Temple of Athena and Troy VI bastion

GPS coordinates: 39.957701, 26.239418

Archaeological site: 

Temple of Athena and Troy VI bastion
Temple of Athena and Troy VI bastion


This text is a fragment of a guidebook to Troy "The Secrets of Troy (TAN Travel Guide)".

The district of the Temple of Athena represents the typical situation within the Hisarlık Mound – the accumulation of multiple settlement layers and structures one on the other. Here, the sacred precinct of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, handicraft, and just warfare was erected on the bastion of the Late Bronze Age Troy. The Temple of Athena was rebuilt several times and was finally demolished, becoming the source of construction materials in the early-modern era.

You are in the location of the foundations of the Temple of Athena from the Greco-Roman times. However, the area had been used much earlier. The Northeast Bastion, the most massive tower belonging to the citadel of Troy VI, once rose to a height of 9 meters. It is now ruined but still reaches 7 meters, as it was preserved as a part of the walls surrounding the Sacred District of Athena. In the later period, a narrow and steep staircase was added beside the tower, leading down to a deep well. Possibly, there was a need for fresh water during the religious rituals and festivals held in the district.

Looking around the area marked as the Temple of Athena, it is hard to believe that there once stood a magnificent building dedicated to this goddess. You can only see the foundations of the altar, fragments of marble Doric capitals, and some parts of the coffered roof, all scattered on the ground. Unfortunately, even before the excavations of Troy by Heinrich Schliemann, local people had known where to obtain excellent building materials.

The structure was the centre of the annual celebration in honour of the goddess Athena, with sacrifices and athletic contests. Its entablature, i.e. the superstructure that lies horizontally above columns, was richly decorated with reliefs, encompassing four different themes: a Gigantomachy, a Centauromachy, an Amazonomachy, and the battle between the Greeks and the Trojans, called the Ilioupersis. The best-preserved of these reliefs, depicting Apollo as Helios with four galloping horses, was found during the excavations lead by Heinrich Schliemann in 1872. It is now in the Pergamon-Museum in Berlin, Germany.

The visit to the scant ruins of the Temple of Athena offers an opportunity to take a look at the role that this goddess had played during the Trojan War. The story of the war began with the wedding of Peleus, king of Thessaly, to the sea goddess Thetis. Among the divine guests invited by Peleus, there were three goddesses: Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena. They soon became bitter rivals for a golden apple thrown among the guests by Eris, the goddess of discord, who had not been invited to the wedding. The newly-weds Peleus and Thetis later had a child, Achilles, destined to become the greatest hero of the Trojan War.

Zeus decided that Trojan prince Paris had to judge which goddess is most beautiful. In the story of the first beauty contest, where the three goddesses competed, Hera tried to bribe Paris, promising him power over all of Asia and Europe, while Athena offered him wisdom and glory in battle. Aphrodite won by promising Paris the hand of Helen. When Paris selected Aphrodite and awarded her the golden apple inscribed with the words "for the fairest", the other two goddesses were furious. For this reason, they sided with the Greek warriors in the Trojan War.

Athena personally interfered with the events of the war many times, always supporting the Greeks. The Trojans asked for her protection in vain. Hecuba, the wife of King Priam of Troy, invited the noble women of Troy to go to the temple of Athena on the Acropolis and implore mercy by offering the goddess the most beautiful dress. However, Athena pointedly ignored their pleas for help.

The Greek colonists settled in Troy around 700 BCE, arriving probably from the islands of Tenedos and Lesbos. They must have had the tale of Athena's help for the Greeks in the Trojan War in their minds and decided to build the sanctuary to their mythical~supporter.

The exact date when they first Temple of Athena was erected as well as the details of its architecture remain unknown. It can be assumed that this Archaic Temple was of the Ionic order, as other Greek sanctuaries of that period, built-in Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands. It was probably a rather modest structure as Strabo claimed that "It is said that the city of the present Ilians was for a time a mere village, having its temple of Athena, a small and cheap temple."

This building was visited by Alexander the Great on his way to conquer Persia as he sacrificed to Athena and poured libations to the heroes. He also promised to construct a new temple and donated his armour to the goddess.

The popular belief states that the Hellenistic Temple was built as an initiative of Lysimachus, one of the generals of Alexander the Great. However, the latest archaeological analyses point out that its construction was initiated around 240 BCE, long after his death.

The Hellenistic Temple of Athena was partly destroyed during Gaius Flavius Fimbria's sack of Troy. The temple was later renovated at the times of Augustus who reigned from 27 BCE to 14 CE. Its plan had the dimensions of 36 to 16 meters and that a Doric colonnade surrounded the temple.

Visitor tips: 

Walk down from the platform of Eastern Fortificalion Walls of Troy VI and turn right to follow the marked sightseeing path along the Walls of Troy VI. First, you will pass the massive Eastern Tower from the 13th century CE, which was a later addition to the fortifications. This tower, projecting from the wall, originally had two stories, but it was only possible to get inside from the upper one.

Go past the Eastern Gate where two lines of the walls overlap. It is an opportunity to look closely at how the great blocks of limestone were fitted together. After around 50 meters you will reach the district of the Temple of Athena.

Image gallery: 

Temple of Athena and Troy VI bastion
Temple of Athena and Troy VI bastion