The temple was the oldest, the most significant, the most magnificent, and the largest edifice of Priene. It was built between 4th and 2th centuries B.C. was designed by the famous architect Pythius who constructed the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is a classical example of the Anatolian – Ionian architectural style.
It was built as a gift from Alexander the Great; he made a donation for the completion of the temple. This is also proven by an inscription on a tablet belonging to the temple, which reads “King Alexander has dedicated this temple to Athena Polias” which is now in the British Museum.
It contained a cult statue of goddess Athena 7 m in height. It would appear to have been a copy of statue of Athena in the Parthenon. The proportions of this temple were taken as a classical model or pattern by the Roman architect Vitruvius.
According to the plan of the temple, it has 6 columns on the short sides and 11 on the long sides. Each of the pronaos and the opisthodomus has two columns, so the total number of the columns is thirty four. The structure stands on a three-stepped platform, 37.20 meters long and 19.15 meters wide. The columns of which the bases are the built in Ephesus type, have 24 flutes in their shaft.
The architectural elements were found on the west, rear side of the temple show that they belong to 2nd century BC due to various but especially to economic reasons the building could not be completed up to that period is understood that the temple was completed by the donation made in 158 – 157 B.C. by Prince Orophernes.
The standing Athena, with a helmet on her head is seen with goatskin, spear and shield. In her right hand she holds a Nike. The statue was 6.5 meters high.