Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.09.38

Athanassia Zografou, Chemins d'Hécate: portes, routes, carrefours et autres figures de l'entre-deux. Kernos. Supplément 24.   Liège:  Centre international d'étude de la religion grecque antique, 2010.  Pp. 369.  ISBN 9782960071771.  €40.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Britta Ager, Kalamazoo College (

Hecate has been the subject of much scholarship for a relatively minor goddess, especially following the surge of interest in ancient magic in the last half-century.1 Although her role as chthonic goddess and patroness of witchcraft is perhaps most likely to attract readers to Zografou’s study, Zografou makes it clear in her preface (p. 16- 17) that this is not Hecate’s only aspect, nor the one on which this book focuses. Instead, she sets out to examine Hecate through the theme of intermediary space and time—not because, she explains, this is somehow the key to understanding Hecate, but because it is one possible means by which to illuminate a number of her traits and her connections with other divinities. In many ways, Hecate herself is not the focus of the book, but rather Hecate’s connections with other members of the Greek pantheon, and what their common traits, cult spaces, epithets and iconography reveal about both them and her. Zografou is explicit that she will be selective. Hecate’s chthonic and magical aspects, which have already received much attention, are in the background, and there is little sustained discussion of, for example, her connection with Selene or Artemis, allowing less-studied aspects of her character, such as ties to Apollo and the Graces, to take the foreground. At the same time, although the author occasionally expects her readers to be familiar with the key evidence concerning Hecate, such as the fact that she had a major cult in Lagina in Asia Minor, scholars with a basic understanding of Hecate’s traits should not be seriously impeded in following Zografou’s arguments.

Part I is a study of Hecate in archaic poetry. Of all the chapters, these two are most closely tied to the existing scholarly discourse on the goddess,2 with chapter 1 focusing on Hecate's prominence in the Theogony and chapter 2 on her role in the Hymn to Demeter. Zografou explains Hecate's place in the Theogony largely through genealogy. Hesiod's Hecate, by means of her particular ancestry, becomes the link through which Zeus extends his power over parts of the universe to which he does not otherwise have a strong claim. In particular, Zografou emphasizes that Hecate is effectively an epikleros, making her patrimony available to Zeus but without possessing a son, brother, or other male relative to threaten his reign. Chapter 2 argues that Hecate's part in the separate journeys of Demeter and Persephone makes sense in terms of her function as chthonic goddess and kourotrophos, and that Hecate shows a large degree of autonomy in the poem without actually defying Zeus in her aid to Demeter. Zografou’s reading of Hecate’s role in both works is careful and often persuasive, although her attempts to connect the goddess to specific aspects of the Eleusinian mysteries are not especially plausible, and she occasionally stretches the evidence rather thin, more often in the second chapter. When she argues, for example, that Hecate's status as an only child is always juxtaposed by Hesiod to the abundance of prerogatives she has inherited (p. 44), it is hard to see where something could be placed in the Hesiodic Hymn to Hecate so that it was not in close proximity to a list of her prerogatives. However, on the whole, this first third of the book contains interesting analysis and stands well on its own as a literary study.

Part II, "L'espace et le temps d'Hécate," the lengthiest section, begins with a chapter on Hecate's preference for doors and roads and the symbolic value of these spaces. Following this general introduction to Hecate and travel, Zografou sets out to look in detail at Hecate's connections with two of the many other gods who have connections to doors and roads, Apollo and Hermes, who are chosen for study because of the wealth of evidence concerning them (p. 123- 4). Apollo and Hecate, as Zografou notes, preside over different types of space: Apollo over roads in cities and civilized space, and Hecate over roads outside of town and wild, dangerous spaces. Both receive worship at private doors and at city gates and have apotropaic functions there. In then discussing their cultic connections and epithets, Zografou returns to a point she made in her discussion of Hesiod, in which she touched on the genealogical and etymological links between Hecate and Leto's children. This chapter meanders somewhat, discussing attributes of Apollo which Zografou ultimately concludes have little to do with Hecate, although interesting in their own right. This chapter, like most of the book, consists of subsections that are thematically linked but largely independent discussions of specific aspects of the goddess; although Zografou offers general conclusions, many of the discussions stand more or less on their own. The succeeding chapter follows a similar but more focused line of investigation with Hermes, who is often found paired with Hecate at doors, in myth and art, and in the magical papyri, but who lacks the unpleasant associations that she acquires. Zografou concludes that they have fundamentally similar divine roles but opposing strategies for fulfilling them: Hermes acts through the alternation of opposites, while Hecate mingles them; Hermes deals with borders and Hecate with centers; Hermes is a clever speaker while Hecate is mostly silent. A brief but interesting section on defixiones (p. 198-201) points out that Hecate, like Hermes, tends to be explicitly invoked in her chthonic aspect, unlike more permanent residents of the underworld, highlighting her ambiguous status. The final chapter in this section concludes by looking at Hecate and intermediate time, particularly the beginnings and ends of months and the full moon.

