15. The Nike of Paionios

Paeonius was a Thracian sculptor commissoned by the Messenians to make a Nike to celebrate either

  • their victory in Amphilochia in 426/5 bce, when they fought on the side of Athens under Demosthenes or
  • their victory at Pylos in 425, when they also fought on the side of Athens under Demosthenes.

The inscription on the base reads: "The Messenians and Naupactians dedicated this to Olympian Zeus, a tithe from the spoils of war. Paionios of Mende made this, and was victor [in the competition] to make the akroteria for the temple".

The Messenians, according to Pausanias, claimed that the statue celebrated the latter victory, but that they omitted the name of the enemy because they were afraid of the Spartans--afraid, that is, to boast of their victory over them:

"The Dorian Messenian who received Naupactus from the Athenians dedicated at Olympia the image of Victory upon the pillar. It is the work of Paeonius of Mende, and was made from the proceeds of enemy spoils, I think from the war with the Arcarnanians and Oeniadae. The Messenians themselves declare that their offering came from their exploit with the Athenians in the island of Sphacteria, and that the name of their enemy was omitted through dread of the Lacedaemonians; for, they say, they are not in the least afraid of Oeniadae and the Acarnanians."

The statue was mounted on a triangular pedestal which stood in front of and to the left of the east side of the temple of Zeus at Olympia.

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