Marble; H. 12 in. (30.48 cm)
The Bothmer Purchase Fund, 1987 (1987.11.2)
This hekateion, or triple-bodied Hekate, recalls Alkamene's Hekate Epipyrgidia, which was erected around 425 B.C. on the Athena Nike bastion of the Akropolis. Alkamene's statue was one of the earliest representations of the retrospective style known as archaistic, which imitated the stiff, linear quality of drapery that marked works of the sixth century B.C. On this marble statuette, three figures of Hekate stand with their feet together. Each wears an archaistic peplos belted over a long overfold. A triangular pattern of folds converges between the breasts, and the drapery over the legs has central pleats and a regular pattern of folds. Each of the figures carries two torches, attributes of Hekate, the goddess who presided over pathways and crossroads, especially at night. Hekate was a goddess of the moon and of nocturnal sorcery, and, like Hermes, traveled to and from the underworld and earth. The three figures of the goddess also wear poloi, cylindrical headdresses often associated with female deities of rebirth.
Hekate was a popular deity and guardian from the time of Hesiod until late antiquity, the recipient of private as well as public cult worship. In addition to the statue of Hekate Epipyrgidia that presided over the entrance to the Athenian Akropolis, triple-bodied representations of the goddess frequently stood in front of private homes and at crossroads. As guardian of the gates to Hades, she is also associated with the chthonic realm. Qualities of permanence and stability that are inherent in the archaistic style are appropriate for an image that must be steadfast and inflexible in order to function properly.