Lagina Sacred Place dedicated to Hecate

Prepared by: Duygu Alkan

A temple dedicated to goddess Hecate who has very much importance in ancient Phrygian and Carian civilizations, stands in Yatagan region of the city of Mugla in Turkey. It is the only temple in the world which is dedicated to Hecate and still
stands, so it is an attraction for lots of visitors. The excavations started in 1891 and still continue today.

Hecate in Mythology

Hecate is a pre-Olympian chthonic goddess. Hecate is a Titaness, daughter of Perses and Asteria. Asteria means “the starry one” and Perses means “the destroyer”. The oldest records of her in Greek literature is Theogony of Hesiodos (8. Century B.C). She is a mighty helper and protector of mankind. She was the only Titan that aided Zeus in the battle of gods and Titans, she was not banished into the underworld realms after their defeat by the Olympians.


Picture: Hecate fighting against Titans- Zeus altar, Pergamon, Turkey.

After the war Zeus started to rule the sky, Poseidon the sea, Hades the underworld but Hecate continued her rule over the three kingdoms [1] Luna J. Hecate. JSL Press. California. 2008. She was depicted fighting with Titans in Zeus altar in Pergamon Turkey. (Picture: Hecate fighting against Titans- Zeus altar, Pergamon, Turkey.)

Hecate means will, far-shooter and decide. She symbolizes making right choices with the help of will when the time comes. Other names of Hecate are Chthonia (Underworld goddess), Crataeis (the Mighty One), Enodia (Goddess of the path), Propylaia (the one before the gate), Phosphoros (light-bringer), Soteira (Saviour), Trivia (goddess of the three roads), Kleidouchos (Keeper of the Keys), Tricephalus (three-headed).

In some depictions Hecate is shown as three persons. Trivia andTricephalus names of Hecate whose statues were placed on crossroads
are related with this triple depiction. She holds torches, key, knife and sometimes snake in her hands.


Hecate in her triple form

The torch is a symbol of the light that illuminates the darkness, as the Greeks secured Hecate in her role as the bringer of wisdom. In various myths Hecate shows heroes the way with her torches. Regarding her name Kleidochos, the key is significant to Hecate’s role as gatekeeper, being the one who could open the doors to sacred knowledge. The Orphic hymns list her as the “keybearing Queen of the entire Cosmos.”

With the knife in her hand, she cuts away all that is unessential and not truthful. It symbolizes making right choices, eliminating unnecessary things from our lives with the knife when the time comes. She shows how to distinguish what is real, what is permanent and what is not with the knife. [2]George D. Mysteries of the Dark Moon. HarperCollins Publishers. New York. 1992. s. 229.

Regarding Propylaia and Soteira names, Hecate was believed to ward off all evil and her statues were placed in front of doors and gates in ancient times. Hecate was shown with dogs by her side in ancient vases. She-dog and she-wolf are symbols of Hecate. It was said that Hecate starts to wander at night when dogs start to howl. Like Cerberos the three headed dog of Hades protects the underworld, dogs of Hecate protect the mysteries. Her name Chthonia (Underworld Goddess) shows that she is related with unknown mysteries.Goddess included a concept of underworld, although it was not a place of punishment. It was the dark womb of the goddess where one went to be purified, healed and prepared for rebirth.

Among other gods in mythology, the closest to Hecate is Hermes. Caves are sacred to both of them and they both show the way to souls in their inner or outer journeys. They rule the passages and transformations. They guide the souls who are lost and don’t know what to do. Before passing to the symbology of Lagina sacred place, it will be useful to take a look at the relation between Hecate and Hermes.


 Hermes and Hecate shows the way to Persephone while going to the underworld with Hades.

The Relationship of Hecate with Hermes

Hermes and Hecate are related with hidden knowledge. The goddess of sorcery or magic is Hecate’s most common modern title. Hecate was the goddess who appeared most often in magical texts such as the Greek Magical Papyri along with Hermes. Both of them are related with revealing hidden knowledge to mankind gradually.

Another common function of them is to show the way to passangers. Similer to totems of Hermes – herms- placed at borders as a ward against danger, statues of Hecate were placed at the gates of cities and domestic doorways.

Moreover, Hecate is the guide of the souls like Hermes. We see this in the myth of Persephone and Hades. When Persephone was abducted by Hades to underworld, Demeter searched the whole world for her daughter but couldn’t find her. It was Hecate who told her that in order to find her she should speak to sun god Helios. Helios told Demeter that her daughter was abducted to the underworld by Hades. After that, according to the deal between Zeus and Hades, Persephone stayed in the underworld six months and stayed on Earth six months. It was Hecate who shows her the way every time. Hecate is the only one except Hermes who can move between three worlds. [3]http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html.


Hermes and Hecate guide Heracles in the underworld in his labour of capturing Cerberus.

