Skip to content

See Plan your visit for health and safety information including mandatory check-in and use of face masks.

Marble statue of a woman with flowing robes. She is missing her head, arms and right foot. - click to view larger image
Statue of Nike

LUCAS: Look at this statue of Nike, the goddess of victory. It’s more than 2,000 years old but it’s still soooo beautiful ... even if it is a teensy weensy bit damaged.

OK, fine! It’s quite a lot damaged. Dings and scratches everywhere ... and maybe you’ve noticed something missing. Up top there. Yep, she was definitely supposed to have a head. If you look closely, though, you’ll see there’s actually a socket for the head.

You’ll see the hands are missing too. That’s because the sculptors wanted to use better stone for the face and hands so they could put more detail in. They carved those bits separately, then attached them to the body. But somewhere along the way, poor Nike’s head and hands have gone missing. If you happen to know where they are, please let the Museum staff know.

Now, look closely at her shoulders. Those are some pretty cool feathers there. What on earth do you think they’re for? Well, these feathers are actually all that’s left of a set of wings. And that’s one reason we know this statue is of Nike, because Nike was the most famous goddess with wings.

But what did Nike need wings for? Obviously, if you have wings, you’ll do loop-the-loops, even if nobody is looking. At least, I would. We can only guess if Nike did. But we do know one thing she used her wings for.

The Ancient Greeks believed the gods could appear amongst them and talk with them at any time, a bit like modern movie superheroes. So imagine you’re running a race. You win! Wait, what’s that in the sky? No way! It’s Nike descending on her wings to the finish line to reward you for your victory! Awesome!

When you think of Nike moving in the wind like that, the flowy bits of her robe make sense. Look how they seem to be rippling. And they would have been even more stunning thousands of years ago because they would have been super colourful. I know we always think of ancient statues as being all plain and grey and stoney, but most of the time they were actually painted in fabulous colours. Try to imagine this statue in full colour, robes billowing in the wind!

Oh, one more thing. You may have heard the word Nike before – it’s a well-known sports brand, after all. And who better to name your sports brand after than the goddess of victory! Isn’t it amazing that thousands of years later, her name is splashed across millions of sporting products all around the world and worn by athletes competing at the highest level?

Now that’s some victory!

Nike was extremely popular, so keep a sharp eye out. You might see her on other objects in this exhibition.

Disclaimer and Copyright notice
This is an edited transcript typed from an audio recording.
The National Museum of Australia cannot guarantee its complete accuracy.

© National Museum of Australia 2007–21. This transcript is copyright and is intended for your general use and information. You may download, display, print and reproduce it in unaltered form only for your personal, non-commercial use or for use within your organisation. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) all other rights are reserved.

Date published: 17 December 2021

Return to Top