Erechtheion

Greek Mythology

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Delphi’s neck was hurting.  Everything about the buildings on the Acropolis made you look up, up to the heights, where the gods look down at you.  They probably built it like that on purpose.  Then she saw the statues holding up the roof of the Erechtheion temple and decided that their necks probably had it worse.


She got as close as she dared, then leant back and went on tip toes, trying to see inside.

 
There were all sorts of stories about this place.  It was here that the god of the sea, Poseidon, had challenged the goddess Athena for control of the city.  Poseidon had struck the floor of the temple with his trident, making water flow, but then Athena had struck the ground with her spear and made an olive tree grow.  The people had judged Athena’s gift more useful, because they had loads of water anyway and olives hadn’t been invented yet, and so the city had been called Athens in her honour.


Delphi could see the olive tree from where she sat.  Apparently, though she’d have to sneak in to check, there was still a hole in the floor where Poseidon’s trident had struck.  There was even a hole in the roof where Zeus had sent one of his thunderbolts to kill Erechtheus, the man whose name had been given to the temple.


Delphi liked these stories.  It made her feel connected, to her city, to her gods.  She couldn’t quite decide whether she thought they were true or not.  But perhaps it didn’t matter.

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Erechtheion: Fact box

  • The Erechtheion is much smaller temple than the nearby Parthenon, but no less important.  It has a strange design as it is built on very uneven land, and different parts of the temple were built separately.

  • The statues holding up the roof of the ‘Porch of the Maidens’ are known as the Karyatides. These are actually copies - the original statues are in the nearby Acropolis museum, except for one, which is in the British Museum in London.

  • The olive tree that is there now isn’t really the one that Athena made grow!  It was planted there, to match the ancient story about Athena, much more recently. 

  • There are a huge number of stories from Greek mythology.  We might think of them just as entertaining stories but the Greeks took them very seriously as a way of explaining the world around them.  Not believing these stories were true was a serious crime in Ancient Greece!

Greek Mythology

The Greeks loved stories about the gods and heroes.  Some of the most famous heroes included:

 

  • Perseus: He is most famous for defeating the evil Gorgon Medusa, who could turn people to stone by looking at them.  He also rescued a woman from a fierce sea monster.

 

  • Heracles (also called Hercules): The strongest of heroes, Heracles completed 12 trials, including defeating a fierce lion, a boar, a three headed dog and more!

 

  • Jason: He went on an epic voyage across the sea to find the Golden Fleece.

 

  • Theseus: The hero of Athens, who famously entered a maze to defeat the Minotaur.

 

  • Achilles: One of the heroes of the Trojan War, and the greatest fighter of his age.

 

  • Odysseus: After the Trojan war, he embarked on a huge adventure to get home to his wife Penelope.

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