The victory column in Olympia: The Nike of Paionios

Michael Lahanas

Νίκη του Παιωνίου

Die Nikestatue von Paionios und die Siegessäule von Berlin

The Dorian Messenians who at one time received Naupaktos from the Athenians set up at Olympia an image of Nike on a column. This image is the work of Paionios of Mende, and was made from the spoils taken from the enemy, when they waged war against the people of Akarnania and Oiniadai; at least so it seems to me. The Messenians themselves say that the offering resulted from their exploit on the island of Sphakteria along with the Athenians but that they did not inscribe the name of their enemy through fear of the Lakedaimonians, whereas they had no fear at all of the people of Oiniadai and Akarnania, Pausanias about the Nike of Paionios


The Messenians and the Naupaktians set up [this statue] to Olympia Zeus as a tithe from the spoils taken from the enemy. Paionios of Mende made it, and he also won the commission to make the akroteria of the temple.

Reconstruction of the Nike of Paionios (by Paionios (or Paeonius) of Mende from Chalkidike) dedicated by the people of Messene and Naupactos for their victory over the Spartans in Sphacteria (425 BC). Produced around 421 BC, approximately the body is 2.16 meter and around 3 meter including her wings. The statue was on an approximately 10 m high pedestal (its color probably blue like the sky so that the Nike almost looked as flying). Discovered by a German excavation group at Olympia in 1875. She carries her himation, while she wears a red chiton. Using a simple graphics program I produced a colored version of the Nike to give an idea about her original appearance (The original colors are not known).

(Paeonius of Mende in Thrace) was an artist of secondary rank, if we may judge from the fact that his name occurs only in Pausanias; but in the brilliant period of Greek history even secondary artists were capable of work which less fortunate ages could not rival. Pausanias mentions a Victory by Paeonius at Olympia, a votive offering of the Messenians for successes gained in war. Portions of the pedestal of this statue with the dedicatory inscription and the artist's signature were found on December 20, 1875, at the beginning of the German excavations, and the mutilated statue itself on the following day. A restoration of the figure by a German sculptor may be trusted for nearly everything but the face. The goddess is represented in descending flight. Poised upon a triangular pedestal about thirty feet high, she seems all but independent of support. Her draperies, blown by the wind, form a background for her figure. An eagle at her feet suggests the element throughwhich she moves. Never was a more audacious design executed in marble. Yet it does not impress us chiefly as a tour de force. The beholder forgets the triumph over material difficulties in the sense of buoyancy, speed, and grace which the figure inspires. F. B. Tarbell History Of Greek Art


Olympia Zeus temple reconstruction, the east pediment
and the pedestal of the Nike of Paionios statue

Nike on the Pedestal

Part of the Nike Paionios Pedestal today

Another 3D Render Reconstruction of the Zeus Temple and the Nike

The Nike of Paionios

Old image


A 1896 Olympic Games stamp with the original reconstruced Paionios Nike, and a 1979 Stamp with the Paionios Nike in its current form.

The Nike of Paionios as it is today

The 2004 Athens Olympic medals present on one side the statue of Nike Paionios with ancient Olympia in the backdrop, while the other side features the eternal flame framed by the first verse of the eighth Olympic Hymn by Pindar along with the logo of the Athens Games.


2004 Olympics Medal, Nike Paionios and Pindar's Hymn

1907 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Inspired by the Nike of Paionios

The amazing Nike of Samothrace

An idea probably adopted from the victory columm of the Nike Paionios is the Victory Column in Berlin, Germany:

Left © Land Berlin/Thie (http://www.berlin.de/home/.html/index.html) Victory Column of Berlin ("Siegessäule von Berlin").

Right closer look of the Victory sculpture

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