A heroon - ἡρῷον (plural "heroa" - ἡρῷα), also called "heroum", was a shrine dedicated to an ancient Greek or Roman hero and was used for the commemoration or worship of the hero. It was often erected over his supposed tomb or
The Romans and the Greeks practised an extensive and widespread cult of heroes. Heroes played a central role in the life of a "
polis", giving the city a shared focus for its identity. The cult typically centred around the heroon in which the hero's bones were usually believed to be contained. In a sense, the hero was considered to still be alive; he was offered meals and was imagined to be sharing feasts. His allegiance was seen as vitally important to the continued well-being of the city. This led to struggles between Greek cities for control of heroic remains.
Greek literature records how
Cimonof Athensavenged the death of the legendary hero Theseusin 469 BC, finding a set of bones allegedly belonging to the hero and returning with them in triumph to Athens. Similarly, Herodotusrecords in his "Histories" that the Spartans raided the heroon of the city of Tegea, stealing the bones of Orestes. This was regarded as changing the hero's allegiance from Tegea to Sparta, ensuring that the Spartans could defeat the Tegeans as foretold by the Oracle of Delphi. [Parkins, p. 198.]
Many examples of heroa can be found around the
tholos tombs of Mycenaean Greeceand in or near the sacred areas of a number of Greek cities around the Mediterranean. A particularly well-preserved example, the so-called Tomb of Theron, can be found at Agrigentoin Sicily. Another notable one, at Verginain Greek Macedonia(the ancient city of "Aigai" - Αἶγαι), is thought to have been dedicated to the worship of the family of Alexander the Greatand may have housed the cult statue of Alexander's father, Philip II of Macedon. A well-preserved Roman heroon from the Augustan period is situated in the ancient city of Sagalassosin what is now Turkey.
*Parkins, Helen. "Roman Urbanism". Routledge, 1997.
* [http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr/HellenicMacedonia/en/C184.108.40.206.html The 'Heroon' at Aigai]
* [http://www.archaeology.org/interactive/sagalassos/field06/heroon1.html Archaeology's Interactive Dig: Northwest Heroon, "Archaeology", June-August 2006]
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