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What is the Name of the Greek God of Fire?

To the ancient Greeks, fire represented many things. It was the warm hearth, the blacksmith’s forge, and the destructive power of the volcano. All of these aspects were combined in one legendary figure – the god Hephaestus. But how did this outcast get to be one of the most powerful gods?

Fire and Smithing

Hephaestus was a god with several important aspects.

Firstly, he was the god of fire. To the ancient Greeks, fire was less a source of danger than it was a vital tool for humanity. After all, it was how they cooked and how they made the metal weapons that gave them an edge in battle. This is why the theft of fire from the gods by the Titan Prometheus was such an important story, and why the gods punished Prometheus greatly for the theft. Hephaestus was the god of fire.

Because fire was so important to manufacturing, Hephaestus also the god of crafting. Though he was usually portrayed as a blacksmith, he was the patron of other sorts of craftsmen, such as sculptors, stonemasons, and artisans.

The fire of volcanos meant that they also became associated with Hephaestus. Some people believed that these were his forges, vast chambers in which he did his blacksmithing work.

Hephaestus was usually portrayed as a bearded, middle-age man, less glamorous than some of the other gods. He was occasionally shown as younger and clean shaven. Carrying craftsman’s tools, especially a hammer and tongs, marked him out from the other gods. He was sometimes shown riding a donkey.

Hephaestus’s Origins

Hephaestus was the son of Hera, the queen of the gods. There are two different versions of his origin.

In one version, he had no father. Hera, enraged at the infidelities of her husband Zeus, had a child on her own, who she brought into being when she slapped the ground. This unusual birth left him deformed and ugly, so Hera sent him away from Mount Olympus.

In another version of the story, Hephaestus was the son of both Hera and Zeus. He was thrown out of Olympus by Zeus for protecting his mother from his father, with whom she had a tempestuous relationship.

Arriving on Earth on the island of Lemnos, Hephaestus was taken in by the Sintians. They made him part of their community and taught him craftsmanship. He built his first workshop on the island and became a master craftsman, creating elaborate pieces of jewellery.

One of the items Hephaestus made was a magical golden throne, which he sent to Hera. When she sat on it she became trapped, unable to stand up – Hephaestus’s revenge for his rejection. He refused to tell the gods how she could be released, and so Dionysus, the god of wine, was sent to fetch him. Dionysus got Hephaestus drunk and brought him back to Olympus. There he released his mother in return for a more prominent place among the gods and the hand in marriage of the beautiful Aphrodite.

Hephaestus’s Creations

Having returned to Mount Olympus, Hephaestus built a new forge there. He then went on to build others like it, each under the location of a volcano, and it was said that his work was what caused earthquakes and eruptions, with the hammering of his tools and the blasts of heat from the forges. His workshops were scattered across the Mediterranean at sites such as Sicily, Imbros, and Hiera.

He was assisted in his work by three of the cyclops - Arges, Brontes and Steropes. He also made automatons and automatic bellows to do some of the work.

Hephaestus created a range of devices that weren’t living but moved, including the Bulls of Aeetes, Talos, and his own handmaidens. He made much of the furniture and décor for Mount Olympus, including thrones, golden tables, palaces of gold and marble, and the vast golden gates that were the entry to the home of the gods.

As fitted an ancient blacksmith, he made many accoutrements of war. These included chariots for Helios, Ares, Aphrodite, and his sons, the Cabeiri. He crafted bows and arrows for Apollo, Artemis and Eros, and a helmet for Hermes. For the demi-god Heracles, he made a quiver and bronze clappers used to scare off the Stymphalian birds.

His divine workshops fulfilled commissions for powerful mortals as well as gods. He built palaces for kings Aeetes, Alcinous, and Oenopion.  When Prince Pelops was torn apart by his father and then restored by the gods, Hephaestus made a shoulder bone to replace the one eaten by a distracted Demeter. When he became king, Pelops also wielded a sceptre made by Hephaestus.

The Theft of Fire

Though Hephaestus shared his creations with humanity, he would not share his fire. And so the Titan Prometheus stole the secret of fire from his forge on Mount Olympus to pass it to humanity. When Prometheus was caught, it was Hephaestus who chained him to the Caucasus Mountains as part of the punishment laid out by the gods.

