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Athens - Acropolis: Erechtheum - Porch of Caryatids

The Erectheum is situated on the most sacred site of the Acropolis. It is said to be where Poseidon left his trident marks in the rock, and Athena's olive tree sprouted, in their battle for possession of the city. Named after Erechtheus, one of the mythical kings of Athens, the temple was a sanctuary to both Athena Polias, and Erechtheus-Poseidon. Construction took many years, being halted during the brief respite of the Peloponnesian War referred to as the Peace of Nikias, and resuming in 410 BC. Best estimates have completion around 395 BC. It has been used for a range of purposes including a harem for the wives of the Turkish disdar in 1463. It was completely destroyed by a Turkish shell in 1827 during the War of Independence causing hated disputes over restoration.


The Erectheum has three main parts: the main section of the temple, the north porch, and thePorch of Caryatids. The main section is divided into an eastern and a western cella. The ledge above the door on the western cella to the Caryatid porch held Kammimachos' famous gold palm-tree lamp.


The South Porch is commonly called the Caryatid Porch. The women are caught midstride, with the three on the left sporting bent left knees and the remaining bent right. The identity of the Caryatids is unknown. Theories range from criminals forced to bear a heavy burden to the Arrephoroi chosen to deliver the peplos to Athena to young initiates of Artemis at Brauron to upper-class Athenian women. The southwest corner of the porch lies atop the Grave of Cecrops, so they could be his defenders. The ceiling coffers of the Caraytid Porch are almost entirely intact. Historians differ on whether they were paneled and painted dark blue with gold stars or inset with panels of colored glass.

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Taken on September 9, 2005