THE HEKATOMPEDON INSCRIPTION RECONSIDERED.
Menne C. Kosian
This is an topographical and social study of the so-called Hekatompedon inscription (IG I2, 4). A location on the Athenian
Acropolis for the Hekatompedon area is suggested north of the Peisistratid temple. This location is based on both epigraphical and
archaeological evidences. It also identifies some of Wiegand's minor buildings as part of the Hekatompedon. An architectural
reconstruction of this religious area is given for the sixth century B.C. The social part of this paper focuses on the reasons behind
the inscription and gives a hypothesis on the every day situation in this area on the Acropolis.*
This study has two objectives. The first is to give a location for the so-called Hekatompedon mentioned in IG I2, 4. This
Hekatompedon was the subject of many speculations. The now generally accepted idea is that of the Hekatompedon as being an
area somewhere on the Acropolis, instead of a building or even a temple. The remaining question in the discussion about this
Hekatompedon is the location of this area on the Athenian Acropolis. The second objective is to give some ideas of the reasons why
IG I2, 4 was erected on the Acropolis in 485/4 B.C.
The first objective, to give a location for the Hekatompedon, includes also an architectural reconstruction of the area. The main
evidence for the Hekatompedon is found in the Hekatompedon-inscription, and mainly in the lines 8-19. The inscription covers the
area between the temple and the great altar and, outside the temple, the Kekropion and the Hekatompedon (line 9-11). The area
first mentioned must be the open space between the Peisistratid temple of Athena on the Doerpfeld foundation and the Athena
altar east of it, because when the inscription was erected in 485/4 B.C. this was the only temple on the Acropolis 1). Outside this
temple was, according to the inscription, the Kekropion; the holy grave of Kekrops. The location of this Kekropion, west of the
Erechtheion, is given in IG I2, 372, and is known through evidence on the site today. The east-side of the Kekropion is clearly visible
as a niche in the west-wall of the Erechtheion (1, fig. 2). The floor-level of the Kekropion is also visible in the Erechtheion west-
wall: below the line A-B (fig. 2) the wall is roughly dressed, while above this line the wall is well finished. This gives a space between
the floor-level and the Acropolis rock of about 2 m. for the burial of the actual body of the hero (fig. 2). Peculiar stone-marks in
the west-wall of the Erechtheion mark the coping (C, fig. 2) and the foundation (D, fig. 2) of the north-wall of the Kekropion
temenos (3, fig. 2), later abutting the new built Erechtheion. On the south-side the Kekropion was walled by the terrace-wall of
the Peisistratid temple. When this temple was destroyed by the Persians a new southern temenos-wall was built on the temple
terrace, of which traces are still visible on the Porch of the Maidens (2, fig. 2). Because the back of the niche in the Erechtheion
was perpendicular to the north-wall of the later Pandroseion temenos, the north-wall of the Kekropion may have been parallel
to this Pandroseion wall. The Kekropion was probably entered from the temple terrace by a flight of steps 2). The Hekatompedon
is mentioned together with the Kekropion as outside the temple. Further indications for the location of this area are not given by
IG I2, 4.
The location of the Hekatompedon.
Because the Hekatompedon is mentioned together with the Kekropion I will focus on the area north of the temple for a location of
the Hekatompedon. This area was of special interest for the Athenians. Besides the grave of the mythical king Kekrops there
were many ancient cults. This was the place where the holy olive-tree of Athena stood, and where Poseidon or Zeus struck
Erechtheus. This spot was marked by five peculiar holes in the rock, which were said to be made by Poseidon's trident or Zeus'
thunderbolt. In both versions of the legend they mark the spot of the hero's grave; if Poseidon drove Erechtheus into the rock
with his trident it is obviously the hero's grave, and if Zeus struck the hero with a thunderbolt he should have been buried there,
since a person who was struck by lightning was buried on that very spot 3). Another holy place north of the temple was the so-
called thalassa, a salt-water spring. This was probably more a token for Aphrodite; the element from which she was born, than
for Poseidon 4). Both Aphrodite and her parents, Zeus Naios and Dione Naia according to one Athenian tradition, have been
worshipped in the Erechtheion, while there are no reverences to Poseidon on the Acropolis besides the holy marks of his trident 5).