Hephaestus in Love

Hephaestus had a number of lovers, including the sea nymph Cabeiro, who he met on Lemnos. Together they had two children, metal-working gods like their father, who were known as the Cabeiri. He was also involved with a nymph named Aetna in Sicily, with whom he had sons.

Hephaestus’s most famous relationship was with his wife Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. When she had an affair with Ares, god of war, Hephaestus learned about it. He made a net of invisible but unbreakable chain links and captured them in bed together, then dragged them to court in shame. Ares was forced to pay a fine for his adulterous behaviour.

Hephaestus sometimes showed the dark side of the Greek gods – bitter, insecure, and cruel. But given his rejection by his parents, it is a wonder that he became perhaps the most helpful god, crafting tools for mortals and gods alike.

Which Greek God is the God of Love?

Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, was one of the most important figures in the ancient Greek pantheon. Her beauty inspired great art from humanity and great arguments between the other gods. So who was Aphrodite? And how is she still shaping our culture?

The Goddess of Love

Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty and of romantic rather than familial love. Her cult was strongly influenced by that of the Phoenician goddess Astarte, and in turn came to be associated with the Roman goddess Venus.

Her name is said to come from the Greek word aphros, meaning “foam.” She was born from the white foam at the edge of the sea, produced when the Titan Cronus cut off the genitals of his father Uranus, the personification of Heaven, and threw them into the waters. Her connection with the sea continued, with people worshipping her as a goddess of the sea and of seafaring. In some places she was also seen as a war goddess. But she was best known as a symbol of love and fertility.

Aphrodite’s cult was a serious, solemn one. But that didn’t stop prostitutes adopting her as their patron, associating her strongly with the sensual side of love.

Depictions of Aphrodite show a beautiful woman, often naked. Like other Greek gods, she can be identified by the symbols around her. Doves were one of the most common signs of Aphrodite, and marble sculptures of doves were used as offerings to her. Because of her connection with the sea and water, conch shells, dolphins, and water birds were also hers. Apples were among her most important symbols, as were pomegranates, fruits often associated with sexuality and fertility.

Aphrodite and the Other Gods

Aphrodite lacked the sibling relationships that bound many of the other gods together. Still, she managed to get tangled up in their family affairs.

She was often accompanied by Eros, a god of lust and desire. In some myths, he is portrayed as an ancient, primeval force. In others, he is Aphrodite’s son. Either way, the two of them together provided an influence for desire that almost no-one could resist.

Aphrodite was so irresistible that it led to conflict between the gods. According to one version of the story, this is why Zeus had her married to Hephaestus, the crippled god of fire and crafting – to stop the arguments. Other accounts say that Aphrodite was Hephaestus’s reward for freeing Hera from the throne in which he had trapped her. Of course, Zeus might have been doing both things at once.

If Zeus hoped that the marriage would stop any trouble around Aphrodite, he badly misjudged the situation. Forced into a marriage she hadn’t chosen, she began an affair with Ares, the god of war. Hephaestus heard about this and forged an unbreakable, invisible net just to capture the two of them naked together. Then he hauled them in front of the other Olympians and Ares was forced to pay a fine for the infidelity.

Aphrodite and Adonis

Aphrodite has long been associated with another figure of beauty – Adonis.

Adonis was the son of Myrrha, a woman who Aphrodite had cursed after Myrrha’s mother claimed the girl was more beautiful than Aphrodite. Myrrha was cast out by her family and turned into a myrrh tree, but still managed to give birth. Aphrodite found the baby and took him to Persephone to foster in the underworld.

As he grew up, Adonis turned out to be very handsome. Both Aphrodite and Persephone wanted to keep him with them. Zeus decreed that Adonis should spend a third of his time with each woman, and the last third with whoever he chose. He chose Aphrodite.

Sadly, this caused even more jealousy, as Ares became envious of Aphrodite’s time with Adonis. He sent a boar, which killed the young man while he was out hunting. Adonis died in Aphrodite’s arms.

The Judgement of Paris

Aphrodite was among those responsible for starting the Trojan War.

When the hero Peleus married Thetis, the gods and goddesses were invited to the wedding. Eris, the goddess of discord, was not invited. She got her revenge by turning up with a golden apple with the words “For the Fairest” engraved on its side, throwing the apple out into the room, and so starting a bitter argument.

Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite all believed that they were the fairest, so argued over who the apple should go to. Zeus didn’t want to have to settle this one, so gave the task to Paris, a Trojan prince. Each goddess offered him a bribe, and he chose the one offered by Aphrodite – Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, the most beautiful woman in the world. Aphrodite got the apple and Paris got the girl.

Menelaus and his allies decided to fight to get Helen back, sparking a war. Many heroes died and one of the greatest cities in Greece was destroyed, all because Aphrodite offered up another woman to prove her beauty.

Aphrodite in Modern Culture

As one of the more memorable and famous gods, Aphrodite has a prominent place in modern culture.

Dove soap bears a symbol taken from Aphrodite and so associated with beauty – the dove.

She has appeared directly as a character in modern stories based on ancient Greek legends. On screen, she was in the Hercules and Xena TV shows, alongside many other figures from mythology, remixed for the modern world.

Aphrodite and her Roman equivalent Venus have become synonymous with love and beauty. Her name turns up in songs about love and desite, whether it’s Katy Perry’s Dark Horse or Tal Bachman’s She’s So High.

This tradition stretches back to the renaissance, when painters became fascinated with showing Aphrodite and her Roman equivalent Venus. Sandro Botticelli, Titian, and Peter Paul Reubens repeatedly depicted her beauty. The theme was picked up again by 19th-century painters such as Jacques-Louis David and parodied by Édouard Manet in his Olympia. Go to almost any art gallery in Europe, and somewhere you’ll find the beauty of Aphrodite, still entrancing men after thousands of years.

Which Greek God is the Goddess of Discord?

Most of the gods and goddesses in Greek legend were associated with positive traits. People would pray to Ares for success in war, to Hebe to preserve their youth, to Nike for victory, and so on. But one goddess was a sign only of bad fortune. This was Eris, the goddess of discord, a most unusual god.

The Trouble Making God

Eris was the goddess of strife, rivalry, and discord. Instead of bringing peace or prosperity, she could cause the slightest disagreement to turn into a quarrel or even all-out war. She stood in opposition to Harmonia, the goddess of peace and harmony.

A Daughter of Darkness

Eris was the daughter of Nyx, the night, and some sources say that her father was Erebus, the darkness. Her family was full of dark forces, including Thanatos, the embodiment of death, Moros, the personification of doom, and Geras, who stood for old age.

A few myths refer to her as the sister of Ares, the god of war. This would have made her part of a different family, that of Zeus and Hera, the king and queen of the gods. This version probably comes from writers mixing up the names of Eris and Enyo, a goddess of war, and so wanting to associate her with Ares. These writers include Homer, the author of the Iliad and Odyssey, who uses the two names interchangeably, showing Eris as a goddess of war.

As the harbinger of discord, pain, and suffering, Eris often accompanied Ares onto the battlefield, urging both sides on for greater destruction. Here she celebrated the dark and destructive side of battle, as opposed to the glory and triumph celebrated by Nike, goddess of victory.

Eris also brought destruction by urging humans to vengeance when they felt wronged. This brought cycles of discord and death.

Eris had many children - spirits called Cacodaemons who brought trouble upon humanity. They were Ate (Ruin), Dysnomia (Anarchy), Horkos (Oath), Lethe (Forgetfulness), Limos (Starvation), Ponos (Hardship), the Algae (Pains), the Amphilogiai (Disputes), the Androktasiai (Manslaughters), the Hysminai (Battles), the Makhai (Wars), the Phonoi (Murders), the Neikea (Quarrels), and the Pseudologoi (Lies).

Eris and the Trojan War

Eris played an important part in the Trojan War.

When the hero Peleus married Thetis, all the other gods and goddesses were invited to the wedding. Eris was not invited as no-one wanted to have strife at a wedding. But this only made things worse, as Eris was offended at being snubbed. She gate-crashed the party, bringing with her a golden apple with the words “For the Fairest” engraved on its side. Then she threw the apple out into the room.

The goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite all believed that they were the fairest. They argued bitterly over who the apple should go to. Eventually, Paris, a Trojan prince, was given the task of choosing between them. They each offered him a bribe, and he chose the one offered by Aphrodite – Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, the most beautiful woman in the world. Aphrodite got the apple and Paris got the girl.

