NIKE, in Greek mythology, the goddess of victory (Gr. KCTJ). She does not appear personified in Homer; in Hesiod (Theog. 384) she is the daughter of the giant Pallas and Styx, and is sent to fight on the side of Zeus against the Titans. Nike does not appear to have been the object of a separate cult at Athens. She was at first inseparably connected and confounded with Pallas Athena, the dispenser of victory, but gradually separated from her. As an attribute of both Athena and Zeus she is represented as a small figure carried by those divinities in their hand. Athena Nike was always wingless, Nike as a separate goddess winged. In works of art she appears carrying a palm branch or a wreath (sometimes a Hermes staff as the messenger of victory) ; erecting a trophy or recording a victory on a shield ; frequently hovering with outspread wings over the victor in a competition, since her functions referred not only to success in war, but to all other human undertakings. In fact, Nike gradually came to be recognized as a sort of mediator of success between gods and men.
At Rome the goddess of victory (Victoria) was worshipped from the earliest times. Evander was said to have erected a temple in her honour on the Palatine before the foundation of Rome itself (Dion. Halic. i. 32, 33). With the introduction of the Greek gods, Victoria became merged in Niks. She always had a firm hold over the Roman mind, and her popularity lasted till the end of paganism. Special games were held in her honour in the circus, and generals erected statues of her after a successful campaign. She came to be regarded as the protecting goddess of the senate, and her statue (originally brought from Tarentum and set up by Augustus in memory of the battle of Actium) in the Curia Julia (Dio Cassius li. 22; Suetonius, Aug. 100) was the cause of the final combat between Christianity and paganism towards the end of the 4th century. Victoria had altars in camp, a special set of worshippers and colleges, a festival on the 1st of November, temples at Rome and throughout the empire. The Sabine goddess Vicuna and Vica Pota, one of the dii indigeles (both of them goddesses of victory), are earlier varieties of Victoria (Livy xxix. 14). Representations of Nike- Victoria in Greek and Graeco-Roman art are very numerous. The statue of Nike at Olympia by Paeonius has been in great part recovered.
See A. Baudrillart, Les Divinites de la victoire en Grece et en Italie (1894), whose view that in the 5th ce_ntury Nike became detached from Athena, although Athena Nike still continued to exist, is supported by Miss J. E. Harrison (Classical Review, April 1895) and L. R. Farnell (Cults of the Greek States, i., 1896), but_opposed by E. Sikes (C.R., June 1895), who holds that " while Nike was a late conception, Athena Nike was still later, and that the goddess of , victory cannot have originated, either at Athens or elsewhere, from an aspect of Athena , F. Studniczka, Die Siegesgottin (Leipzig, 1898); Preller- Robert, Griechische Mythologie (1894); O. Benndorf, Vber das Culttisbild der Athena Nike (Vienna, 1879); G. Boissier, La fin du paganisms (1891); Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. 28.
In the article GREEK ART, fig. 32 represents Nike pouring water over a sacrificial ox; fig. 36 the floating Nike of Paeonius; figs. 61, 62 (PL iii.), the winged Nike of Samothrace; the running or flying figure (fig. 19) is also possibly a Nike.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)