Images of Nike

Nike was very popular for
the artists of classical antiquity
especially the Athenian red
figure vases of the classical

Above: Nike awards a
libation to a hoplite in the
expectation of glorious

Above and below: examples
from of a variety of poses.

In vase painting, Nike is particularly popular. She is almost always shown with wings – her defining attribute – and in a stance or position that communicates her energetic and ephemeral nature: running or flying.

In the Archaic period, she shows up as a messenger and is often indistinguishable from other winged heralds such as Iris; like Hermes she will sometimes carry the caduceus in early painting. In the fifth century, she is very fashionable and is often shown dedicating armor and weapons, pouring libations over altars, or bestowing garlands on athletes and warriors; common attributes during this time are the phiale (offering cup) and oinochoe (small jug).

She can also sometimes appear on vases a charioteer in more complex figural schemes, usually for Athena, for whom she is a common handmaiden. Her popularity in Athenian painting peaks during the later part of the fifth century, specifically during the Peloponnesian War during which time she is invoked with particular fervor. For a wore torn polis, there could be no more important goddess . . . .