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Νίκη τ᾽ Ἀθάνα Πολιάς. The personified “Νίκη” meant Victory not merely in war but in any contest. She was especially associated with Zeus; but his daughter was the only goddess with whom she was actually identified. Thus Eur. ( Eur. Ion 452 ff.): “τὰν...ἐμὰν” | “Ἀθάναν ἱκετεύω”, | ...“ μάκαιρα Νίκα”, | “μόλε”. And Aristeides, in his oration on Athena, says of her, “μόνη μὲν ἁπάντων θεῶν, ὁμοίως δὲ πασῶν, οὐκ ἐπώνυμος τῆς ϝίκης ἐστίν” [in such epithets as “νικηφόρος”], “ἀλλ᾽ ὁμώνυμος” (I. p. 29). At Athens the small Ionic temple of “Ἀθηνᾶ Νίκη” stood on the platform of a bastion (“πύργος”) springing from the south wing of the Propylaea, on the right hand of one ascending to the Acropolis. The figure of the goddess, probably a work of Calamis, bore a helmet in her left hand, and in her right a pomegranate (“σίδη”), her regular attribute in the Athena-cult at Sidè in Pamphylia. As Benndorf has shown (Ueber das Kultusbild der Athena Nike, Vienna, 1879), the temple probably commemorated Cimon's victory over the Persians at the mouth of the Eurymedon, near Sidè (466 B.C.). This “Ἀθηνᾶ Νι?κη” was the figure which at Athens came to be popularly known as the Wingless Victory, “Νίκη Ἄπτερος”. Wings were the distinctive attribute of “Νίκη” in art: and Athenians were familiar with the winged “Νίκη” which the chryselephantine Athena of Pheidias, in the Parthenon, held in her outstretched right hand (cp. Ar. Av. 574). The conception of “Ἀθηνᾶ Νίκη” was not exclusively Athenian. Thus Pausanias saw at Megara “ἱερὸν Ἀθηνᾶς...καλουμένης Νίκης” (1. 42. 4).

The same remark applies to the name Πολιάς. At Athens it denoted Athena as guardian of citadel, city, and land. Athena Polias was represented by the old “βρέτας” of olive-wood in the Erechtheum. But she bore the title “Πολιάς” in many other places also, especially in the Ionic cities of Asia Minor,—as at Erythrae, Prienè, Teos, Phocaea (Paus. 7. 5. 3, 4: 2. 31. 9). Equivalent titles were “Πολιᾶτις, Πολιοῦχος”, and (in a case noticed by Leake, Morea, II. p. 80) “Ἁγησίπολις”. Cp. Aristeides I. p. 21: “καὶ εἰσὶν αἱ πόλεις δῶρα Ἀθηνᾶς: ὅθεν δὴ καὶ Πολιοῦχος ἄπασι κέκληται”. Thus Sophocles, though writing for Athenians, is not making purely local allusions.

σῴζει μ᾽ ἀεί: as in the Odyssey. In Ai. 14 he calls her “φιλτάτης ἐμοὶ θεῶν”.

hide References (5 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (5):
    • Aristophanes, Birds, 574
    • Euripides, Ion, 452
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.31.9
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.5.3
    • Sophocles, Ajax, 14
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