This part of the Acropolis is significantly quieter – it’s a nice spot to escape the crowds of the Parthenon.
It may be less prestigious and well-known than the nearby Parthenon, but in ancient Athens it was the Erechtheion which held primary religious importance on the Acropolis. Supposedly the sea god Poseidon struck his trident into the rock on this spot, and later Athena famously caused an olive tree to sprout in the same place when she stabbed it with her spear in defiance of Poseidon’s rule of the Acropolis. To honour this mythology, the Athenians dedicated the Erechtheion to both deities.
Maidens Fair and Strong
The Erechtheion was built as part of the great Athenian statesman Pericles’ grand vision during the Golden Age of Athens in the late 5th century BC. It was during this period that the most famous buildings on the Acropolis were constructed, using the designs and labour of some of the best craftsmen of the day. The most dramatic evidence of this skill can be found on the southern face of the temple, known as the “Porch of the Maidens”. Here, five young women stand firmly carved in such a way that they act as columns to support the portico. There were originally six of them, until esteemed archaelogical pilferer Thomas Elgin stole one of them in 1801 to decorate his mansion in Scotland.
Beautiful on So Many Levels
Walking around the Erechtheion today, you will be struck by its complicated architecture. This piece of ground may have been holy, but it was by no means even, and the temple was built on several different levels in an attempt to deal with this problem. Considering the age of the place, the intricacy with which it was designed and built by those ancient hands is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
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