Nike is now mostly known as a famous sports brand, but in ancient times the Goddess Nike was the “goddess of victory,” both in war and sports. The Greeks called her Nike, and the Romans called her Victoria.
The Louvre in Paris has her most famous representation, which returned to public view this summer after almost one year of cleaning:
Winged Victory of Samothrace, Astier Marie-Bénédicte c.200 BC, Louvre Museum, Paris
Winged Victory of Samothrace, c.200 BC, Louvre Museum, Paris — Photo by AP
Nike can also be seen on many Greek vases:
Oil flask with “Nike,” c. 490 BC, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge
Detail of vase with “Nike Pouring a Libation at an Altar,” c.470 BC, Tampa Museum of Art — Source: theoi.com
Nike / Victoria often holds a laurel wreath, the reward of winners:
Statue of Zeus / Jupiter holding Nike, c.1st century, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg — Photo by George Shuklin
Berlin Victory Column, 1873, — Photo by wiki user Ailura
Because she represents speed and victory, Nike has inspired many logos, including the “swoosh” of the sports brand that bears her name, which is a stylized drawing of her wing, and the “Spirit of Ecstasy” figure on the hood of Rolls-Royce cars, which is based on the Louvre statue.
Charles Sykes, Spirit of Ecstasy, 1911 — Photo by Jill Reger
Nike The Goddess is also the origin of many first names, such as Nicholas and Nicole, Veronica, Victoria, and all their variations.
So if you see an image or statue representing a winged female figure holding a laurel wreath, it’s probably Nike, the goddess of victory, whose name survives in many forms.