Traces in the foundations of the Erechtheion indicate the existence of a temenos on the site of the cella of the Erechtheion 6).
This temenos preceded the Erechtheion as a place of worship for the ancient cults. This religious area north of the temple was
limited to the west by the building of the temenos-wall of the Pandroseion in the fifth century B.C. In my opinion the placement of
the west-wall of the Pandroseion temenos was not arbitrary. It was placed on that spot were according to the religious
tradition the area had its boundaries.
When we look for a Hekatompedon in this area we must look at the fifth century B.C. boundaries and take their location as pre-
existent. The inscription text starts with the area between the temple and the altar, and proceeds with the Kekropion and the
Hekatompedon, so describes the several entities from east, from the front-side of the temple. Following the text and starting
from the front-side of the temple, the religious area measures from the eastern orthostate of the Peisistratid temple to the
west-wall of the Pandroseion temenos about 100 Attic feet (i.e. 32.7 m.) (fig. 1). But was this the Hekatompedon? At least this
area matches with the location indicated in the inscription, and the religious character of the area also agrees with the
character of the inscription. This makes this location highly probable to be the Hekatompedon. So far nothing is said about the
appearance of the area. The inscription gives only one clue; the existence of treasuries (tamieion; line 14, and oikemata; line 17). I
will continue with an architectural study of this area and come to a reconstruction of the Hekatompedon.
The architectural reconstruction of the Hekatompedon.
The structures found in the area north of the Peisistratid temple go back to the Mycenaean city. Just northeast of the
Erechtheion are the remains of a fortified entrance. This entrance, which was built like the gate of the lions in Mycenae, once
formed one of the main entrances to the citadel. It was built on the lower terraces just underneath the Mycenaean palace. From
this gate ran a narrow road to the west, which was widening into a small plaza just north of the later Erechtheion. This plaza was
enclosed by terraces on the east and the south-side, forming some sort of theatral area, recalling on a modest scale the areas
for public spectacles which have been found in Crete in connection with the palaces of Cnossos and Phaestos. In the west this
plaza was limited by the cultplace of Poseidon or Zeus, marked with the holes in the Acropolis rock. Because the theatral area laid
some 50 cm higher than the Acropolis rock, we must assume that some coffer-dam of stone surrounded the cultplace keeping
the rock free from invading earth (VII, fig. 1). The theatral area was still existing in the fifth century B.C. It then became paved
with poros slabs and surrounded by steps, which replaced the old Mycenaean ramps, on which spectators could sit (VI, fig. 1). It is
most probably that this area was also in the Archaic period in use for religious ceremonies. To the north this theatral area was
limited by the Acropolis wall 7).
Other evidence for the reconstruction of the Hekatompedon is found in the foundations of the Erechtheion. Where the
foundations of the east-wall reaches the foundations of the south-wall cavities in the stones show that there might be a low
parapet of upright slabs when the Erechtheion was built (at point B, fig. 1). The altitude of these cavities show that this parapet
stood on a low terrace above the theatral area north of it 8). This parapet enclosed a temenos which later became the
Erechtheion. This temenos was narrower than its successor because there are no similar cavities in the foundations of the
north-wall of the Erechtheion. This give the opportunity to reconstruct a ramp from the theatral area to the terrace of the
temenos. From a point in line with the eastern jamb of the door to the Porch of the Maidens (from point A, fig. 1) eastward the wall
of the foundations of the peristyle of the Peisistratid temple is dressed to an even face (III, fig. 1). This dressing is visible for about
2.5 m. before the Erechtheion walls come to close to the temple terrace. The dressing of this wall shows that from that point
eastward it must have been visible 9). In my opinion the dressed surface probably continues to the point where the eastern
parapet is reconstructed (IV, fig. 1). Together with the cavities which mark the eastern limits the temenos might be almost as
large as the Erechtheion (V, fig. 1). This temenos probably housed many of the cults of its successor.
