Erechtheion. ATHENS. 2. Route. 55
Near the N. margin of the plateau of the Acropolis, not like
the Parthenon on an elevated terrace but in a slight depression,
lies the **Eiechtheion('Ep£yt^sio^,Erechtheum), on the site of the
ancient temple of Erechtheus, which contained the shrines of
Athena Polias, or Athena the guardian of the city, and several other
deities. It occupies the sacred spot on which Athena victoriously
strove with Poseidon for the possession of Athens. The olive-tree,
which the goddess called forth, and the impression made by the
trident of Poseidon in producing a spring of salt water, were both
shown to the reverent worshippers in the ancient fane. When the
temple was burned down by the Persians in B.C. 480 the olive-tree
also was destroyed; but within two days from this catastrophe it
had put forth a new shoot, an ell in length. The rebuilding of the
sanctuary was probably begun soon after the Peace of Nikias, during
the brief breathing-space in the Peloponnesian War; but the work
had to be suspended in the troublous times of 413-411 and was
not completed till 407 or perhaps not till after 400 (comp. p. c).
In religious character as well as in architecture the Erechtheion
was exclusively an Ionic shrine. The temple was surrounded by a
sacred precinct, embellished with many statues. Its original external
form is still to be traced in the present ruins, but the arrangements
of the interior, which has undergone numerous vicissitudes, serving
at one time as a Christian church and at another as a Turkish
harem, cannot now be determined with exactitude.
A glance at the ground-plan (see Plan of the Acropolis, p. 38)
shows a complete divergence from the ordinary form of Grecian
temples. The main portion is 651/2 ft. long and 37 ft. wide and was
covered by a gabled roof. Prof. Dorpfeld has recently endeavoured
to show that the original plans provided for a corresponding W.
wing (never erected), which would have converted the Erechtheion
into an amphiprostyle temple. The main or oblong portion stands,
as seen from the S. and E., on a Krepis or basement of three steps.
The steps are 10 in. high and 13 in. wide ; the walls and bases of
the columns approach almost to the edge of the uppermost step.
Three vestibules (Tcpoaxaoeit;), on the E., N., and S., exhibiting the
most pleasing variety of style and each a gem of architecture, form
the entrances to the temple. After the destruction in 1827 the
Portico of the Caryatides and the side-walls of the temple were
restored in 1845 with the stones of the ancient building, and similar
materials were used in 1905-7 by M. Balanos, the Acropolis engineer,
in restoring the pilasters and intervening walls of the W. facade,
together with the architrave and a corner of the pediment, the W.
two-thirds of the architrave and roof of the N. vestibule, the S. wall,
and the architrave of the E. portico with a corner of the pediment.
The E. Portico is a prostyle of the simplest form with six Ionic
columns, of which the northernmost was carried off by Lord El¬
gin. The columns are 22 ft. high, including the capitals, which are