3/06/2009

Goddess of the week - Nike

Name: Nike
Sphere of influence: Victory
Location: Greece
Famous portraits: Nike from Samothrace (but other portraits exist).

Nike (in Greek Νίκη) is the personification of victory. She was the daughter of Pallas and Styx, and the sister of Cratos, Bia and Zelus (other personifications). She enters the stage of classical myths in the service of Zeus during the Titan wars. Her mother has brought her and her siblings there and Nike was his charioteer. After the victory of Zeus, she and her siblings were appointed as senteniels, standing next to the throne of Zeus. This is the only time Nike is active in any mythological stories, but she is sometimes depicted as the god's charioteer from time to time.

She is generally portrayed with wings - one of the few gods and goddesses in classical Greece to be so. She could be seen with several different attributes, all to do with her role as the personified victory. It is the vessels needed for a libation (the ritual pouring of liquids as offerings to higher powers), a wreath to crown a winner, a lyre for playing a victory song, and so on. The list can be made much longer.

She is sometimes seen as closely related to the goddess Athena, and sometimes the two goddesses are merged so that Nike turns out to be nothing more than an aspect of the more prominent goddess.

Nike from Samothrace, the headless statue which can be seen here, is a prime example of Hellenistic art - found on the island of Samothrace. The exact date of the statue is not known, the classical assumption is somewhere 220-190 B.C., but dates from 250 to 180 B.C. have been mentioned too. The statue is now on display at the Louvre, Paris, where it has been since 1884.

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