L.B. Holland stated in his Erechtheum Papers that the existence of the Porch of the Maidens indicate that the stairs inside this
porch must have been pre-existing. The building of the porch was required to camouflage these stairs, otherwise they would
leave the Erechtheion through a simple door in the wall. Building the Porch of the Maidens gave them a better appearance,
incorporated in the new building 10). These stairs were probably the successors of the Mycenaean stairs from the lower
terraces to the terrace of the palace. The megaron of this palace is reconstructed just west of these stairs, underneath the
west-cella of the Peisistratid temple. If these stairs indeed go back to LH III, they might have existed also in the Archaic period,
leading from the Hekatompedon to the temple terrace. In that case there must have been a second flight of steps to climb the
ramp to the temenos terrace from the Hekatompedon level (fig. 1), otherwise they would have ended right in the ramp of the
The ground level of this western part of the Hekatompedon was probably on about the same height as that of the Pandroseion. In
the foundations of the north porch of the Erechtheion a poros step of pre-Periclean and post-Persian date is found which
indicates the entrance of the Pandroseion temenos in the beginning of the fifth century B.C. This step probably dates from the
comparatively cheap and rapid restoration of the sanctuaries after the Persian sack 11). It is unlikely that the area was raised
during this restoration, so the step not only indicates the early fifth century level, but also that of the sixth century B.C. (level II,
fig. 1). If so, the western part of the Hekatompedon laid about 2.30 m. lower than the temple terrace.
Another importing architectural feature of the Hekatompedon was the existence of treasuries (IG I2, 4, lines 14 and 17). The
existence of treasuries is in a religious area as described above very likely, e.g. the treasuries in Olympia, Delphi and on Delos are
all set in or at the rim of religious areas. The finding of various architectural remains of small buildings and the various small
fragments of pediment sculptures indicate the existence of treasury-like buildings on the Athenian Acropolis. These fragments,
described by Wiegand 12) are said to come from at least five minor buildings: Wiegand's building A-E. Further studies by Heberdey,
Dinsmoor and Beyer distinguish Wiegand's Building A into two separate buildings; Building A and Building Aa. This distinction is based
on the several pediment sculptures to be reconstructed on these buildings. Heberdey distinguished Building A into three different
buildings, based on the remains of the sculpture, but Dinsmoor's distinction based on the architecture is more likely. Wiegand's
Building B stood probably outside the citadel, on the terrace were Mnesikles' Pinacotheca was built. Of the other five buildings
Building D and E were built long after 480 B.C. 13). For a reconstruction of the Hekatompedon in the sixth and early fifth century B.C.
we must focus on the Buildings A, Aa and C. 14).
Based on the measurements of the triglyphs and architrave Wiegand calculated the width of his Building A as about 5.00 m.,
keeping the possibility for a pediment with a length of 3.80 m. This width is calculated with the premise that the building have had
four supports in the front 15). In analogy with the known treasuries it is likely that this building was distyle in antis. One of the
pediment sculptures that Beyer reconstructs on these buildings is the so-called 'ôlbaum'-pediment 16). This pediment, with an
image of a olive-tree suggests a strong link between this building and the holy olive-tree of Athena. Therefor this building, which I
call Temple A, might have been a small temple for Pandrosos. This temple probably stood in the northeast corner of the
Pandroseion area (XI, fig. 1). This temple might have survived the Persian sack, or else was reconstructed in the temenos after
480 B.C., because it is mentioned in texts of later date 17).
The other buildings were the treasuries mentioned in line 14 of the inscription. The building which Dinsmoor calls Building Aa was of
the about the same size and proportions as the Temple A described above; also about 5 m. wide. The exact length is unknown, but
when we take the proportions of the triglyphs as a standard proportion for the entire building, it was about 6.6 m. long. This
building might have had the painted lioness in the pediment 18). Building C was considerably larger: based on the width of the
triglyphs and metopes it was about 7.3 m. wide when distyle in antis 19). This width allows the Hydra pediment to be reconstructed
on this building. The length of this building would then be about 11.7 m., again taken the proportion of the triglyphs as a proportion
for the entire building. Both these treasuries can be placed in the open space north of the cult area, between the later
Pandroseion temenos and the Acropolis wall (X, fig. 1).
