Temple of Athena Nike

Temple of Athena Nike | The Guardian of Ancient Glory

The Temple of Athena Nike is perched on the Acropolis of Athens, dedicated to Athena Nike the goddess of victory. The Temple was designed by architect Kallikrates and it was built between 426 and 421 BCE. The Temple was built on top of another temple which was also dedicated to Athena. This older temple was however destroyed by the Persians in 480 BCE.

The new Temple was constructed from pristine Pentelic marble and has refined Ionic columns that showcase the elegance of ancient Greek architecture. The Temple of Athena Nike is not just a religious site but also a commemorative space, celebrating pivotal Greek victories like the Battle of Marathon against the Persians in 490 BC. The decorative features of the Temple are profound and the friezes that run around the temple narrate dynamic historical episodes.

You will find depictions of Olympian gods in fierce combats with their adversaries on the east and west pediments. A protective parapet was added around 410 BC which was intricately adorned with reliefs depicting Athena and other divine figures. This Temple stands today not only as a piece of religious devotion but also as a mark of artistic and architectural innovation in ancient Athens.

Architecture of Temple of Athena Nike

  • The Temple of Athena Nike, erected circa 420 BCE on the Acropolis of Athens, was designed in the Ionic architectural style by the architect Callicrates.
  • The Temple was constructed from Pentelic marble with a four-column structure due to its small size, measuring 5.5 meters wide, 8 meters long, and 7 meters tall.
  • It features graceful monolithic columns on the eastern and western fronts.
  • The side column has spiral scrolls which is the base of the ionic order. This feature makes sure that people can see the view from any side.
  • Sculptural friezes adorned the temple's exterior, depicting mythological scenes and honouring Athena Nike, the goddess of victory.
  • Positioned strategically near the Propylaea, the columns of the temple are not as slender as other ionic structures were during that time.
  • Despite being partially destroyed over time, its ruins continue to showcase the architectural and artistic achievements of ancient Greece.

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Temple of Athena Nike Highlights

Gods & Battle on Frieze

The Temple of Athena Nike has a continuous frieze that runs around the structure. Each side has depictions of gods and battles that were won by the Greeks. On the eastern side, it showcases an assembly of the gods. On the south, the Greco-Persian battle is depicted while on the remaining sides, you will find depictions of other battles that the Greeks have fought. Prominent in these are the battles of Gigantomachy and Amazonomachy. 

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Reliefs of Goddess Nike

In 410 BC a new parapet was added to the Temple of Athena Nike to act as a guardrail to ensure that people do not fall over from the high bastion. The outer part of this parapet was beautifully decorated with intricately carved sculptures of the Goddess Athena Nike in different poses. One of these reliefs shows Athena Nike adjusting her sandals and this particular statue can be seen today in the Acropolis Museum preserved for posterity. 

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Statue of Athena Nike

A beautiful statue of the Goddess Athena Nike is in the Temple’s inner chamber. This statue is made of wood and Athena is seen holding a helmet in her left hand and a pomegranate in her right. Usually, Athena Nike statues are always sculpted with wings however, this statue of Athena Nike is built without wings hence it was given the name Athena Apteros meaning without wings. The reason behind this was that Athena Nike could never leave Athens if she didn’t have wings.

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History of Temple of Athena Nike

The Temple of Athena Nike holds a rich historical tapestry of history that dates back to the 6th century BCE when a cult dedicated to Athena Nike was established in Athens. During this era, an early temple was constructed using robust Mycenaean fortifications and Cyclopean masonry. This temple was however demolished by the Persians during the Greco-Persian Wars.

In its place, a new temple was built around 420 BCE, showcasing the classical Greek architectural style with its elegant Ionic columns and built-in Pentelic marble. In the 5th century CE, reflecting the shifting religious landscape, the temple was transformed into a Christian church.

However, in 1686 when the Turks occupied Athens the temple was demolished and razed to the ground. They repurposed its stones to build defences against the Venetian forces. The temple was rebuilt in 1821, with a significant reconstruction in 1834.

Several historical undertakings in the 1930s led to many renovation efforts and in 2010 the Temple of Athena Nike was reconstructed with the endeavour to return it to its original glory as well as accuracy. Today’s structure is said to be the closest representation of the original. However, some original stones, reliefs, parts of the parapet and friezes are preserved in the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum. 

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Temple of Athena Nike, Athens 105 58, Greece

Best Time to Visit:

The best time to visit the Temple of Athena Nike is during the spring and autumn months, from April to June and September to November. The temperatures are milder and the weather is pleasant making sightseeing more enjoyable. It is also far less crowded during this time allowing you to truly explore the Temple. Opt for early morning or late afternoon visits to avoid the heat and enjoy quieter surroundings.

