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In Greek mythology, Nike was the Greek personification of "victory". Her Roman name was known as Victoria (Gr: Νικη) (see Roman Mythology for more information), which of course translated to "victory". She is also known as the Winged Goddess, due to many depictions of her show her having wings.

She was the daughter of the Titan Pallas and the goddess Styx, and had three other siblings: Cratus ("strength"), Bia ("force"), and Zelus ("zeal").

Since Nike was such an important figure she was worshipped by both the Greeks and the Romans, earning herself a major cult following. However, once Christianity was introduced in Greece, Nike was stripped of her divine title and was seen as a pagan goddess to the Christian religion.

Features in Mythology[]

Titanomachy[]

Once the great Titanomachy broke out, Zeus promised all deities who fight alongside him would be rewarded. He promised that those who fight will be allowed to stay on Olympus and would receive great honour and power. However, he also threatened threaten that those who opposed the battle would lose their power and position on Mount Olympus.

During the Titanomachy, Nike and her siblings were allies of Zeus and fought alongside him. Nike was Zeus's chief charioteer.

After the war, Nike and her siblings were rewarded and became sentinels of Zeus's throne.

Depictions[]

Nike was portrayed in painting, sculptures and other forms of art with strong and mighty wings. However she was not only portrayed with wings, but also sporting a palm branch in her hand (usually right hand), to symbolize peace. She sometimes also carried a wreath, this she used to crown the victor in both battles and games. A reminder that the Goddess of Victory is ready to crown a victor, be they man or god, at any given time.

Nike is often shown with plenty of accessories to help crown or announce the victor. In some depictions of Nike she is shown carrying an oinochoe (cup) or a phiale (bowl) from which the victor drinks.

Nike is also seen sporting a shield, which she uses to inscribe the victor's name on.

Some times, although very rarely, Nike is seen with a thymiaterion (incense burner).

Most of her statues include the lyre of Apollo or a kithara, this she uses to celebrate the victory that was won, by either singing or dancing. Many hymns were also inspired by Nike, owing gratitude to her power and praying that she will grant the people victory in their next battle.

Nike of Samothrace

Usually Nike is depicted either with Zeus, with Athena or alone. When she was shown with Athena, Nike was wingless. This is because without her wings, she cannot fly away from Athens, since the Athenians wanted to secure victory. However, when Nike was ever shown with Zeus or Athena, she was usually carried in their hands as a small figure. Nike was also a surname for Athena, although it was not very popular.

In 1863, a sculpture of Nike was found (picture on right side), known simply as "Nike of Samothrace". The sculpture was made by Paeonius of Mende in c. 424 BCE and shows how awe inspiring Nike truly was. This sculpture can now be found in the Louvre Museum, in France.

Nike was also printed on ancient coins. It is believed that warriors would hold onto these coins as a charms or talisman in hopes of achieving victory in battle or in the arenas.

In Modern Culture[]

Nike's influence has not been lost through the ages. She can still be seen in a multitude of different mediums in today's modern era :

  • Nike is seen bearing a wreath of victory and her iconic shield on modern Olympic Medals, since 1928.
  • Known as 'Spirit of Ecstasy' or 'The Flying Lady', Nike can be seen representing her speed as one of the hood ornaments for Rolls Royce.
  • Honda motorcycles have also incorporated Nike's powerful wings into their companies logo.
  • Of course the most popular representation of Nike in modern society is the 'Nike' shoe company. This corporate giant is not just named after Nike, but their popular 'swoosh' logo was also inspired by Nike's wings, symbolising speed and strength.

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References[]


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