"I sing of Artemis with shafts are of gold, strong-voiced, the revered virgin, dear-shooting, delighter in arrows, own sister to Apollon of the golden sword. Over the shadowy hills and windy peaks she draws her golden bow, rejoicing in the chase, and sends out grievous shafts. The tops of the high mountains tremble and the tangled wood echoes awesomely with the outcry of beasts: earth quakes and the sea also where fishes shoal. But the goddess with a bold heart turns every way destroying the race of wild beasts: and when she is satisfied and has cheered her heart, then the huntress who delights in arrows slackens her supple bow and goes to the great house of her dear brother Phoibos Apollon, to the rich land of Delphoi, there to order the lovely dance of the Mousai and Kharites. There she hangs up her curved bow and her arrows, and heads and leads the dances, gracefully arrayed, while all they utter their heavenly voice, singing how neat-ankled Leto bare children supreme among the immortals both in thought and deed. Hail to you, children of Zeus and rich-haired Leto! And now I will remember you and another song also."
(Homeric Hymn 27 to Artemis)
Artemis (Roman: Diana) [Pronounced in English as "AR-tuh-miss" and in Greek as "ARR-ta-meece"], is the Greek goddess of hunting, the wilderness, mountains, lakes, springs and wells, the nymphs, animals, protector of the young of both animal and human, midwifery, plague, chastity, light, and the moon, especially the crescent moon. Like with Athena's temple, the Parthenon, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The name Artemis is of uncertain origin. However, it may mean "Great Mother", as there is indication that the worship of Artemis is extremely ancient and may pre-date the Greeks. There is evidence that Artemis may have originally been viewed as an all-powerful fertility deity or "mother goddess".
Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and the Titan, Leto. She is the twin sister of the god Apollo. Artemis revealed her role as midwife shortly after her birth as she was born one day before Apollo and then subsequently assisted her mother in the birth of her brother. As Apollo took the Palm Tree as one of his sacred plants as he was born beneath one, so too did Artemis take the Cypress Tree as one of her sacred plants, being born beneath one. Artemis is one of the 12 Olympians.
Unlike the majority of the other goddesses, Artemis is portrayed as a divine Kore, or maiden. Artemis is routinely portrayed as a young woman, perhaps in her early 20s.
In Greek art, Artemis is almost universally portrayed as fully robed, though she may be portrayed in the nude if the scene is of her bathing or swimming with her nymphs. Beginning from the Roman conquest and into Middle Ages, as well as today, it is very common for artists to portray the goddess in the nude. This may stem from the equation of nudity with freedom. However, the goddess is traditionally represented as being fully robed or else wearing a short, knee-length tunic that would not interfere with her running when hunting.
In appearance, Artemis is strikingly similar to her twin brother, Apollo. She possesses golden-blond hair, which she keeps styled-up upon her head and which may be kept in place by a crown or the image of the crescent moon, blue eyes and clear skin. Artemis is mostly portrayed carrying her golden bow and arrows but may also be shown to be carrying a spear or a torch as well. In archaic representations, Artemis is usually portrayed as having a pair of golden wings, a trait that sets her apart from her brother, Apollo. She may also be portrayed as carrying an animal in each hand or else wearing animal skins or pelts.
As with Hestia and Athena, Artemis is a virgin goddess, and together the three goddesses are the only gods who are immune to the power of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, sex and desire.
According to myth, on Artemis' third birthday she approached her father, Zeus, and asked him for six things. Her first request was to be allowed to remain a virgin forever. Her second request was to have as many names as her brother, Apollo. Her third request was for a bow and arrows similar to her brother's but made of gold, as well as a short tunic that would not interfere when she hunted. Her fourth request was to be able to bring light into the world. Her fifth request was for a group of 80 nymphs who would act as her hand-maidens, hunting companions, and attendants. Her sixth and last request was for all of the mountains of the world as she did not desire to rule over any cities, as well as the power to diminish the pain of women during childbirth. Zeus, being delighted in his daughter, granted all of her requests. He straight-away ordered Hephaestus to create her a golden bow and set of arrows. Artemis then paid a visit to Pan, the shepherd god of herds and flock, and he gave her a birthday gift of a pack of hunting dogs, 7 female and 6 male. Pan also told her of the existence of 6 beautiful and wild, golden-antlered deer. Artemis hunted them down but did not kill them. She instead tamed them and harnessed them to pull her chariot.