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  • By Car: The Temple of Athena Nike is 2.6 km from the city centre, and it will take about 12 min via Stadiou and EO91 routes.

  • By Bus: The nearest bus stop is the Akopoli bus stop and you can board bus number 230 to get here. The Temple is just a few minutes walk from the nearest bus stop. Other buses which will take you to the Akopoli Bus stop are numbers 035, 550, 040 and A2.

  • By Taxi: Taking a taxi is the fastest and most convenient way of getting to the Temple of Athena Nike. Another advantage of taking the taxi is that it will take you right up to the main entrance of the Acropolis.

  • By Walk: If you are planning to take a walk to the Temple then from Syntagma Square it is about 20 to 30 minutes walk. 
  • The Temple of Athena Nike was constructed during the Peloponnesian War around 420 BCE, on top of an earlier temple dedicated to Athena Nike
  • The foundations and altar of the old temple were buried under the bastion of the new Temple
  • Designed by Callicrates in the Ionic style, its graceful columns and sculptural friezes depict scenes honouring the goddess of victory.
  • The Temple of Athena was turned into a Christian Church in the 5th CE and remained so for nearly 2000 years
  • The Turks demolished it almost entirely in 1686 and used the stones from the Temple to build defences against the Venetians.
  • The Temple features a continuous frieze and each side has a depiction of the glorious battles that the Greeks have won
  • The statue of Athena Nike inside the temple is made of wood but does not have wings giving it the name Athena Apteros meaning without wings.

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FAQs for Temple of Athena Nike

Which are the places to visit in Acropolis?

Some of the places to visit in the Acropolis are:

  • Roman Forum of Athens: Northwest of the Acropolis, it served as the administrative and commercial hub during the Roman period, featuring notable ruins and archaeological remnants.
  • Parthenon: Atop the Acropolis, this iconic temple dedicated to Athena showcases Greek architectural mastery with Doric columns and marble sculptures.
  • Benaki Museum: Housing an extensive collection of Greek art and artefacts from prehistoric to modern times, it offers insights into Greece's rich cultural heritage.
  • Propylaea: This monumental gateway to the Acropolis welcomes visitors with classical Greek architecture, serving as the entrance to the historic site.
  • Temple of Hephaestus: Located in the Ancient Agora, this well-preserved Doric temple dedicated to the god of craftsmanship boasts exquisite architecture and intricate friezes.

Which are the best places to stay near the Temple of Athena Nike?

Some of the best places to stay near the Temple of Athena Nike:

  • Electra Palace Athens: Located in Plaka, this upscale hotel offers luxurious rooms and stunning views of the Acropolis, making it an ideal choice for travellers seeking comfort and convenience.
  • AthensWas Hotel: This hotel is located near the Acropolis Museum and it boasts a contemporary design and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views, providing guests with a stylish and memorable stay.
  • Herodion Hotel: This charming hotel is just a short walk from the Acropolis and it features elegant rooms and a rooftop garden restaurant, offering a tranquil retreat amidst the bustling city centre.
  • AVA Hotel & Suites: Nestled in the heart of Plaka, this boutique hotel offers spacious suites with kitchenettes and a cosy courtyard, providing guests with a home-away-from-home experience near Athens' major attractions.

What is the best time to visit the Temple of Athena Nike?

The best time to visit the Temple of Athena Nike is during the shoulder months between April to June and September through October. During these times the weather is pleasant enough for outdoor sightseeing and it is also less crowded. During the day it is best to visit the Temple in the early morning hours or in the evenings to avoid the heat and the crowd. 

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What is the Temple of Athena Nike famous for?

Despite being a small structure, the Temple of Athena Nike is famous for being a standing symbol of the victory of Greece during the Greco-Persian War. Hence the Temple is dedicated to Athena Nike who is the goddess of victory. The Temple is also famous for its intricate friezes, beautifully carved reliefs of the Goddess and the unique wingless statue of Athena Nike. 

What happened to the Temple of Athena Nike?

Over time the Temple of Athena Nike went through several destructions, renovations and transformations. It was first destroyed by the Persians, and then for nearly 2000 years, it was converted into a Christian Church. The Turks further destroyed it and used its stones as protection against the Venetians. In the 1930s several renovations took place and finally, in 2010 the Temple was renovated and was brought closest to the original design. 

What is the Temple of Athena used for?

The Temple of Athena Nike served as a sanctuary for the worship of Athena Nike, the goddess of victory, in ancient Athens. The Temple also symbolises Athenian military prowess and divine favour, making it a focal point for rituals, offerings, and prayers for success in warfare and other endeavours.

Why is it called the Temple of Athena Nike?

The Temple of Athena Nike derives its name from the goddess Athena Nike, who was worshipped there. "Nike" means "victory" in Greek, and the temple was dedicated to Athena in her aspect as the bringer of victory and success to the city of Athens.


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