The goddess of victory, or, as the Romans called her, Victoria, is described as a daughter of Pallas and Styx, and as a sister of Zelus (zeal), Cratos (strength), and Bia (force). At the time when Zeus entered upon the fight against the Titans, and called upon the gods for assistance, Nike and her two sisters were the first that came forward, and Zeus was so pleased with their readiness, that he caused them ever after to live with him in Olympus.1
Nike had a celebrated temple on the acropolis of Athens, which is still extant and in excellent preservation.2
Nike is often seen represented in ancient works of art, especially together with other divinities, such as Zeus and Athena, and with conquering heroes whose horses she guides. In her appearance she resembles Athena, but has wings, and carries a palm or a wreath, and is engaged in raising a trophy, or in inscribing the victory of the conqueror on a shield.3 She appears on numerous coins. Well-known sculptures are the archaic Nike of Delos (first half of the sixth century BCE) and the Nike by Paeonius (420 BCE), which stood on a eleven-meter-high pillar at Olympia, erected in 425 BCE to commemorate the victory of the Messenians. The Nike of Samothrace (at the Louvre, Paris) shows her with wide-spread wings descending on the forecastle of a ship, her clothes pressed by the wind against her body. The statue was a type of fountain monument, created ca. 185 BCE at Samothrace as a votive gift from the people of Rhodos.
A beautiful Roman Nike or Victory is the bronze statue at Brescia: a winged figure writes on a shield held in the left hand. Nike appears in terra cotta reliefs and statuettes; the temple of Athena Nike on the Acropolis at Athens was enclosed by a marble balustrade (late fifth century BCE). The outside was ornamented with reliefs that depicted Nike making offerings, leading a bull to sacrifice, etc. Damaged parts of these reliefs are located at the Acropolis Museum. The best-known piece of these is the one of Nike fastening her sandal.
- Hesiod. Theogony, 382 ff.; Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 2.2.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece i, 22.4; iii, 15.5.
- ibid. v, 10.2, 11.1, 2; vi, 18.1; comp. Hirt, A. (1805). Bilderbuch für Mythologie, p. 93 ff.
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.