The Erecththeion (or Erechtheum) is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. It is notable for a design that is at once elegant and unusual.
History of the Erechtheion
The temple as seen today was built between 421 BC and 407 BC, but it is believed to be a replacement for an older temple, since it is on the site of some of the most ancient and holy relics of the Athenians:
Within the foundations lived the sacred snake of the temple, which represented the spirit of Cecrops and whose well-being was thought essential for the safety of the city. The snake was fed honey-cakes by the priestesses of Athena Polias, who were by custom the women of the ancient family of the Eteoboutadae. The snake's occasional refusal to eat the cakes was thought a disastrous omen.
Myth and Mystery
According to Greek mythology, the god Hephaestus once tried to rape Athena, the virgin goddess and patron of the city. Unsuccessful, he impregnated the earth instead, resulting in the birth of the demi-god Erichtonios. Raised by Athena, Erichtonios became an early king of Athens and is regarded as the ancestor of all Athenians.
What to See at the Erechtheion
The need to preserve multiple adjacent sacred precincts likely explains the complex design. The main structure consists of four compartments, the largest being the east cella, with an Ionic portico on its east end.
On the north side, there is another large porch with columns, and on the south, the famous Caryatid Porch, or "porch of the maidens," with six draped female figures (Caryatids) as supporting columns. One of the Caryatids was removed by Lord Elgin in order to decorate his Scottish mansion and was later sold to the British Museum (along with the pedimental and frieze sculpture plundered from the Parthenon).
Local legend had it that at night the remaining five Caryatids could be heard wailing for their lost sister. Nowadays the five original Caryatids are displayed in helium-filled glass cases in the Acropolis Museum and are replaced in situ by exact replicas.
The entire temple is on a slope, so the west and north sides are about 3 m (9 ft) lower than the south and east sides. The intact Erechtheion was extensively described by Pausanias (1.26.5 - 27.3), but the internal layout has since been obscured by the temple's later use as a church and as a Turkish harem.
Quick Facts on the Erechtheion
|Erechtheion · Erechtheum
|temples; ruins; World Heritage Sites
|Athena Polias and Poseidon Erechtheus
|Visitor and Contact Information
|37.972096° N, 23.726456° E
|Summer: daily 8am-7pm;
Winter: daily 8:30am-6pm (sometimes closes as early as 2:30pm)
|View hotels near the Erechtheion
- Erechtheum - Wikipedia (some text used under GFDL)
- The Erechtheion - Loggia Art History
- Erechtheion - Perseus Architecture Catalog
- The Acropolis: Erechtheion - The Ancient City of Athens (photos)
- Photos of the Erechtheion - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of the Erechtheion, Athens
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Erechtheion. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.