West of these treasuries a line of poros foundations of post-Persian date is found running from the Acropolis wall towards the
northwest corner of the Pandroseion temenos-wall 20). This probably was a fifth century retaining wall which formed a
boundary of the religious area. In earlier days this boundary could have been formed by the westernmost treasury. This
reconstruction of the area matches the inscription text and fits in the 100 Attic ft. area discussed above. This makes this area
very likely to be the Hekatompedon. Another proof might be found in the social-historic context of the inscription.
The social-historic context of the IG I2, 4.
In this part I want to discuss some possible reasons why the Hekatompedon inscription was set up. First we must define the type
of the inscription. In my opinion the IG I2, 4 was a 'taboo-inscription'; an inscription giving certain religious rules and prohibitions.
The inscription is addressed to the priests and other persons who carry out religious actions (tous hierorgontas; line 8). The
inscription prohibits the roasting of meat and dropping of dung between the temple and the altar, inside the Kekropion and in the
Hekatompedon. It also prohibits the use of the treasuries for occupation and the baking of bread (lines 14 and 15). Trespassers will
be punished with money-fines given by the inscription (lines 12 and 16). It seems unnecessary to give rules like this to priests,
because they should be the last to desecrate their sanctuaries. So why should these prohibitions be mentioned in an official decree?
I think the answer lies in the actions of the 'hierorgontas'. These 'hierorgontas' were permanently present on the
Acropolis, and carried out the sacrifices to the gods. The most important of these sacrifices were made to Athena, and were
carried out on the great altar east of the Peisistratid temple. For these sacrifices cattle was driven to the altar. This implies the
presence of waste around the altar and the road towards the altar. It seems probable to me that this waste was cleaned up
before the actual slaughtering ritual in the ritual of the cleansing, the 'katharsis' 21). Most of the sacrificial meat was probably
roasted on or near the altar and eaten by the priests and public 22). This also caused a certain amount of waste. After the
sacrificial ritual the altar area was cleansed with the blood of the animal 23). Before or during this kathartic ritual the waste
caused by the burning and eating of the sacrificial meat probably was cleaned up.
The waste must be carried out of the citadel, and the shortest way out of the citadel was the small gate northwest of the temple
which opened to a steep road to the sanctuary of Kekrops' daughter Aglauros 24). Another possible way out was the passage
near the later Arrephoreion a little east of this gate. This old Mycenaean passage was partly underground, and was used by the
Arrephoroi to carry their secret gifts to the sanctuary of Aphrodite 25). The 'hierorgontas' in charge of the cleansing had to
carry the waste via the road south of the temple to the gate or the passage. This longer way must been followed because the
short-cut over the Hekatompedon had the risk of dropping waste into a holy area.
In the beginning, when the temple and altar were still rather new it probably happened that way, but I can imagine that in time the
sense of duty of the 'hierorgontas' diluted; no one noticed, so the short-cut via the Hekatompedon was used. In this period I also
can imagine that the priests, when off duty, ate their meals on the ramps of the theatral area (VI, fig. 1) or even just outside the
temple on the steps into the Kekropion (I, fig. 1). For this purpose they even might have used the buildings in the Hekatompedon in
case of bad weather. Waste dropped while carried out of the Acropolis and the waste produced by the abuse of the
Hekatompedon might have caught the attention of visitors to this area the next day. At first they would have complained to the
priests, but when the abuse continued the complains reached the city council (lines 26 and 27). After a while the council made up a
decree to be placed on the Acropolis to end this abuse of holy areas. This decree was of course addressed to the 'hierorgontas',
the ones responsible for the maintenance of the sanctuaries.
