The Caryatids on the Erechtheion of the Acropolis

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The Caryatids on the Erechtheion of the Acropolis
The Erechtheion, a temple dedicated to Athena Polias on the Athenian Acropolis, is a building that is mysterious in numerous ways. Even though the Erechtheion was one of the most significant of Athena’s shrines, relatively little is known about it. Especially when compared to the information available regarding the largest structure on the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Erechtheion is to some extent a mystery. Its unique architectural structure is due to the irregular terrain, which was too sacred to touch, on the northern side of the Acropolis. The temple was built on three different levels to accommodate the steep change in elevation making there a three-metre difference in height between the eastern and western parts. The Erechtheion Temple is divided into four parts, including the three central shrine rooms and two porches. The west end of the Erechtheion, one with a porch of columns on the north and one with a porch of Karyatids on the south, makes the building unusual, with its two side porches, enclosed front and elevated colonnade (Jeppesen). Although the Erechtheion is known for both its complexity and for the exquisite perfection to its details, its distinctive porch, supported by caryatid figures, is what makes the building stand out more than any other. The Erechtheion housed shrines to several gods, local deities, and heroes, in addition to the temple of Athena Polias (Robertson). It was also the site of several sacred spots, including the mark of Poseidon's trident spear, and the graves of the legendary Erechtheus and Kekrops (Elderkin). Each level of the Erechtheion has a specific purpose. To the east, from higher terrain is a six-column Ionic porch that housed the ancient wooden image of Athena. At the north is another Ionic porch that leads to the chamber of Erechtheus. The sacred olive tree of Athena is located in an open courtyard in the west of the Erechtheion. And finally to the south is the...