Mercury Riding a Griffin

Michele Asuni
Michele Asuni is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Classics at Johns Hopkins University. Before coming to Hopkins, he received a BA and an MA, both in Classical Philology and Ancient History, from the University of Pisa. Primarily a Hellenist, his main interests lie in archaic and classical Greek literature and culture, textual criticism, and Silver Latin. He is currently completing a dissertation on the aesthetics of color in Greek literature, from Homer to Heliodorus.


  • Accession Number: JHUAM HT 727
  • Measurements: Length: 12.2cm, Width: 8.5cm, Height: 4.4cm
  • Material: Ceramic
  • Culture/Date: Roman, 2nd c. CE
  • Provenance: Aswan, Egypt


This lamp features the god Mercury (Greek Hermes) riding a griffin, a mythological creature (half lion and half eagle) associated with the world of the dead, or Hades. The god appears in the form of a winged youth carrying his most typical attribute, a magical staff called the caduceus through which he performed his tasks. He also appears to be wearing a hat adorned with a pair of little wings. The griffin, the staff, the traveling hat and the wings of the god himself characterize this iconographic ensemble as one that depicts Mercury in his heraldic capacity and as psychopompos, the “leader of souls” to the Underworld.

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