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Erechtheum, from SW

The Erechtheum, or Erecththeion, is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens in Greece, notable for a design that is both elegant and unusual.

The temple as seen today was built between 421 BC and 407 BC, but it is believed to be a replacement for an older temple, since it is on the site of some of the most ancient and holy relics of the Athenians, including the mark of Poseidon's trident, a wooden statue of Athena that was believed to have fallen from heaven, the tomb of Cecrops, the tomb of Erechtheus, a salt water well, and the original sacred olive tree of Athena.

The need to preserve sacred sites likely explains the complex design. The main structure consists of four compartments, the largest being the east cella, with an Ionic portico on its east end. On the north side, there is another large porch with columns, and on the south, the famous "porch of the maidens", with six draped female figures (Caryatids) as supporting columns. The entire temple is on a slope, so the west and north sides are about 3 m (9 ft) lower than the south and east sides.

The internal layout has been obscured by the temple's later use as a church and as a Turkish harem.

The intact Erechtheum was extensively described by Pausanias (1.26.5 - 27.3).