Like with her brother, Apollo, sudden and unexplained deaths of women, including death during childbirth, were believed to be caused by Artemis shooting her arrows. Artemis, likewise, was a source of plague by shooting poisoned arrows at cities, usually as a form of punishment.
As a virgin goddess, Artemis was preoccupied with the protection of her modesty. This was not an easy task as she was a beautiful goddess who was lusted after by many a god. Unfortunately, many male deities and mortals ended up experiencing her wrath when she felt her modesty was violated.
One of the more famous examples of such occurred when the mortal, Actaeon, chanced upon the goddess bathing. Actaeon ended up seeing her in all of her glory and the goddess was horrified. She reached down into the lake and splashed water upon the poor man. When the drops of water fell upon Actaeon's body a strange transformation resulted. He grew antlers and turned into a deer. Unfortunately, Actaeon still possessed the mind of a man so such experience was true torture. He immediately fled the goddess and sought help from his hunting companions. When he reached camp he was set upon by his own hunting dogs who then killed him, unable to recognize him for their master.
Actaeon would not be the only unfortunate mortal male to stumble upon the naked goddess. A young boy named Sipriotes accidentally encountered the goddess as she bathed. However, and due to his young age, Artemis showed compassion to him. She also reached down into the water and flung droplets upon the poor boy. Instead of transforming into a stag, the young boy became a girl. The newly made maiden then became a dutiful attendant of the goddess.
When the Aloadae, gigantic twin sons of Poseidon, tried to carry off Artemis and Hera for brides, Artemis saved the day due to her knowledge that the giants could only be killed by one another and were immune from death by any other means. Artemis transformed into a beautiful doe and ran between them. Being skilled hunters, the Aloadae each decided that he was going to be the one to kill the doe and claim her as a trophy. Each brother took out their bow and arrows as Artemis-as-doe ran between the pair and just as their arrows were set lose. As a result, each brother ended up shooting the other and thus both died.
When the River god Alpheus tried to seduce the goddess, Artemis fled him and contrived a plan where Alpheus would be allowed to have her if he could correctly pick her out from among her nymphs. However, if Alpheus could not pick her out, or if he chose the wrong maiden, then he must return to his home and bother her no more. Apheus, believing it would be extremely easy to identify the beautiful goddess, accepted Artemis' challenge and swore his oath to the goddess. Upon arriving at Artemis' location, Alpheus was shocked to discover that each young maiden had covered their face with mud. As a result, Alpheus was unable to distinguish which maiden was the goddess and so he was forced to leave.
It wasn't just her own virginity that Artemis attempted to protect. Artemis also demanded that her attendants and priestesses remain chaste as well. If an attendant or priestess violated her vows of chastity, Artemis' punishment could be severe. Case in point, Callisto.
Callisto was an attendant of Artemis who had made a vow of chastity to the goddess. The problem was that Callisto was very beautiful. She attracted the attention of Zeus who then seduced her by shape-shifting into the very likeness of Artemis! Callisto became pregnant and concealed both her breaking of her vow and her pregnancy from Artemis, fearing repercussion. In an attempt to protect Callisto from the wrath of Hera, Zeus transformed her and his newborn son into bears. Artemis, furious over the deception of Callisto, slew both her and her son with her arrows. Zeus then placed the pair in the heavens as the constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
It was common knowledge that if any of Artemis' attendants were in danger of having their virginity violated that all they had to do was call upon the goddess and she would make sure they would remain virgins. Artemis usually accomplished this by transforming the attendant into a spring, river, tree or other aspect of nature. Thus Pholeo was turned into a spring and Syrinx was turned into reeds.
Despite Artemis' vow of being an eternal virgin, she herself was tempted by love at least once in myth. The object of her seemingly innocent affection was a giant hunter named Orion. Orion was a son of Poseidon and even though he was a giant he was considered to be extremely attractive. He was originally married to a beautiful woman named Side. However, she foolishly boasted that she was more attractive than Hera, the Queen of the Gods. Hera was quick to punish her hubris. The great goddess of heaven simply picked up Side and threw her alive into the Underwold, a seemingly literal translation of the phrase, "Go to hell!". Orion grew lonely and restless after the loss of his wife.
