The Temple of Athena Nike
Greek Architecture is the most important and influential in Western history reaching a peak between 400 and 300 BC. Some examples of Ancient Greek architecture and sculptures were built primarily for religious purposes, to represent deities or to serve as temples, such as the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Erechtheum, Apollo Didyma, and the Temple of Athena Nike. The decision to build Athena Nike was an expression of Athens' ambitions to defeat Sparta and become a world power. The ancient Greek goddess Nike was the personification of the ideal of victory. One of the most common epithets for the goddess was Athena Nike. A temple to Athena was built on the Acropolis of Athens, Acropolis meaning “The Sacred Rock, the high city” (Ancient Greece). Bronze akroteria (added decoration) on the corners and central ridge of the temple roof represented Nike, and the temple itself was surrounded by a balustrade decorated with a frieze. Early in the Temple’s (Athena Nike) history, it was a place of worship for deities associated with wars, perhaps Bronze Age “Nike” gods or goddesses, which with time fused with the cult of Athena Nike of later centuries, but little is known about the history, nature or functions of the Athena Nike cult. The temple is smaller than the other temples of the Acropolis. This “5th-century Temple of Athena Nike, dedicated to Athena the Victor, stands on a projecting bastion originally a part of the Mycenaean fortifications, to the south of the Propylaia” (Freeman 2006, 73). This bastion, which was known as a pyrgos (tower), dates back to at least the Bronze Age. In Greek myth “It is from this elevated spot that Theseus’ father Aegeus is said to have kept watch for the return of his son from Crete. Theseus had promised to hoist a white sail if his ship was bringing him home alive. He forgot to do so, and seeing the black sail approach and believing his son to have been devoured by the Minotaur, Aegeus hurled himself from the cliff” (Freeman 2006, 76).
The temple is built in the Ionic order which makes it heavily contrast with the Doric style Propylaia, thought to have been designed by Killikrates, the architect. There were three basic orders of Greek columns called Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. The Doric style is rather sturdy and its top is plain. The Ionic style is thinner and more elegant. The Corinthian style is seldom used in the Greek world, but the Parthenon combines elements of the Doric and Ionic orders. The Temple of Athena Nike was 11 feet tall from the stylobate to the apex of its pediment, which was customary in Attica (but not in Ionia). The temple's ratio of the column height to its length is 7:1 instead of the customary 9:1 of other Ionic temples. It was completely made of white Pentelic marble, and was constructed around 420 B.C. by the Greeks (Kleiner 2013, 141). Through recent excavations, it is been found that an open pit existed on The Temple of Athena Nike, in order for Bronze Age Greeks to pour wine in the pit and also put figurines of the gods in there(The Parthenon).
This temple is smaller in comparison to the surrounding temples, but it is decorated with a frieze that held a high place in the hearts of the people of Greece. There are four columns in front and four in the rear. The Ionic columns are monoliths, carved from single pieces of marble. The sheer walls of its bastion were protected by the north, west, and south by a parapet. The north frieze portrayed a battle between the Greeks involving mounted troops. The east frieze portrayed the gods Athena, Zeus, and Poseidon. It shows “a representation of the decisive battle at Marathon, which turned the tide against the Persians – a human event, as in the Parthenon’s Panathenaic Festival procession frieze, the Athenians chronicled a specific occasion, not a recurring event involving anonymous citizens” (Kleiner 2013, 141). The south frieze portrayed the victory over the Persians at the...
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