This led to the Trojan war, as Menelaus and his allies fought to get Helen back. Many heroes died and one of the greatest cities in Greece was destroyed. Just by throwing an apple, Eris had brought strife on a city-smashing scale.

Once the war began, Eris became involved again. The gods used her to keep the Greeks fighting, urging them on in battle.

Other Stories of Eris

The Romans included a version of Eris, called Discordia, in their pantheon. Some Roman writers treated her as a goddess of the underworld, a mad and bloodstained figure guarding a cave in the darkness.

Aesop included a reference to Eris in his fables. In this story, Heracles found an apple lying in a mountain pass. Each time he tried to smash it, it grew larger. With the help of the gods, he realised his lesson – that strife and chaos grow greater the more you grapple with them, and the best you can do is to leave them alone.

Hesiod argued that there were two separate beings called Eris. One was the war bringer, a pure force of destruction. The other brought a sort of disharmony that fostered healthy competition. This kind of strife encouraged humans to achieve more than they would otherwise have done.

The strife sown by Eris extended to marriages. In one story, the artist Polytekhnos and his wife Aedon claimed that their love was stronger than that of Hera and Zeus. Hera became angry at this and set Eris upon them. At her urging, they competed to finish their crafts first, betting a female servant on it. Aedon won, but Polytekhnos got angry. He forced himself on Aedon’s sister, Khelidon, then disguised her as a slave to present as the prize. When Aedon realised what had happened, she fed Polytekhnos his own son for dinner. The quarrel continued until the gods turned the whole family into birds.

Eris in Modern Culture

Since the renaissance, Eris has appeared in several works of art, most of them showing the judgement of Paris. Eris herself is usually seen as less prominent than the beautiful goddesses and the war they were about to set in motion.

Eris has a dwarf planet named after her. Discovered in 2005, Eris is part of our solar system and only slightly smaller than Pluto. Given the discord in recent years over whether Pluto should be considered a planet, it seems fitting that discord has been found in the skies.

Unusually for an ancient deity, Eris has become the symbol of a modern religion. Founded in the 1960s, Discordianism is variously regarded as a parody religion, a metaphorical philosophy, or even a legitimate religion. In keeping with its commitment to Eris and discord, Discordianism encourages civil disobedience and schisms between the faithful.

Once the villain of Greek myth, Eris has found a new place as a counter-culture icon.

Which Greek God is the Goddess of Marriage and Childbirth?

Marriage and childbirth were among the most important parts of Greek life. It’s fitting then that one of the most important gods in the pantheon, Hera, was also the goddess of these things. So why was she also the antagonist in so many legends?

The Solemn Goddess of Womanhood

Hera was the queen of the gods as well as the goddess of marriage, women, the sky and the stars. She is usually depicted as a beautiful and majestic woman, wearing the robes common in antiquity and a polos, a high crown representing her station. She is sometimes pictured in a throne or bearing a lotus-tipped sceptre, symbols of her royal authority.

Images of Hera often surround her with other symbols. Cows, lions, cuckoos, hawks, and peacocks all make an appearance as animals sacred to her. She sometimes holds a pomegranate, a symbol of fertility and death.

The original meaning of Hera’s name is uncertain. It may relate to a number of Greek words, including those for hero, beloved, air, and even season, the last referring to the seasonal nature of fertility. The origins of her cult are older than recorded Greek history, and she may have been the subject of one of the first enclosed temples in Greece. In reality as well as in the myths, she was one of the first Greek gods.

Hera and Zeus

Hera was one of the children of Kronos, the mad Titan and original chief god. As his children were born, Kronos swallowed them to thwart a prophecy saying they would overthrow him. One of those children, Zeus, escaped being swallowed, freed his siblings, and led a revolt that brought Kronos down.

Having taken over as head of the gods, Zeus established a new pantheon based at Mount Olympus. His brothers and sisters were among the gods there, including Hera. She became his wife, and together they had three children – Hebe, Ares, and Eileithyia.

Zeus was repeatedly unfaithful to Hera and she spent much of her time dealing with this. She tried to interrupt his trysts, harassed his lovers and illegitimate children, and even planned to overthrow him alongside Athena and Poseidon. It was bitterness at her husband’s behaviour that turned the Olympian matron into a figure of vengeance.