Poseidon granted his son the power to walk on water and as such he loved to stroll across the ocean from place to place, exploring new lands and generally having fun. Unfortunately, the giant also liked alcohol. While drunk one night he attempted to rape a princess and her father blinded him in retaliation. Orion stumbled hopeless and aimlessly until he chanced upon the island where Hephaestus dwelled. Hephaestus took pity on him and told him if he traveled due east he would eventually reach the palace of the sun god, Helios, where he might be healed. Orion took Hephaestus' advice. There he met Eos, the goddess of the dawn, who fell in love with the giant and healed him on the condition that he would become her lover. Orion stayed with Eos for many years but eventually took his leave. It was soon after that he met and befriended Artemis.
Orion was the only hunter who came close to matching the skill of Artemis, a feat that quite fascinated the goddess. The pair were constant companions and spent entire days roaming the wild in search of their prey. Artemis grew extremely fond of Orion and unfortunately her brother noticed such. Fearing that his sister was falling in love with the giant, Apollo took matters into is own hands in order to protect the virginity of his sister.
Apollo took Orion aside one day and asked him if he desired Artemis as a lover. Orion admitted that he found her to be extremely beautiful and thought that she would make an ideal mate. Apollo then tricked Orion by betting him that he couldn't walk on the sea floor because he only had seen Orion walk on the water. Orion demonstrated that he could by plunging into the ocean. Orion was so tall that only the very top of his head was visible. As Orion roamed the ocean, Apollo called out to his sister and proposed they practice with their bow and arrows. Apollo challenged Artemis to shoot a boulder in the sea, a feat she did easily. Unfortunately, the boulder was actually the head of Orion. He died instantly. Artemis fled to her father, Zeus, in tears. Zeus was so moved by her loss that he placed Orion in the heavens, as the constellation that bears his name.
Like her brother Apollo, Artemis could be quite wrathful when offended. Many unfortunate mortals and lesser deities ended up becoming Artemis' targets. Few were shown mercy or given a chance to make up for their mistakes.
When Aura, the goddess of cool breezes, dared make fun of Artemis by saying her body was too "womanly" and made comments implying that Artemis wasn't a virgin, Artemis reacted quite cruelly. Artemis got revenge by asking Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance, to intercede. Nemesis caused Dionysus to rape Aura and then drove her insane. She bore two children but in a state of homicidal lunacy, she killed and devoured one child. Artemis, taking pity on the remaining child, snatched it away from his mother.
Leimon was a mortal man who treated Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, cruelly as well. Artemis went looking for him. Leimon, fearing his brother would tattle on him, murdered him in hopes that the goddess would not discover his identity. However, being a goddess, Artemis saw his sin and promptly filled his body with her arrows.
Queen Niobe was also another foolish mortal who dared claim that she was better than Leto and worthy of worship in her place as Leto only had two children while she had fourteen, seven sons and seven daughters. Artemis and Apollo shot each child with their arrows, killing them and then transformed their bodies and their weeping mother into a cliff with a small waterfall so that Niobe would weep for all eternity.
King Admetos pissed off Artemis because he regularly forgot to worship her. She got revenge by filling his bed with poisonous serpents. However, Apollo saved Admetos before he could be bitten as he and Admetos were once lovers.
When Hippo, daughter of the Centaur Chiron, refused to worship Artemis she promptly turned her into a horse.
Byssa was a foolish princess who laughed at Artemis for wandering the woods at night. Artemis turned her into a sea bird.
Polyphonte was a foolish mortal who was stupid enough to offend both Aphrodite and Artemis. She offended Aphrodite by claiming that the goddess was weak and had no power over her. Polyphonte then said she would dedicate her worship to a goddess who was worthy of her praise, that of Artemis. Aphrodite responded by making her lust after a bear. Artemis chanced upon her having sex with the said bear and in disgust caused the beasts of the forests to tear her apart.
Polyphonte would not be the only example of Aphrodite gaining revenge on a follower of Artemis. There was once a beautiful youth named Hippolytus. Hippolytus did not want to fall in love or get married. Instead, he was one of the rare males who worshiped Artemis and made a sacred vow to her to remain a virgin. Aphrodite was seemingly offended that such a beautiful man scorned her power, and even though he truly did nothing wrong that would warrant her anger or envy. Nonetheless, Aphrodite ended up bringing about his death in a chariot accident. Artemis pleaded with Zeus to bring him back from the dead because a chaste man was such a rarity. Zeus agreed and gave permission to Asklepios to resurrect him from the dead. The Romans believed that Hippolytus was transformed into their god, Virbius, a minor woodlands god and companion of Diana.
