Temple of Athena Nike | Honouring the Greek goddess of Victory

The Temple of Athena Nike, situated at the Acropolis of Athens, is a small yet significant structure dedicated to Athena Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. Built entirely of Pentelic marble, its elegant Ionic design showcases classical Greek architecture. Despite its modest size, it served as a symbol of Athens’ prowess and commemorated successful military campaigns. It remains an enduring emblem of ancient Greek civilization and a testament to the cultural and architectural achievements of the era. Read on to learn more about the Temple of Athena Nike including its significance, when it was built, why it is famous, and more.

Quick facts about the Temple of Athena Nike

Temple of Athena Nike, Acropolis of Athens, Greece

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Why was the Temple of Athena Nike built?

The Temple of Athena Nike is the smallest structure among the monuments at the Acropolis of Athens. It was built to honor Athena Nike, the goddess of victory.

The temple stands on the remains of an earlier sixth-century temple that was also dedicated to Athena, the foundations and altars of which are preserved inside the bastion under the floor of the structure. The earlier temple had been demolished by the Persians in 480 BC.

The Temple of Athena Nike is a small Ionic amphiprostyle structure with four monolithic columns on either short side. Designed by the architect Kallikrates, its construction was finished around 420 BC.

The temple was an expression of Athens’ ambitions to defeat Sparta and become a world power. The frieze of the temple refers to the Athenian victory over the Persians.

Nike vs Athena Nike

Goddess Nike, Acropolis of Athens

Who was Goddess Nike?

In Greek mythology, Nike was the goddess of victory. The daughter of Titan Pallas as Styx, she and her siblings were close companions of Zeus. She has often been depicted in art as a miniature sculpture in the hand of Athena and Zeus.

Sculptures of Nike were extremely common in Ancient Greece. They were used to symbolize or commemorate victories in war and competitions. She is often depicted with wings and also appears on Greek coins.

Goddess Athena Nike, Temple of Athena Nike

Who is Goddess Athena?

Athena was a Greek goddess and the daughter of Zeus. She was worshiped as the goddess of warfare, wisdom, crafts, and cooking. She was also the patron goddess of the city of Athens. Her symbol, the owl, signified wisdom, making her an enduring icon of intellect and strength.

athena nike, temple of athena nike

Are Athena and Athena Nike the same?

Pallas Athena is the representation of the goddess as a warrior, while Athena Nike is the representation of the goddess as victorious in war. Nike, often referred to as Winged Victory, was an attribute of Athena. In mythological stories, she largely appears as a companion and helper of Zeus or Athena.

History of the Temple of Athena Nike

In the 6th century BCE, after a cult of Athena Nike was established in Athens, a small temple was built using Mycenaean fortification and Cyclopean masonry. It was demolished by the Persians during the Greco-Persian Wars.

The new temple was built in its place. The construction of the temple was completed around 420 BCE. In the 5th century CE, the temple was converted into a Christian church. It stood for almost 2,000 years and was demolished by the Turks in 1686. The Turks used the stones from the temple to build defenses against the Venetians. the temple was reconstructed in 1834, following the independence of Greece in 1821.

In the 1930s, the temple was dismantled as part of renovations. Archeologists believed that there were flaws in the earlier reconstruction and the temple was restored in 2010. The present temple construction is considered to be the closest to the original although some stones, reliefs, and sections of the parapet, and its frieze have been lost or are now in the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum.

Highlights of the Temple of Athena Nike

Temple of Athena Nike

Gods & Battle on Frieze

The temple of Athena Nike featured a continuous Ionic frieze. On the eastern side, it showcased a gathering of gods, while on the southern wall, a battle between Greeks and Persians was depicted. The remaining sides referred to battles between Greeks and other warriors. It is assumed that the pediments featured sculptures that showcased the epic battle of Gigantomachy between the gods of Mount Olympus and the Giants and Amazonomachy, a battle between the Greeks and the Amazons.

Temple of Athena Nike

Reliefs of Goddess Nike

Around 410 BC a parapet was added around it to act as a guardrail and prevent people from falling from the steep bastion. The outside of the parapet was elaborately decorated using carved relief sculptures. Unlike the friezes, these reliefs don't depict a story, but rather shows Nike in a variety of activities and all in procession. Of these, the most famous one is that of Nike Adjusting Her Sandal. Both Nike Adjusting Her Sandal and parts of the frieze can be admired today at the Acropolis Museum.

Temple of Athena Nike

Statue of Athena Nike

As a temple, dedicated to Nike, it housed a statue of Athena Nike in the cella or naos, the inner chamber of a temple. According to the Greek writer Pausanias, the statue was made using wood, and was shown holding a helmet in her left hand, and a pomogranate (the symbol of fertility) in her right. Nike, who usually had wings, was decpicted without any, helping it gain its name, Athena Apteros (without wings). It is believed that statue of Athena had no wings, so that she could never leave Athens.

Architecture of the Temple of Athena Nike

Architecture, Temple of Athena Nike

The Temple of Athena Nike is a four-column (tetrastyle) structure because of its small size. It ran 8 meters long, 5.5 meters wide, and 7 meters tall, and was constructed using white Pentelic marble. It has colonnaded porticos at the front and rear facades, but not on the sides. The columns along the east and west fronts were monolithic columns.

The temple's side columns have volutes, a spiral scroll that forms the base of the lonic order so that people would be able to enjoy the view from any angle. Another factor that sets the Temple of Athena Nike apart is that its columns are not as slender as other Ionic buildings. It is possible that this decision was made since the temple stands next to the Propylaea. Considering it is the smallest structure among the buildings at the Acropolis of Athens, placing it next to the monumental gateway would have made it look too insignificant in comparison.

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Frequently asked questions about the Temple of Athena Nike

What is the temple of Athena Nike?
How much do Temple of Athena Nike tickets cost?

You can visit the Temple of Athena Nike as part of the Acropolis of Athens. Acropolis tickets start from €13 and can be purchased online.

Do I need to purchase separate tickets to the Temple of Athena Nike?

No, you don't need to purchase separate tickets to visit the Temple of Athena Nike. Access to the monument is included in your Acropolis tickets.

How do I purchase Athens Acropolis tickets to visit the Temple of Athena Nike?

You can purchase your Acropolis tickets online to visit the Temple of Athena Nike. Booking tickets online is convenient since you can plan your trip and make reservations for a day and time that best suits you. Your entry to the attraction is guaranteed and you can also avail of great discounts.

When was the Temple of Athena Nike built?

The Temple of Athena Nike was built between 426 BC and 420 BC.

Who built the Temple of Athena Nike?

The architect of the Temple of Athena Nike was Kallikrates. The temple was constructed during the building program conducted by the Greek politician Pericles.

How old is the Temple of Athena Nike?

The Temple of Athena Nike is more than 2,400 years old, as it was built between 426 BC and 420 BCE.

Why is the Temple of Athena Nike famous?

Despite being a small structure, the Temple of Athena Nike was built to honour the goddess Athena, the patron goddess of Athens city, and to commemorate the Athenian victory during the Greco-Persian wars.

What is the architectural style of the Temple of Athena Nike?

The Temple of Athena Nike is built in the Ionic style of Classical architecture