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Porch of the Caryatids

Erechtheion, Athens by Joy of Museum - 2

Porch of the Caryatids

The Porch of the Caryatids is part of the Erechtheion which is an ancient Greek temple on the Acropolis of Athens in Greece which was dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. The Erectheum was constructed between 421 – 406 BC and at the south side of the Erechtheion facing the Parthenon, is the famous “Porch of the Maidens”, with six draped female figures called Caryatids as supporting columns. The porch was initially intended to be more massive and imposing. Unfortunately, it was drastically reduced in size and budget after the onset of the Peloponnesian war.

The six draped female figures are called caryatids and they serve as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head.  Although of the same height the six Caryatids are not the same, their faces, stance, draping, and hair are carved differently. Also, the three on the left stand on their right foot, while the three on the right stand on their left foot. Their bulky, intricately arranged hairstyles serve the purpose of providing support to their necks, which would otherwise be the thinnest and structurally weakest part.

The Romans copied the Erechtheion caryatids, installing copies in the Forum of Augustus and the Pantheon in Rome, and at Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli. Another Roman example, found on the Via Appia, is the Townley Caryatid exhibited at the British Museum. In 1800 one of the Caryatids was removed by Lord Elgin to decorate his Scottish mansion. It was later sold to the British Museum where they can be seen today. In modern times, the practice of integrating caryatids into building facades was revived and can be found on many classical building, and they also made their way into building interiors, they began to be employed in fireplaces.

Today the original Caryatids of Erechtheum are not at the Temple on the Acropolis; they are replicas. The original surviving Caryatids are in The Acropolis Museum for their protection, conservation and restoration. The Acropolis Museum is a short distance from the Acropolis site and has many artefacts from the Acropolis.

Exploring the Caryatids

Reflections

  • Is this ancient temple one the must-see Historic sites?
  • After multiple invasions and attacks, is it a miracle that this building has survived?
  • From a sacred temple with holy relics to an Ottoman harem, have the “Porch of the Maidens” had a front-row seat to Greek History?

Porch of the Caryatids

  • Name:               Porch of the Caryatids
  • Date:                  421 – 406 BC
  • City:                   Athens
  • Country:           Greece
  • Location:          Athens, Attica, Greece

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“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day.
You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”

– Epicurus

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Photo Credit: JOM