Hekate is a much-loved goddess, but one whose modern reputation is almost uniquely drenched in misunderstandings (that she was regarded as the World Soul), inventions (that she is a crone) and outright lies (I won’t name names). Over time, and with her assistance and favor, I hope to compile everything I can find about her from the primary sources here, to allow those who do not have the leisure to dig through Greek and Latin records to quickly confirm or disconfirm what they are told about Hekate.

statue of triple-shaped Hekate (Wikimedia Commons); the different attributes will be discussed below

I use the spelling Hekate when translating from Greek, Hecate from Latin, but they are unambiguously the same name of the same goddess, Hekate. There is no division between Greek and Roman “religions” on this point. The same is true of Greek Persephone and Latin Proserpine; and despite their different names, it was also universally (I am not exaggerating) accepted as a given that Diana is simply the Roman name for the goddess Artemis. Greek Selene and Latin Luna are both simply translated as “the Moon” here, since that is what Our Lady Moon (Procl. In Tim. III 131) is.

Sources that are or, diis volentibus, will be translated elsewhere on the site:

Bilingual Glossaries (Roman period)

When the relationship between Greek and Roman “religions” is discussed, we usually start from how the texts appear in English translation. Roman texts say Jupiter, Greek ones say Zeus, and so on. But these are in the first instance differences of language, not belief or practice. Greek-language texts always say Zeus, not Jupiter, even if the author and/or subject are Roman.

Now, as far as Hekate is concerned, the major incongruity between the languages is that in Latin, she appears both under her Greek name, spelled Hecate in Roman letters, with all the grammatical rules of a Greek name (unlike Apollon, say, whose name was adapted and Latinized as Apollo); and also under a formally Latin name, Trivia, which is not indigenous but translates her Greek byname Trihoditis (‘she of the crossroads’, or more specifically ‘of the fork in the road’); as well as through circumlocutions. As such, Latin just makes it slightly more difficult to talk about the goddess, even if she was well known and conceived of in the same way. The ancient glossaries show this:

Hekate : Trivia
Hekate : Lucifera (‘light-carrier’, i.e., the Moon)
Hekate Nyktophainousa : Noctiluca (both meaning ‘shining by night’)
Hekate the Triple-shaped (Trimorphos) : Trivia

Aelius Herodianus (?), Partitiones, ed. Boissonade p. 29 (2nd century CE, Greek)

Aelius Herodianus is a grammarian, not one who is primarily interested in definitions, but one who gives definitions incidentally as he explains the grammatical rules applying to different words. As such, he naturally gravitates to simple and uncontroversial explanations.


(She is) the Moon.

Festus, On the Meaning of Words, s.v. Hecate (2nd century CE, Latin)

Sextus Pompeius Festus was the author of an expansive Latin dictionary, of which a fragmentary and an abbreviated version are extant. The following entry is from the medieval abbreviation, and hence uses past tense.


She was believed to be the same as Diana, the Moon and Proserpine.

Libanius, Oration 5, To Artemis, section 33 (4th century CE, Greek)

Libanius wrote a prose hymn to Artemis that is in many ways unusually close to the Homeric conception of the gods (especially when compared to his 2nd-century CE model, Aelius Aristides, who is far more interest in philosophy and recent religious trends). But he exploits some post-Homeric ideas, such as the identity of Artemis with Hekate and the Moon, when they suit his purpose of heaping the greatest praise on Artemis.

The goods that come from the Moon, both for plants and people, must also be considered as a gift of Artemis, and the domain (arkhē) of Hekate, the many daemons, as the domain of Artemis; for these (goddesses) are Artemis.

Pseudo-Plutarch, Proverbs of the Alexandrians 8, and Chrysocephalus, Proverbs 1.16 (uncertain dates, Greek)

While rarer than the identification of Hekate with Artemis, the Moon and Persephone, the goddess is also sometimes equated with Athena (called triple-born as Hekate is called triple-shaped), as in a proverb collection with commentary falsely(?) attributed to Plutarch. I give the Byzantine text of Chrysocephalus first, as it seems to be a simplified summary of Pseudo-Putarch.

“The thirtieths in (the realm) of Hades”

(The proverb is applied) to those who busy themselves and seek to learn hidden things; and the thirtieth (i.e., of the month?, triakás) is a mystery of Hekate.

The thirtieth (or ‘number thirteen’, triakás) is honored in (the realm) of Hades in a rather mystic fashion, because of Hekate, to whom also the trígla (‘red mullet’) is sacrificed. [Some text lost] because he says that this Hekate is Tritogenē (‘triple-born’ or ‘of three kinds’),* since the three – Athena, Artemis and Hekate – seem to be one. In mystic fashion, Persephoneia, the lady of those in the underworld (hypokhthoníōn despótis), is called Hekate, and hence the shrines (or ‘cult statues’, aphidrýmata) of Hekate are set up next to crossroads (trihódoi), and the rites honoring of the dead (tà nekýsia) are held on the thirtieth day of the month (triakás).
And the proverb is applied to those who busy themselves and search to learn hidden things.

