The Erectheion (Athens)

The Erectheion Athens


Description of The Erechtheion

The Erectheion Athens

The Erechtheion is one of the most recognizable symbols of the ancient Acropolis in the Middle of Athens. The Erechtheion was erected in 421- 206 BC on the North side of the Acropolis near the Parthenon. It was built on a place of a traditional site of a legendary struggle between Athena, patron of the city, and her nemesis Poseidon, god of the Sea. The goddess won and Athenians constructed this religious complex that is made up of two temples devoted to two Ancient Greek gods, the Eastern part of The Erechtheion belonged to goddess Athena Polias (city protector) and the Western Erechtheion was dedicated to god of sea- Poseidon and king Erechtheus. The tomb of legendary king Erechtheus that gave the Erechtheion its name is located under the North Portico of the complex. A tomb of another ruler of Athens and Attica, king Kekropa on the Western facade of the Erechtheion. Ancient temple stood here since the ancient times, but it was demolished by the Persians in 480 BC.


The Erechtheion construction was initiated by the famous Athenian politician Pericles, although its was completed after his death. It was suggested that the architect of this elegant and magnificent buildings was architect Mnesikles, but there is little historic evidence to confirm this theory.


The Erechtheion is unique building in the Ancient Greek architecture. It has an assymetrical layout uncharacteristic to Athens. Partially it was due to uneven ground of Acropolis, but also due to diversity of various sanctuaries within its walls. The Erechtheion has two entrance, one from the North and another from the East.


The most recognizable part of The Erechtheion is the South side with the famous portico Pandroseyon, named after the daughter of the king Kekropa, princess Pandrosus. Architrave is proped by six marble statues of girls (caryatids). It is one of the most recognizable symbols of The Erechtheion and all of Acropolis. Four of the original columns/ statues are kept in place, while others were replaced by casts, exact replicas of the original works of art. One of the original statues is currently kept in the British Museum in London.


Building of the Erechtheion was surrounded by a frieze with figures, but decorations did not survive to the present day. Few fragments discovered by the archaeological digs are currently stored in the Museum of the Acropolis.


In ancient times the Erechtheion contained a natural salt spring. Ancient Greeks believed it was god Poseidon who carved it out of the rock with his trident. Goddess Athena on the other hand planted an olive tree next to the site. A wooden (made of olive tree) statue of Athena that was kept inside the Erechtheion is said to have fallen from the skies. The Erechtheion also kept a gold lamp made by master Kallimaha along a statue of Hermes. Temple also housed the altars of the god Haephaestus (god of smiths and volcanoes).


In the 7th century the Erechtheion was turned into a Christian church. During Turkish Rule Erechtheion served as a residence of harem of numerous wives of the Turkish commander (disdar) in the 15th century. During War of Independence in 1827 the structure was badly damaged by a artillery shell fired by the Turkish positions. The first major restoration projet was carried out soon after Greek independence. Today the Erechtheion is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Athens Acropolis.