The Temple of Athena Nike
I chose to write about Athena Nike’s Temple for three reasons. The first being that it was the smallest temple to be built, yet it holds no less importance than the other temples. The site that the temple was built on has ceremonial roots that go back to the bronze age. Finally, Nike means victory in Greek, and Athena was worshiped in this form, known for being victorious in war. The temple was built to honor Athena Nike.
Athena’s temple was built in about 420 B.C. It is the earliest ionic building on the Acropolis. It’s long shape and small scale is suitable of its location on a high, narrow structure. It has intricate, double faced corners and the ratio of the height of the column to its base diameter is low. The spot it was built on was extremely susceptible to attack, but also well placed for defense. It was built of white pentelic marble, has columns at the front and back, but not on the sides. There are four columns on each side. The columns are built out of a single large piece of stone. It is small and elegant. Sometimes it is called The Pearl of the Acropolis. The side columns serve as a pleasant view from any observation point. The columns are not as thin as those of many other ionic buildings. Outside of the low protective wall that surrounds the temple are Athena in different poses. The most famous is the one where Athena is adjusting her sandal. The Temple of Athena Nike was considered a home of the goddess, represented in its statue, and was not a place where regular people could enter.
The decision to build Athena Nike was a declaration of Athens’ ambition to defeat Sparta and become a world of power. It is a four-column temple with colonnaded porches in the front and the back. It is 27 feet long, 18.5 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 seen in the normal 9:1 or 10:1 of Ionic buildings. The floor plan is simple. It is rectangular in shape with a long porch in the back the width of the temple. It has an inner shrine called an Opisthodomos and is the width of the temple. As you go forward you enter the Cella, or the inner area of the temple. After you enter the Cella, continue, and straight ahead, you reach the Pronaos, or the hall of the temple. A statue of Athena stood inside the small 5×5 inner chamber. The statue was made of wood, holding a helmet in her left hand, and a pomegranate in her right. The statue was wingless. Later on, it was referred to as Nike Apteros, or wing-less victory. A legend said that the statue was wing-less so that Athena could never leave the city. The entablature, (which was the architrave, frieze, and cornice), was decorated on all sides with relief sculpture in the style of the 5th century BC. The north Frieze showed the battle between Greeks Calvary. The south Frieze showed the victory over the Persians at the battle of Plataea. The east Frieze showed an assembly of several gods rendering Athenian religious beliefs and reverence for the gods bound up in the social and political climate of 5th Century Athens.
The interior has an amphiprostyle, which means it only has four columns on each side. The temple had a statue of Athena Nike set so that her worshipers could see it through the columns, known as the symbol of victory. In the 5th century C.E. the temple was turned into a Christian church. Then in the 17th century, it was completely dismantled by the Ottoman Turks who needed the material to build fortifications. The Greeks restored the building in 1832. It was restored again in the 1930’s. Recently it was completely dismantled. Each part was inspected and fixed and eventually the entire building was reassembled using the original pieces.
Since the Temple of Athena Nike was a temple, she had a cult following, as well as just simple worshipers. I think I would like to add torches to the walls. I would add an altar on the inside with benches, so people could come to worship her. I know that normal people were not allowed inside, but I would change that. I would add guards on the outside to ensure that no one was doing damage or disrespecting the temple. I would add more statues of Athena in the inside as well as to the walls. I think I would make it look like a Catholic church, just instead of Mary and Jesus, it would be all Athena. I would ad gold and color to the statues and walls. I would make it look like what you would expect a queen’s dwelling would look like.