Gold earrings depicting the goddess Nike [Victory]. Hellenistic (Late 4th Century B.C), Varna Archaeological Museum, Varna, Bulgaria
Yesterday, a Facebook friend Ekaterina Ilieva Ilieva posted a photograph of these extraordinary Hellenistic portraits of the Greek goddess Nike in the form of earrings.
(The earrings can be seen worn today in a 0:26 video here.)
I wanted to quote a favorite passage of mine from Xenophon illustrating the importance of Nike to Greek soldiers in the same period, but Facebook’s programmed formatting truncated the quotation, so I’m making my intended comment into a blog post.
Xenophon’s Anabasis is an account of the Middle Eastern campaign of ten thousand Greek mercenaries employed by Cyrus the Younger in an attempt to wrest the throne of Persia from his brother Artaxerxes II in 401 B.C.
Xenophon’s account of the Battle of Cunaxa, which took place 70 km. north of Baghdad on the left bank of the Euphrates, contains reference to the Greeks invoking Nike in the watchwords selected before the battle.
Anabasis, A, 8.6-8.17.:
Îšá¿¦ÏÎ¿Ï‚ Î´á½² ÎºÎ±á½¶ á¼±Ï€Ï€Îµá¿–Ï‚ Ï„Î¿á½»Ï„Î¿Ï… á½…ÏƒÎ¿Î½ á¼‘Î¾Î±Îºá½¹ÏƒÎ¹Î¿Î¹, á½¡Ï€Î»Î¹ÏƒÎ¼á½³Î½Î¿Î¹ Î¸á½½ÏÎ±Î¾Î¹ Î¼á½²Î½ Î±á½Ï„Î¿á½¶ ÎºÎ±á½¶ Ï€Î±ÏÎ±Î¼Î·ÏÎ¹Î´á½·Î¿Î¹Ï‚ ÎºÎ±á½¶ ÎºÏá½±Î½ÎµÏƒÎ¹ Ï€á½±Î½Ï„ÎµÏ‚ Ï€Î»á½´Î½ Îšá½»ÏÎ¿Ï…: Îšá¿¦ÏÎ¿Ï‚ Î´á½² ÏˆÎ¹Î»á½´Î½ á¼”Ï‡Ï‰Î½ Ï„á½´Î½ ÎºÎµÏ†Î±Î»á½´Î½ Îµá¼°Ï‚ Ï„á½´Î½ Î¼á½±Ï‡Î·Î½ ÎºÎ±Î¸á½·ÏƒÏ„Î±Ï„Î¿. …
ÎºÎ±á½¶ á¼Î½ Ï„Î¿á½»Ï„á¿³ Ï„á¿· ÎºÎ±Î¹Ïá¿· Ï„á½¸ Î¼á½²Î½ Î²Î±ÏÎ²Î±ÏÎ¹Îºá½¸Î½ ÏƒÏ„Ïá½±Ï„ÎµÏ…Î¼Î± á½Î¼Î±Î»á¿¶Ï‚ Ï€ÏÎ¿á¿„ÎµÎ¹, Ï„á½¸ Î´á½² á¼™Î»Î»Î·Î½Î¹Îºá½¸Î½ á¼”Ï„Î¹ á¼Î½ Ï„á¿· Î±á½Ï„á¿· Î¼á½³Î½Î¿Î½ ÏƒÏ…Î½ÎµÏ„á½±Ï„Ï„ÎµÏ„Î¿ á¼Îº Ï„á¿¶Î½ á¼”Ï„Î¹ Ï€ÏÎ¿ÏƒÎ¹á½¹Î½Ï„Ï‰Î½. ÎºÎ±á½¶ á½ Îšá¿¦ÏÎ¿Ï‚ Ï€Î±ÏÎµÎ»Î±á½»Î½Ï‰Î½ Î¿á½ Ï€á½±Î½Ï… Ï€Ïá½¸Ï‚ Î±á½Ï„á¿· ÏƒÏ„ÏÎ±Ï„Îµá½»Î¼Î±Ï„Î¹ ÎºÎ±Ï„ÎµÎ¸Îµá¾¶Ï„Î¿ á¼‘ÎºÎ±Ï„á½³ÏÏ‰ÏƒÎµ á¼€Ï€Î¿Î²Î»á½³Ï€Ï‰Î½ Îµá¼´Ï‚ Ï„Îµ Ï„Î¿á½ºÏ‚ Ï€Î¿Î»ÎµÎ¼á½·Î¿Ï…Ï‚ ÎºÎ±á½¶ Ï„Î¿á½ºÏ‚ Ï†á½·Î»Î¿Ï…Ï‚.
á¼°Î´á½¼Î½ Î´á½² Î±á½Ï„á½¸Î½ á¼€Ï€á½¸ Ï„Î¿á¿¦ á¼™Î»Î»Î·Î½Î¹ÎºÎ¿á¿¦ ÎžÎµÎ½Î¿Ï†á¿¶Î½ á¼ˆÎ¸Î·Î½Î±á¿–Î¿Ï‚, Ï€ÎµÎ»á½±ÏƒÎ±Ï‚ á½¡Ï‚ ÏƒÏ…Î½Î±Î½Ï„á¿†ÏƒÎ±Î¹ á¼¤ÏÎµÏ„Î¿ Îµá¼´ Ï„Î¹ Ï€Î±ÏÎ±Î³Î³á½³Î»Î»Î¿Î¹: á½ Î´á¾½ á¼Ï€Î¹ÏƒÏ„á½µÏƒÎ±Ï‚ Îµá¼¶Ï€Îµ ÎºÎ±á½¶ Î»á½³Î³ÎµÎ¹Î½ á¼Îºá½³Î»ÎµÏ…Îµ Ï€á¾¶ÏƒÎ¹Î½ á½…Ï„Î¹ ÎºÎ±á½¶ Ï„á½° á¼±ÎµÏá½° ÎºÎ±Î»á½° ÎºÎ±á½¶ Ï„á½° ÏƒÏ†á½±Î³Î¹Î± ÎºÎ±Î»á½±.
