Sunday, June 08, 2014

The birth of Erechtheus

Erechtheus is the strange figure who stands at the root of Athenian culture - born in a most peculiar manner of god(s) and Earth. Erichtheus and Erichthonius are variants of the same character in early accounts, and ought not be confounded with Erichthonius of Dardania, an ancestor of the royal line of Troy.

Erechtheus is said to have taught the people certain key things:
When he grew up, Erichthonius drove out Amphictyon, who had usurped the throne from Cranaus twelve years earlier, and became king of Athens. He married Praxithea, a naiad, and had a son, Pandion I. During this time, Athena frequently protected him. He founded the Panathenaic Festival in the honor of Athena, and set up a wooden statue of her on the Acropolis. According to the Parian Chronicle, he taught his people to yoke horses and use them to pull chariots, to smelt silver, and to till the earth with a plough. It was said that Erichthonius was lame of his feet and that he consequently invented the quadriga, or four-horse chariot to get around easier. He is said to have competed often as a chariot driver in games. Zeus was said to have been so impressed with his skill that he raised him to the heavens to become the constellation of the Charioteer (Auriga) after his death.
The best known version of his birth comes from the Bibliotheca,
Hephaestus attempted to rape Athena but was unsuccessful. His semen fell on the ground, impregnating Gaia. Gaia didn't want the infant Erichthonius, so she gave the baby to the goddess Athena. Athena gave the baby in a box to three women—Aglaulus and her two sisters Herse and Pandrosus—and warned them to never open it. Aglaulus and Herse opened the box. The sight of the infant caused them both to go insane and they threw themselves off the Acropolis,[2] or, according to Hyginus, into the sea.[3]
This blog's title image is from Rubens' illustration of this tale. The Erechtheion in Athens, a temple to both Athena and Poseidon, was named for Erechtheus.

Added: More about Erikthonios and Erechtheus

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