The Temple of Athena Nike Apteros (the goddess of victory) is a tiny structure on the Athenian Acropolis, located in its southwestern corner. It was constructed as long ago as in the 5th century BC by the architect Kallikrates.
A small temple had been located here before Kallikrates' structure was erected. But it was razed to the ground at the time of the Persian wars, occurring between 499 and 449 BC.
The location of the Athenian Temple of Nike Apteros was very vulnerable in case of the siege, but at the same time, it was well-located for protection, so it was very suitable for the goddess of victory honouring. It is evidenced by the archaeological finds that religious rituals were performed at this site as early as the Mycenaean period. The Mycenaeans also erected the first defensive bulwark here. The fragments of it are preserved in the basement of the building.
The Temple of Athena Nike in Athens is built in the Ionic style. The construction material is the magnificent pentelic marble, which was valued for its golden-white colour.
The Temple of Athena Nike is considered to be a real Acropolis’ gem for its accurate design and decoration.
For example, it is interesting to note that the side columns had adorning spirals in front and on the sides to look nice from any point of view. The Greek temples implied everyone to examine the structures carefully for beauty, grace and harmony with the environment.
It should be mentioned that the columns of the Athenian Temple of Nike Apteros on the Acropolis have a different size that is uncommon for other Ionic buildings. Usually the width and height of Ionic columns are related as 1:9 or even 1:11. Here the ratio is 1:7. It could be aimed at creating a harmony with other structures nearby. Perhaps the architect meant to create a visual contrast to the massive structure of Propylaea Gates. Otherwise, the building could seem to be out of place and too refined in comparison with the Propylaea.
The parapet around the structure was 41 metres long and was set of metre high relief slabs with the image of a winged Nike on the outside. Each slab depicted a particular scene: the leading of bulls for sacrificial offering, or the scenes of sacrifice themselves, the process of decorating of victory symbols in front of a seated goddess, etc.
The frieze was created from 14 blocks and reached a length of 25 metres and served as a decoration of the temple. 4 blocks from the southern and the western sides are displayed in the British Museum. The Olympian gods are depicted on the eastern frieze, while its other sides represent historical scenes, such as the battle of Marathon in 490 BC.
The Temple of Nike Apteros in the Acropolis, like all Greek temples, was considered to be inhabited by the deity. The ordinary people could not enter it. The worshipping rituals were performed in front of the temple, where a small altar was set up. They could distinguish the goddess’ sculpture between the columns. The temple could be entered only by priestesses who were holding a respected position in Greek society.
As the name implies, the statue of Athena Nike was situated in the temple as a symbol of victory. Nike usually had wings, but in this case, the statue did not have them, so it was named Athena Apteros, which means "wingless".
The history of this architectural monument was quite hectic. In the 5th century, the Temple of Nike in Athens became a Christian church. Later, in the 17th century, the Ottoman Turks totally dismantled it, as they needed materials to construct the fortifications. Later, after the restoration of independence of Greece in 1832, the reconstruction of the temple was carried out. In the 1930ies, the new restoration was made. More recently, a modern project was created to preserve this architectural monument. First, the team of specialists completely demounted the temple. Each of its parts was examined and repaired, and eventually the entire building was reassembled with the help of the original parts. Where it was necessary, additional materials were used. They can be easily distinguished because they have a lighter colour than the original marble.
The Temple of Athena Nike is notable for its beautiful sculptural decoration, including a typical continuous Ionic frieze, which depicted the Assembly of the gods on the eastern side. On the southern wall, the Greeks and the Persians struggle is depicted, and on the other sides, the architect embodied the battles between the Greeks and other soldiers. The sculptures on the pediments that are almost completely lost most likely were depicting Gigantomachia and Amazonomachia. The most famous reliefs presented Nike in various poses and delighted people who were walking up the stairs to the Acropolis. One of the friezes where Nike was putting her sandal represents the goddess as a character who is no stranger to a simple everyday lifestyle. Whatever she is doing, the images of the goddess charm with their elegance and simplicity. Today, these friezes are kept in the Museum of Acropolis and in the British Museum.
The Temple of Nike Apteros is located on the southwestern edge of the Acropolis. You can easily reach it by metro:
You can find information about free admission days and national days off here.
The following categories of visitors can use the lift:
The lift is located 350 metres from the main entrance.
To use the lift contact for details in advance: +30 210 3214172 or +30 210 9238470.