The Temple of Athena Nike is situated to the right side of the Propylaia (the gate and entrance to the Acropolis) just outside of the main sanctuary and buildings of the Acropolis. Although the Temple of Nike is not in the main complex of the Acropolis, it does have a prominent position on a tall bastion overlooking everything below the Acropolis.
The Temple was built for the worship of the goddess and patron god of Athens (originally known as The Temple of Athena Nike), Athena goddess of victory and wisdom, in hope of victory against the Spartans during the Peloponnese War.
The Temple of Nike that stands on the Acropolis today (although it has been restored 3 times) was built between 421 and 415 BC during a pause in fighting during the Peloponnesian war called the Peace of Nicias. The tall bastion that the temple sits on is actually the remains of the very ancient Mycenaen walls and sits on the site of an even older temple dedicated to Athena that was destroyed by the Persians during the Persian wars in 480 BC. Archaeologists have found offerings of figurines of the gods and deites that were worshiped here dating back to the bronze age.
The Temple was built during the Periklean building plan which included other famous buildings on the Acropolis such as the Parthenon, the Erechtheum and Porch of Caryatids, the design was by the famous architect, Kallikrates. The Temple of Nike was built to house the statue of Athena Nike and give the city of Athens victory over Sparta and her allies.
The Temple was actually built in stages when funds would allow due to the ongoing war. The fact that the Temple of Nike was built outside of the main sanctuary of the Acropolis on a high bastion meant it was easy to worship for the average Athenian as it could easily be seen without entering the sanctuary.
After the Temple was completed probably around 410 BC a parapet was added to the bastion to prevent people from falling off whilst worshiping. As with all the buildings on the Acropolis the Temple of Nike has suffered thousands of years of war, looting and earthquakes, and yet survived intact until 1686 when the temple was destroyed by the Turks who used the stones as defences against the besieging Venetians. Luckily the stones weren't lost and the temple has been rebuilt and restored 3 times the latest being in the 2000's.
A statue of Athena Nike was kept in the Temple of Nike, according to ancient sources the statue was made of wood with a helmet in one hand and a pomegranate in the other. In later years the Athenians named the statue Nike Apteros, which means wing-less victory. The reason for this is that normally Nike was portrayed to have wings, but the legend in Athens was that the statue was deprived of wings so that she co
uld never leave the city.
The Temple of Nike was the first building on the Acropolis to use the Ionic design, it is colonnaded both at the front and rear with four columns either end forming a portico. The ratio of the columns height to diameter is 7:1 making it more elegant than the usual 9:1 ratio.
Due to restoration the temple is mostly intact except for the roof, the original friezes are now in the Acropolis museum and some in the British museum and have been replaced with copies. The north frieze shows a battle seen with cavalry, the south side depicts the battle of Plataia , the east side portrays some of the gods including Zeus and Poseidon.