Sitting on top of the Acropolis, the Parthenon is one of the most dazzling buildings from antiquity, but for 2,000 years we have been getting its name wrong, according to new research. Dutch scholars claim that the name “Parthenon” – popularised in the Roman period - originally belonged to an entirely different building, not the vast stone temple that looms over Athens and attracts millions of tourists a year.

The real Parthenon was in fact an ancient Hellenic treasury which contained offerings to the goddess Athena, according to the research by Utrecht University. Today known as the Erechtheion, it is located about 100 yards from the main temple on the Acropolis, the massive rocky escarpment that rises from central Athens. Rather than being known as the Parthenon, the big temple should be known by its original ancient Hellenic name, the Hekatompedon. Janric van Rookhuijzen, the archeologist behind the research, told The Telegraph

"That means ‘the hundred-foot temple’ and the main room of the big temple was indeed exactly 100 feet long,"

He acknowledges that Hekatompedon, which is mentioned in archives dating back 2,500 years, does not exactly roll off the tongue. A more user-friendly name would be “The Great Temple of Athena.”

"Hekatompedon is a difficult name to pronounce. That may be part of the reason that Parthenon caught on – it was much more catchy."

Dr van Rookhuijzen says his research, based on a study of archeological data and ancient texts, did not go down very well initially with Greek archeologists.

"My Greek friends and colleagues were of course very suspicious – who is this Dutch guy saying the name should be changed? But they’re now saying there is some merit to the theory I have put forward."

Parthenon means “house of virgins” and the smaller temple is indeed decorated with stone caryatids, sculpted female figures which act as pillars, holding up the roof. Devoted to the ancient cult of Athena, it would have housed a treasury containing precious objects associated with the Goddess, including musical instruments and swords from Persia.

Josine Blok, professor emeritus of ancient cultures at Utrecht University, said:

"Where the scientific community is concerned, Van Rookhuijzen's insight will cause a minor seismic shift. Not only will the names need to be adjusted, this changes our image of the cult of the goddess Athena and the Acropolis as a whole."

Ineke Sluiter, professor of Greek language and literature at Leiden University, said:

This study demonstrates the permanent importance of never blindly trusting that the commonly-held wisdom is actually true."

The research has been published in the American Journal of Archaeology and the Dutch edition of National Geographic Magazine.