[The Agora]

"The Herms" Crossroads

This cross-roads was known as "the Herms" because of the large number of herms dedicated here. Herms were square pillars topped with a head of Hermes with a phallus halfway up. As Hermes was god of travel, luck (and thieves!) the entrance to the Agora was an appropriate place for them. In 415 BC nearly all the herms in Athens were damaged or mutilated on one night - before the fleet was due to sail to Sicily. The small shrine here may be the very ancient Leokoreion - set up to commemorate three girls who were sacrificed to save the city from plague. This was the spot where the tyrant Hipparchus was murdered in 514 BC by Harmodius and Aristogeiton. They became heroes of the democracy, although the killing was probably the result of a lover's quarrel.

a Herm: not for the squeamishsculpting a herm

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