Visiting the gallery
Visit Room 19 at the British Museum to enjoy sculpture and architecture of Athens at the height of its political and cultural power.
For much of 5th century BC, Athens was the wealthiest and most powerful state in mainland Greece.
Room 19 displays a number of sculptures from this period, which saw the rebuilding of numerous structures on the Acropolis, the sacred heart of the city of Athens, after the Persian sack of 480 BC.
When the Parthenon was completed in 432 BC, Athens had already embarked on the disastrous 'Peloponnesian War' against Sparta. Final defeat in 404 BC brought about the end of Athens' golden age and stripped the city of its empire, defences and – for a time at least – its democratic government. The building programme on the Athenian Acropolis was interrupted by the war.
- Some of the sculptures in this room are from the Acropolis, the sacred heart of the city of Athens.
- From around 450 BC, Athens was rebuilt as a great showpiece of Athenian power, wealth and art.
- On display in Room 19 are parts of the Erechtheion and Athena Nike temple.
- The temple of Athena Nike, goddess of Victory, was built around 425–400 BC at the entrance to the Acropolis and is the smallest temple built from this period.
- The Erechtheion was the most important religious building in Athens. Probably begun around 421 BC during a lull in the long war between Athens and Sparta, it was completed around 404 BC.
- Six female figures supported the roof of the Erechtheion. Known as Caryatids, one is on display in Room 19.