Hera’s anger at Zeus led her to have a child without him. Hephaestus was born without a father, brought into being when Hera slapped the ground. He was deformed and ugly, so Hera sent him away from Mount Olympus. A master craftsman, he eventually returned with a fabulous throne which trapped Hera when she sat on it. She was only released when she promised him Aphrodite’s hand in marriage.

Meddling in Human Affairs

Hera’s jealousy and anger repeatedly led her to interfere in the affairs of humanity.

The most famous example was her feud with Heracles, the half-human son of Zeus. Angry at Zeus’s infidelity, Hera set out to punish his son. She tried to delay the boy’s birth, then sent snakes to kill him, which the infant strangled with his bare hands. When he became an adult, she drove him mad, leading him to murder his own family. This eventually led to him undertaking twelve labours, strange and difficult tasks including fighting monsters and cleaning huge stables. Each time, she found a way to make the task more difficult. Each time, he managed it anyway. Some accounts say that they were eventually reconciled, and Heracles married Hera’s daughter Hebe.

On another occasion, Hera learned that Leto was pregnant by Zeus. She cursed the mother-to-be, declaring that she would not be able to give birth on land or an island. Poseidon took pity on Leto and took her to the floating island of Delos, where she gave birth to the gods Artemis and Apollo.

When Hera found out that Zeus was having an affair with Io, he tried to save his lover by disguising her as a cow. Hera saw through the disguise and asked to be given the cow. Zeus could not refuse without raising suspicion, so gave in. Hera tied the Io up and set her servant Argus, who had a hundred eyes, to guard the captive.

Fearing for Io’s life, Zeus sent Hermes to kill Argus by lulling all the eyes into a permanent sleep. Hera, upset at Argus’s death, set his eyes in the feathers of the peacock, preserving the image of her loyal servant. Io went on to wander the world before settling in Egypt, well away from Zeus.

Hera played a part in the vast destruction of the Trojan War. Prior to the war, the Trojan Prince Paris picked Aphrodite as the fairest goddess, over Hera and Athena. Hera therefore turned against the Trojans. She encouraged other gods including Poseidon, Hephaestus, and Athena to interfere on the Greek side. When Zeus tried to ban such interventions, she sent him into a deep sleep so that she could continue her schemes.

Eileithyia and Childbirth

Though most of Hera’s stories are about vengeance and violence, these were not the aspects for which she was worshipped. She was the matron goddess, presiding over weddings, women, and birth.

Hera was not the only goddess associated with weddings and motherhood. Her daughter Hebe, the goddess of youth, was often with her in attending to wedding ceremonies.

Her other daughter, Eileithyia, was the goddess of childbirth and midwifery. The two goddesses were associated with each other in their role of looking after women, and they may have been combined in some areas of worship. In the legends, Eileithyia postponed the birth of Heracles at Hera’s request.

Celebrating Hera

Like all the Greek gods, Hera was celebrated in statues and other decorations in ancient times. The Heraean Games, an equivalent of the Olympics for female athletes, were dedicated to her.

In the early modern period, she appeared alongside other Greek gods in a variety of dramatic oil paintings. Many of these showed her part in the Judgement of Paris, as she and two other goddesses competed to be declared the fairest.

Hera may have become a bitter figure of vengeance, but she was first and foremost a proud woman and mother.

Which Greek God is the Goddess of Youth?

You might expect that the Greek goddess of youth would be hugely famous. After all, youth is widely celebrated and enjoyed across our culture. But Hebe, the goddess of youth, is not as well remembered as many of her relatives. So who was she and how did she fit into Greek myth?

Eternal Youth

Hebe was the goddess not just of youth but of eternal youth, that elusive dream to which so many people aspire. Her name literally meant “young maturity” or “bloom of youth”. It was believed that she had the power to make the old young again.

Hebe was also the goddess of wedding ceremonies. She was often portrayed attending them with other goddesses, adding an extra layer of blessing to the occasion.

Hebe was often associated with her mother Hera. Some worshippers may have regarded her as an aspect of Hera, who she was worshipped alongside. One of the main centres for her cult was at the sacred grove at Phlious and Sicyon, where she was known as Ganymeda and Dia. She also had an altar near to one to Heracles at Cynosarges.

In Rome, Hebe was known as Juventas. A temple to her existed on the capitol from early in Rome’s history, and she was said to have opposed the building of a temple to Jupiter there. After the Romans defeated the Carthaginian Hasdrubal Barca in 207 BC, they built another temple in her honour in celebration.

