Northwest Corner and the Hermes

The area of the northwest corner is where the Panathenaic Way, leading from the main gate of Athens, the Dipylon, entered the Agora square (Figs. 58, 59). This was accordingly the appropriate place for Herms, primitive markers used by the Athenians to mark all entrances. These took the form of rectangular shafts of marble with a set of male genitalia carved halfway up and a likeness of the god Hermes at the top. Several dozen examples of these very conservative monuments have been found in the excavations in this area, ranging in date from the early 5th century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D. (Fig. 60).

"Menekles or Kallikrates in his work on Athens writes, 'From the Stoa Poikile and the Stoa Basileios extend the so-called Herms. Because they are set up in large numbers both by private individuals and by magistrates they have acquired this name.'" (Harpokration)
Figure 58. Plan of the northwest corner of the Agora, principal entrance into the public square.
Figure 59. A reconstruction of the northwest corner of the Agora in ca. 420 B.C., with the Royal Stoa at left and the Painted Stoa at upper right, looking northwest.
Figure 60. Three Herm heads found at the northwest corner of the Agora (from left to right): 2nd century A.C., late 5th century B.C., and early 5th century B.C.
Excavations in the Athenian Agora are conducted by the American School of Classical Studies.
Primary funding is provided by the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI).