One snake or two: the symbols of medicine.Am Surg. 2008 Apr; 74(4):330-4.AS
In antiquity, Asklepios was portrayed with a stout staff around which was coiled a snake. Hermes (Mercury), the messenger of the gods, was portrayed with a wand, often with wings, around which were coiled two snakes. During the Renaissance and up to modern times, in varied locales, each icon has been termed the caduceus and afforded the status of the symbol of medicine. It is proposed that this confusion did not arise from ignorance, but from the loss of the deeper significance of the symbols, and from the replacement of religious iconographic constraints by aesthetic and decorative considerations.