10-year restoration of Acropolis’ Nike temple ends

After 10 years of unsightly scaffolding and reconstruction, the 5th century B.C. temple of Athena Nike on the Acropolis is finally restored. It had to be taken down piece by piece and rebuilt, this time not because of the ravages of war, pollution and age, but because 2 previous restorations caused more problems than they solved.

The first restoration in 1834 was a rebuild. Under siege by the Republic of Venice during the Morean War, the Ottomans had dismantled the temple in 1687, using the marble to build a gun embankment next to the monumental gateway to the Acropolis. When the Venetians broke through after 8 days of heavy bombardment, the bastion was still standing. It remained a bastion for 150 years until Greek independence (1829), after which Ludwig Ross, administrator of antiquities, had it dismantled and the temple rebuilt. It was incomplete, however, with blocks of marble stored inside the building.

During the 1935 restoration dismantled the temple again and found massive structural damage. Restorers used concrete and iron beams in the substructure and to keep the marble blocks together. Unfortunately, in the decades since then the iron rusted and the concrete degraded, causing cracks in the marble. The foundations and the upper structure were both in dire condition.

Enter the 21st century. When the Monuments Preservation Service examined it, they found that most of the blocks had been wrongly placed, that the west side listed by 4.5 centimeters and that rust had penetrated through the sub-structure all the way down into the archaic-era temple.

“We have used the latest technology, following successful experimentation with stress and aging,” project head Dionysia Mihalopoulou told The Associated Press on the Acropolis on Tuesday. “The choice and use of materials was the best possible, they will not corrode.” […]

Starting in 2000, workers took down 315 marble sections weighing up to 2–1/2 tons, laying bare a concrete foundation slab that was replaced by a stainless steel grid. Crews replaced the concrete additions with sections of new marble from ancient quarry sites — whose brilliant white contrasts with the old stone’s patina in places like the walls and columns to make clear they are modern additions.

Every block was returned to the original position selected by the temple’s ancient architects.

The friezes depicting Nike in various active postures have been removed permanently. They are now in the beautiful new Acropolis Museum while reproductions are in place on the temple itself. The temple is also a foot taller now.

Temple of Athena Nike, 1978 Temple of Athena Nike under scaffolding, 2007 Temple of Athena Nike today