The intriguing work of architecture known as the Erechtheion shares the spotlight with the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis. However, the Erechtheion features something special that sets it apart from the famous temple of Athena Parthenos, and that is its stunning Caryatid Porch (this porch, incidentally, is sometimes referred to as the Porch of the Maidens).
Caryatids are statues that serve both a decorative and structural function (here the caryatids stand on the south side of the Erechtheion). These graceful supports were carved to resemble beautiful maidens. And with their delicate hanging folds of drapery the series of six caryatids cleverly mimic the fluting of an Ionic column.
In addition to the compelling Caryatid Porch, the Erechtheion also has some other noteworthy features. Legend has it that the monument marks the spot on the Acropolis where the mythological contest between the gods Athena and Poseidon took place. According to myth, the two deities were competing to decide which one would claim Athens as their city - Athena brought forth an olive tree, while Poseidon created a salt water spring. And the site of the Erechtheion has shrines sacred to other legendary figures, including Erechtheus, Kekrops, and Bootes.
Learn more about the gods Athena and Poseidon at Mythography.
Art and Experience in Classical Greece
Professor J.J. Pollitt puts the Classical period in perspective, using dynamic descriptions of some of the most memorable works from this time of artistic brilliance. There is an insightful discussion of the Erechtheion in this book, with images to illustrate the text.
This beautifully illustrated book (from the Phaidon Art and Ideas series and written by Nigel Spivey) covers the subject of ancient Greek art brilliantly.