Temple of Athena Nike

Temple of Athena Nike | Acropolis of Athens

The Temple of Athena Nike, built entirely of Pentelic marble between 427 and 421 BC, stands on a 6-meter high stone platform extending from the southwest corner of the Acropolis. The temple was the first Ionic structure to be built on the Acropolis. It is dedicated to Nike, a form of Athena, who is believed to be the goddess of Victory in Greek mythology.

What is the Temple of Athena Nike?

Temple of Athena Nike, Acropolis of Athens, Greece
  • The Temple of Athena Nike, located on the southeast edge of the Acropolis of Athens, was a temple designed by architect Kallikrates and built between 426-421 BC.
  • The temple stands on the grounds of earlier temples that were also dedicated to Athena Nike, the foundations of and altars of which are preserved inside the bastion under the floor of the structure.
  • The temple is a small Ionic amphiprostyle structure with four monolithic columns on either short side.
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Why was the Temple of Athena Nike in Athens Built?

The Temple of Athena Nike is the smallest structure on the Athenian Acropolis. It was built to honor Athena Nike, the goddess of victory. It was built over the remains of an earlier sixth-century temple to Athena that had been demolished by the Persians in 480 BC. The temple was an expression of Athens’ ambitions to defeat Sparta and become a world power. The frieze of the temple refers to Athenian victory over the Persians.

It was designed by Kallikrates, who was responsible for the construction of the Parthenon. The Temple of Athena Nike was finished around 420 BC.

Nike vs Athena Nike

Goddess Nike, Acropolis of Athens

Who was Goddess Nike?

As per Greek mythology, Noke was the goddess of victory. She is the daughter of Titan Pallas as Styx. Nike 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. Her sculpture often was used to symbolize or commemorate victories, both, in war and competitions. She also appears on Greek coins. She is often depicted with wings.

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 of Athens.

Are Athena and Athena Nike the same?

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

Temple of Athena Nike Opening Hours

Summer: 8 AM to 6 PM (Last entrance to the Site at 5:30 PM)
Winter: 8 AM to 5 PM

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Where is the Temple of Athena Nike Located in Athens?

Address: Acropolis, Dionysiou Areopagitou, Athina 105 58, Greece

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The Athena Nike temple is one of the smallest, yet prominent temples within the Acropolis of Athens, an ancient citadel that sits atop the city of Athens. You will find the Temple of Athena Nike on the southwest corner of the hill.

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History of Temple of Athena In A Nutshell

In the sixth century BCE, after a cult of Athena Nike was established in Athens, a small temple was built using Mycenaean fortification and Cyclopean masonry. During the Persian Wars, the temple was demolished by the Persians.

The new temple was built in its place. The construction of the temple was completed around 420 BCE. In the 5th century C.E. the temple was converted into a Christian church. The temple stood for almost 2,00 years. It was demolished by the Turks in 1686. The Turks used the stones from the temple to build defenses against the Venetians. In 1834, following the independence of Greece (1821), the temple was reconstructed.

In the 1930s the temple was dismantled as part of renovations. Archeologists believed that there were flaws in the earlier reconstruction and were 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.

Temple of Athena Nike Highlights

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. The columns are monolithic. The structure 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 ran 8 meters long, 5.5 meters wide, and 7 meters tall, and was constructed using white Pentelic marble. The 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 apart the Temple of Athena Nike is the fact that the columns of the temple are not as slender as other Ionic buildings. It is possible that the decision to do so was made as the temple of Athena Nike stands just next to the Propylaea. Considering the temple is the smallest one among all the temples on the hill, placing it next to the heavy, monumental gateway would have made it look too insignificant in comparison.