[Coral-List] Origin of the term "hermatypic"

Sarah Rathbone srathbon at gmail.com
Mon Jun 16 22:48:34 EDT 2008

With regards to the origin of the term "hermatypic":

Before reading your post, I was unaware that the origin of the word
"hermatypic" was related to the greek god Hermes...however, when you
mentioned the sculptures of greek gods as a possible connection
between reef building corals and Hermes, I remembered the following
greek myth that might provide some clarity (...or might confuse things
even more...).

Zeus seduces Io, a priestess of Hera, but then turns her into a heifer
so that Hera doesn't find out about the affair. However, Hera, being a
suspicious woman, ties Io up and has her servant, Argus, guard her. At
the bidding of Zeus, Hermes distracts and kills Argus, setting Io
free. Hera's enraged and puts Hermes on trail for killing her beloved
servant. At the trail all the other gods act as jury and are
instructed to throw a stone at whichever person they believe to be in
the right, Hera or Hermes. Hermes argues his case so skillfully that
he ends up buried under a pile of stones! (...this also happens to be
the mythological origin of "carins," which are the piles of stones
seen along hiking trails and at mountain summits...people believed
that the spirit of Hermes, the god of travelers, was contained within
these piles...)

Although the connection seems weak, maybe Hermes was singled out as
the origin for the word "hermatypic" because he acted as a foundation
on which rocks were piled...symbolically similar to the building of a
coral reef...

...It's a theory :)


Sarah Rathbone

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