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What are some facts about the goddess Nike?

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The ancient Greek goddess Nike is most often identified as the goddess of victory. Later called Victoria by the Romans, the goddess Nike closely mirrors many attitudes held by the Greeks towards form, beauty, competition and skill. She also exhibits some of the classic frailties attributed to the gods and goddesses in Greek mythology, not least of which being their often uneven dealings with human beings.

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Nike is commonly understood to be the daughter of the river Styx and the giant Pallas. However, other sources suggest that the god of war, Ares, was her actual father. In addition to this dubious parentage, Nike is consistently linked to Zeus and Athena, and is often depicted in their company. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Nike herself is shown as a beautiful, fit young woman with wings and "a palm branch, wreath or Hermes staff as the messenger of victory." Nike was believed to be fleet-footed, capable of flying and even taking the form of a bird on occasion.

As Nike's association with victory goes beyond solely war, she exemplifies the Greeks' love of competition in all areas of life, from war and sports to poetry and philosophy. About.com's de Traci Regula also points out Nike's "capriciousness," illustrating how she could be rather inconsistent in the way she awarded victory. In this sense, Nike is also a fair example of the human-like imperfection of the Greek gods and how they played favorites or rendered biased judgments. The gods and goddesses, like humans, didn't always play fair.

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