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ERECHTHEUS
A mythical king of Athens. According to Homer he was the son of Earth by Hephaestus, and brought up by Athene. Like that of Cecrops, half of his form was that of a snake-a sign that he was one of the aborigines. Athene put the child in a chest which she gave to the daughters of Cecrops, Agraulos, Herse, and Pandrosos, to take care of; forbidding them at the same time to open it. The two eldest disobeyed, and in terror at the serpent-shaped child (or according to another version, the snake that surrounded the child), they went mad, and threw themselves from the rocks of the Acropolis. Another account made the serpent kill them. Erechtheus drove out Amphictyon, and got possession of the kingdom. He then established the worship of Athene, and built to her, as goddess of the city (Polias), a temple, named after him the Erechtheum. Here he was afterwards worshipped himself with Athene and Poseidon. He was also the founder of the Panathenaic festival. He was said to have invented the four-wheeled chariot, and to have been taken up to heaven for this by Zeus, and set in the sky as the constellation of the charioteer. His daughters were Orithyia and Procris (see BOREAS and CEPHALUS). Originally identified with Erichthonius, he was in later times distinguished from him, and was regarded as his grandson, and as son of Pandion and Zeuxippe. His twin brother was Butes, his sisters Procne and Philomela. The priestly office fell to Butes, while Erechtheus assumed the functions of royalty. By Praxithea, the daughter of Cephissus, he Was father of the second Cecrops (see PANDION, 2), of Metion (see DAeDALUS); of Creusa (see ION), as well as of Protogoneia, Pandora, and Chthonia. When Athens was pressed hard by the Eleusinians under Eumolpus, the oracle promised him the victory if he would sacrifice one of his daughters. He chose the youngest, Chthonia; but Protogeneia and Pandora, who had made a vow with their sister to die with her, voluntarily shared her fate. Erechtheus conquered his enemies and slew Eumolpus, but was afterwards destroyed by the trident of his enemy's father, Poseidon.
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