Caduceus

The caduceus (☤; /kəˈdjuːʃəs, -siəs/; Latin: cādūceus, from Greek: κηρύκειον kērū́keion "herald's wand, or staff")[2] is the staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology and consequently by Hermes Trismegistus in Greco-Egyptian mythology. The same staff was also borne by
heralds in general, for example by Iris, the messenger of Hera. It is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings. In Roman iconography, it was often depicted being carried in the left hand of Mercury, the messenger of the gods.
Modern depiction of the caduceus as the symbol of logistics
Hermes Ingenui carrying a winged caduceus upright in his left hand. A Roman copy after a Greek original of the 5th century BCE (Museo Pio-Clementino, Rome).

(His staff look familiar?)
Some accounts suggest that the oldest known imagery of the caduceus has its roots in a Mesopotamian origin with the Sumerian god Ningishzida; whose symbol, a staff with two snakes intertwined around it, dates back to 4000 BC to 3000 BC.

As a symbolic object, it represents Hermes
(or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations, or undertakings associated with the god. In later Antiquity, the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology, alchemy, and astronomy it
has come to denote the planet and elemental metal of the same name. It is said the wand would wake the sleeping and send the awake to sleep. If applied to the dying, their death was gentle; if applied to the dead, they returned to life.

By extension of its association with
Mercury and Hermes, the caduceus is also a recognized symbol of commerce and negotiation, two realms in which balanced exchange and reciprocity are recognized as ideals. This association is ancient, and consistent from the Classical period to modern times. The caduceus is also
used as a symbol representing printing, again by extension of the attributes of Mercury (in this case associated with writing and eloquence).

The caduceus is often incorrectly used as a symbol of healthcare organizations and medical practice, particularly in the United States of
America, due to confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the Rod of Asclepius, which has only one snake and is never depicted with wings - the logo of the World Health Organization uses the Rod of Asclepius as its basis.

Origin and comparative mythology
Hermes hastens bearing his kerukeion, on an Attic lekythos, c. 475 BC, attributed to the Tithonos Painter
The term kerukeion denoted any herald's staff, not necessarily associated with Hermes in particular.

In his study of the cult of Hermes, Lewis Richard Farnell (1909) assumed that the two snakes had simply developed out of ornaments of the shepherd's crook used by heralds as
their staff. This view has been rejected by later authors pointing to parallel iconography in the Ancient Near East. It has been argued that the staff or wand entwined by two snakes was itself representing a god in the pre-anthropomorphic era. Like the herm or priapus,
it would thus be a predecessor of the anthropomorphic Hermes of the classical era.

The Caduceus, symbol of God Ningishzida, on the libation vase of Sumerian ruler Gudea, circa 2100 BCE.
Caduceus symbol on a punch-marked coin of king Ashoka in India, third to second century BC
William Hayes Ward (1910) discovered that symbols similar to the classical caduceus sometimes appeared on Mesopotamian cylinder seals. He suggested the symbol originated some time between 3000 and 4000 BC, and that it might have been the source of the Greek caduceus. A.L.
Frothingham incorporated Dr. Ward's research into his own work, published in 1916, in which he suggested that the prototype of Hermes was an "Oriental deity of Babylonian extraction" represented in his earliest form as a snake god. From this perspective, the caduceus was
originally representative of Hermes himself, in his early form as the Underworld god Ningishzida, "messenger" of the "Earth Mother". The caduceus is mentioned in passing by Walter Burkert as "really the image of copulating snakes taken over from Ancient Near Eastern tradition".
In Egyptian iconography, the Djed pillar is depicted as containing a snake in a frieze of the Dendera Temple complex.

In the biblical Books of Kings (2 Kings 18:4; written c. 550 BCE), the Nehushtan (Hebrew: נחשתן Nəḥuštān [nə.ħuʃ.taːn]) is a derogatory name given to a bronze
serpent on a pole first described in the Book of Numbers which God told Moses to erect so that the Israelites who saw it would be protected from dying from the bites of the "fiery serpents", which God had sent to punish them for speaking against Him and Moses (Numbers 21:4-9).
India

The caduceus also appears as a symbol of the punch-marked coins of the Maurya Empire in India, in the third or second century BC. Numismatic research suggest that this symbol was the symbol of the Buddhist king Ashoka, his personal "Mudra". This symbol was not used on
the pre-Mauryan punch-marked coins, but only on coins of the Maurya period, together with the three arched-hill symbol, the "peacock on the hill", the triskelis and the Taxila mark. It also appears carved in basalt rock in few temples of western ghats.
Classical antiquity

