2014 | 15(3) | 119-133
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THE IDEA OF MAN AND DIVINITY IN ANTIQUITY PART I: The Caryatids on the Erechtheum at Athens. Questions of chronology and symbolism

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It might be thought that little new could be said about the Erechtheum, a building that has been studied in great detail over the centuries. And yet, there are still many uncertainties surrounding its purpose, not least the reason for the distinctive southern Caryatid porch. The date at which the Erechtheum was built is also uncertain. Not that one would realise this from current scholarship; it is still widely believed that construction began in 421 BC after the Peace of Nicias; then work was suspended and resumed in 408 BC. I had already argued against this position in 1985 (Vickers 1985), but even though there have been some valuable subsequent studies (e.g. King 1998; Shear 1999; Rubel 2000: 271–286; Lesk 2004;2007), I do not believe that my arguments have been satisfactorily met. I am grateful to my hosts in Gdansk for having provided the opportunity for another shot at the target, and for a restatement of the case that construction of the Erechtheum was only begun in 412 BC and that the Caryatid porch was intended to put current relations between Sparta and Persia in a bad light, in keeping with a tale told by Vitruvius.
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