Temple of Athena Nike Facts: Learn All About Ancient World History

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Oct 31, 2023 By Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Originally Published on Mar 22, 2022
Temple Of Athena Nike Facts are bewitching!

The Temple of Athena Nike is one of the Ionic buildings in the ancient citadel of Acropolis in Athens, exemplifying Greek architecture.

It was constructed on a fortress at the southwestern edge of the Acropolis during the High Classical Period. The remaining of the older temple that was destroyed is preserved to date. 

In the latest reconstruction, the temple was built with the anastylosis technique. It was raised on a spot that was extremely vulnerable to attack during the war but also a favorable place for defense.

It expressed the spirit of the inhabiting goddess, associated with warfare and victory. The first Mycenaean defensive fortification was built here as well, remainders of which are preserved in the temple's basement. This temple is the smallest one in Athens.

History And Origin Of Temple Of Athena Nike

The Temple of Athena Nike was constructed between 426 and 421 B.C.E. during the Peace of Nicias. This classical temple has a tumultuous history. It was the first temple to be restored on the Athenian Acropolis.

The temple was first transformed into a Christian church in the 5th century C.E. Following this, in the 17th century, it was entirely disassembled by the Turks, and the stones were used in building the Turkish fortification wall.

Later in 1832, after Greece's independence, the rebuilding of the Athena Nike temple started. The reconstruction work lasted from 1836 to 1845.

During the '30s, the structure was again dismantled and rebuilt. It was a part of the restoration work of Nikolaos Balanos from 1935 to 1940.

The final rehabilitation in recent times was done between 2000 and 2010.

This time the concrete slab on which the structure was built by Nikolaos Balanos was replaced with a stainless steel grid. Parts of the capital and column drums, blocks of the pediment, frieze, cornices, and pieces of the coffered ceiling, were dismantled and restored in their original places.

Previously unidentified parts of the structure were also included in this revamp work, which was done by architect Vassiliki Eleftheriou. The newly added parts can be distinguished from the original marble fragments as they are comparatively lighter in color.

Deities Worshipped At Temple Of Athena Nike

During the Bronze Age, the goddesses related to war were worshipped in this temple. Although goddess Nike was generally seen with wings, the deity here had no wings. She was mentioned as Athena Apteros.

According to the ancient Greek writer Pausanias, the statue had no wings, so she never left Athens. Athena is the goddess related to wisdom, handicraft, and war. In art, she is seen wearing a helmet and carrying a spear.

Her significant symbols comprise snakes, owls, olive trees, Aegis, armor, helmets, spears, and the Gorgoneion. She is often seen carrying a shield and a lance and wearing body armor and a helmet.

Nike is the goddess related to music, art, and athletics. Her significant symbols include golden sandals, wings, and wreaths. As the messenger of victory, she is portrayed carrying the staff of Hermes.

According to one origin, Athena is the daughter of Zeus as she emerged from his forehead, fully grown and armed. Another origin says that when Athena's mother Metis, the goddess of counsel, was pregnant with her, she was swallowed by the god Zeus, leading to Athena's emergence.

Along with her superior powers, she also was the favorite daughter of Zeus. The goddess planted an olive tree on the sacred ground of Acropolis, which she gifted to her followers.

There had been many different origin tales of goddess Nike. Athena was known to be comprised of three distinct facets, Boulaia, Ergane, and Nike. Nike was known as the aspect of Athena related to war and victory.

Later she became a separate entity. It was also considered that along with the separate form, the Athena Nike facet also existed.

In a different origin story, Nike was believed to be an entirely different deity. She represented victory in warfare musical and athletic contests while Athena was strictly associated with warfare.

In literature, Nike has been closely associated with Athena and Zeus as either of their attendants or aspects. According to the 'Theogony,' Nike (Victory), along with her siblings Zelus (Zeal), Kratos (Strength), and Bia (Power), were the children of the Titans Styx and Pallas.

Another origin describes Nike as the daughter of Ares, the god of war. During Titanomachy, the war with the Titans, Styx, and her children was the first to vow their loyalty to Zeus.

And as a result, Nike and her siblings achieved the honorable status of sitting beside Zeus and dwelling with him forever.

In 'Dionysiaca' by the Greek poet Nonnos, Nike was depicted as a representative of Athena. She was sent to aid Zeus during his battle against Typhon.

While Zeus fought with his thunderbolts, she protected him using her shield. Nike has also been portrayed as a judge of both gods' and mortals' competitions assessing their skills in war.

