A Battle for Athens Yields the Acropolis' Most Sacred Spot
See our full list of Where to Go in 2015. According to legend, the ancient gods battled it out to become Athens' patron deity. The showdown came after the Phoenicians founded a city at a giant rock near the Aegean some two and a half million years ago. The gods of Olympus issued a challenge: the deity who could provide the most valuable legacy for mortals would become the city's namesake. Athena, goddess of wisdom, produced an olive tree, symbol of peace and prosperity. Poseidon, god of the sea, pounded his trident into the ground and out came a saltwater spring (or a horse, depending on the legend you read). The gods decided Athena's gift would serve the city better with food, oil, and wood. To this day, her legacy is revered throughout Greece. Named after Erechtheus, a mythical king of Athens, the Erechtheion is Ionic architecture at its finest, easily recognizable by the Caryatids, six larger-than-life maidens modeled on women from ancient Karyai who seem to be casually supporting its southern portico. Those holding up the porch now are plaster casts; the originals are preserved in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
Outside of the Parthenon, the Erechtheum is an amazing work of art. It's hard at times to imagine this building in its full glory, but the odd shape and the added Porch of the Caryatids makes me look at this temple as the height of ancient Greek architecture before the fall of the Greek Empire.