Mercury was probably not originally a Roman god at all, but rather based upon the Greek god Hermes, the messenger of the Olympian deities, the guide of souls into the Underworld, and the patron of commerce, thieves, and tricksters. Hermes is typically portrayed as a beardless youth; his attributes are the herald's staff (caduceus) with two entwined snakes, winged sandals, and a winged cap. As commerce and trade began to thrive in the growing Roman Republic, the Roman Mercury became popular as the patron of trade, especially the grain trade, and as promoter of abundance and commercail success.

This Roman bronze statuette, dating from the first century CE, shows a youthful Mercury carrying a money bag and wearing winged shoes, a traveler's cloak and winged traveler's hat.