Temple of Athena Nike, Athens

Begun in 427 BC, the Temple of Athena Nike ("Victorious Athena") in Athens was the first Ionic structure to be built on the Acropolis.

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History of the Temple of Athena Nike

The temple was begun around 427 BC and completed during the unrest of the Peloponnesian war. It was built over the remains of an earlier sixth century temple to Athena, demolished by the Persians in 480 BC.

The decision to build Athena Nike was an expression of Athens' ambitions to defeat Sparta and become a world power. Constructed from white marble, it was built in stages as wartime funding allowed.

The temple's small size was compensated for in its position, resting on a rocky outcrop, positioned so the Athenian people could worship the goddess of victory in hope of prosperous outcomes in the war's endeavours. Once the temple was completed the Athenians added a protective parapet to express their determination and hope for final victory.

The Temple of Athena Nike stood untouched until it was demolished in 1686 by the Turks, who used the stones to build defenses against the Venetians. It was later completely reassembled.

Today, the main structure, stylobate and columns remain largely intact, but the temple is missing a roof and most of the typanae. It is currently undergoing a major restoration project, involving extensive dismantling and reassembly of the building materials for cleaning.

What to See at the Temple of Athena Nike

The Temple of Athena Nike is a tetrastyle (four column) Ionic temple with colonnaded porticoes in the front and back. It has modest dimensions: 27 feet long, 18 1/2 feet wide, and 23 feet tall. The ratio of height to diameter of the columns is 7:1, the slender proportions creating an elegance and refinement not encountered in the normal 9:1 or 10:1 of Ionic buildings.

A cult statue of Athena Nike stood inside the small 5m x 5m naos. An account by the ancient writer Pausanias describes the statue as made of wood, holding a helmet in her left hand, and a pomegranate (symbol of fertility) in her right. Unlike the famous "Winged Victory of Samothrace" in the Louvre Museum, this Nike statue was wingless. This led Athenians in later centuries to call it Nike Apteros (wing-less victory), and a legend arose that the statue was deprived of wings so she could never leave the city.

The entablature was decorated on all sides with relief sculpture in the idealized classical style of the 5th century BC. Fragments of the sculpted frieze are exhibited in the Acropolis Museum; copies take their place on the temple. The north frieze depicted a battle between Greeks entailing cavalry. The south freize showed the decisive victory over the Persians at the battle of Plataea. The east frieze showed an assembly of the gods Athena, Zeus and Poseidon, rendering Athenian religious beliefs and reverence for the gods bound up in the social and political climate of 5th Century Athens.

Some time after the temple was completed, around 410 B.C a parapet was added around it to prevent people from falling from the steep bastion. The outside of the parapet was adorned by exquisitely carved relief sculptures showing Nike in a variety of activities.

Quick Facts on the Temple of Athena Nike

Site Information
Names:Temple of Athena Nike
Country:Greece
Categories:temples; ruins; World Heritage Sites
Dedication: Athena Victorious
Dates:427 BCE
Status: ruins
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:37.971523° N, 23.724949° E
Address:Acropolis
Athens, Greece
Hours:Summer: daily 8am-7pm;
Winter: daily 8:30am-6pm (sometimes closes as early as 2:30pm)
Lodging:View hotels near the Temple of Athena Nike
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Temple of Athena Nike - Wikipedia (some text used under GFDL)
  2. Athens: The Acropolis - Encyclopedia Britannica
  3. The Temple of Athena Nike - Rough Guide to Greece
  4. Temple of Athena Nike - Ancient-Greece.org
  5. Temple of Athena Nike - Great Buildings
  6. The Temple of Athena Nike - The Athenian Acropolis
  7. The Acropolis: Athena Nike - Stoa (photos)

More Information

© José-Manuel Benito
© Howard Chalkley
© Ben Freeman

Map of the Temple of Athena Nike, Athens

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