At the southwest corner of the Acropolis, lies a small and humble ionian temple, made by marble and limestone, the temple of Athena-Nike. To be more specific, its name is the temple of ‘Athena Apteros Nike’. This is translated as ‘Athena the Wing-less Victory’. Its name came from the wooden statue of Athena-Nike, which was inside temple’s cella. The custom was to present statues of Nike, Victory, with wings. This particular statue however had no wings. The myth says that this happened in order for Victory never to leave Athens.
It represents the architectural climax of the Athenian tetrastyle amphiprostyle Ionic temple. In fact, this very temple became the prototype for thousands similar temples all over the world during Roman empire, and it still is the prototype for current efforts of creating an ‘Athenian temple’.
Its location was used for religious purposes since ‘Bronze Age’. The temple was designed by Kallikrates and it was completed in the middle of Peloponnesian War, at 420 B.C. It faces east and with its ionian charm counter balances the austere doric presence of Propylaia.
Everything within this temple is quite different from the rest of Acropolis’ ionian buildings. Its ratio is 7:1, while the usual ratio of a custom ionian temple is 9:1. Its cella is too long and too shallow. Its main statue, representing the deity in which the temple was devoted, while having the name of ‘Athena’, is not surely the symbol of the goddess protector of Athens. Nike, Victory, according to Hesiod at last, was considered to be an autonomous goddess. The statue was wing-less and wooden. In addition, there was a parapet around the temple. Its main use was to protect people from falling of the steep bastion.
The most amazing feature of the temple however is its amazing frieze, depicting battles between Greeks and the wars between Greeks and Persians. The parapet was decorated by relief sculptures. The most well-known of these sculptures is ‘Nike adjusting her Sandal’.
We can admire the marvelous technique of these sculptures and of the sceneries of the temple’s frieze at the Acropolis Museum.
What is still amazing and encouraging, is the Athenian way to transform practical solutions to eternal examples of human creativity and beauty. The need was to shield the southwest corner of Acropolis and to cover its obvious vulnerability. The result however became an eternal example of beauty, which still inspires us to always go beyond necessities, looking for rhythm and balance!