Hebe’s Family

Hebe was the daughter of Zeus, the king of the Olympian gods, and his wife Hera.  This made her the full sister of Ares, god of war, and Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth and midwifery. She was also half-sister to many other gods, mortals, and magical creatures, thanks to Zeus’s many affairs.

Hebe was clearly not the favourite within the family, as she became an attendant to some of her family members. She was responsible for preparing Hera’s chariot, ensuring that it was ready for use. She also bathed and dressed Ares.

The most prestigious duty Hebe fulfilled was as cup-bearer, serving drinks of nectar and ambrosia to the other gods. This was a high-ranking position in historical courts, as the cup-bearer was trusted around the high table.

After Zeus abducted the Trojan prince Ganymede, that prince replaced Hebe in the role of cup-bearer. But when the Trojan war broke out, she took up her cup again, as Ganymede was too upset to continue his work.

As the goddess of youth and weddings, it was natural that Hebe often appeared alongside Aphrodite, the goddess of love. As with so many other gods, she acted as Aphrodite’s attendant rather than an equal.

One unusual version of Hebe’s story gives her a very different origin. In this, Hera is still her mother, but Zeus is not her father. Instead, Hera became pregnant by eating lettuce while dining with Apollo, the prophetic sun god. Hebe was born from this strange pregnancy.

Hebe and Heracles

Hebe’s mother, Hera, had a long-running feud with Heracles, a divine hero and one of Zeus’s many illegitimate offspring. But Heracles fought for the gods against the giants, as well as fulfilling a series of legendary tasks to prove his worth. He was rewarded for this with immortality and Hebe’s hand in marriage.

Hebe and Heracles had two sons, Alexiares and Anicetus. These minor gods became protectors of Olympus, alongside their father.

It’s sad that Hebe was overshadowed in her marriage as well as in her family life. With so much attention on her family, we know relatively little about her.

One story we do have relates to Heracles’s nephew Iolas, who had helped Hebe’s husband during his labours. Iolas wanted to fight Eurysthes, a king and Hera’s champion. Hebe made Iolas young again, so that he could fight Eurysthes. This caused consternation among the gods, who argued about whether such a powerful gift should have been given to a mortal.

Representations of Hebe

Like Nike, Hebe was sometimes portrayed with wings in ancient images. But whereas Nike usually kept her human form, Hebe was also shown as a phoenix or an eagle, offering a cup to Zeus. This represented her ability to give eternal youth, as ancient Greeks believed that both the eagle and the phoenix could rejuvenate themselves when they grew old.

Though she drew little attention from classical artists, Hebe became a popular subject for painters from the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries. Many wealthy and powerful women were painted dressed as her, so that their own youth could be eternally preserved. One of the reasons for this was the ease of dressing them up as the goddess – all that was needed was a flowing white robe, some flowers in the hair, and a cup.

The artists who produced these paintings added dramatic touches, placing their Hebes among the clouds, accompanied by an eagle. Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun made one of her subjects sit with a real eagle, which became angry at being trapped indoors and terrified the young woman.

In the 19th century, there was also a trend for sculptures of Hebe. The eagle was less common in these, though some artists rose to the challenge. In America, Hebe statues became popular as a shape for fountains, for which they were produced in cast stone – a concrete imitation of carved stone.

Hebe’s youth may have been eternal, but her fame is not. Since the early 20th century, she has returned to obscurity – one of the lesser known figures of Greek myth, once again overshadowed by the family she served.

Who is the Goddess of Victory in Greek Mythology?

Nike, the winged goddess whose name means victory, is one of the most enduring symbols from Greek mythology. Soaring over battlefields, she brought victory to men and gods alike. Evoked to celebrate and encourage success, she has featured prominently in art from ancient times to the modern day.

So who was Nike and how did a minor god become such a prominent feature of our culture?

Goddess of Speed and Strength

Nike was a goddess of more than victory. Fast on foot and on wing, she was known for speed and strength. Though she was most often evoked for with athletic contests and battles, she was believed to bring victory in all areas of life.

During war, Nike would soar over the battlefield, granting glory to worthy winners. A laurel wreath was worn as a symbol of her blessing, a wreath worn by Roman emperors as a reminder of their success.

