The Old Proof of Human Craving to Preserve Heritage Essay

Humans love their routes and even more love to bask in the glory of the accomplishment of their ancestors, and such attitude towards heritage has only manifested in modern times with the advent of museums. However, the level of wonder rises to an unbelievable degree when one discovers a piece of architecture as old as 421 BCE too clearly consolidates the above belief. That is the reason why this essay has chosen to describe Erechtheion, the building that was decidedly built to accommodate all possible nuances of ancient Greek heritage and culture. Background

Right after they completed Parthenon and the Propylaia, the city-states of Athens and Sparta and their respective allies got involved in the Peloponnesian Wars between 431 and 404 BCE, between which they had a peaceful period of six years under the regime of Nikias, and the Athenians didn’t miss that chance to fulfil the dream of their dead hero Perikles (died in 429 BCE), who wanted to restore the glory of Acropolis, and accordingly started constructing Athena Polias, which later became known as the Erechtheion (Syrigos, 1995), the work of which commenced on 421 BCE and finished around 406 BCE.

Erechtheion contains six larger than life maidens columns known as the Caryatids. According to mythology, it was here that Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and that Athena produced the Olive tree. Overall, the building proves to be a brilliant solution of both spiritual confluence and practical problems (Sanctuary, 2006). Architectural Details

The Erechtheion had two main entrances, on the north and east sides, where some columns from the east porch, comprising an ornamental pedestal supporting a fluted shaft of white marble and topped by a separately made capital, carried the flavour of neo-classical architecture, especially with their floral ornament of the necking and the delicate mouldings of the pedestal and capital (Cook, 1997). The uniqueness of this building lies in the fact that it contains more original features than any of its counterparts in Acropolis.

It can be classified by three separate independent sections like the central temple, the porch of the Caryatides and the north extension, all having separate roofs. Apart from that, it is built at four different levels and accordingly, Ionic columns of three different dimensions and proportions are used, besides Korai as supports for the entablature – the famous Caryatides (Erechtheion, 2008).

Otherwise the temple has two main parts, where once Athena reigned at the east and Poseidon-Erechtheus found their places at the west. In all, it reflected the compactness of classical Attic architecture. The frieze was created out of Eleusinian stone of a deep grey colour, and metal connecting pins set in the slabs were used to hold the relief figures. Once a gold lamp adorned inside, reportedly made by Kallimakhos, the artist accredited with the invention of the Corinthian capital (Syrigos, 1995).

There is no authentic document regarding the architect of this building, yet its Ionic structure would remind the genius of Mnesikles, who is regarded as one of the stalwarts of Greek architecture and who was known for his originality and his ability to provide functional adaptation to accommodate the multiple religious needs of so many cults, even amid the irregular basement (Syrigos, 1995). Another researcher Williamson (2008) too supports this idea, who opines, “The Erechtheion, built on the site of ancient sanctuaries on the Athenian Acropolis, is so unlike every other Greek temple that some have dismissed it as an aberration.

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Rather, it is the result of its architect, probably Mnesikles, applying inventive skill to accommodate a complex web of religious relationships. The Erechtheion provides evidence that the craft tradition of architecture, hobbled by convention, was giving place to a new creative approach to design. ” Proof of Craving to Preserve Heritage It is this meticulous projection of religious confluence of Greece separates Erechtheion in dignity, as it comprehensively covered the spiritual milieu of ancient Greece within its chambers and its temenos (sacred courtyard).

Though the structure primarily facilitated worship of Athena Polias and Poseidon, it meticulously accommodated a host of other important characters/elements of Greek Mythology, like the graves of Erechtheus with the sacred snake, and of Kekrops, the ancestors of the Athenians, as well as the signs from Poseidon’s trident which produced water, the “Erechtheis Sea,” a well that contained salt water, and the marks from the thunderbolt of Zeus.

The altars of Zeus Hypatos, of Peseidon and Erechtheus, of Hephaistos, of the hero Boutes, of the Thyechoos, and the very ancient xoanon of Hermes, all were placed together there. And there was more – the sacred olive and the sanctuary of Pandrosos, which included the altar of Zeus Herkeios too found their places (Sanctuary, 2006). According Syrigos (1995), “the architect succeeded by subtle and ingenious use of the differences in level to produce an astonishing temple, which satisfied the requirements of all these cults. He respected the traditions and at the same time introduced striking innovations.

” Present Situation The unique temple was converted into a church during the Middle Ages, and later it was used as a harem for the ruler of Athens during the Turkish occupation. In 1801 the British ambassador, Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin, took a caryatid (which he later sold to the British Museum), replacing it with a plaster cast. The Erechtheion was partly rebuilt by the American School of Classical Studies. Now it again suffers depredations, this time from atmospheric pollution and the increasing pressure of tourism (Williamson, 2008).

Conclusion The evidences and discussion clearly points at the innate desire of the Greeks to preserve their heritage at one place, and the intensity of such desire brought the issue completing their mammoth task of creating Acropolis even after the war, which normally could be a period of general consolidation. Thus, apart from skill, innovativeness and beauty, which are tangible in Erechtheion, one intangible proof is right there, which proves human craving fore preserving their heritage and gather inspiration from it.


Cook, B. F. (1997). Ionic column from the ErechtheionThe Acropolis, Athens, Greece, about 420-415 BC in The Elgin Marbles. 2nd Edition: London, The British Museum Press. Retrieved 8 December 2008, from http://www. britishmuseum. org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/gr/i/ionic_col umn_-_the_erechtheion. aspx Erechtheion (2008). Retrieved 8 December 2008, from http://www. erechtheion. org/Docs/Lesk%20Erechtheion%20with%20figs%20sm. p df http://www. ne.

jp/asahi/daikannw/network/webacropol/erechtheio. html Sanctuary of Erechtheion. (2006). Retrieved 8 December 2008, from http://www. travelpod. com/travel- photo/rcl0906/turkey_greece06/1158590880/dscn03. jpg/tpod. html Syrigos, A. B. (1995). The Erechtheion. Retrieved 8 December 2008, from Williamson, M. (2008). The Erechtheion, Athens, Greece; Mnesikles(? ), architect, 421- ca. 406 b. c. Retrieved 8 December 2008, from http://warandgame. blogspot. com/2008/08/erechtheion. html

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