caduceus

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caduceus

(kədyo͞o`sēəs), wing-topped staff, with two snakes winding about it, carried by HermesHermes,
in Greek religion and mythology, son of Zeus and Maia. His functions were many, but he was primarily the messenger of the gods, particularly of Zeus, and conductor of souls to Hades.
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, given to him (according to one legend) by Apollo. The symbol of two intertwined snakes appeared early in Babylonia and is related to other serpent symbols of fertility, wisdom, and healing, and of sun gods. This staff of Hermes was carried by Greek heralds and ambassadors and became a Roman symbol for truce, neutrality, and noncombatant status. By regulation, it has since 1902 been the insignia of the medical branch of the U.S. army. The caduceus is much used as a symbol of commerce, postal service, and ambassadorial positions and since the 16th cent. has largely replaced the one-snake symbol of AsclepiusAsclepius
, Lat. Aesculapius , legendary Greek physician; son of Apollo and Coronis. His first teacher was the wise centaur Chiron. When he became so skillful in healing that he could revive the dead, Zeus killed him.
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 as a symbol of medicine.

caduceus

snake-entwined staff; emblem of medical profession. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 49]

caduceus

Mercury’s staff; symbol of messengers. [Rom. Myth.: Jobes, 266–267]