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The Erechtheion: cult, identity, and the cosmos
Efrosyni Boutsikas


The building called Erechtheion on the Athenian Acropolis was constructed over the most ancient cult spots of the city of Athens, the spots that constituted the core of the Athenians’ idea of autochthony. This notion of autochthony and divine descent does not merely define Athenian identity, but more significantly for this study, it emphasises the importance of the Attic landscape and earth in people’s national aspirations. Through a multidisciplinary approach this paper presents an example of how mutable and flexible the Greek religious system was and how it could be influenced by local traditions, perceptions of identity, myths and cult practice. This paper investigates the Erechtheion mythology, the cults it housed, and its surrounding landscape, to explain its shape and orientation, as the result of a long-lasting development of cults and rites carried out in that area of the Acropolis for almost a millennium prior to the construction of the present structure. This study demonstrates that the positioning of the Erechtheion operated as way of integrating it in its landscape and in the cosmos.