Sep 1, 2015
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The Caduceus

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The caduceus as a symbol represents Hermes or the Roman Mercury. It is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings.

Lekythos depicting Hermes wearing a <em>chlamys</em> and <em>petasos</em> and bearing a <em>kerykeion</em> (Caduceus). Greek, Attic, c. 480-470 BC. Red figure. Attributed to the Tithonos Painter.

Lekythos depicting Hermes wearing a chlamys and petasos and bearing a kerykeion (Caduceus). Greek, Attic, c. 480-470 BC. Red figure. Attributed to the Tithonos Painter.

Two entwined serpents are also found in this Sumerian vase:

Entwined serpents apparently are also found in Jiroft artifacts, at Kerman Province, Iran, estimated to be from 3rd millennium BC. Here’s a good article by Richard Covington about Jiroft.

Also, this article has extensive data and Jiroft artifact pictures:

  • O. W. Muscarella, “Jiroft and “Jiroft-Aratta”,” Bulletin Asia Institute, vol. 15, p. 222, 2005.
      Title                    = {Jiroft and “Jiroft-Aratta”},
      Author                   = {Muscarella, Oscar White},
      Journal                  = {Bulletin Asia Institute},
      Year                     = {2005},
      Month                    = {August},
      Pages                    = {222},
      Volume                   = {15},
      File                     = {Muscarella_BAI15.pdf:Muscarella_BAI15.pdf:PDF},
      Owner                    = {trismegisto},
      Timestamp                = {2016.01.10},
      Url                      = {}

A variant sometimes known as serpopard might be included here as well:

The rod of Asclepius also features a staff with a serpent, although with just one.

Rod of Asclepius. by CatherinMunroCC BY-SA.

And it is also a recurrent shape of the snake entwined around the trunk of the biblical Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Trees do not have wings, but branches. These versions also display Adam and Eve very much like supporters (as in heraldry).

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Article Categories:
3000 - 2000 BCE · Aegean · Illustration · Mesopotamia · Sculpture

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