Nike, Greek Goddess: Facts and Myth

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  • 0:01 Nike & Family
  • 0:30 Attributes & Symbols
  • 0:53 In the Myths
  • 1:56 Modern Day
  • 2:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

In this lesson, you can learn about the Greek goddess Nike, daughter of Pallas and Styx, goddess of strength, speed, and victory, and a lesser partner of Athena.

Nike and Family

Nike is probably the world's most recognized shoe company. But did you know that those shoes were actually named after a Greek goddess? In Greek mythology, Nike was the winged daughter of Pallas and the river Styx. Styx was one of the rivers that separated the realm of the dead, and Pallas was the Titan who personified the sun. Her siblings were Kratos (god of Strength), Bia (goddess of Force), and Zelus (god of Zeal).

Attributes and Symbols

Nike was a pretty simple goddess, so she didn't show up much in Greek mythology. When she did, though, she was always shown as the goddess of victory, strength, and speed. For the ancient Greeks, speed and strength were the two keys to victory in anything important - combat, wrestling, running, or boxing - so it made sense that she'd be connected to all of them.

In the Myths

In the war between the gods and the Titans, Styx brought her children to serve Zeus. In the war, Nike served him as a charioteer. Later, in the time of mortals, Nike was known for flying around battles to locate the victors. When she found one, she gave him fame and honor with a wreath of laurel leaves.

There were no specific myths about Nike or her siblings, though. Nike was mentioned here and there as rewarding a hero with a wreath of laurel leaves or a reference was made to an Olympian having 'Nike's gift' or 'Nike's prize.' Her laurel trophy is probably where we get the phrase 'resting on your laurels.'

Any time Nike was sculpted, she had wings. By classical times, she was the only goddess who still had them. She was also sculpted with Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom. She was never an equal, though. Sometimes she rested on Athena's palm, like at the Parthenon. Other times, she just appeared in the background.

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