In Greek Mythology, Nike was the Goddess of speed, strength and victory. Also known as Winged Goddess, Nike is most often pictured as having wings. She was the child of Pallas (Titan) and Styx In most beliefs, Styx is the name of the river that separates Planet Earth from the Gates of Hell (Hades). The River Styx was named for Nike’s grandfather Tethys. Nike and her three sisters, Zelus (Zeal/power), Bic(Force) and Kralas (Strength) were brought by Styx to Zeus to assist him in the great Titan battle whose ultimate goal was to gain control of Mount Olympus.
Ancient Greeks worshiped Nike because they believed she could make them never to die and was able to grant to humans strength and the speed needed to be victorious in any task they undertook.
Although Pluto is no longer considered a planet by some planetary experts, in 2013 Styx was recognized as a moon of Pluto.
Nike allied herself with the Chief Greek God Zeus during the great Titanomachy conflict. During this event, she functioned as his chief charioteer. Nike’s reward for doing this was that Zeus promised to keep her near him and to protect her forever. She is often seen seated beside Zeus on Mount Olympus.
In Roman Mythology, Nike was known as Victoria, after Greece fell to the Roman Empire. She appears with Zeus on statues in places such as the Temple of Zeus in Attica and on the west portico of the Temple of Athena in Athens.
When Nike appeared alone, she always had wings and sported a palm branch in her right hand. If she was seen with another god, Nike was always wingless. According to many accounts, Nike is portrayed without wings in Athens so that she could never fly away from their city.
A sculpture dating back to 424 to 203 BC known as “Nike of Samothrace” that was unearthed in 1863 may be seen at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The oldest Nike sculpture known to exist believed to date back to 550 BCE and is located on the Greek island of Delos.
Most sculptures of Nike were made from the core of a piece of wood encased in ivory and gold. One is estimated to be 29 feet tall. Many sculptures of Zeus and/or Athena hold a smaller Nike in their right hand.
Nike’s typical attire in paintings, sculptures and other art media was a flowing gown of gold and wings symbolizing her right to grant victory or to remove it later should the victor not remain worthy. She always carried a palm branch in her right hand as a symbol of peace. Another very important thing she carried was a wreath, always ready to crown a victor in battle or games of challenge. When she is pictured with the Staff of Hermes, this means that one of Nike’s roles was to serve as a messenger from the gods.
Nike being depicted holding wreath reminds us that as the Goddess of Victory she was always ready to encase a winner’s neck and shoulders in a garland of victory. She was also often seen with a cup or pitcher and a bowl from which a victory toast was consumed.
Nike is often seen with a shield upon which it was said that she inscribed the name of each victor of a battle.
How Nike Relates to the Modern World
- Regardless of whether it is 2017 or 250BC, mankind has equated success and triumph with being regarded as #1 in some pursuit whether it be a sport or in our career.
- Since 1928, the Olympics Medal has sported Nike on the obverse side bearing her wreath of victory and the shield upon which the victor’s name is inscribed.
- A portion of the hood ornament on all Rolls-Royce vehicles includes a depiction of Nike.
- Honda motorcycles use a symbol of Nike as part of the company’s logo.
- Nike has been the symbol used since 1945 by America’s Anti Aircraft Missile System.
- Statues of her often include a lyre or kithara used to celebrate a victory with song and dance.
- In keeping with Zeus’s promise to make Nike to live forever as the Goddess of speed, strength and victory, people of all ages have the opportunity to wear Nike shoes. As proof of the power of Nike, many sports stars maintain they owe their success to Nike shoes. Thirty per cent of sports footwear sales belong to Nike. For example, Michael Jordan is said to have made more money from his Nike endorsements than all of its manufacturing labor force.
- Headquartered in Oregon, Nike has been the leader in the world of sports equipment and apparel since 1978 and is estimated to employ 44,000 workers around the globe. The name Nike was chosen by company founders because of her attributes of speed and victory.
- For the swoosh symbol that appears on the side of each Nike shoe, Nike employee Carolyn Davis was paid $35 for the design. Rumor has it she later received an undisclosed amount of stock options as well.
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