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Temple of Athens’s patron warrior goddess rises once more on the Acropolis

The marble temple of Athena Nike has been restored after 10 years of work in Athens. The marble temple of Athena Nike has been restored after 10 years of work in Athens. (Petros Giannakouris/ AP)
Associated Press / September 8, 2010

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ATHENS — After a decade-long reconstruction, the ancient Greek temple of Athena Nike is back up on the Acropolis.

The slender marble building originally erected in the fifth century BC was stripped of its scaffolding in recent days — 10 years after being completely dismantled for repairs.

Unlike other ancient monuments battered by war or natural disaster, the four-columned temple near the entrance of the world-renowned Athens citadel fell prey to the best of intentions: Previous restorations hadn’t stood the tests of time.

Athena Nike had two dates with restoration crews over the last two centuries — one in 1935, another in the 1830s — and the latest top-to-bottom refurbishment sought to permanently fix mistakes from previous attempts.

“We have used the latest technology, following successful experimentation with stress and aging,’’ project head Dionysia Mihalopoulou said, speaking on the Acropolis yesterday. “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 from previous restorations with sections of new marble from ancient quarry sites. Their brilliant white contrasts with the old stone’s patina in places, making it clear they are modern additions.

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

Built between 427-424 BC, while Athens was fighting Sparta for control of the Greek world, the building was dedicated to the city’s patron goddess Athena in her revered capacity to bring victory in battle. The Athenians lost the war. But the compact little temple survived intact until the late 17th century, when it was demolished to provide material for a gun emplacement.

It was rebuilt after Greece’s independence from Ottoman rule in 1829.

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