Good The Temple Of Athena Nike Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Athens, Nike, War, Greece, Parthenon, Goddess, Greek, Success

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/10/21


Art and architecture during Greek antiquity largely focused on the construction of magnificent and extraordinary structures and statues. Athenian architect Kallikartes constructed the Temple of Athena Nike in Athens within this tradition. It is considered to be the first structure constructed in the Greek Acropolis in the Ionic style. Indeed, this temple was measured at approximately twenty seven feet long, twenty three feet tall, and eighteen and a half feet wide. The ratio of height in comparison to the diameter of the columns is seven to one, which is unconventional because typical buildings constructed in the Ionic order have a ration of nine to one or ten to one. The sides of the temple were adorned with ornate relief representations that paid tribute both to the Olympus gods as well as to the famous military victories that garnered Athens much glory. This temple reflects the artistic convention of reflecting contemporary historical trends and events, although scholars continue to debate the actual date the temple was constructed. Although the historical record shows that a decree authorizing the construction of the temple was passed in 448 BC, the building was never erected until twenty years later as a result of the Euboian revolt that broke out in 446. Regardless of its exact date, the Athena Nike Temple reflects how classical Greek architecture was a visual articulation of the quotidian in ancient Greece that retained both political and aesthetic purposes. Originally built as an artistic expression of the Athenians’ desire to vanquish Sparta in order to become hegemonic on the world stage, the temple ultimately functioned as a symbol for Athenian greatness politically, militarily, and culturally. Constructed during the Athenian Golden Age, the Temple of Athena Nike reveals that war was a prominent feature in the lives of the Greek because the of antagonism between city-states. Thus, the Athenians paid tribute to the gods in order to appease them and garner their support during war in order to become a world power.
The Temple of Athena Nike was constructed according to the Ionic order in tetra-style, which is evident through its four monolithic columns and at both the western and eastern fronts and colonnaded porticos on two sides of the structure. The victory epithet suggests that during times of war, the goddess Athena was worshipped by the Athenians. The temple’s cella, or the rectangular nucleus of the temple, housed a large cult statue of the goddess Athena, who gripped onto her war helmet, a symbol of war, in one hand, and a pomegranate tree branch, the symbol of peace, in her other hand. The columns of the temple surrounded the cella and formed the porch area where the entablature supported to roof and was supported by the columns themselves. The entablature was adorned with relief sculpture on all of its sides. The A Pentelic marble parapet protected the temple on all sides of the bastion, as the exterior walls are all adorned by intricate reliefs that retain symbolic and cultural meaning. Indeed, the architectural elements of the temple were very simple from a structural standpoint. The structure has four columns with four steps leading up into it both in the front and in the back. Unlike other Ionic structures that have more slender columns accompanied by flat flutings, a scroll capital, and a double base, this Athenian structure eschewed such a style. Instead, the architect constructed this temple to appear the same from both the back and from the front in order to serve dual purposes. Due to its locale which elevated it over the city, the temple watched over the city while welcoming people on the Acropolis from its rear. Thus, the triple bases of the shorter columns rendered the columns quite sturdy and took up less space, as the acropolis was concentrated with monuments and other structures. Moreover, the Athenians were embroiled in war during the time of its construction, which suggests that the city-state most likely lacked sufficient funds to construct a larger temple that conformed to traditional Ionic structures.
The sequence of the external frieze reliefs begins at the northwest corner of the temple by the end of the staircase in the sanctuary. Contrary to the appearance of side by side scenes and war imagery, the reliefs do not proffer a continuous narrative. Rather, each frieze portrays an independent scene, and these scenes adorn all four sides of the temple, separated into fourteen different sections that span approximately twenty six meters long. Each side of the temple nonetheless contains one threading composition that limns the winged goddess who either holds weapons and hands out war victory trophies or she is driving bulls towards the sacrifice altar. Athena is shown seated after putting down her tools of war. Unfortunately, the temple has not been preserved in its totality, as the northeast corner along with other fragments of the frieze has been lost. Nonetheless, it is unequivocal that the frieze located in the eastern part of the temple portrays the gods in Mt. Olympus while the three other sides of the frieze are of historic wars and battle scenes, including the battle at Marathon in 490 B.C. Marble blocks that were carved with various battle scenes depicting the Athenians in battle against the Persians, dressed in oriental sartorial garbs, as well as images of the famous Greek Hoplites defeating their oriental enemies. While no unitary narrative exists, it is nonetheless clear that the theme of victory thread these independent scenes together.


The form and function of the temple of Athena Nike mirror those other works constructed during the same epoch, included the renowned Parthenon and the status of Nike Simonthrace. The Parthenon is yet another Greek temple built in honor of the goddess Athena in the Athenian Acropolis. Pericles, who was the great Athenian leader during its Golden Age, was in control of the Parthenon’s construction, a large, rectangular temple also made out of marble. It was much larger than the Temple of Athena Nike, as it contained seventeen columns on each side as well as eight columns on each of its ends. The Parthenon housed the Olympus gods as well as a large, ivory and gold sculpture of the goddess Athena who holds her tools of war in one hand and the goddess of victory, Nike, in her other. It is unequivocal that the Parthenon was constructed as an expression of Athenian power. Moreover, it shifted the paradigmatic view of temples and their function, as the Greeks clearly viewed the temple not only as a place of worship but also as a political avenue through which deities could be glorified in order to facilitate the political and military dictates of the Athenians during the epoch in which it was constructed. The statue of Nike Simonthrace further underscores the centrality of military exploits in the lives of the Greeks, and how they attributed their victories to the gods and goddesses. This statue was also constructed out of marble in order to commemorate the victory during a famous navel battle. Although constructed earlier than the temple of Athena Nike, this statue nonetheless pays homage to the deities for military success. Many scholars continue to debate the relationship between Athena and the goddess of victory Nike. Some posit that Nike is merely an attribute of Athena, who bestows skills, mental acuity, and strength onto her faithful, while others perceive Nike as having more power and statue that that. Nonetheless, it is unequivocal that statuary and sculptures indeed retained political, military, and religious purposes.


Mattingly, Harold B. "The Athena Nike Temple Reconsidered." American Journal of Archaeology 86, no. 3 (1982): 381-85.
Sikes, E.E. “Nike ad Athena Nike.” The Classical Review 9, no. 5(1895): 280-283.
Stevens, Gorham P. "Concerning the Impressiveness of the Parthenon." American Journal of Archaeology 66, no. 3 (1962): 337-38.
"The Temple of Athena Nike." Acropolis Museum. Accessed January 27, 2015.

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