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Different forms of herms (nos. 4, 5, and 9)
Herme of Demosthenes on the market square of Athens , work of Polyeuktus , around 280 BC Chr.
Janus statue, a double boiler

Herme ( ancient Greek ἑρμῆς hérmēs ) denotes in ancient art a pillar shaft with a head and shoulders attached. Originally a simple pile of stones ( ἑρμαῖον hermaíon ) was used to mark paths, and then a stone stele with a phallus and arm attachments was set up as a cult image of the bearded god of the way Hermes at the crossroads and the like.


In antiquity , even in archaic times , there are head portraits that are on a square base, which should indicate a shortened pillar that has nothing to do with the Hermes cult. These are often relatively small and also served as a domestic cult object. Already in the 5th century BC In addition to Hermes, other gods also appeared in this form. The term Herme for head portraits on this square base remains, however. In addition to private use, portrait heads as hermes are also objects of public display and representation. A good example is the famous Themistocles herm of Ostia . These bases later increasingly approximate the shape of the bust that was widely used in Roman portraiture. Busts usually have an indicated arm base with the shoulder, which is completely missing in the Herme.

The hermes became a political issue in ancient Athens in 415 BC. By the Hermenfrevel .

In addition to politicians, herms also exist from philosophers and poets such as Theophrast , the teacher of Menander .

Satyr bath with boys by Mathias Gasteiger 1895

to form

A special form of the term is the so-called double term . Two heads located on the herm base are connected to each other with the back of the head. The Roman god Janus often appears in this form. However, it also happens that famous poets are depicted in double terms. For example, there is a double bath in the National Roman Museum with the portraits of the Hellenistic Menander and presumably a poet of the Old Comedy. Perhaps one could think of Aristophanes , his identity has not yet been clarified.

Load-bearing stone pillars on buildings that end with a woman's head are called caryatid baths . These in turn are derived from Caryatid and Herme. In contrast to caryatids, the body of the female figure is missing and this is reduced to her head and shoulders, possibly the upper body, like a herm. In architecture , these were also used in the 19th century in the Mannerist style, both in representative residential buildings and in immediate buildings . The models of the caryatids of the Erechteion on the Acropolis in Athens are used almost canonically , while older types of kore are comparatively rare. Its male counterpart , the Atlant , also occurs in this form. In contrast to the caryatid, however, it is mostly completely undressed.

The portrait herme as well as the portrait bust are set up to this day as a tribute to outstanding personalities in exposed public places or buildings. Is often used here is the expensive Italian Carrara - marble , also highlight the importance of so honored personage thereby.


  • Reinhard Lullies : The types of the Greek term . Gräfe & Unzer, Königsberg 1931 (including dissertation, University of Königsberg 1931)
  • Birgit Rückert: The term in public and private life of the Greeks. Investigations into the function of the Greek Herme as a border marker, inscription bearer and cult image of Hermes . Roderer, Regensburg 1998, ISBN 3-89073-283-6 (also dissertation, University of Tübingen 1992)
  • Henning Wrede : The ancient Herme . Verlag von Zabern, Mainz 1986, ISBN 3-8053-0866-3 .

Individual evidence

  1. Otto Holzapfel : Lexicon of Occidental Mythology , entry Hermes , Freiburg i. Br. 1993/2007, licensed edition: Anaconda Verlag, Cologne, 2010.

Web links

Commons : Herme  - collection of images, videos and audio files