Goddess of victory
Stone carving of the goddess Nike at the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus
|Symbol||golden sandals, wings, wreaths|
|Parents||Pallas and Styx|
|Siblings||Kratos, Bia, Zelus|
The word ? (nik?) is of uncertain etymology. R. S. P. Beekes has suggested a Pre-Greek origin. Others have connected it to Proto-Indo-European *neik- ("to attack, start vehemently") making it cognate with Ancient Greek: (neîkos, "strife") and Lithuanian: ap-nikti ("to attack").
And Styx the daughter of Ocean was joined to Pallas and bore Zelus (Emulation) and trim-ankled Nike (Victory) in the house. Also she brought forth Kratos (Strength) and Bia (Force), wonderful children.
Ares ... O defender of Olympos, father of warlike Nike (Victory).
Nike and her siblings were close companions of Zeus, the dominant deity of the Greek pantheon. According to classical (later) myth, Styx brought them to Zeus when the god was assembling allies for the Titanomachy against the older deities. Nike assumed the role of the divine charioteer, a role in which she often is portrayed in Classical Greek art. Nike flew around battlefields rewarding the victors with glory and fame, symbolized by a wreath of laurel leaves (bay leaves).
Sculptures of Nike were extremely common in Ancient Greece and used both in secular public spaces of many categories as well as in the temples of other gods. She was often seen as a miniature sculpture in the hand of Athena and Zeus. Nike was also depicted with famous athletes, symbolizing their victories. In public places as well as temples, she was depicted in sculpture to commemorate victories in war and competitions.
While Nike was often depicted in sculpture and often included in the cults of other gods, particularly Zeus and Athena, only a few sanctuaries dedicated solely to her are mentioned. Pausanias noted that there was an altar solely to Nike in Olympia close to the altar of Zeus Purifier, and he also noted the temple of Nike in Athens: "On the right of the gateway [of the Akropolis (Acropolis) in Athens] is a temple of Nike Apteron (Wingless)."
Nike is seen with wings in most statues and paintings, with one of the most famous being the Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre. Most other winged deities in the Greek pantheon had shed their wings by Classical times. Nike was a very close acquaintance of Athena, and is thought to have stood in Athena's outstretched hand in the statue of Athena located in the Parthenon. Nike is also one of the most commonly portrayed figures on Greek coins. After victory at the Battle of Marathon, Athenians erected the Nike of Callimachus.
Names stemming from Nike include among others: Nikolaos, Nicholas, Nicola, Nick, Nicolai, Niccolò, Nikolai, Nicolae, Nils, Klaas, Nicole, Ike, Niki, Nikita, Nikitas, Nika, Nieke, Naike, Niketas, Nikki, Nico, and Veronica.