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26 October 2009

Mondays Words - Petasus to Talaria

My story in the Wild Rose Press, series 'Song of the Muses', is 'Dancing With Fate' and features Terpsichore, the muse of dance. Never having written anything about Greek gods before, I had to do a fair amount of research into Greek mythology and realised what a fascinating subjedct it is. I was, therefore, very interested to read this on Michael Quinion's weekly E-magazine.

"If we wanted to invent a classical replacement for the idiom 'from head to toe', we might choose 'from petasus to talaria'. The latter is one of those words... that identify something we know well but usually can't name.

These two words - and a third, 'caduceus' - are associated with
Hermes, the Greek herald and messenger of the gods whom the Romans
knew as Mercury. He's usually portrayed as having wings on his sandals. The Romans called these "talaria", a plural noun from the adjective 'talaris', relating to the ankle, from 'talus', ankle.
Hermes was given his talaria by his father Zeus, who also gave him a low-crowned, broad-rimmed traveller's cap of a type well-known in classical times and which Greeks called a petasus. In later times, the hat changed to a brimless one with wings on, but it kept the
name.The third traditional item of equipment of Hermes and Mercury, the caduceus, was the wand of office of a Greek or Roman herald (it's from Greek "kerux", a herald), which usually had two snakes wound around a wooden staff. Long ago, this became confused with another rod, the staff of Asclepius, the god of healing, which only had the one snake; the twin-snake version of Hermes and Mercury replaced it and remains common as a symbol of medicine."

Alathough I didn't actually use the character of Hermes in my story, I thought the origins of these words were very interesting and worth sharing.

*World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2009.
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