Triangular shrine of Hekate in Athens

A triangle-shaped open air sanctuary is located just outside the southwest corner of the Agora in Athens. Its position at a crossroad and the triangular shape of its enclosure, the building is indicated to be a shrine of Hekate.

A triangular hieron of Hekate found outside the southwest corner of Agora in Athens situated at one of the busiest intersections of the ancient city at an important crossroad southwest of the Southwest Fountain House of the 7th century B.C. (fig. 1). Hekate is the liminal goddess of crossroads, boundaries and transitions. She is also a protector and guide making a perfect sense of her shrine put on one of the biggest road junction in the center of Athens. Agora had a sacred character of its own by reason of its vital function in the life of the city and as a whole was designated as sacred ground along with Acropolis and Pnyx.

The sides of the triangle, measuring each about 8.60 m., are constructed of limestone (fig. 2, fig. 3). The angle of the walls is 60 degrees suggesting an equilateral triangle. It is standing on a junction of a road leading to Pnyx, Agora and Acropolis. The third corner together with all the southern part of the enclosure has been obliterated. This shrine is a sacred precinct to which entrance was forbidden while no sign was found of an entrance to the street. The floor level inside the shrine is a full meter above the road level outside the north wall. That elevation of the road level inside the hieron could indicate a possible placement of a statue and a more open temenos attached for the use of the worshippers.

At the east end of the side which faces north across the street a boundary marker of Pentelic marble still stands in situ. The boundary stone of the Agora Hieron is in a prominent position facing the street at the northeast corner against the wall with the inscription “TO HIERO” without specifying whose god hiero was (fig. 5). Athenians have known by name the deities honored and they didn’t always put the specific inscription. Boundary markers were common in antiquity, especially around small sanctuaries of this kind. Stone boundaries (horoi) guarded the sacred plot without benefit of walls giving a more mystical aspect in the concept of sacred space. The stone boundaries that have been catalogued around Agora are twenty.

Video of the triangular shrine


Image: Triangular shrine to Hekate, Ancient Agora, Athens

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