Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Temple of Athena Nike - Athens
The Magnificent Temple of Athena Nike was Recently Correctly Restored and is Ready to Reveal her Colorful Ancient Secrets!
By Alexios Demos on December 1, 2021
West Portico - Temple of Athena Nike | Athens Acropolis | Athens | © Copyright 2021 Alexios Demos
Indicative Information | Tickets Full: €20, Reduced: €10 | Visiting Times Summer: 08:00 -18:30 | Athens, Greece (At the Acropolis of Athens near the Parthenon) | More info call +302109238747 / 2109238747
I present to you the amphirostyle and apteral temple of Athena Nike (east & west ionic porticos but solid marble in north and south façade) most likely designed by the fabled architect Callicrates!
“The temple is positioned at the absolute edge of the southwest corner of the site (Acropolis) and has always felt to me as a majestic griffin acting as guardian of the much larger Parthenon and Erechtheion.”
Athena would not be amused to learn that by the 5th c. AD her temple had been converted into a Christian church!
North East View - Temple of Athena Nike | Athens Acropolis | Athens | © Copyright 2021 Alexios Demos
Temple of Athena Nike - Athens
As you are leaving and stepping down from the steps after the Propylea (towering entrance gateway) from the Acropolis, make sure to stop, turn around, and look up to the right so you don’t miss one of the most dazzling structures of the entire site; the temple of Athena Nike (421 BC)! The temple is positioned at the absolute edge of the southwest corner of the site and has always felt to me as a majestic griffin acting as guardian of the much larger Parthenon and Erechtheion. The amphirostyle and apteral temple of Athena Nike (east & west ionic porticos but solid marble in north and south façade) likely was designed by the fabled architect Callicrates who along with Ictinus roughly 20 years earlier co-designed the Parthenon. The temple is dedicated to two separate Greek goddesses Athena and Nike. However, practically they are fused as Athena additionally takes the aspect of Nike that is the personification of victory. After a five-year construction period, the temple was completed in 421BC while the bitter Peloponnesian war (431-404 BC) was still raging (albeit 421 BC saw a pause in hostilities). Athenians would likely pray here for a favorable outcome of the conflict.
North Facade Without Columns (Apteral) - Temple of Athena Nike | Athens Acropolis | Athens | © Copyright 2021 Alexios Demos
Researching the site’s history I discovered an interesting fact. Within, the temple’s foundations archaeological evidence has been found of previously destroyed temples also dedicated to Athena Nike but also of a much older bastion (projecting fortification) from the Mycenaean era (1750-1050 BC). The first structures on the Athenian Acropolis were designed by Mycenaeans who erected a grandee megaron palace surrounded by circumferential enormous stone walls that were up to 10m in height and 6m thick! Perhaps because on this exact location, there was a Mycenaean bastion is why this visceral feeling remains when you look at the temple defiantly standing proud and alone at the utmost edge of the site. It feels as if it would nearly be dangerous to visit it today and, for the time being, you actually cannot as a tourist! Even in antiquity (409 BC), a beautiful 1m marble parapet comprised of "relief slabs displaying winged Nike's" was commissioned and installed for the safety of worshipers! It is this raw feeling that makes me feel closer to Athena on this temple rather than on the Parthenon!
Standing Proud (Up & Right) - Temple of Athena Nike | Athens Acropolis | Athens | © Copyright 2021 Alexios Demos
Athena would not be amused to learn that by the 5th c. AD her temple had been converted into a Christian church! She would be further enraged to discover that during the Ottoman occupation of Greece the temple would serve as a safe bet for ammunition storage. However, her wrath would be fully-fledged when in 1686, the Ottomans (6th Ottoman-Venetian war / Morean War) dismantled the temple to use its marble components to enhance a fortification wall nearby! Luckily multiple reconstructions (anastylosis) attempts from 1836 all the way until 2010 have been fruitful resulting in an accurate restoration that Athena would approve!
Today colloquial in Greece, this temple is known as the temple of the “Wingless Nike.” A nickname that has survived to this day after being popularized during the Roman occupation of Greece. The renowned geographer and traveler Pausanias (2nd c. AD), states that within the temple there existed a statue of Nike oddly without wings, however. This rather romantic and confident gesture was so that symbolically victory may always remain in Athens! It is disappointing that today the word Nike echoes loudest with the US multinational corporation Nike Inc. Perhaps a fitting brand name for the victory of capitalism nonetheless! Stranger still today in Greece, we Greeks pronounce the footwear brand Nike, as “Ny-Kk” rather than “Ny-Kee” as is common in the US. Rather bizarre indeed as “Ny-Kee” is closer to the original Greek pronunciation of the word (“Nee-Kee”).
What are your thoughts?
Date of Visit: Nov 21, 2021
Weather Conditions: Weather Conditions: An Especially Warm & Glorious Fall Sunday
(*Please Note: Images 2,3 & 4 are from Nov 19, 2019, a much cloudier day!)