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Erechtheion

The Erechtheion was originally the palace of the mythical king Erechtheus I. King Erechtheus was a legendary king of Athens and represents the earliest of Athens’ “history” that the Athenians could have imagined. The myth goes that Athene was pursued on the Acropolis by Hephaestus but being a virgin goddess she rejected him. As she moved smartly out of his way, his seed fell on her leg and she wiped it off with a woollen rag that she then dropped to the ground. The seed of the god was not wasted and immediately grew up into a child, Erechtheus. He became the king and ancestor of the Athenians and is believed to be buried at the Erechtheion.

The temple also combines in a complex architectural form several ancient figures of gods and heroes. In the antiquity the temple included the allegedly fallen from the sky wooden image of the city goddess Athene, nearby it was the mark of Poseidon’s trident, the salt source, and the olive tree of Athene as reminders of the mythical contest of the two gods. Within the temple it was believed that the holy snake of Athens was lived. It also included the grave of the mythical king Cecrops (half man half snake).

The Erechtheion is known mainly through its porch, its columns instead of pillars had six girls (korai) known as the Caryatids (named after the city of Karya in the Peloponnese), but it is not known exactly who they represent. One of the six caryatids was bought in 1811 by Lord Elgin to Britain (now in the British Museum). The remaining five were replace by replicas to prevent further damage from the smog (the originals are in the Acropolis museum). 

Date

421-405 BC

Decoration

North side

       i.          Acroteria.

      ii.          Dark limestone frieze.

    iii.          Paint and coloured glass.

     iv.          Grand ceiling.

West end

       i.          Dark limestone frieze.

      ii.          Decorated antae.

Caryatid porch

       i.          6 over life-size maidens as columns.

      ii.          Pattern and drapery on females.

    iii.          Egg and plant pattern repeated.

East side

       i.          Various patterns – egg and dart – under capitals.

      ii.          Dark limestone frieze.

 

Architecture

Plan/layout

       i.          Foundation of an old temple destroyed by Persians.

      ii.          Aligned to east.

    iii.          Cella divided in two (different levels).

     iv.          East cella has Athene statue.

      v.          Hexastyle porch.

     vi.          North porch larger than south.

East façade

       i.          6 Ionic columns.

      ii.          3 stepped playforms.

    iii.          Columns taper.

     iv.          No entasis.

      v.          Voluted capitals.

     vi.          Three stepped architrave.

   vii.          Ionic shallow pediment.

South side

       i.          Caryatid porch.

a.      Porch of 6 columns.

b.      3 stepped architrave.

      ii.          Rest of south wall plain.

West end

       i.          Four columns embedded into wall on upper level.

      ii.          No porch.

    iii.          Pediment.

North side

       i.          Main entrance to lower cella.

      ii.          Porch larger than building.

    iii.          Pediment.

     iv.          6 Ionic columns.

      v.          Entasis.

 


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