Hermes kidnapping Apollo's cows
Hermes had barely been born in Kyllena's cool grotto when he had already planned his first trick. He decided to steal the cows from the silver-armed Apollo, who at that time was herding the flocks of the gods in the valley of Pieria, in Macedonia. Quietly, so as not to notice the mother, Hermes got out of the diapers, jumped out of the cradle and crept to the exit from the grotto. At the very grotto, he saw a tortoise, caught it, and from the shield of a tortoise and three branches he made the first lyre, pulling sweet-sounding strings over it. Hermes secretly returned to the grotto, hid the lyre in his cradle, and he left again and quickly, like the wind, rushed to Pieria. There he stole fifteen cows from the herd of Apollo, tied reeds and branches to their feet to cover the trail, and quickly drove the cows towards the Peloponnese. When Hermes was already late in the evening driving cows through Boeotia, he met an old man working in his vineyard.
- Take one of these cows, - Hermes told him, - just don't tell anyone that you saw me drive the cows away here.
The old man, delighted with a generous gift, gave the word to Hermes to be silent and not to show anyone where he drove the cows. Hermes went on. But he did not go far, as he wanted to test the old man - whether he would keep his word. Hiding the cows in the forest and changing his appearance, he returned and asked the old man:
- Tell me, did the boy drive away the cows here? If you tell me where he drove them, I will give you a bull and a cow.
The old man did not hesitate for a long time, to say or not, he really wanted to get another bull and a cow, and he showed Hermes where the boy had stolen the cows. Hermes was terribly angry with the old man for not keeping his word, and in anger turned him into a dumb rock so that he would always be silent and remember that he must keep this word.
After that, Hermes returned for the cows and quickly drove them on. Finally, he drove them to Pylos. He sacrificed two cows to the gods, then destroyed all traces of the sacrifice, and hid the remaining cows in the cave, leading them into it backwards so that the tracks of the cows would lead not into the cave, but out of it.
Having done all this, Hermes calmly returned to the grotto to his mother Mayo and slowly lay down in the cradle, wrapped in swaddling clothes.
But Maya noticed her son's absence. She reproachfully told him:
- You have planned a bad business. Why did you steal Apollo's cows? He gets angry. After all, you know how terrible Apollo is in his anger. Aren't you afraid of his unmissable arrows?
- I'm not afraid of Apollo, - Hermes answered his mother, - let him be angry. If he decides to offend you or me, then in revenge I will plunder his entire sanctuary in Delphi, steal all his tripods, gold, silver and clothes.
Apollo has already noticed the loss of cows and set off to look for them. He couldn't find them anywhere. Finally, the prophetic bird brought him to Pylos, but even there the golden-haired Apollo did not find his cows. He did not enter the cave where the cows were hidden, because the tracks did not lead into the cave, but out of it.
Finally, after a long fruitless search, he came to Maya's grotto. Hearing the approach of Apollo, Hermes climbed even deeper into his cradle and wrapped himself more tightly in swaddling clothes. Enraged, Apollo entered the grotto of Maya and saw that Hermes, with an innocent face, was lying in his cradle. He began to reproach Hermes for stealing the cows and demanded that he return them to him, but Hermes renounced everything. He assured Apollo that he did not think of stealing cows from him and did not know at all where they were.
- Listen, boy! - Apollo exclaimed in anger, - I will overthrow you into a gloomy Tartar, and neither father nor mother will save you if you do not return my cows to me.
- 0, son of Latons! Hermes replied. - I didn’t see, I don’t know, and I haven’t heard from others about your cows. Am I busy with this - now I have another business, other worries. I only care about sleep, mother's milk and my diapers. No, I swear I didn't even see your cow thief.
No matter how angry Apollo was, he could not get anything from the cunning, dodgy Hermes. Finally, the golden-haired god pulled Hermes out of the cradle and forced him to go in swaddling clothes to their father Zeus so that he would settle their dispute. Both gods came to Olympus. No matter how Hermes dodged, no matter how cunning, Zeus nevertheless ordered him to give Apollo the stolen cows.
From Mount Olympus Hermes led Apollo to Pylos, capturing a lyre he had made from a tortoise shield along the way. At Pylos he showed where the horns. While Apollo drove the cows out of the cave, Hermes sat down on a stone near her and played the lyre. Wonderful sounds announced the valley and the sandy seashore. Amazed Apollo listened with delight to the game of Hermes. He gave Hermes the stolen cows for his lyre, so the sounds of the lyre captivated him. And Hermes, in order to amuse himself when he was tending cows, made himself a flute, consisting of seven different lengths of reed tubes connected to each other, so beloved by the shepherds of Greece.
Quirky, dexterous, rushing around the world as fast as a thought, the beautiful son of Maya and Zeus, Hermes, who already in his early childhood proved his cunning and dexterity, also served as the personification of youthful strength. Everywhere in the palestra stood his statues. He was the god of young athletes. They called him before wrestling and fast running competitions.
Who did not honor Hermes in ancient Greece: a traveler, an orator, a merchant, an athlete, and even thieves.