The Winged Victory in Brescia: from Venus to Nike

Italian poet Giosuè Carducci wrote an Alcaic ode to Brescia’s Winged Victory, a bronze statue from 3rd-century-BC Greece, reworked in the 1st century AD during the Roman Imperial period, and found in 1826 near the Capitoline Temple of the ancient Brixia (Brescia the heavy, Brescia the strong, / Brescia Lion of Italy, to quote the poet’s verses precisely).

The Hellenic original portrayed Venus, looking at her reflection on Ares’s shield, but when the statue reached Rome – probably with Augustus, around 29 AD – it was altered to become a triumphant Nike, symbolizing the victory of Vespasian’s general Marcus Antonius Primus over Vitellius.

The statue was found in almost perfect conditions, which likely means it had been hidden from the Huns and Goths to prevent them from altering it further (in their case, they would have used it to make weapons).

So when Carducci asks, On what things, O sweet maid, didst thou ponder / Beneath the moist earth for these many ages? / Didst thou hear the hoofs of the horses / Of Germans, o’er thy Grecian head trampling?, with a long journey of transformation ahead, the goddess replies, not only am I the glory of Hellas, / But am too the strength of Latium, / Throbbing still in the bronze through the ages.

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The Winged Victory in Brescia: from Venus to Nike

Brescia
Museo di Santa Giuilia, Via dei Musei, 81/b
+39 030 2977833 / 834

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