(*Otherwise a title of Athena.)

Pseudo-Nonnus, Scholia on Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 39, historia 10 (6th century CE, Greek)

Pseudo-Nonnus is a Christian commentator on a Christian author in a time when there were very few pagans left; but he is a generally reliable and useful source. This text is also quoted in the Byzantine encyclopedia, the Suda.

The tenth account is about Hekate.

The pagans (Hellēnes) believe in the goddess Hekate. And some say that she is Artemis, others the Moon, others again that she is a certain goddess of her own (idikē tis theos) who appears in bizarre apparitions (phasmata) to those who invoke her. But she especially appears to those who make curses. Her apparitions appear as serpent-headed (drakontokephaloi) humans, exceedingly tall and exceedingly large, so as to terrify and frighten those who see them simply by the sight.

Servius, the Vergil commentator (early 5th century CE, Latin)

Servius wrote the most important surviving commentaries on the works of the Latin poet Vergil, and has some simple theories with great explanatory power about the gods and their relations. In some of the manuscripts, his text has been augmented, so that some entries belong entirely or partially to the so-called Servius auctus; in the latter case, augmentations have been marked with {curly brackets}.

Servius {auctus}, On Vergil’s Aeneid 4.510:
“he thunders with his mouth thrice hundred gods”

He thunders not three hundred (tercentum) gods, but thrice the hundred (ter centum) divine powers (numina) of Hecate; whence Hecate is so called as having hekaton, that is a hundred, powers (potestates). And he used “thunders”* knowledgeably, since in some rituals (sacra), thunderclaps (tonitrua) are imitated, {but especially in those of Hecate.}

(*A more cautious interpretation of the word is simply “intones”; Servius interprets Vergil in light of Lucan. See Servius on Aeneid 6.247a below.)

Servius auctus, On Vergil’s Aeneid 4.511a:
“triple-twinned Hecate”

Some transmit that Hecate is so called because she is the same as Diana as well as Proserpine, from hekaterai (‘both’); or because she is the sister of Apollo, who is hekatēbolos (‘far-shooter’). But according to Hesiod, Hecate is the daughter of the Titan Persus [sic! read Perses] and Asteria; Diana of Jupiter and Latona; Persephone of Jupiter and Ceres. Later, they confounded this genealogy.

Servius {auctus}, On Vergil’s Aeneid 4.511a:
“the three faces of the virgin Diana”

A repetition (of the already mentioned Hecate): (the faces) of the Moon, Diana and Proserpine. {And she is believed to be the Moon when above the earth; Diana when on the earth; Proserpina when below the earth. Some believe that she is threefold because the Moon has three phases, […]. Many call the same (Moon) Lucina, Diana and Hecate, because they assign to one goddess the powers (potestates) of birth, health and death: and they say that Lucina is the goddess of birth, Diana of health, Hecate of death. Because of this threefold power, they depicted her triple-shaped or threefold, and for this reason built her temples on forks in the road (trivia).}

Servius {auctus}, On Vergil’s Aeneid 4.609a:
“at the nocturnal forks in the road (trivia)”

Not nocturnal forks in the roads, but (at the forks in the roads) during night time. {Because the rituals (sacra) of Hecate were often held at forks in the road. And (Dido) invokes her because she received such a great dowry that she spurned her mother.}

Servius {auctus}, On Vergil’s Aeneid 4.609b:
“Hecate is cried out through the cities”.

When Proserpine had been abducted by Father Dis (Dispater = Hades), Ceres searched all over the earth with burning torches, and called her with lamentations at the forks in the road (trivia) and crossroads (quadrivia). Hence, it persisted in her rituals (sacra) that cries are made at the crossroads (compita) by the matrons on certain days, just as in the rites of Isis, where there is an imitation of Osiris being found; it is narrated that he was torn into pieces by bis brother Typhon, and his wife Isis searched for him all over the world. […] But (Dido) invokes Hecate for the sake of revenge (against Aeneas). Hence, she also calls on the Furies; but by transference, she calls them Dirae. For (strictly speaking), Dirae are in heaven, […] Furies on earth and Eumenides in the underworld. Hence they are said to be three. But the poets confound these names. […] {‘Is cried out’ means ‘is searched for with crying’.}

Servius, On Vergil’s Aeneid 6.118:
“Hecate made (the Sibyl) guardian of her Avernian groves”

Hecate is a deity (numen) of three powers (potestates): for the same is the Moon, Diana and Proserpine. But (in this context), he could not say ‘Proserpine’ because of the groves, which belong to Diana; nor again ‘Diana’, because he calls them Avernian (‘of the underworld’). So he chose the name in which both come together. Whence Lucan says about Proserpine: “Hecate, our final part” (Civil War 6.700, slightly misquoted).