Part III of the book examines aspects of Hecate's character. Its first chapter deals with her triplicity and her identification with other goddesses such as Selene and Artemis, with crossroads, and with triplets of divine girls. Zografou prefers to divorce Hecate's triple nature from her chthonic aspects and to see triple syncretisms as a product of the Hellenistic period, when they become more popular in response to Hecate's pre-existing, and puzzling, threefold aspect. The second chapter deals with Hecate and dogs, who, like Hecate, are guardians of human doorways or are wanderers in the roads outside them. As serving animals, Zografou notes, dogs complement Hecate in her role as guardian, messenger, and servant of other gods. They also appear in many mythological episodes involving Hecate and Hermes. The last chapter summarizes Hecate's function as a servant, companion, and double of other deities.

The book concludes with appendices containing Theogony 411-52 and a discussion of the relief of Lebadea, and specialized and general indices. The specialized index of Greek and Latin words is not as useful as it could be, as it includes only instances in which a Greek word is printed in Greek font, and ignores cases in which it is transliterated; the general index, on the other hand, usually does the opposite. A reader looking for anodos therefore has to consult two separate places and finds two different page ranges for the term. In other cases, however, such as that of Κουροτρόφος, both indices contain the word in Greek font but with a different set of page references given.

The book is unfortunately not always well-served by its illustrations. Although several sections focus on artistic evidence, the pictures are of irregular quality—many are sharp and clear, but some are barely legible. Figure 19, p. 198, for example is particularly hard to make out; if no better photograph was available, a detailed description would have been more useful. Line drawings by the author are occasionally used instead of photographs. Comparison of the drawing of a complicated scene from an Attic krater (figure 13, p. 191) with the cover of the book, on which a photograph of the same vase is used, shows how much useful detail has been lost and reveals a mistake in the author’s rendering of the scene: Hecate’s torches are not burning on the vase, but have been lit in Zografou’s drawing. Moreover, some of the notes in the table of figures collapse multiple illustrations into one confusing attribution.

Chemins d’Hécate is overall a fascinating work, containing a wealth of detail and intelligent argument. Zografou sometimes lapses into odd and unsupported generalizations, such as her assertion that the aniconic pillars of Apollo evolve into a geometrical shape because it mathematically reflects the harmony of the world (p. 132). However, these moments are occasional; the discussion of specific evidence which comprises the bulk of the book should be valuable to scholars interested in Hecate and in Greek religion more generally.

