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Erechtheum. CC Flickr User Alun Salt

The Erechtheum was an Ionic temple built in the late 5th century B.C. to the north of the Parthenon on the Acropolis, in Athens, that was named for King Erechtheus.

In antiquity, the Erechtheum housed the famous cult of Athens' city goddess, Athena Polias. Erechtheus and Poseidon were also worshiped in the Erechtheum. The sacred precinct was supposed to house the tomb of Athens' original kings, Cecrops and Erechtheus, Athena's sacred olive, and the well Poseidon produced in his unsuccessful bid for patronage of Athens.

Built on and off between 421 and 407 B.C. of Pentelic marble, details of the complicated construction of the Erechtheum are known because of contemporary inscriptions:

[See: "Attic Building Accounts II. The Erechtheum," by William Bell Dinsmoor. American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1913), pp. 242-265 and "The Building Inscriptions of the Erechtheum: I. The Text of the Inscriptions, by Oliver M. Washburn. American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1906), pp. 1-3.]

Mnesicles, architect of the


, is thought to have been the architect of the Erechtheum, as well. It is believed he did not finish it.

The main rectangle of the Erechtheum is 65.5' x 37 and rests on 3 steps. The north and west sides are about 9' lower than the others. The main structure of the Erechtheum has 4 parts including the porch of the maidens, in the southwest corner of the Erechtheum, where the columns are not the typical Ionic columns, but caryatids, one of which Lord Elgin removed. The east side has a portico with 6 Ionic columns of about 2.5' in diameter and 22' in height, the north has 4 front, and one behind on each corner.

For more on the relevant myths, see Myth Monday - Athena and the First King(s) of Athens. For more on the Acropolis, see Topography of Ancient Athens.


  • The Attica of Pausanias, by Mitchell Carroll. Boston: Ginn and Company. 1907.
  • "Erechthum" The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Ed. M.C. Howatson and Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • "Erechthum" Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World. Ed. John Roberts. Oxford University Press, 2007.

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The Porch of the Maidens

Caryatids. CC Flickr User Alun Salt.

The Porch of the Maidens or "Korai", better known as Caryatids, is on the southwest side of the Erechtheum. The maidens or Caryatids hold up the structure like columns, the folds of their robes similar to the fluting of the nearby Ionic columns.

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Plan of the Erechtheum

Plan of the Erechtheum
Plan of the Erechtheum. "The Attica of Pausanias", by Mitchell Carroll. Boston: Ginn and Company. 1907.

This is a diagram of the Erechtheum with the adjacent old temple of Athena.