Servius, On Vergil’s Aeneid 6.247a:
“calling with sound (vox)”

Not with words (verba), but with certain mystic sounds (mystica sona), because the deities (numina) used to be invoked in various ways, as Lucan described clearly, as follows: “She has the bark of dogs and the howl of wolves; [whatever question the fearful horned owl, whatever the nocturnal screech owl hoots,] whatever beasts rattle and cry, whatever hiss the serpent makes, she imitates, and the wail [of the wave beating the rough rocks, the noise of the woods] and the thunderclap of the broken cloud; her one voice (vox) was of so many things” (Civil War, 688–693).

Servius, On Vergil’s Aeneid 6.247b:
“powerful in heaven and Erebus (‘the underworld’)”

That is what he calls Hecate, in order to show her full divine power (numen).

Servius, On Vergil’s Bucolica 3.26:
“on forks in the road (trivia)”

For it used to be the custom that rural people would cry out and sing some tearful song in honor of Diana at forks in the road and at crossroads, in imitation of Ceres, who sought the abducted Proserpine on the forks in the road with lamentation. And we know that Proserpine is the same as Diana; in the Aeneid, (Vergil writes) in the same way: “and at the nocturnal forks in the road, (the name of) Hecate is cried out”.

Servius {auctus}, On Vergil’s Bucolica 8.75:
“the deity delights in uneven number (numero deus impare gaudet)”

(Meaning) either any of the gods above, {following the Pythagoreans, who assigned the perfect number three to the highest god, from whom is the beginning, the middle and the end}; or he means Hecate, whose power (potestas) is shown to be threefold, whence “the three faces of the virgin Diana”. {However, the power of almost all gods is indicated by a threefold symbol (signum), like the three-forked lightning bolt of Jupiter, the trident of Neptune and the three-headed dog of Pluton. Apollo is the same as the Sun, the same as Liber (=Dionysus). And because all things are encompassed by the number three, like the Parcae (‘Fates’) and the Furies; Hercules was conceived over three nights; and the Muses are thrice three.}

Lactantius Placidus, the commentator on Statius (5th century CE, Latin)

Although of more limited intellectual scope than the Vergilian commentaries, the grammarian Lactantius Placidus often makes observations and draws theoretical inferences that go far beyond simple exegesis of his base text, the Thebaid of Statius. The pasages at hand are somewhat difficult to follow without looking at the larger context, of a sacrifice being performed by Tiresias, but the points Lactantius is making about the nature of the gods are clear enough.

On Thebaid 4.456:
“he made three hearths for Hecate”

Because she is triple-shaped (triformis), or because she is believed to be the same as the Mother-of-Gods and Proserpine or Earth (Terra) or Vesta; Ovid writes thus about a similar sacrifice: “Daughter of Perses … Arcadian … Tisiphone” (Metamorphoses 4.752–755).

On Thebaid 4.483–486a:
“Daughter of Perses, separate the pious dwellers in Eylsium from the concourse and let the misty Arcadian bring them with his potent rod”

(Tiresias) is commanding Mercury and Libera [here meaning Proserpine/Hecate] to call forth the souls of the pious. Now, the reason why Hecate is “daughter of Perses” is that some consider her not to be Jupiter’s daughter but Perses’, and Hesiod follows this opinion in the books he wrote about Theogony.

Corvilius writes that there are three Mercuries. One, the son of Jupiter and Maia, another of Caelus and the Day (Diei), the third of Liber and Proserpine, the fourth of Jupiter and Cyllene: he was the one who killed Argus. The Greeks say that he was an exile for this reason, but that he taught the Egyptians their letters. Accordingly, they say that Mercury the son of Liber and Proserpine calls forth the souls.

On Thebaid 4.483–486b:
“Daughter of Perses … Arcadian … Tisiphone”

The sense is this: may Hecate and Mercury lead the pious souls, but Tisiphone the harmful ones!

On Thebaid 4.515:
“I could harry Hecate, did I not respect you, Lord of Thymbra”

Appropriately—although (Tiresias) would perform magical rites (magica), he honored Apollo, and on account of his reverence for him, he says that he does not want to abuse his sister through dread of the invocation of a god. Hecate and Diana is said to be the same..

On Thebaid 4.527:
“grim couch of Stygian Juno”

Pythagoras says that there are two hemispheres, to which he assigns their own gods, and he makes the king of the upper one Jupiter, and its queen, Juno, and says that the king of the lower one, Dis, is an infernal Jupiter, but Proserpine an infernal Juno. And there are two Venuses: one supernal, the other (Venus) Libitina. He also organized the other gods by twos: as Dis is a Jupiter, so Hecate is this Stygian Juno.

Tiberius Donatus, another Vergil commentator: https://archive.org/details/tibericlaudidona0001dona/page/542/mode/2up (with several next pages)

revise the translation of the lemmata from Statius
fill in that problem passage in Servius
Proclus, On the Timaeus, vol. 3, p. 131
John Lydus, 3.10 & 3.13
Hecate: Adnotationes super Lucanum, Scholia in Horatium. Seems to be all from digiliblt. Look at TLL. Also search Trivia.