caryatides at the Acropolis in Athens

Caryatides at the Acropolis in Athens.

Caryatides (Plural of caryatis, literally "a woman of Caryae"), are female figures in Greek architecture, when used instead of columns to support an entablature. The traditional account of the origin of the name is that the inhabitants of Caryae, a city in Arcadia, having joined the Persians after the battle of Thermopylae, the Greeks, after their victory over the Persians, destroyed the town, slew the men, and carried the women into captivity. As males figures representing the Persians were already used for this purpose, it occurred to Praxiteles, and other Athenian artists, that female Caryatides, in their national costume, might be thus employed to commemorate the disgrace of their country. Male figures used for the same purpose are called Atlantes. The caryatides which form the portico of St Pancras Church (1822) in London are a reproduction from the Erchtheum on the Acropolis at Athens.