Hermetic Mystery – Theft of Royal Cattle

The great mystery of the thieves of the royal herds of cattle is presented in this picture, in which you may see the cattle before being stolen by Autolycus.

It is not clear to me exactly why this was so, but it seems that one of the favorite hobbies of certain Greek heroes was to steal the royal herds of cattle. Maybe not all Greek heroes were into it, but those from the Hermes family tree certainly were.

Hermes was the first to start this pastime. He had barely completed the first day of his life when, during his first walk outside the cave where he was born, he noticed a herd of cows of the god Apollo, so it immediately occurred to him the best would be to steal them. How he performed it as an infant from day one does not seem to have been explained by any artist or philosopher.

Apollo’s herd was so precious to Hermes that he somehow managed to beg this mighty sun god to leave it to him, giving him in return the harp he had made that very day. Because of those cows, Hermes was later remembered, among many other things, as the god of merchants and the god of thieves.

Hermes’ passion for stealing the king’s herds of cows was inherited by his son Autolycus, one of the cleverest and most cunning of all the Greeks. This Autolycus, like Hermes, sang beautifully and played the harp, showed on several occasions that he was smarter than Odysseus himself, but probably encouraged by his father’s example, he repeatedly stole herds of cattle from the king, and once he accused Hercules of that, for which he , as noted by one of our outstanding connoisseurs of myths, was the first recorded thief who shouted: “Hold the thief”.

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