In a different origin story, Nike was believed to be an entirely different deity

Religious Significance Of Temple Of Athena Nike

An archaic temple made of limestone dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena was discovered in 1936, where the current temple stands. The previous temple dates back to sixth-century B.C.E.

Along with it, a base of a cult statue of the goddess and a tower from the Mycenaean period were also discovered and restored in the basement of the temple. According to archaeological pieces of evidence, the monument was used to perform religious rituals from 1600 to 1100 B.C.E, during the Mycenaean age.

This temple in Athens of Acropolis, along with all other Greek temples, was believed to be the home of this divine goddess of ancient Olympia. Ordinary people were not allowed to enter the temple.

They could only take a peek at the goddess's sculpture through the gap between the wide ionic columns. However, they were allowed to perform rituals of worshipping on an altar that was placed in front of the building.

Only the respected priestesses could enter the temple as they held high positions in Greek society. Nike's cult was given its own priestess as the Athenian cult had its priestess.

In Athenian tradition, the priesthood was controlled by the aristocratic Eteoboutadai family clan, and the priestess always was one of their heirs. But Nike's priestess was chosen democratically from among all Athenian women.

Structural Features Of Temple Of Athena Nike

The temple of Athena Nike was built as a replacement for another small temple destroyed during the Persian wars. It was built in phases because of the scarcity of funding during the war.

The construction of this structure ended in 420 B.C.E.

This temple is situated in the Acropolis of Athens, next to the Propylaea, which is the monumental gateway of the Acropolis. It is considered that, as the Propylaea is built in the Doric order, the small temple beside it was created with wider columns to contrast its beauty.

It is a classical temple with its ancient structure and ionic columns. This four-column tetrastyle structure was designed by the architect Kallikrates, who also constructed the Parthenon.

The building has a colonnaded entrance on both its front and back ends. However, the sides of the cellar have no such structures.

This floor plan is known as amphiprostyle. Columns on both the east and west facades of the temple are monolithic columns, and each column was made of a single block of stone.

Unlike other iconic column structures with a height to diameter ratio of 9:1 or 11:1, these columns are built with a ratio of 7:1. The entire temple was built with exquisite white Pentelic marble.

The structure has friezes on all sides adorned with relief sculptures of classical style. The east frieze is on top of the entrance of the building. It has Olympian gods Zeus and Poseidon, along with Athena sculpted on it who were worshipped in Athens during the 5th century.

The south frieze depicts the battle of Plataea, where the ancient Greeks were victorious over the Persians. The west frieze also has a similar portrayal of a victorious battle tale with multiple troops.

It is thought to be the massacre of the Corinthians by the Athenians. The north frieze has the illustration of a Greek cavalry battle.

It is thought to be a portrayal of the Peloponnesian war. The marble parapet installed in 410 BC, around the edge of the temple's bastion, is adorned with Nike statues in different postures.

Winged Nike adorning victory trophies, holding weapons, or leading bulls for sacrifice are depicted along with sculptures of seated Goddess Athena resting after a victorious battle. 'Nike Adjusting Her Sandal' is the most famous sculpture of these, that is currently placed in the Acropolis Museum.


What was the Temple of Athena Nike used for?

In ancient Greece, during the Bronze Age, this temple was used for worshipping deities affiliated with war.

How big was the Temple of Athena Nike?

The structure was 23 ft (7 m) tall, 27 ft (8 m) long, and 18.5 ft (5.5 m) wide. So, it can be said that it was a relatively small temple.

Who destroyed the Temple of Athena Nike?

The temple was destroyed in 1686 by the Ottoman Turks, who used the stones for building fortifications.

Why was the Old Temple of Athena built?

The old temple of Athena was built in the city of Athens, dedicated to the patron Goddess Athena Polias.

What is the difference between Athena and Athena Nike?

Athena was worshipped as the defender and protector of Athens, while Athena Nike, one of her aliases, was worshipped as the Goddess of victory.

Are Athena and Nike the same Goddess?

Nike was the Goddess of victory, often depicted in a flying posture as Winged Victory in Greek art. However, sometimes she was also portrayed as a facet of Goddess Athena, where she was shown to be wingless.

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Written by Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason

Bachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason picture

Adekunle Olanrewaju JasonBachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

With over 3+ years of professional experience, Olanrewaju is a certified SEO Specialist and Content Writer. He holds a BSc in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos. Throughout his dynamic career, Olanrewaju has successfully taken on various roles with startups and established organizations. He has served as a Technical Writer, Blogger, SEO Specialist, Social Media Manager, and Digital Marketing Manager. Known for his hardworking nature and insightful approach, Olanrewaju is dedicated to continuous learning and improvement.
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