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AP Interview: Athena Nike temple restored on Athens' Acropolis after decade-long facelift

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — After a decade-long facelift, the ancient Greek temple of Athena Nike is back up, patched up and unfettered on the Acropolis.

The slender marble building first erected in the 5th century B.C. was unburdened 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 simply 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 was aimed to fix mistakes from previous restoration efforts for good.

"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."

The 1935 restoration involved extensive use of concrete and iron joints to hold the marble blocks together. When the iron rusted, the marble cracked, threatening the temple's long-term survival. This time, the iron was switched for titanium — a metal as strong as steel, but much more resistant to corrosion.

"This third restoration was dictated by extensive damage and structural problems, both in the foundations and the upper structure," said Mihalopoulou, a civil engineer.

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.

Built between 427-424 B.C., 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.

The repairs were part of an Acropolis conservation and restoration project begun in the 1970s for all three of the site's temples, using funds from the Greek government and European Union. Work has already finished on the Erechtheion temple and the citadel's monumental gate, while scaffolding will remain on the Parthenon — the best-known of the three — for several years.