We have lost much in the way of statues, writing and music when it comes to ancient Hellas. The statues, pots and other remanants that are squabbled over between countries pale in comparison to the marvels that remained in the ancient past and of which only stories and descriptions remain. Think of the statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Colossus of Rhodes. But there was another giant in ancient Hellas--one of the greatest. This as the statue of Athena Promachos.

The statue of Athena Promachos (Ἀθηνᾶ Πρόμαχος) was a colossal bronze statue of Athena sculpted by Pheidias, which stood between the Propylaea and the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens. Ith is a different statue from the huge gold and ivory cult image of Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon that was made by Pheidias as well.

The statue was erected during the Classical period of Ancient Hellenic culture, approximately 456 BC. It commemmorated the victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC and was made with the spoils of that battle. According to the preserved inscription on the partial marble base that remains, the statue measured about 10 m (30 ft) in height and showed Athena standing with a spear alongside, her shield resting upright against her leg, and her right arm extended, bearing the winged figure Niké in that hand. The statue was so large it is said that the tip of the spear and her helmet crest were visible at sea, off Cape Sounion.

Athena Promachos stood overlooking Athens for approximately 1000 years, until shortly after 465 CE, when the sculpture was transported to Constantinople (capital of the Eastern Roman Empire) as a trophy in the 'Oval Forum', which became the last bastion and safe haven for many surviving Hellenic bronze sculptures under the protection of the Eastern Empire's Imperial court. The Athena Promachos was destroyed in 1203 by a superstitious mob who thought she was beckoning the crusaders who had besieged the city.

A few Attic coins minted during Roman times (first and second centuries CE) show the statue of Athena Promachos. They show that she wore a belted garment and carried the figure of Niké in her outstretched right hand. A spear leans against one shoulder and her shield rests on the ground. On some of the coins her crested helmet is rendered as Attic in type, sometimes Corinthian.

A few models thought to represent the type survive. They are, for example, the Athena Elgin, a small bronze statuette in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who bears an owl in her outstretched hand, and the Athena Medici torso in the Musée du Louvre, of which there are a number of replicas.

Can you imagine if a statue of this type still existed? It would have been impressive then as it was the first thing many people saw upon enetering one of Athens' entry gates but even today a statue like this would draw the eye and awe of anyone who saw it.