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 By: Emily Dodds and Jeremy McCormick       





The Erectheion is an important ancient Greek temple located in Athens. The temple was to replace the Archaic Athena temple that had been raised by the Persians and was the second most important temple found in Acropolis during Pericles’ building peiod . It was built north of the remains and was to be a composite shrine that honored the goddess Athena. The Erechtheion was started in 230 B.C.E. finished in 405 B.C.E. just before the fall of Athens to Sparta. It's located on the sight of a mythical contest said to have taken place between Poseidon, the sea god, and Athena. In this contest, Poseidon provided a salt-water well for the location by stabbing his trident into a rock, while Athena provided and olive tree and won the contest. The rock that Poseidon stabbed is now located in the North Porch of the Erechtheion. Some sources say that Mnesikles was the designer of the Erechtheion while others say the builder is unknown.  



The Erechtheion was built asymmetrically, which is very unique compared to the Doric Parthenon’s across the way and for a Greek temple in general. The structure is irregular because it reflects the need to incorporate the tomb of Kekrops and other shrines into one compound. The Erechtheion had to be built to conform on the slope of the hill because of the curvy terrain. Each side was set on different ground levels and had different characters. The builder however could not make it level or help this because it would affect the sacred sites.


Decorations and Shrines:

The Erechtheion had multiple functions including housing many shrines, like the wooden cult statue of Athena that was the center of the Panthenaic festival. This statue was placed inside the Erechtheion before the Persians attacked. One area of the Erechtheion has a sacred spring dedicated to the Erechtheion, a legendary King of Athens. During Erechtheus’ reign as king, Demeter was said to have helped the Athenians in the arts of growing crops and other vegetation. The Erechtheion also contains a memorial to Kekrops, the legendary founder of Athens. Kekrops was said to be half man, half serpent and to have judged the battle between Athena and Poseidon. The Erechtheion had friezes, which was a decorative band that went around the top part of a wall in a room. They were given special care, and made from specially picked dark blue limestone of Eleusis to contrast with the white Pentelic marble of the walls and columns.


The Porches:

The north and east porches symbolize Ionic form on the Erechtheion. The porches were constructed using the Ionic order, which is more complex and decorative than the Doric order.  The columns build up from the bottom and end in volute capitols, or spiral capitols. On the West end of the South side, there are six female figures acting as columns that are called caryatides that support the porch. These replace the Ionic columns.


The Porch of Maidens (displayed on the right):

The porch of maidens is on the south side of the temple and it faces the Parthenon’s. It is the most important feature of the Erechtheion in that they show the most detail and curves on the women supporting the roof from the floor. The Erechtheion has simple Doric capitols and it also has caryatids. On the Porch of the Maidens, the women are standing on one leg taking most of the weight, while the other leg is bent at the knee and laid on the ball of the foot. This in turn gives a sense of relaxed grace and gives the maidens an effortless look. Three maidens are standing on the left while the other three are standing on the right giving the porch a sense of symmetry and rhythm. The maidens are wearing a dress that falls vertically; the maiden’s hair is loosely tied up, but contains massive knots around the neck which makes the maidens appear natural and human.







Addiss, Stephen, et al. ART HISTORY REVISED EDITION VOLUME ONE. New York: Paul Gottlieb, Bud Therien, 1999. Shows us more information on Erechtheion and has a Egyptian art cover.

Stokstad, Marilyn. Art a Brief History Third Edition. New Jersey: n.p., n.d.

Tansey, Richard G., Koral and Fred S. Kleiner. ART THROUGH THE AGES Tenth Edition 1 Ancient Medieval, AND Non-European ART. Fort Worth, Texas: Ted Buchholz, n.d. More Detailed art book used to find more information on the Erechtheion Templ, Golden Cover, pages 154-156.


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