Goddess of Victory



Nike holding lyre, Athenian red-figure lekythos C5th B.C., Blanton Museum of Art


Last chapter brought the previously introduced goddess, Nike, to the forefront. But who is Nike? Most people know of her through the modern shoe company giant that bears her name, and it’s not surprising that a company wishing to associate itself with athleticism and success would name themselves after a goddess who personified victory itself.

According to Hesiod’s Theogeny Nike is the daughter of titans. Specifically the titans Pallas (not to be confused with Athena’s epithet, Pallas Athena), and Styx (not to be confused with the river). Styx the goddess is the divine form of the legendary river, a nymph and titan said to live near the entrance to Hades. She is quite significant as it was she, according to Hesiod, who was the first titan to side with Zeus during the Titanomachy, the War against the Titans. It was for this reason that her name became the name that all gods swear upon.

It is unclear what side of the war against the titans that Nike’s father Pallas found himself on. According to the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus, he was slain by the goddess Athena, and his skin became her enchanted armor (Making their cooperation in the chapter Flying Solo rather awkward). However, this is likely a conflation of the Titanomachy and the later Gigantomachy (War against the Giants) as most sources say Athena had not yet been born in the War against the Titans.

Regardless, Styx’s four children all fought on the side of Zeus and the Olympians. They were Zelos (“Zeal”), Bia (“Force”), Kratos (“Strength”), and Nike (“Victory”). Nike was most closely associated with the Olympians Zeus, as his charioteer, and with Athena, reflected in her first appearance i nthe serial. She is depicted with any number of items representing victory, such as a palm branch, a lyre for celebrating, and a sash or wreath to give to a victor. In The Cities Eternal, Nike avails herself of armor and a spear, as victory over Typhon and the Primordials has not yet been achieved.


Winged Victory of Samothrace

Perhaps her most notable aspect are her wings. In virtually all depictions Nike is a winged goddess, giving her an appearance not unlike later depictions of angels. Indeed, it is possible that the first depictions of winged angels from Byzantium drew their inspiration from Nike and her Roman equivalent, Victoria.

Nike in The Cities Eternal is a subordinate goddess to the Olympians but still a formidable figure. Just as she did during the Titanomachy, she is prepared to fight with the Olympians to bring order back to a world in chaos. She might not have as much power to bestow as Ares, Hephaestus, or Zeus, but her new champion is far from an amateur.

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