When the hunter, Broteas, refused to worship Artemis, adding that he would never venerate a goddess, let alone a goddess of the hunt, Artemis responded by driving him mad. He set himself on fire and died in agony.
When King Oineus also refused to worship the goddess she sent a monstrous boar to attack his lands. The monster was dubbed the Calydonian Boar and ravaged the land until it was slain, in part, with the aid of the maiden, Atlanta.
Like her brother Apollo, when offended by mortals, Artemis usually responded by shooting poisoned arrows into cities, causing plague. When she was appeased she would then end the plague.
One of the things that really infuriated Artemis was cruelty towards animals. Many might falsely assume that since Artemis is the goddess of hunting that she would delight in the death of animals. However, such view couldn't be farther from the truth. In one version of the myth of Orion, Orion trying to please Artemis, kills all the animals in the forest. Artemis responds by summoning a giant scorpion which attacks Orion and stings him to death.
In another myth, a sacred bear was kept at Athens. A group of girls began to poke fun of it, throwing rocks at it and taunting it until it finally responded by roaring and trying to swipe the girls with it's paws. Seeing this, two nearby youths responded by killing it. Artemis was outraged and sent a plague that killed hundreds of Athenians. In a desperate bid to appease the goddess, the Athenians promise to dedicate their young girls to her with rites celebrated every five years. Such girls were called "bears" in her honor. This would not be the only plague that Artemis unleashed on Athens. A priestess of Artemis once betrayed her vow of virginity and dared to have sex in her temple. Not only did Artemis slay the stupid woman but also set loose a particularly foul plague that killed many women and children.
When King Agamemnon killed a deer that was sacred to Artemis, she punished him by not allowing winds that would transport him back to Troy. Agamemnon consulted an oracle that told him that the only way to appease the goddess would be to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia. Agamemnon refused but realizing that he would never see home again, eventually consented. Agamemnon tricked his daughter by telling her that she is going to be wedded to the hero Achilles. To her horror, Iphigenia discovered that the altar was not a marriage alter but that of a blood sacrifice. According to the myths, Iphigenia was either offered up as a human sacrifice to Artemis or was whisked away by the goddess who then set a deer on the altar in her place. In such myths, Iphigenia is granted immortality and becomes an attendant of Artemis.
With regard to human sacrifice, the myths would suggest that human sacrifice was once common in the worship of Artemis. However, it should be stated that there is very scant evidence to suggest that such actually took place. As a general rule, the Greeks were opposed to human sacrifice, believing that the gods abhorred it. It is known that Artemis did require the deaths of anyone caught having sex in her temple or the deaths of her priestesses if they were caught having sex. Such cases are not truly examples of human sacrifice but are instead examples of religious capital punishment.
Despite the seemingly negative side of Artemis, the goddess had a splendid and positive side. Artemis was one of the most popular and widely worshiped goddesses of Greece and it's colonies. Her power, along with Demeter, ensured that people were able to survive by having enough food to eat. Additionally, in her role as goddess of lakes and springs, Artemis also provided freshwater to drink.
The goddess, as with Hera, was primarily concerned with the protection of women, especially of female infants and pregnant and nursing women. Artemis was so strongly associated with women that it is believed, at least in modern times, that Artemis hates men. Such belief is quite incorrect. Artemis hates the type of man that would degrade, harm, rape, humiliate or otherwise attempt to rule over women. However, Artemis loves men who view women as their equals and this is born out in the myths. Artemis also had many males priests.
Like with her brother, Apollo, temples to Artemis were found all across the Greek lands. Artemis' most famous temple was found in Ephesus. There she was worshiped in a unique form, having cult statues possessing multiple breasts. Her temple at Ephesus was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The goddess was served at her temple dating from the Bronze Age through the second century A.D. Even after the destruction of this magnificent temple, the beauty of it's architecture lives on. Columns from the temple were used in the construction of the famous Hagia Sophia church, now a museum, in what is now modern Istanbul, Turkey. Multiple many-breasted cult images of the Lady of Ephesus were transported across the world, including the Vatican. Such is a testament to the enduring fascination and popularity of the goddess.