The Caduceus in classical imagery

Punishment of Ixion: in the center is Mercury holding the caduceus and on the right Juno sits on her throne. Behind her Iris stands and gestures. On the left is Vulcan (blond figure) standing behind the wheel, manning it,
with Ixion already tied to it. Nephele sits at Mercury's feet; a Roman fresco from the eastern wall of the triclinium in the House of the Vettii, Pompeii, Fourth Style (60–79 AD).
Iris with the caduceus in detail from an Attic red-figure pelike, middle of fifth century BC (Agrigento, Sicily)
Mythology

The Homeric hymn to Hermes relates how his half brother Apollo got enchanted by Hermes music from his lyre fashioned from a tortoise shell, Hermes kindly gift it to him. Apollo in return gave Hermes the caduceus as a gesture of friendship. The association with the
serpent thus connects Hermes to Apollo, as later the serpent was associated with Asclepius, the "son of Apollo".

The association of Apollo with the serpent is a continuation of the older Indo-European dragon-slayer motif. Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (1913) pointed out that the
serpent as an attribute of both Hermes and Asclepius is a variant of the "pre-historic semi-chthonic serpent hero known at Delphi as Python", who in classical mythology is slain by Apollo.

One Greek myth of origin of the caduceus is part of the story of Tiresias, who found two
snakes copulating and killed the female with his staff. Tiresias was immediately turned into a woman, and so remained until he was able to repeat the act with the male snake seven years later. This staff later came into the possession of the god Hermes, along with its
transformative powers.

Another myth suggests that Hermes (or Mercury) saw two serpents entwined in mortal combat. Separating them with his wand he brought about peace between them, and as a result the wand with two serpents came to be seen as a sign of peace.
In Rome, Livy refers to the caduceator who negotiated peace arrangements under the diplomatic protection of the caduceus he carried.

Iconography

In some vase paintings ancient depictions of the Greek kerukeion are somewhat different from the commonly seen modern representation.
These representations feature the two snakes atop the staff (or rod), crossed to create a circle with the heads of the snakes resembling horns. This old graphic form, with an additional crossbar to the staff, seems to have provided the basis for the graphical sign of Mercury (☿)
used in Greek astrology from Late Antiquity.

Early modern use

During the early modern period, the caduceus was used a symbol of rhetoric (associated with Mercury's eloquence).

Engraving by Hendrik Goltzius (1558–1617)
La Retorique (1633–35)
Allegory of Rhetoric (1650)
Current use

In Unicode

U+2624 ☤ CADUCEUS 
(HTML ☤)

See also

U+1F750 🝐 ALCHEMICAL SYMBOL FOR CADUCEUS 
(HTML 🝐)

Different from

U+2695 ⚕ STAFF OF AESCULAPIUS 
(HTML ⚕)
U+263F ☿ MERCURY 
(HTML ☿)
Caduceus is encoded in Unicode at code point U+2624. Its alchemical symbol is encoded at U+1F750. In both cases, the actual glyph displayed (or not) is font dependent. The symbol is also depicted on multiple coats of arms and flags.
Caduceus in modern use

Caduceus on the coat of arms of Jyväskylä, Finland
Coat of arms of Tampere, Finland
Coat of arms of Lassay-les-Châteaux, France
Coat of arms of Saint-Pantaléon, France
Coat of arms of Gmina Nur, Poland
Emblem of the Federal Customs Service of Russia
Coat of arms of Irbit, Russia
Coat of arms of Bengtsfors Municipality, Sweden
Coat of arms of Balta, Ukraine
Coat of arms of Berdychiv, Ukraine
Coat of arms of Kharkiv, Ukraine
Customs flag of Belarus, with a Caduceus crossed with a golden key at the center
Customs flag of China, with a Caduceus crossed with a golden key at the lower fly half
Flag of the City of Brisbane, Australia
Flag of Vancouver Island, Canada (unofficial)
Symbol of commerce

A simplified variant of the caduceus is to be found in dictionaries, indicating a "commercial term" entirely in keeping with the association of Hermes with commerce. In this form the staff is often depicted with two winglets attached and the snakes are omitted
(or reduced to a small ring in the middle). The Customs Service of the former German Democratic Republic employed the caduceus, bringing its implied associations with thresholds, translators, and commerce, in the service medals they issued their staff. The caduceus is also the
symbol of the Customs Agency of Bulgaria and of the Financial Administration of the Slovak Republic(Tax and Customs administration). The emblems of the Belarus Customs and the China Customs are a caduceus crossing with a golden key. The emblem of the Federal Customs Service of
Russia has a caduceus crossing with a torch on the shield. The coat of arms of Kyiv National University of Trade and Economics of Ukraine has two crossed torches surmounted by a caduceus on the shield.
If you're interested in reading further. Click here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caduceus and scroll to "Confusion with Rod of Asclepius"
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