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Herm of Hermes
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Unknown
Roman, A.D. 50 - 100
Marble
58 11/16 in.
79.AA.132

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In Greek religion, Hermes was the god of boundaries and crossroads. A herm was a representation of the god showing his head atop a pillar, to which genitalia were added. Herms were placed at boundaries and thresholds as ritual guardians. This Roman sculpture is a copy of a famous herm known as the Hermes Propyleia carved by the Greek sculptor Alkamenes in the late 400s B.C. and set up at the entrance to the Athenian akropolis. Alkamenes carved the herm in an archaizing or intentionally old-fashioned style, combining facial features of the 400s B.C. with the beard and hairstyle typical of the Archaic period of the 500 s B.C. As religious sculpture, herms were often carved in an archaizing style in order to give them an air of ancient sanctity. During Roman times, herms lost their religious significance and became a popular garden and courtyard ornament. Over time, this herm has lost several separately carved and added elements, including two short bars that projected from the sides at shoulder height and the penis from the front of the pillar.