ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Mercury, historical artwork. Engraving of Mercury(right) on a chariot, with Latin text. Mercury was the god of trade in Roman times, so he is shown here as wearing tradesman's attire and holding a caduceus (a staff with entwined snakes, the ancient symbol of commerce). The conjunction (alignment) of Mercury with other planets and star constellations in the sky is considered to be significant in astrology, the ancient belief that the celestial bodies influence human lives. The symbols on the chariot's wheels are the zodiac signs Virgo and Gemini, for which Mercury is the ruling planet. This artwork is from Poeticon Astronomicon (Poetic Astronomy), a star atlas by Hyginus that was published in 1482.
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