In early representations of Goddess Nemesis she is portrayed without wings, but later she is usually shown as a winged goddess.

One of the most important descriptions of Goddess Nemesis was made in Pausanias’s ‘Description of Greece’, a 2nd century travelogue in which he described a statue of Goddess Nemesis made out of a block of marble brought by the Persians when they landed at Marathon, which they intended to use for their victory monument,

Of this marble Pheidia made a statue of Nemesis, and on the head of the Goddess is a crown with deer and small images of Nike (Victory).  In her left hand she holds an apple branch, in her right hand a cup on which are wrought Aithiopanas [Ethiopians]….Neither this nor any other ancient statue of Nemesis has wings but later artists, convinced that the goddess manifests herself most as a consequence of love, give wings to Nemesis as they do to Eros.”

Her crown or diadem is often decorated with winged figures called ‘victories’ that symbolise the many times Goddess Nemesis has had her retribution and show her aspect as an avenging Goddess.  The deer on her crown is thought to indicate that Goddess Nemesis belonged to the earthbound group of deities.  The apple branch, also a symbol of the earth, supports this interpretation and represents health and long life or immortality.

No explanation is given of the depiction of the Ethiopians on this statue but it has been suggested that they are shown on the cup that Goddess Nemesis is holding because of the mythology that Nemesis was daughter of Okeanus, the river ocean and the Ethiopians were said to dwell near the river ocean.  It is also argued that becauseEthiopiawas such a long distance fromGreecethis symbolised Goddess Nemesis’s far reaching powers.

The pedestal of this statue was described as portraying the story of Goddess Nemesis being mother of Helene, as related above, and shows Helene being led to Nemesis by Leda.

There was a common symbolism that was depicted on most of the portrayals of Goddess Nemesis in statues and on vases.  Most often she is shown as a winged Goddess though, as has been mentioned above, earlier representations show her without wings.  Statues and images depict Nemesis as holding an apple-branch, rein, lash sword, or balance.  Other symbols and attributes were like those of ‘Tyche’ (fate): a wheel and a ship’s rudder.

Unlike the symbol for patriarchal justice, Goddess Nemesis was not pictured with her eyes covered, but instead with them wide open, often including a third eye and those in the back of her head.  This symbolised that she was the one that saw all, that nothing could escape her.

Goddess Nemesis was one of the few goddesses seen to carry a sword, a steering wheel or whip, all of which were usually masculine in influence.  The fact that Nemesis carried a sword is significant, as few gods or goddesses were seen to carry one as it was a highly respected symbol of power.  It was a highly esteemed way to die, by the sword.  The sword was double-edged, highlighting the darkness and light, harm and good within her symbolism.

Goddess Nemesis’s pose on images of her reflect the symbolism of her powers and often show her right arm extended suggesting that an exchange is taking place.  Goddess Nemesis offers righteousness in her right hand but keeps retribution by her side at her left hand.

She is sometimes pictured as riding in a chariot drawn by Griffins, these animals were very solar in nature, again reflecting the masculine and symbolising the integration of dark and light.

The colour most associated with Nemesis was indigo.

 

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