Caduceus

(4 syl.). A white wand carried by Roman officers when they went to treat for peace. The Egyptians adorned the rod with a male and female serpent twisted about it, and kissing each other. From this use of the rod, it became the symbol of eloquence and also of office. In mythology, a caduceus with wings is placed in the hands of Mercury, the herald of the gods; and the poets feign that he could therewith give sleep to whomsoever he chose; wherefore Milton styles it “his opiate rod” in Paradise Lost, xi. 133.

So with his dread caduceus Hermës led
From the dark regions of the imprisoned dead;
Or drove in silent shoals the lingering train
To Night's dull shore and Pluto's dreary reign.

Darwin: Loves of the Plants, ii. 291.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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