Erechtheus in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 was the name of an archaic king of Athens
King of Athens
Before the Athenian democracy, the tyrants, and the Archons, the city-state of Athens was ruled by kings. Most of these are probably mythical or only semi-historical...

, the re-founder of the polis
Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...

 and a double at Athens for Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

, as "Poseidon Erechtheus". A mythic Erechtheus and an Erechtheus given a human genealogy and set in a historicizing context—if they ever were really distinguished by Athenians—were harmonized as one in Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

' lost tragedy Erechtheus, (423/22 BCE) . The name Erichthonius
Erichthonius of Athens
King Erichthonius was a mythological early ruler of ancient Athens, Greece. He was, according to some legends, autochthonous and raised by the goddess Athena. Early Greek texts do not distinguish between him and Erectheus, his grandson, but by the fourth century B.C...

 is carried by a son of Erechtheus, but Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 conflated the two names in the myth of the begetting of Erechtheus.

Athenians thought of themselves as Erechtheidai, the "sons of Erechtheus". In Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

 (2. 547–48) he is the son of "grain-giving Earth", reared by Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

. The earth-born son was sired by Hephaestus
Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods - or else, according to some accounts, of Hera alone. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes...

, whose semen Athena wiped from her thigh with a fillet of wool cast to earth, by which Gaia
Gaia (mythology)
Gaia was the primordial Earth-goddess in ancient Greek religion. Gaia was the great mother of all: the heavenly gods and Titans were descended from her union with Uranus , the sea-gods from her union with Pontus , the Giants from her mating with Tartarus and mortal creatures were sprung or born...

 was made pregnant.

In the contest for patronship of Athens between Poseidon and Athena, the salt spring on the Acropolis where Poseidon's trident struck was known as the sea of Erechtheus.

Erechtheus and the Erechtheum/Erechtheion

The central gods of the Athenian acropolis
Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens or Citadel of Athens is the best known acropolis in the world. Although there are many other acropoleis in Greece, the significance of the Acropolis of Athens is such that it is commonly known as The Acropolis without qualification...

 were Poseidon Erechtheus and Athena Polias, "Athena patron-guardian of the city". The Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

 (VII.81) already records that Athena returned to Athens and "entered the strong-built house of Erechtheus". The archaic joint temple built upon the spot that was identified as the Kekropion, the hero-grave of the mythic founder-king Cecrops
This name may refer to two legendary kings of Athens:* Cecrops I* Cecrops IIIt more often refers to Cecrops I, who was the better known....

 and the serpent that embodied his spirit was destroyed by the Persian forces in 480 BC, during the Greco-Persian wars
Greco-Persian Wars
The Greco-Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and city-states of the Hellenic world that started in 499 BC and lasted until 449 BC. The collision between the fractious political world of the Greeks and the enormous empire of the Persians began when Cyrus...

, and was replaced between 421 and 407 BCE by the famous present Erechtheum
The Erechtheion is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens in Greece.-Architecture:The temple as seen today was built between 421 and 406 BC. Its architect may have been Mnesicles, and it derived its name from a shrine dedicated to the legendary Greek hero Erichthonius...

. Continuity of the site made sacred by the presence of Cecrops is inherent in the reference in Nonnus
Nonnus of Panopolis , was a Greek epic poet. He was a native of Panopolis in the Egyptian Thebaid, and probably lived at the end of the 4th or early 5th century....

' Dionysiaca
The Dionysiaca is an ancient epic poem and the principal work of Nonnus. It is an epic in 48 books, the longest surviving poem from antiquity at 20,426 lines, composed in Homeric dialect and dactylic hexameters, the main subject of which is the life of Dionysus, his expedition to India, and his...

 to "Erechtheion lamp as "the lamp of Cecrops". Priests of the Erechtheum and the priestess of Athena jointly took part in the procession to Skira that inaugurated the Skira
The festival of the Skira or Skirophoria in the calendar of ancient Athens, closely associated with the Thesmophoria, marked the dissolution of the old year in May/June. At Athens, the last month of the year was Skirophorion, after the festival...

 festival near the end of the Athenian year. Their object was the temenos
Temenos is a piece of land cut off and assigned as an official domain, especially to kings and chiefs, or a piece of land marked off from common uses and dedicated to a god, a sanctuary, holy grove or holy precinct: The Pythian race-course is called a temenos, the sacred valley of the Nile is the ...

 at Skiron of the hero-seer Skiros, who had aided Eumolpus in the war between Athens and Eleusis in which Erechtheus II, the hero-king, was both triumphant and died.

That Poseidon and Erechtheus were two names at Athens for the same figure (see below) was demonstrated in the cult
Cult (religious practice)
In traditional usage, the cult of a religion, quite apart from its sacred writings , its theology or myths, or the personal faith of its believers, is the totality of external religious practice and observance, the neglect of which is the definition of impiety. Cult in this primary sense is...

 at the Erechtheum, where there was a single altar, a single priest and sacrifices were dedicated to Poseidon erechtheus, Walter Burkert observed, adding "An historian would say that a Homeric, pan-Hellenic name has been superimposed on an autochthonous, non-Greek name."

Erechtheus II, king of Athens

The second Erechtheus was given a historicizing genealogy as son and heir to King Pandion I
Pandion I
In Greek mythology, Pandion I was a legendary king of Athens, the son and heir to Erichthonius of Athens and his wife, the naiad Praxithea. He married a naiad, Zeuxippe, and they had four children, Erechtheus, Butes, Procne, and Philomela. His rule was unremarkable...

 of Athens by Zeuxippe
In Greek mythology, Zeuxippe was the name of several women. The name means "she who yokes horses," from zeugos, "yoke of beasts" / "pair of horses," and hippos, "horse."...

