Exploring the History of Medicine, Part 41: Florence, Part 21

March 1, 2024


Uffizi Gallery

5. Hermes (Continued)

   Zeus, to aid Io, commanded Hermes to slay the monstrous giant Argus.

Hermes possessed the power to "put to sleep" any being.

He played his skillful reed pipe and lulled Argus with hundred eyes into a deep slumber.

One by one, he closed the monster's eyes until all were asleep.

Swiftly, Hermes beheaded Argus and liberated the heifer Io.

   Enraged by the death of her trusted follower Argus, Zeus's wife Hera sought revenge.

This time, she tormented Io by driving a gadfly into her ear.

Disturbed by the buzzing of the fly and incessant stings, Io wandered madly across various lands.

Io crossed the Bosporus Strait from Greece to Turkey, and finally reached Egypt.

Here, Hermes, acting on Zeus's command once again, appeared, plucked the gadfly from Io's ear, and restored her to her human form.

   In Latin, "cow" is called "bos," and in Greek, "to carry" is "phoros."

Because Io, in the form of a cow, crossed the strait, it is called the Bosphoros (cow's crossing) Strait, known as the Bosporus in English.

It separates the European and Asian parts of Turkey.

It is in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople).

It serves as a cultural crossroads between East and West.

It connects the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea.

It is also known as the Istanbul Strait.

   Historically, it has been a crucial location, crossed by figures such as Alexander the Great (4th century BCE, hero of Macedonia/Greece), Muhammad (7th century, founder of Islam), and Genghis Khan (13th century, the first emperor of the Mongol Empire).


   Hera mourned the loyal Argus's death and adorned the peacock's feathers with his hundred eyes.

The pattern on the peacock's feathers represents the hundred eyes of the monster Argus.

During the breeding season, male peacocks spread their long and beautiful decorative feathers to attract the attention of females.

Female feathers are short, brown, and their patterns are not very noticeable.

Moreover, as the feathers molt and regenerate, in Christian society, the peacock is considered a symbol of resurrection.


   Zeus and his lover Io still maintain a deep relationship even now that they have become stars.

The first (the closest or the most internal) satellite of Jupiter (known as Zeus in Greek mythology and Jupiter in Roman mythology) is named Io.