Erechtheus, King of Athens

ErechtheusAccording to one tradition, Erechtheus was a hero and king of Athens. Returning from Egypt with wheat, a symbol of prosperity, he helped the city when it was facing pestilence. Recognizing his efforts, the people of Athens made him their leader and king. Dropping the old titles “Cecropides”, the new name “Athenians” was coined for the city’s inhabitants.

In addition, Erechtheus is associated with the establishment of the mysteries in Eleusis and the organization of the Panathenaia, a great festival that honored the goddess Athena. According to tradition, Erechtheus’ patriotism and relationship with the goddess Athena came either from his upbringing by the goddess or from the fact that he was the son of Hephaestus and Gaia, i.e. god and mortal.

As for his family, there are several variations. In one traditional version, Erechtheus married the nymph Praxithea and together they had three sons (Cecrops, Pandora and Mition) and four daughters (Procni, Creusa, Chthonia and Oreithyia). Other versions add or change the names of the children.

Finally, there is also a different myth that mentions that the son of Erechtheus was Pandion. This version states that Pandion had two sons (Erechthea and Boutis) and two daughters (Procni and Philomela). Erechtheus inherited the kingdom, while Boutis became a priest of Athena and founder of the family of Boutadas or Eteoboutadas, who were hereditary priests of the goddess.

Erechtheus married Praxithea and had three sons with her, Cecrops, Pandora and Mition, and four girls, Prokrida, Kreusa, Chthonia and Oreithyia. Boreas seized Oreithyia and gave birth to Chioni with her.

Chione in turn united secretly with Poseidon and gave birth to Eumolpus. So that Boreas would not discover her, as soon as the child was born, he threw it into the sea. Poseidon took it and gave it to Benthesikimi to raise.

After some time and various wanderings, Eumolpus found himself in Thrace with his son Ismarus, seeking refuge from King Tegyrios. But because he wanted to overthrow Tegyrios, he was forced to leave and thus ended up in Eleusis, where he organized the religious ceremonies and established the Eleusinian Mysteries.

At some point, after the death of his son, he returned to Thrace, near Tegyrios and took the kingdom of his son Ismarus. After a while war broke out between Athens and Eleusis. The Eleusinians sought his help. Eumolpus with an army arrived outside Athens, claiming the throne, as the son of Poseidon.

In the conflict between the two armies, Erechtheus won and the Eleusinians became vassals of the Athenians. But they retained the right to celebrate the Eleusinian Mysteries. In the battle above Erechtheus killed Eumolpus. Poseidon was angry with Erechtheus and asked Zeus for his punishment.

Zeus, fulfilling Poseidon’s wish, killed Erechtheus with a thunderbolt. According to another tradition, Poseidon himself killed him, hitting him on the head with his trident. From the many blows Erechtheus’ head was thrust into a chasm in the earth.