Hecate as a goddess related with purification was held greater than all the gods in Orphic hymns. As a consequence, the cult of Hecate was spread all over the Greek world. The most important cult centers were Lagina, Sparta, Eleusis and Athens [4]Franklin A. M. The Lupercalia. New York. 1921 http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/FRALUP/7*.html.

Many statues of Hecate belonging to Phrygian era now exhibited in Eskisehir Archaeological Museum is a proof of the importance given to Hecate by Phrygians and Carians. Lots of Hecate statues were excavated in Eskisehir which is in Phrygian Valley. This shows how much the cult of Hecate was spread in these lands. Cybele the mother goddess of Phrygians is the bright side of the moon, while Hecate is the dark side of the moon. They represent opposite but complementary energies.

Lagina Sacred Place an Hecate

Lagina sacred place is connected to the city of Stratonikeia which is one of the centers of Carian civilization. It is in the south west of Anatolia. In ancient times, the region between Menderes (ancient name is Maiandros) river and Dalaman (ancient name is Indos) river is called Caria. It is believed that this name comes from the Kars that settled in this region. Where they come from is still debated, this people date back to 1000 B.C.

Greek historians Herodotos and Thukydides say that Carians are a community that lived in Aegean islands under the rule of Minos, the king of Crete and then moved to Anatolian lands.

Herodotos tells that at first people who are called “Leleg” served to Minos the king of Crete with their navy; when Dors and Ions started to spread among Aegean Islands, they had to move to the coast of Anatolia. Strabo also confirms this, but Thukydides doesn’t agree with this and states that Carians were forced to migrate by Minos the King of Crete.

Besides, Herodotos declares that Carians don’t agree with this, they believe that they always lived in the mainland, always being called as Carians. They accept Lydians and Mysians as brother nations regarding their ancestor Kar is the brother of Lydos and Myros who are the ancestors of Lydians and Mysians respectively. As a proof they say that apart from Carians only Mysians and Lydians can enter the Temple of Zeus Karios at Mylasa.

According to Homeros, Lelegs living in the city of Pedasos in the southern part of Troy moved to south after the Troyan War and settled in Halikarnassos. Pausanias says that Lelegs are some of the ancestors of Caria. But Strabo says that Lelegs served to Caria as soldiers and they disappeared by spreading to all Greece. Some researchers think that Lelegs may be connected to barbarian Luvis mentioned in Hittite scriptures. This opinion is not certain because scriptures belonging to Lelegs has not been found and their language is not known. Carian language has not been deciphered yet and its relation with Indo-European language family has not been
determined. But samples of scriptures that we have today show that this language has an alphabetical system rather than syllables. [5]Konak, S. Sacred Places in Ancient Caria Area. Master Thesis, Istanbul University Science Institute, 2003.

In the southwestern region of Phrygia, there is Caria civilization where we meet Hecate again. Especially the cities of Lagina and Stratonikeia which are Carian settlements dated to 300 B.C have the cult of Hecate. The meaning of the name Hekatomnos which was given to the kings of Caria is “The servant of the Temple of Hecate”.


Lagina and Stratonikea.

Kings of Caria established the city of Lagina as a religious center and the city of Stratonikeia which is 11 km apart from Lagina as a political center. We learn from the writings on the walls of Lagina and Stratonikeia that these two cities were connected with a sacred road.

This sacred road which begins in Stratonikeia connects to Lagina in the propylon. Festivals were celebrated for
Hecate every year and a bigger one every four year. The festival of Hekatesia-Romania which was held every four years had been celebrated since 81 B.C. It is called Hekatesia or Key Bearing Festival in which the key of the temple was carried from Lagina to Stratonikeia and brought back. This symbolized the relation between Lagina and Stratonikeia and also Hecate having the keys of the underworld. At the festival young maidens called kleidophoros carried the key of the temple and they had male assistans with them.

All the people who came for the festival entered the sacred place through propylon. The ones who were on duty went down the ten steps in the east and headed to the altar. The ones who came to watch the ceremony only, headed to the stoa through the left door and sat on the steps, waited the ceremony to begin. [6]Büyüközer A. ‘Mathematical Ratios of Lagina Hecate Temple’ Master Thesis. Seljuk
University Social Sciences Institute Archaeology Department. 2006

Archaeology of the Temple
The director of the first excavations in Lagina in 1891 was Osman Hamdi Bey who is regarded as the “father” of Ottoman archaeology. After a long interval, the excavations started again in 1993 by Mugla Museum. Today an international team coordinated by Prof. Ahmet Adil Tirpan from Konya Seljuk University works at the ancient site.

Lagina Hecate sacred place connected to Stratonikeia is a religious center dedicated to Hecate situated on agricultural land. Sacred place was founded on a wide area which has an incline from North to South and is situated at the North of Stratonikeia.

1: Propylon, 2:Temple of Hecate, 3:Altar, 4: Remains of Byzantion Basilica, 5: Stoa In Lagina sacred place there is propylon, sacred road, altar, peribolos (the wall surrounding the sacred place), stoa (Doric order) and the Temple
of Hecate in which the statue of the goddess stands.

