Mercury, Herse and Aglauros

(Ovid, Metamorphoses II, 708 ff.)

Three unmarried sisters, Herse, Aglauros and Pandrosos, are on their way to make a sacrifice to Minerva, the goddess of arts and crafts. They carry with them fire and baskets of flowers as they approach Minerva’s fortress.

Mercury, a messenger to the gods, flies over this procession of three and is so struck by Herse’s beauty that it literally sets him ablaze!

Back on earth, Mercury does his best to impress, fully relying on his charm. He slicks back his hair, smoothes down his pleated robe, polishes his elegant winged shoes and gracefully takes up his staff.

Herse’s sister Aglauros is consumed with jealousy and tries to thwart Mercury’s advances. She stands guard at the front door, denying access to him when he arrives. Enraged, Mercury seeks revenge for this godless brutality and turns Aglauros to stone – not white stone, but black, the colour of her soul.

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