Roman Magic Intaglio of a Hecataion, 1st-3rd Century AD

The carving is of an apotropaic, magical subject (as is common on stone amulets from this period): the Hecataion, a statue of Hecate, composed of three figures: the first, facing forward, is the only one that is completely visible. Each pair of arms holds different attributes, all of which are associated with Hecate: she holds two torches in the bottom set of hands, whips in the set of hands, and knives in the top set of hands.

Hecate is a mythological figure related to Artemis, who does not have myths of her own, but is characterized essentially by her functions. Present in Hesiod’s texts, she is independent from the Olympians because she is a direct descendant of the Titans: in the beginning, she was a generally positive figure who spread her kindness to mortals, granting them favors and prosperity. But bit by bit, she acquired another specialty: the world of magic, enchantments (according to a later tradition, Hecate was the mother of the two best known witches in Greek mythology, Circe and Medea), and, above all, the shades: her most frequent attribute is the torch.

During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and in her role as a magician, Hecate presided over crossroads: she is, therefore, venerated and represented as a female statue with three bodies arranged around a column, at whose feet travelers and the faithful could give offerings.