shoes in mythology
Hermes is considered the messenger of the gods, and plays the role of the psychopompos, a conductor of souls into the afterlife. He is also considered the protector of human heralds, travellers, thieves, merchants, and orators. He is able to move quickly and freely between the worlds of the mortal and the divine, aided by his winged sandals.
The Talaria of Mercury or The Winged Sandals of Hermes are winged sandals, a symbol of the Greek messenger god Hermes. They were said to be made by the god Hephaestus of imperishable gold and they flew the god as swift as any bird.
The description of the sandals being winged first appear in the poem Shield of Heracles (c. 600–550 B.C.), which speaks of “winged sandals”. The Homeric hymn to Hermes from 520 B.C. does not explicitly state the sandals were winged, though they did allow Hermes to leave no footprints while committing his theft of Apollo’s cattle. (There is a myth time-warp here, since Hermes is one day old at the time.)
Perseus wears Hermes’ sandals to help him slay Medusa. According to Aeschylus, Hermes gives them to him directly. In a better-attested version, Perseus must retrieve them from the Graeae, along with the cap of invisibility and the kibisis.
Aphrodite and Ares get caught in the net that her husband, Hephaestus, had made to catch them. After, the gods gather round. Poseidon thought Aphrodite was rather lovely, but he was not the only god to envy Ares’ position. Hermes also fell in love with naked Aphrodite. When Aphrodite spurned his advances, Hermes sought the help of Zeus. The king of gods dispatched an eagle to steal one of Aphrodite’s sandals. To retrieve her sandal, the goddess was forced to submit to Hermes. This union produced Hermaphroditus.
Why would Zeus get involved? What was so special about these sandals that Aphrodite was ‘forced to submit’ to get it back? And what a significant outcome, the manifestation of Hermaphroditus.