Why do the Greeks have two different messenger gods?

  • Hermes was a messenger god. And Iris, with her rainbows, was also a messenger goddess.

    Why would the Greeks have two different messenger gods?

  • cmw

    cmw Correct answer

    6 years ago

    It's helpful to not consider Greek mythology as a unified, logically consistent whole. That they have two gods for one task is because humans are creating stories about the gods. Moreover, neither of the two are truly "messenger gods" per se, but rather they both manifest characteristics which allow storytellers to use them as messengers.

    For Iris, the rainbow which appears to go from heaven to the ground can be conceived of as some sort of pathway from the divine to the mortal spheres. This easily lends itself to the interpretation of rainbows as pathways for gods to communicate with mortals. The Iliad, the earliest Greek work we have, Iris is the messenger of the gods.

    For Hermes, since he's the "patron" (of sorts) of travelers, that function lends itself to his being cast as a messenger, as one who travels from the gods to mortals. He relays messages in the Odyssey, the second oldest Greek work we have, but not the Iliad.

    Since the two oldest works of Greek literature use either of these two gods for messages, they both became "messenger" gods. Note though that they have domains far beyond that, especially Hermes, who protected flocks, looked after traders and merchants, guided souls of the dead to Hades, and even protected Horace in battle.

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