Ï„Î±á¿¦Ï„Î± Î´á½² Î»á½³Î³Ï‰Î½ Î¸Î¿Ïá½»Î²Î¿Ï… á¼¤ÎºÎ¿Ï…ÏƒÎµ Î´Î¹á½° Ï„á¿¶Î½ Ï„á½±Î¾ÎµÏ‰Î½ á¼°á½¹Î½Ï„Î¿Ï‚, ÎºÎ±á½¶ á¼¤ÏÎµÏ„Î¿ Ï„á½·Ï‚ á½ Î¸á½¹ÏÏ…Î²Î¿Ï‚ Îµá¼´Î·. á½ Î´á½² [ÎšÎ»á½³Î±ÏÏ‡Î¿Ï‚] Îµá¼¶Ï€ÎµÎ½ á½…Ï„Î¹ Ïƒá½»Î½Î¸Î·Î¼Î± Ï€Î±Ïá½³ÏÏ‡ÎµÏ„Î±Î¹ Î´Îµá½»Ï„ÎµÏÎ¿Î½ á¼¤Î´Î·. ÎºÎ±á½¶ á½ƒÏ‚ á¼Î¸Î±á½»Î¼Î±ÏƒÎµ Ï„á½·Ï‚ Ï€Î±ÏÎ±Î³Î³á½³Î»Î»ÎµÎ¹ ÎºÎ±á½¶ á¼¤ÏÎµÏ„Î¿ á½… Ï„Î¹ Îµá¼´Î· Ï„á½¸ Ïƒá½»Î½Î¸Î·Î¼Î±. á½ Î´á¾½ á¼€Ï€ÎµÎºÏá½·Î½Î±Ï„Î¿: Î–Îµá½ºÏ‚ ÏƒÏ‰Ï„á½´Ï ÎºÎ±á½¶ Î½á½·ÎºÎ·.
á½ Î´á½² Îšá¿¦ÏÎ¿Ï‚ á¼€ÎºÎ¿á½»ÏƒÎ±Ï‚, –á¼€Î»Î»á½° Î´á½³Ï‡Î¿Î¼Î±á½· Ï„Îµ, á¼”Ï†Î·, ÎºÎ±á½¶ Ï„Î¿á¿¦Ï„Î¿ á¼”ÏƒÏ„Ï‰. Ï„Î±á¿¦Ï„Î± Î´á¾½ Îµá¼°Ï€á½¼Î½ Îµá¼°Ï‚ Ï„á½´Î½ Î±á½‘Ï„Î¿á¿¦ Ï‡á½½ÏÎ±Î½ á¼€Ï€á½µÎ»Î±Ï…Î½Îµ. ÎºÎ±á½¶ Î¿á½Îºá½³Ï„Î¹ Ï„Ïá½·Î± á¼¢ Ï„á½³Ï„Ï„Î±ÏÎ± ÏƒÏ„á½±Î´Î¹Î± Î´Î¹ÎµÎ¹Ï‡á½³Ï„Î·Î½ Ï„á½¼ Ï†á½±Î»Î±Î³Î³Îµ á¼€Ï€á¾½ á¼€Î»Î»á½µÎ»Ï‰Î½ á¼¡Î½á½·ÎºÎ± á¼Ï€Î±Î¹á½±Î½Î¹Î¶á½¹Î½ Ï„Îµ Î¿á¼± á¼Î»Î»Î·Î½ÎµÏ‚ ÎºÎ±á½¶ á¼¤ÏÏ‡Î¿Î½Ï„Î¿ á¼€Î½Ï„á½·Î¿Î¹ á¼°á½³Î½Î±Î¹ Ï„Î¿á¿–Ï‚ Ï€Î¿Î»ÎµÎ¼á½·Î¿Î¹Ï‚.
Cyrus was with his bodyguard of cavalry about six hundred strong, all armed with corselets like Cyrus, and cuirasses and helmets; but not so Cyrus: he went into battle with head unhelmeted. …
At this time the barbarian army was evenly advancing, and the Hellenic division was still riveted to the spot, completing its formation as the various contingents came up. Cyrus, riding past at some distance from the lines, glanced his eye first in one direction and then in the other, so as to take a complete survey of friends and foes;
when Xenophon the Athenian, seeing him, rode up from the Hellenic quarter to meet him, asking him whether he had any orders to give. Cyrus, pulling up his horse, begged him to make the announcement generally known that the omens from the victims, internal and external alike, were good.
While he was still speaking, he heard a confused murmur passing through the ranks, and asked what it meant. The other replied that it was the watchword being passed down for the second time. Cyrus wondered who had given the order, and asked what the watchword was. On being told it was “Zeus the Saviour and Victory,” he replied,
“I accept it; so let it be,” and with that remark rode away to his own position. And now the two battle lines were no more than three or four furlongs apart, when the Hellenes began chanting the paean, and at the same time advanced against the enemy.