photo Jona Lendering. Mercury's staff at the Herengracht 262-266. Photo Jona Lendering. Mercury at the Herengracht 380. Photo Jona Lendering.
Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal  162 Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal  182 ("Magna Plaza") Herengracht 262-266 Herengracht 380
Mercury' staff on the Herengracht 141. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on Dam Square 20 (Madame Tussaud's). Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on Damrak 38. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on Singel 186. Photo Jona Lendering.
Herengracht 141 Dam Square 20 (Madame Tussaud's) Damrak 38 Singel 186
Mercury on Singel 326. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the Keizersgracht 316. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the Leidsestraat 40. Photo Jona Lendering.
Mercury on the Keizersgracht 64. Photo Jona Lendering.
Singel 326 Keizersgracht 316 Leidsestraat 40 Keizersgracht 64
Mercury at the Beurs. Photo Jona Lendering. Mercury's staff in the Enge Kapelsteeg. Photo Jona Lendering. Mercury on the Royal Tropical Institute. Photo Jona Lendering. Mercury at the Singel 87. Photo Jona Lendering.
Stock Exchange Building (again)
Enge Kapelsteeg
Royal Tropical Institute Singel 87
Mercurius, Raadhuisstraat 15. Foto Jona Lendering. Building "Mercurius", Prinseneiland 73. Photo Jona Lendering. Building "Mercuur", Oudezijds Voorburgwal. Photo Jona Lendering. Building "Hermes", Herengracht 278. Photo Jona Lendering.
Raadhuisstraat 15 Building "Mercurius", Prinseneiland 73 Building "Mercuur", Oudezijds Voorburgwal.
Building "Hermes", Herengracht 278
Mercurius, Kromme Waal 4. Photo Jona Lendering. Mercurius. Van Woustraat 2. Photo Jona Lendering. Mercury's head, Heiligeweg. Photo Jona Lendering. Dog killer. Raadhuisstraat 2-6. Photo Jona Lendering.
Kromme Waal 4 Van Woustraat 2
Heiligeweg Mercury as Argos killer (Raadhuisstraat 2-6)
Mercury on the Herengracht 141. Photo Jona Lendering. Mercury's attributes at the Scheepvaarthuis.
Mercury at the Prinsengracht 622.
Mercury on the Mercatorplein. Photo Jona Lendering.
Herengracht 142
Mercury's attributes at the Scheepvaarthuis.
Prinsengracht 622.
Mercatorplein
Mercury on the Herengracht 6. Photo Jona Lendering. Mercury. Nieuwe Doelensteeg 14. Photo Jona Lendering. Mercury at the Falctraat 10 Mercury at the Prinsengracht 537.
Herengracht 6 Nieuwe doelensteeg 6
Frederiksplein 10
Herengracht 537





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© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2011
Revision: 9 June 2012
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