Table of Contents

Abréviations 11
Introduction 13
Hécate dans la poésie archaïque
Chapitre I – Le lot exceptionnel d’Hécate dans la Théogonie d’Hésiode 23
1) La généalogie de l’Hécate hésiodique 25
2) Les τιμαί d’Hécate 29
3) Hécate μουνογενής et κουροτρόφος 43
4) L’un et le multiple et le problème du partage 47
5) Réalités cultuelles et constructions poétiques 49
6) Résonances du portrait hésiodique 51
Conclusion 53
Chapitre II – L’Hymne homérique à Déméter. Bienfaits de la mediation 55
1) Perception et espace dans l’Hymne 56
2) De la torche au Soleil: la découverte progressive de la vérité 61
3) Déméter nourrice 67
4) Hécate “precede et suit” Perséphone 68
5) Hécate à Éleusis: l’équivalent ritual de πρόπολος 71
6) La déesse Προπυλαία d’Éleusis 83
7) La parenté entre Hécate, Déméter et Perséphone dans d’autres sources écrites 85
Conclusion 89
L’espace et le temps d’Hécate
Chapitre I – Les lieux de predilection d’Hécate: portes, routes, et triodoi 93
1) Hécate devant les portes 93
2) Hécate des routes et des τρίοδοι 109
Conclusion 122
Chapitre II – Associations divines à proximité des portes et des chemins: Apollon, un voisin prestigieux 123
1) Apollon Ἀγυιεύς: ὁδός et ἀγυιά 124
2) Apollon Προπύλαιος 132
3) Associations d’Hécate et d’Apollon 138
4) ἝκατοςἝκατη 145
Chapitre III – Hermès et Hécate. L’espace survolé ou condense 153
1) Un ménage assorti? 153
2) Hermès, dieu des portes et des routes 154
3) Les rencontres d’Hermès et d’ Hécate devant les portes 159
4) Les plats partagés 159
5) Hermès τετράγωνος et Hécate τρίμορφος 161
6) Hermès, le voleur de l’espace 165
6.1 Les portes et les routes 165
6.2 Un espace mesurable: de l’ Ἐνόδιος à l’Ἐπιτέρμιος 167
7) Hermès et le pouvoir. L’example de hermès d’Hipparque 169
8) Hécate et la limite génératrice et engloutissante 172
8.1 Les restes spatiaux et les immondices de la voirie 172
8.2 La communication et ses résidus 174
9) Hermès, Hécate et le foyer 176
10) De Milet à Didymes 179
11) Messages et messagers 181
11.1 Hermès et Hécate dans L’Hymne homérique à Déméter 181
11.2 Hécate Ἄγγελος 183
11.3 Du char d’Hadès au naïskos de la Mèr des dieux 190
11.4 Messages de plomb: Hécate et Hermès dans les tablettes 198
de défixion attiques
Conclusion 201
Chapitre IV – Au rythme des mois et des jours 203
1) Les phases lunaires et les offrandes à Hécate 203
1.1 Le passage d’un mois à l’autre: problèmes du calendrier 204
1.2 La conciliation des contraires 207
1.3 Les offrandes à Hécate entre la fin et la commencement du mois 210
1.4 Les ἀμφιφῶντες et la pleine lune 215
2) Divisions de la journée 218
Types, attributes et attitudes
Chapitre I – Valeurs de la triplicité 227
1) Le caractère chthonian ou monstrueux et le contrôle des τρίοδοι 227
2) Emplacements limitrophes et accroissement de la puissance divine 233
3) Triplicité et chœurs divins de jeunes filles 237
4) Fonctionnalité et valeur symbolique 239
5) Artémis Hécate Ἐπιπυργιδία: un symbole politique? 245
Conclusion 248
Chapitre II –Rencontres du chien avec Hécate 249
1) Le statut ambivalent du chien 249
2) Le chien comme ἄγαλμα d’Hécate 254
2.1 Hekataia au chien 254
2.2 Le chien dans la teratology des epiphanies magiques 257
2.3 Déesses et servants enchiennées 261
2.4 Le sacrifice du chien 267
3) Hécate et Hermès: rage et sommeil du chien 275
Conclusion 283
Chapitre III – Hécate πρόπολος: server, accompagner, doubler une autre divinité 285
Conclusion générale 297
Annexe 1: L’”hymne à Hécate” dans la Théogonie, 411-452 303
Annexe 2: Le relief de Lébadée 304
Bibliographie 307
Table des figures 333
Index des sources 335
Index des mots grecs et latins 345
Index géographique 351
Index general 355


1.   A few studies which Zografou cites as particularly fundamental (p. 14-15) include Fauth, W. Hekate Polymorphos-Wesensvarianten einer antiken Gottheit: zwischen frühgriechischer Theogonie und spätantikem Synkretismus. Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovac, 2006; Johnston, S. I. Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate's Roles in the Chaldean Oracles and Related Literature. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990; Johnston, S. I. “Crossroads,” ZPE 88 (1991): 217-224; Johnston, S. I. Restless Dead: Encounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999; Kraus, T. Hekate: Studien zu wesen und Bild der Göttin in Kleinasien und Griechenland. Heidelberg, 1960.
2.   Particularly relevant are Clay, J. S. “The Hekate of the Theogony.” Greek Roman and Byzantine Studies 25 (1984): 27-38 and Leclerc, M. C. La parole chez Hésiode. À la recherché de l’harmonie perdue. Paris: Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1993.

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