Structures in Hecate Sacred Place:

Propylon: Situated at the East of the place and stands at north-south direction. It has a semi circular shape and has three steps. (picture at the left). There are 5 coloumns in ionic order in the semi circle. There is a big door at the center and
three little doors at the sides.
Stoa: When you pass through one of the three little doors in Propylon you come to stoa, this is where the people who want to watch the ceremony stand. The stoa is in doric order.

Altar: It has 15,40×20,30m dimensions and stands in southwest-northeast direction. Entrance gate is at southwest and directed towards the temple. It has two levels and in the second level the coloumns are in Korinth order at the outside and Ionic order at the inside. Sacrifices to the goddess are made on this altar. It has a U shape like the altar of Zeus in Pergamon. It was built during the reign of Emperor Augustus.

Temple: Consists of one front room and one cult room which is situated on 5 steps. Archaeologically it has a pseudodipteral structure with one perisytle surrounding the cella. There are 11 stoa on the long side and 8 stoa on the short side, which are all in Korinth order standing on Ionic mounds. The heights of this stoas change between 21 and 28 meters. Temple dates back to the end of 2. Century B.C. and the beginning of 1. Century B.C.

Sacred Pool: There is a pool in the 300 m south eastern part of the sacred place. The water of the pool comes from a fountain 50 m south through a channel made from marble blocks. The diameter of this pool which has a nearly circular shape changes between 9,55-10,40 meters.

Necropol: There is a necropol ground dates back to 5. Century B.C. between Hecate sacred place and the sacred place of Apollo and Artemis in Koranza. It is understood that there is an open ground used for ceremonies in the necropol.


Double sided axe in Hecate sacred place

Friezes of the temple were taken to Istanbul Archaeological Museum by Osman Hamdi who made the first excavations in Lagina and they are still exhibited in the museum. Four different subjects were represented in four cardinal points: At the east the birth of Zeus, at the west the war between gods and giants (the war between Zeus and Typhon, Apollo and Efialtes is shown), at the south the meeting of Carian gods and heroes, at the north an agreement between Amazons and Greeks (a warrior and an Amazon are facing each other, there is Hecate behind the Amazon).

In Hecate sacred place, a marble block has been found which is thought to be an altar stone. There is a writing on this stone that was dedicated to Helios and Rhodos. On the marble there is a writing which is read as “Kanebos” and also there is a double sided axe. It shows that there was also a cult of Kanebos who is an old Kar god in the sacred place. This double sided axe is very similar
to the symbols excavated in Labraunda which is a very close ancient city dedicated to Zeus
carrying double sided axe.[7]Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bilal Sögüt, Lagina Sacred Place, Pamukkale Univercity Literature Faculty
Archaeology Department Denizli retrieved from www.lagina.org.

To sum up, Temple of Hecate in Lagina was a very big cult center dedicated to Hecate who is very important in Phrygia and Caria civilizations. Hecate who has the keys to the mysteries was honoured in the key bearing festival called Hekatesia, people were guided in their inner journeys through the ceremonies held in the temple of Hecate. The illumination of the world’s only temple of Hecate with the excavations will make it possible for us to have more information about this subject.

Let us awaken the passenger in ourselves in order for Hermes and Hecate to guide us in our inner journeys. Because they will be the ones who show us the way while we are trying to find the way in the dark, in the unknown.
1. Luna J. Hecate. JSL Press. California. 2008.
2. George D. Mysteries of the Dark Moon. HarperCollins Publishers. New York. 1992. s. 229.
3. http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html
4. Franklin A. M. The Lupercalia. New York. 1921
5. Konak, S. Sacred Places in Ancient Caria Area. Master Thesis, Istanbul University Science
Institute, 2003.
6. Büyüközer A. ‘Mathematical Ratios of Lagina Hecate Temple’ Master Thesis. Seljuk
University Social Sciences Institute Archaeology Department. 2006.
7. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bilal Sögüt, Lagina Sacred Place, Pamukkale Univercity Literature Faculty
Archaeology Department Denizli retrieved from www.lagina.org


1 Luna J. Hecate. JSL Press. California. 2008.
2 George D. Mysteries of the Dark Moon. HarperCollins Publishers. New York. 1992. s. 229.
3 http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html
4 Franklin A. M. The Lupercalia. New York. 1921 http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/FRALUP/7*.html
5 Konak, S. Sacred Places in Ancient Caria Area. Master Thesis, Istanbul University Science Institute, 2003.
6 Büyüközer A. ‘Mathematical Ratios of Lagina Hecate Temple’ Master Thesis. Seljuk
University Social Sciences Institute Archaeology Department. 2006
7 Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bilal Sögüt, Lagina Sacred Place, Pamukkale Univercity Literature Faculty
Archaeology Department Denizli retrieved from www.lagina.org.