Together with these prohibits the decree gave also a rule for the opening of the treasuries for the public: the treasuries must
be opened to the public at least three days a month, at the end of the month (lines 17 and 18). Possible there were some complains
about the visiting of the ancient shrines; they were closed or opened at irregular times so that the Athenians had no possibility to
visit their holy places on the Acropolis on other days than the festivals. The IG I2, 4 regulated the visiting times and guaranteed the
Athenians a place the worship of their gods worthy. It only was a pity that this decree functioned only for 4 or 5 years, until the
Persians destroyed the temple and probably much of the Hekatompedon. After 480/479 B.C. The area was hastily reconstructed,
and the cultic area was surrounded by a temenos-wall (VIII, fig. 1). This wall prevented the cultic area for most of the abuses, and
was always open for the public. With the post-Persian reconstruction of the Hekatompedon into the Pandroseion temenos the IG
I2, 4 had no further use, and became even invisible after the building of Mnesikles' Propylaea.
* A brief summary of this paper was presented in Dialoog 4 (1992), a periodical of antiquity studies at the Free University at
Amsterdam (The Netherlands).
The following abbreviations are used:
Holland, I L.B. Holland, 'Erechtheum Papers I,' AJA 28 (1924) 1-23.
Holland, II L.B. Holland, 'Erechtheum Papers II,' AJA 28 (1924) 142-169.
Holland, III L.B. Holland, 'Erechtheum Papers III,' AJA 28 (1924) 402-425.
Holland, IV L.B. Holland, 'Erechtheum Papers IV,' AJA 28 (1924) 425-434.
Kawerau Drawings of the excavation of the Athenian Acropolis by Kawerau, republished in: J.A. Bundgaard, The excavation of the Acropolis (Copenhagen 1974).
1. W.H. Plommer, 'The Archaic Acropolis: Some Problems,' JHS 80 (1960) 127-159, 129, 134.
F. Preißhofen, 'Zur Topographie der Akropolis.'; Beitrag zu I. Beyer, 'Die Datierung der grossen
Reliefgiebel des alten Athenatempels der Akropolis,' AA 1977, 74-84, 78. This temple was probably
the 'megaron' in Herodotos 8.53, because it replaced the Mycenaean Megaron which laid on the same
2. G.P. Stevens, 'Architectural studies concerning the Acropolis of Athens,' Hesperia XV (1946) 73-106, 93-96.
3. G.W. Elderkin, 'The cults of the Erechtheion,' Hesperia X (1941) 113-124, 113.
L.B. Holland, II, 159.
4. Herodotos mentions the salt-water spring as a holy place of Poseidon, Herodotos 8.55.
5. Elderkin (supra n. 3) 119-122.
6. See infra p. 3.
7. Holland, II 158-160.
Holland, III 419-421.
Stevens (supra n. 2) 102.
8. Holland, I 21-23.
9. Holland, I 15.
10. Holland, IV 429.
11. Holland, I 10-12.
Holland, III 425.
12. T. Wiegand, Die Archaïsche Porosarchitektur der Akropolis zu Athen (Cassel and Leipzig 1904).
13. Plommer (supra n.1) 129.
14. Wiegand (supra n. 11) pls VII.1, XII, XIII.2, XIII.4.
For the date of the buildings see:
Nancy L. Klein, 'A Reconsideration of the Small Poros Buildings on the Athenian Acropolis,' a paper for
the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, AJA 95 (1991) 335. This paper suggests
a date of construction in approximately the same time as the construction of the Peisistratid temple.
15. Wiegand (supra n. 11) 148-153.
16. I. Beyer, 'Die Reliefgiebel des alten Athenatempels der Akropolis,' AA (1974) 639-651, 647.
17. Paus. 1.27.2.
Philochoros, in: Dion. Halik., de Deinarchos 3.
18. W.B. Dinsmoor, The Architecture of Ancient Greece (London 19503) 71.
Klein (supra n. 13).
19. Wiegand (supra n. 11) 162-164.
20. Kawerau figs. 4, 4A pls. 34, 37.1, 49.
Holland, III 425.
21. P. Stengel, Opferbräuche der Griechen (Darmstadt 1972, reprint of Berlin 1910) 14, 29.
22. Stengel (supra n. 20) 46, 132.
23. Stengel (supra n. 20) 17-19, 30.
24. Herodotos 8.53.
25. Paus. 1.27.3.
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