Ovid, who lived around the time of Christ, records an ancient Greek myth called “Baucis and Philemon” in the eighth book of his famous Metamorphoses. Baucis and Philemon are husband and wife, and unknowingly entertain the gods Zeus and Hermes; when they realize the identity of their guests (after the performance of a miracle), they beg indulgence for being unable to provide better for their gods. Zeus and Hermes punished the people who had not welcomed them with hospitality with a flood and reward husband and wife for being hospitable, unlike their neighbors. Their hospitality was considered an example in the ancient Greek and Roman world.
The desire of reward and determination to avoid further judgment explain why, in Acts 14:8-20, the people respond in bold gratitude after a lame man regained the ability to walk, greeting Paul and Barnabas so enthusiastically. Since Hermes was regarded as speaker for the gods in Greek mythology, this further cemented the “identity” of both Barnabas and Paul as Zeus and Hermes, respectively. Paul and Barnabas hastily correct their boldness.