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Definition: Caryatids are sculptural, draped, female figures used instead of columns to support the entablatures of temples. Their origins are unclear. The ancient engineer Vitruvius claims caryatids are named after the women of a Spartan town (Karyai) as punishment for their betrayal during the Persian Wars (492 - 449 B.C.). However, caryatids were created before the Persian Wars in the Near East and in Greece, at Delphi and Athens. They were also used on decorative objects. The name Caryatid may come from the posture of women worshiping at the festival at Karyai of Artemis Karyatis.


  • Kenneth D. S. Lapatin "Caryatids" The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford University Press, 2001.

For more on Artemis at Karyatis, see:

  • "Landscapes of Artemis," by Susan Guettel Cole. The Classical World, Vol. 93, No. 5, The Organization of Space in Antiquity (May - Jun., 2000), pp. 471-481., and
  • "The Eleventh Ode of Bacchylides: Hera, Artemis, and the Absence of Dionysos," by Richard Seaford. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 108, (1988), pp. 118-136.

Caryatids are sometimes called korai maidens.

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Also Known As: column shafts
Alternate Spellings: karyatids
The most famous caryatids are on the Erechtheum's Caryatid Porch, on the Acropolis, in Athens (and also one now among the Elgin Marbles at London's British Museum). There the caryatids were called korai (maidens). Copies of the Erechtheum caryatids adorned the forum Augustum, the Pantheon, and Hadrian's villa at Tibur.

Canephorae refers to caryatids with baskets on their heads.


  • "caryatids" Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World. Ed. John Roberts, and "caryatid" The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists. Ed Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press 2007 & 2009.

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