Nike was not always seen as a goddess in her own right. She was sometimes seen as an attribute of Zeus, the king of the gods, or of Athena, goddess of wisdom. In this role, she was shown as a small figure held in the deity’s hand.

Over time, Nike came to be seen as a mediator between gods and humans, someone who could grant success to those who appealed to her. Some even spoke of multiple Nikai, a host of victories.

The Appearance of Nike

Like most Greek goddesses, Nike was usually portrayed as a beautiful woman in flowing robes. She had wings, allowing her to fly across the battlefield.

Nike carried a variety of different items symbolic of her role. Sometimes she had a lyre on which to play songs in celebration of victory, sometimes a laurel wreath to crown the victor, sometimes a cup carrying a libation, a drink to be poured away in honour of the gods. As the god who brought news of victory, she sometimes carried the staff of Hermes, the divine messenger. Coins and mosaics also show her carrying a palm branch, another symbol of victory.

Much of the art around Nike shows her celebrating a victory, either raising a trophy or hovering over the victor.

In some cases, Nike is shown driving Zeus’s chariot, a nod to her most famous role in legend, fighting in the war against the giants.

Nike and the Other Gods

As with many Greek myths, there are different versions of Nike’s origins. According to one, she was the daughter of Ares, the god of war, and an unknown mother. But the more popular legend places her at the heart of the struggle between gods and Titans.

According to this legend, Nike’s father was Pallas, the son of the Titan Crius and Eurybia, daughter of Gaia, the divine embodiment of the Earth. Nike’s mother was Styx, daughter of the Titan Oceanus, an embodiment of the ocean.

Nike lived on Mount Olympus with her three brothers, who represented similar qualities to her. Zelus was the personification of rivalry, Cratos the embodiment of strength and dominance, and Bia the representative of power and force. All were close to Zeus. Bia used his strength to bind the titan Prometheus to a rock, part of his punishment for stealing fire from the gods.

Thanks to her role in war, Nike was also often connected with Athena, the goddess whose interest in wisdom extended to military strategy.

Nike in Legend

According to one commonly repeated myth, when Zeus led the Olympian gods into war against the Titans, Styx was the first to take his side. She brought her children, including Nike, to help him. He gave Nike a golden chariot, in which she drove him to war.

As Zeus’s charioteer, Nike carried him to victory across the battlefields of the Titanomachy, the war against the Titans. At the end of the war, Zeus became the supreme deity, with Nike and her siblings acting as his throne guards. They made their home at Mount Olympus, becoming part of Zeus’s newly formed pantheon.

Nike took up the reins of Zeus’s chariot again during the Gigantomachy, the war of the giants, and to help put down the uprising of the monstrous Typhon. As Typhon advanced on Mount Olympus, nearly all the gods fled. Only Zeus and Nike stood against him, Nike offering words of comfort that bolstered Zeus’s spirits and helped him defeat Typhon.

Nike in Culture

Nike was often portrayed on coins and statues in the ancient world. Some of these have survived, becoming among the most iconic art in the world.

One of the most famous is the Nike of Samothrace, also known as Winged Victory, discovered in 1863 and now found in the Louvre Museum, Paris. This was probably built around 203 BC to celebrate a naval battle, and the goddess was portrayed stepping off a ship.

The Athenians raised a statue known as Nike Apteron - Wingless Victory. The statue did not have Nike’s usual wings, symbolising the fact that she would not fly away, and that victory was a permanent presence in Athens.

The Romans, who called her Victoria, built a statue to her in their senate house. This became the flashpoint for conflict between Christians and pagans as Rome’s religious character changed in the 4th century.

In the 20th century, Nike has regained her position as a powerful symbol of sporting success. Since 1928 she has featured on Olympic medals. She also appears on the Jules Rimet trophy, the original prize for football’s world cup. Most famously, the sportswear brand Nike embraced her name as a symbol of speed, strength, and athletic prowess.

Because of her speed, Nike has also been a symbol of motor vehicles. Rolls Royce’s Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament is inspired in part by her. The winged logo of Honda motorbikes references her myth. And a memorial to the engineers of the RMS Titanic, who died fighting to keep the sinking ship afloat and so give others time to escape, shows Nike surrounded by those same engineers, triumphant even in death.

Just like in ancient times, Nike is a symbol of triumph in sports and beyond.