The Erechtheion on the Acropolis of Athens


Where Poseidon and Athena battled for patronage of Athens.
Built between 421BC and 406 BC, the Erechtheion is situated on the Acropolis of Athens. It was almost entirely destroyed by a Turkish shell in 1827.

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Where is the Erechtheion

Built between 421 BC and 406 BC, the Erechtheion is situated on the Acropolis of Athens. It is said to be where Poseidon left his trident marks on a rock, and Athena’s olive tree sprouted in their battle for the city’s patronage.

Named after Erechtheus, one of the mythical kings of Athens, the temple was a sanctuary to both Athena and Poseidon.

It was designed by the notable architect Mnesikles, and was a complex building constructed over 20 years. It replaced the “Archaios Neos” (Ancient Temple) of Athena Polias, part of which had been destroyed by the Persians sixty years earlier, around 466 BC.

The new temple was divided into two chambers: an eastern room dedicated to Athena, which held the goddess’ wooden cult statue, and a lower western room that accommodated shrines of Poseidon-Erechtheus, Hephaistos and Boutes, the brother of Erechtheus.

The Erechtheion’s unusual form resulted from the architect’s need to accommodate the cults of Athena and Poseidon within the building, while also taking into account the uneven ground it was going to be built upon. It also had to incorporate the sacred symbols of Poseidon’s struggle with Athena for leadership over Αthens.

The Erechtheion has been used for a range of purposes, including a harem for the wives of the Ottoman commander in 1463. 

It was almost entirely destroyed by a Turkish shell in 1827 during the War of Independence.

The Caryatid Porch of the Maidens.

The Caryatid Porch of the Maidens, located on the south side of the Erechtheion, is one of the temple’s most iconic and recognizable features.

The six female figures, known as caryatids that support the entablature, are sculpted in slightly different poses and dressed in flowing garments. It is believed that the Caryatid Porch was intended to be used as an entrance for women, as men would have used the main entrance on the east side of the temple.

The East Pediment Sculptures

The East Pediment Sculptures of the Erechtheion are some of the most well-preserved and detailed examples of Classical Greek sculpture. The pediment, which is located above the temple’s main entrance on the east side, depicts a scene from the Greek myth of Athena and Poseidon.

The figures in the pediment are larger than life-size and highly realistic, conveying a sense of movement and drama. The sculptures are believed to have been created by some of the most famous Greek sculptors of the time, including Paeonius and Alcamenes.

The Statue of Athena

Athena was the deity of Athens and the goddess of wisdom and warriors. The statue of Athena was a colossal bronze statue of Athena sculpted by Pheidias, which stood between the Propylaea and the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens. Pheidias also sculpted two other figures of Athena on the Acropolis of Athens.

The statue of Athens was one of the earliest recorded works by Pheidias. It was originally a well-known and famous Athenian landmark. According to the Greek traveller and geographer, Pausanias, “the top of Athena’s helmet and the tip of her spear could be seen by sailors and anyone approaching Athens from Attica, at Sounion”.

The Olive Tree

According to Greek mythology, upon his establishment of the newly founded city of Attica, king Cecrops desired to appoint a patron deity and protector over his new city. Poseidon (Olympic god of the sea, earthquakes, and horses) and Athena (Olympic goddess of wisdom, craft, and war) desired to claim the ancient Greek city.

Appearing before king Cecrops and a gathering of the people of Attica on the Acropolis, it was decided that a contest between the two mighty Olympians would be held. Whoever could bestow the most useful gift to the people of Attica would be declared patron deity and have the city named in their honour.

Poseidon was the first to present his gift; striking a rock with a powerful blow of his trident, a spring of saltwater burst through. Athena came next; as she thrust her spear into the ground of the Acropolis, she knelt down and planted an olive branch in the hole, which quickly grew into Greece’s very first olive tree.

King Cecrops and the people of Attica deliberated the usefulness of the gifts. Poseidon’s spring made of saltwater was not suitable for drinking or much else. Yet, Athena’s precious gift proved ideal for an abundance of purposes. Athena was hailed the winner of the competition and was crowned patron goddess and protector of the city of Attica. Their people adopted the name Athens in her honour.

The trident marks of Poseidon

According to the mythical battle between Poseidon and Athen, a trident struck the temple’s base to bring forth the well of saltwater. Those marks are still visible today.

Stand at the top of the stairs leading up to the Propylaea for a wide shot of the temple.

For a closer shot of the Caryatid Porch, head to the southwest corner of the temple.

The best views of the East Pediment sculptures are from the temple’s north side.

To get a photo of the Athena statue, walk over to the Propylaea and stand in front of the building.

For a photo with the Parthenon in the background, walk to the southeast corner of the Erechtheion.

The Erechtheion is located on the Acropolis of Athens and therefore has the same opening hours.

Summer (April 1st to October 31st)

Monday – Sunday 08:00 – 20:00

Winter (November 1st to March 31st)

Monday – Sunday 09:00 – 18:00


January 1st, March 25th, May 1st, Easter Sunday, December 25th and 26th

Thanks to the Greek Government, from the beginning of 2021, visitors with mobility issues now have access to the Erechtheion, the Parthenon and the Acropolis of Athens thanks to a new lift and specially designed paths facilitating wheelchair access.

The modern lift, which replaces a repeatedly malfunctioning one, is located on the north face of the Acropolis along the ancient promenade and will transport wheelchair users and individuals with Disabilities and Impairments to the top of the hill.

The specially designed and renovated 500-meter-long and four-meter-wide pathways also provide access to and around the Parthenon.

My photos of the Erechtheion

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