ERECHTHEUM, a temple on the acropolis at Athens, so called after the legendary founder of the city, Erechtheus, to whom a portion of it was dedicated. The date of the beginning of the building is uncertain; apparently, it was either just before the Peloponnesian War, 431 B.C., or immediately after the Peace of Nicias, 421 B.C. It remained, however, uncompleted until 409 B.C., when a commission was appointed to report upon its condition and carry it to completion. This was achieved, according to in scribed records, in 407 B.C. A fire seriously damaged it soon after it was finished, and extensive repairs were carried out in the first decade of the 4th century B.C. During the Roman period, probably towards the end of the 1st century A.D., the west end was recon structed with the addition of the present windows. During the middle ages it served as a church, and after the Turkish occupation became the harem of the commandant. Lord Elgin carried away to London, 1801-03, one of the columns of the east portico and one of the caryatides. These were later replaced by terra-cotta rep licas. The building was much injured during the siege of the Acropolis, 1827, and was partially reconstructed between 1838 and 1846. In 1852 the west wall fell during a storm. In the 2oth century a great deal of work has been done in reconstructing the building, using as far as possible the original blocks which remained on the site, together with information gathered from the detailed references in the inscriptions containing an account of the com pletion between 409 and 407 B.C. This work still (1928) continues.
The Erechtheum, as originally completed, consisted of a rec tangular cella or enclosed portion with a door and two windows opening on the east into an entrance portico of six columns. The western end of this enclosed portion is at a lower level and forms a narrow chamber entered from the north by a door of great richness under a portico with four columns at the front and one at each side. At the other end of the western chamber another door and a small flight of steps lead up to the famous caryatid porch at a higher level. The plan of the building seems obviously incom plete as the western wall meets both the northern portico and the caryatid porch in an awkward manner.
A recent stone by stone examination of the Erechtheum carried out under the direction of Gorham Stevens of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens seems to have proved, how ever, that the present plan, whatever its awkwardness, was the plan of the building as first built. Instead of the Roman windows of the present west front, there were, originally, merely wooden screens placed between columns. The same study has made more clear the original interior arrangement. The central foundation walls which suggested to earlier students the idea that the building was divided into nave and aisles like the Parthenon (q.v.) are now definitely known to belong to the interior reconstruction made when the building was turned into a Christian church in the 5th or 6th century. The roof is shown by the inscriptions to have been in one span from wall to wall with a central great girder, braced with diagonal braces in a wooden coffered ceiling.
Between the eastern and western portions a marble partition ran through the entire height, dividing the building into two por tions, entirely separate, without communication. The western section was apparently divided by low screen walls into a passage leading from the north porch to the caryatid porch and two cham bers to the east. From the passage a third door led south into the sacred precinct known as the Pandroseion. In the south-west corner of the passage, large blocks of marble bridged over a deep hole or crypt. During the mediaeval period a cistern was built under this portion of the building and destroyed all vestiges of what was below. It is probable, however, that here was located the legendary salt spring or sea and the mark of Poseidon's tri dent in the rock. In the wall above this corner there was a curious section of projecting stone like a canopy, with a recess in the wall above it as if for a sacred object. In the north portico a square hole in the floor gives access to a crypt below ; immediately above this there was a similar hole through the ceiling and roof. Recent research has proved that around the hole in the floor there was a hollow altar. The opening in the roof at once suggests a connection with the sky powers and the altar would thus be that of Zeus Hypatos, mentioned by Pausanius. Deep depressions in the floor of the crypt under the hole would then be identified as marks of the thunderbolt of Zeus.
According to Pausanius the Erechtheum contained a shrine of Athena Polias, an altar dedicated to Poseidon and Erechtheus, one to Butes and one to Hephaestus, as well as the golden lamp of Callimachus and portraits of the family of the Butadae.
See Stuart and Revett, Antiquities of Athens (1825) ; W. Dorpfeld, "Der ursprungliche Plan des Erechtheion" in Mitteil. Athen. (19o4) ; A. Choisy, Etude sur l'Architecture Grecque, III. (1884) ; and for a most thorough examination of the problems presented by the Erech theum, and a restoration, together with the complete text and a translation of the inscriptions, see G. P. Stevens and others, J. M. Paton, ed., The Erechtheum, Measured, Drawn and Restored (1927) . See also ATHENS. (T. F. H.)