, this Pandion being son of Erichthonius. This later king Erechtheus may be distinguished as Erechtheus II. Erechtheus was father, by his wife Praxithea, of several daughters: Procris
In Greek mythology, Procris was the daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens and his wife, Praxithea. She married Cephalus, the son of Deioneus. Procris had at least two sisters, Creusa and Orithyia...

, Creusa
In Greek mythology, four people had the name Creusa ; the name simply means "princess".-Naiad:According to Pindar's 9th Pythian Ode, Creusa was a naiad and daughter of Gaia who bore Hypseus, King of the Lapiths to the river god Peneus. Hypseus had one daughter, Cyrene. When a lion attacked her...

, Chthonia and Oreithyia
Orithyia ; ) was the daughter of King Erechtheus of Athens and his wife, Praxithea, in Greek mythology. Her brothers were Cecrops, Pandorus, and Metion, and her sisters were Procris, Creusa, and Chthonia....


According to pseudo-Apollodorus, Erechtheus II had a twin brother named Butes
In Greek mythology, the name Butes referred to nine different people.*An Argonaut, son of Teleon and Zeuxippe . When the Argonauts were sailing past the Sirens, he was the only one to not resist the charm of their singing and swim off to them. But Aphrodite saved Butes by transferring him to...

 who married Erechtheus' daughter Chthonia, the "earth-born". Erechtheus and Butes divided the royal power possessed by Pandion, Erechtheus taking the physical rule but Butes taking the priesthood of Athena and Poseidon, this right being passed on to his descendants. This late origin myth
Origin myth
An origin myth is a myth that purports to describe the origin of some feature of the natural or social world. One type of origin myth is the cosmogonic myth, which describes the creation of the world...

 or aition justified and validated the descent of the hereditary priesthood.

The war with Eleusis

His reign was marked by the war between Athens and Eleusis, when the Eleusinians were commanded by Eumolpus
In Greek mythology, Eumolpus was the son of Poseidon and Chione. According to Apollodorus, Chione, daughter of Boreas and Oreithyia, pregnant with Eumolpus by Poseidon, was frightened of her father's reaction so she threw the baby into the ocean...

, coming from Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

. An oracle declared that Athens' survival depended on the death one of the three daughters of Erechtheus. Perhaps three unmarried daughters is meant. But in one version it is Chthonia who is sacrificed. In another both Protogeneia and Pandora, the two eldest, offer themselves up. In any case the remaining sisters (excepting Orithyia who had been kidnapped by Boreas), or at least some of them, are said to kill themselves. These unfortunate daughters of Erechtheus became the Hyacinthides upon their death.

In the following battle between the forces of Athens and Eleusis, Erechtheus won the battle and slew Eumolpus, but then himself fell, struck down by Poseidon's trident; according to fragments of Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

' tragedy Erechtheus.Poseidon avenged his son Eumolpus' death by driving him into the earth with blows of his trident,

The ending lines of Euripides' tragedy were recovered in 1965 from a papyrus fragment. They demonstrate for Walter Burkert that "the founding of the Erechtheum and the institution of the priestess of Athena coincide." Athena resolves the action by instructing Erichtheus' widow Praxithea
- Wife of Erichthonius :Praxithea was a Naiad nymph. According to Apollodorus Praxithea married Erichthonius of Athens and by him had a son named Pandion I...

...and for your husband I command a shrine to be constructed in the middle of the city; he will be known for him who killed him, under the name of 'sacred Poseidon'; but among the citizens, when the sacrificial cattle are slaughtered, he shall also be called 'Erechtheus'. To you, however, since you have rebuilt the city's foundations, I grant the duty of bringing in the preliminary fire-sacrifices for the city, and to be called my priestess."

In the Athenian king-list, Xuthus
In Greek mythology, Xuthus was a son of Hellen and Orseis and founder of the Achaean and Ionian nations. He had two sons by Creusa: Ion and Achaeus and a daughter named Diomede.- Hesiod :...

, the son-in-law of Erechtheus, was asked to choose his successor from among his many sons and chose Cecrops II
Cecrops II
Cecrops II was the legendary or semi-legendary son of Pandion I and inherited the Athenian throne from his brother Erechtheus.Cecrops is said to have divided his territory into twelve districts; to which Strabo assigns the names Cecropia, Tetrapolis, Exacria, Decelea, Eleusis, Aphidna;, Thoricus,...

, named for the mythic founder-king Cecrops
This name may refer to two legendary kings of Athens:* Cecrops I* Cecrops IIIt more often refers to Cecrops I, who was the better known....

. Thus Erechtheus is succeeded by Cecrops II, his brother, according to a fragment from the poet Castor but his son according to pseudo-Apollodorus (3.15.1).

Other sons of Erechtheus sometimes mentioned are Orneus
In Greek mythology, Orneus was the son of King Erechtheus and Praxithea and the father of Peteus. Through Peteus Orneus is the grandfather of Menestheus. The town of Orneae is believed to be named after him....

, Metion
In Greek mythology, Metion was a son of King Erechtheus of Athens or of Eupalamus, son of King Erechtheus. His sons later drove King Pandion II out of Athens into exile. Among these sons were Eupalamus, Sicyon, and Daedalus, though they are sometime credited with other parentages. These usurping...

, Pandorus
In Greek mythology, Pandorus was a son of Erichthonius II of Athens and Praxithea. Pandorus was also the sibling of Metion and Cecrops.Pandorus was a very accomplished archer who fought in Homer's Iliad. Typically archers were seen as inferior soldiers compared to swordsmen. In Book IV, he was...

, Thespius
Thespius was a legendary founder and king of Thespiae, Boeotia. His life account is considered part of Greek mythology.-Life account:...

, and Eupalamus.
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