Parents: Zeus and the Titan, Leto
Attendants: The Nymphs
Sacred Epithets/Aspects: Agroterê (Of the Hunt, Huntress), Diktynnaia (Of the Hunting Nets), Daphnaiê (Of the Laurel Tree), Kedreatis (Of the Cedar Tree), Karyai (Of the Walnut Tree), Karyatis (Of the Walnut Tree), Pheraia (Of the Beasts), Elaphaia (Of the Deer), Lykeiê (Of the Wolves), Leukophruênê (Of the White), Limnaiê (Of the Lake), Limnatis (Of the Lake), Eurynômê (Of the Broad Pastures), Hêleia (Of the Marshes/Wetlands), Philomeirax (Friend of Young Girls), Paidotrophos (Nurse of Children), Orsilokhia (Helper in Childbirth), Selasphoros (Light-Bringer), Phôsphoros (Light-Bringer), Sôteira (Saviour), Hêmerasia (She who Soothes), Hymniê (Of the Hymns), Hêgemonê (Leader of the Dance/Choir), Kordax (Of the Cordax Dance), Patrôia (Of the Fathers/Ancestors), Aristê (Best, Excellent), Eukleia (Of Good Repute), Kallistê (Very Beautiful), Prôtothroniê (Of the First Throne), Basileis (Princess, Royal), Hiereia (Priestess), Propylaiê (Of the Gate), Orthia (Of the Steep), Agoraia (Of the Market Place), Apankhomenê (Strangled Lady), Lygodesmê (Willow-Bound), Astrateia (Stayed the Advance), Heurippa (Horse-Finder), Peithô (Persuasive), Pyrônia (Of the Fire), Kolainis (Hornless), Pôtnia Therôn (Queen of Beasts), Potna Thea (Goddess Queen), Lêtôis (Daughter of Leto), Hekatê (Far-Shooting), Hekatêbolos (Far-Shooting/Darting), Hekaerge (Far-Working), Iokheaira (Of Showering Arrows), Khrysêlakatos (Of the Golden Distaff), Agrotera (Of the Wilds), Thêroskopos (Hunter of Wild Beasts), Elaphêbolos (Deer-Shooting), Khrysênios (Of the Golden Reins), Khrysothronos (Of the Golden Throne), Eustephanos (Well-Girdled), Keladeinos (Strong-Voiced), Hagnê (Chaste, Pure), Parthenos (Virgin, Maiden), Aidoios Parthenos (Revered Virgin), Prostatêria (Standing Before), Aiolómorphos (Of Changeful Form), Acrea (Of the Heights), Ambrotos (Immortal), Ángælos (Messenger), Arsænómorphos (With a Male Face), Dadoukhos (Torch Bearer), Drymonía (Haunter of the Woods), Efkleia (Of Glory), Evántitos (Gracious), Évdromos (Swift Runner), Iokhǽaira (Archress), Khitóhni (Huntress), Kliïsía (Bringer of Glory), Kourotróphos (Nurturer of Children), Khthónios (Of the Earth), Kyniyǽtis (Huntress), Lokheia (Safe Birth), Lysimǽrimnos (Driving Care Away), Lysízohnos (Loosener of the Belt), Lytiriάs (Deliverer), Mægalóhnimos (Renowned), Nyktæróphitos (Night Roaming), Ohkylókheia (Quick Birth), Olviómiros (Blessed), Paidótrophos (Protectress of the Young), Pamvasíleia (Queen of All), Pasiphäís (Shining on All), Phíli (Beloved), Philagrǽtis (Loving the Chase), Phílistros (Loving Gadfly), Philomeirax (Friend of Youth), Polyóhnymos (Many Named), Pótnia (Queen), Sæmní (Revered), Skylakítis (Protectress of Dogs), Thiroktónos (Slayer of Wild Beasts), Titanís (Of Titans), Toxótis (Arheress), Vasíleia (Queen), Voulaia (Of the Council), Vromía (Dionysian)
Sacred Color: White, Silver
Sacred Number: 6
Zodiac Sign: Sagittarius
Sacred Symbols: Golden Bow And Arrows, Chariot Pulled By Golden Antlered Deer, Spear, Deer, Hunting Dogs, Knee-length Tunics/Robes, Animal Pelts, Torches, Crescent Moon
Sacred Incense: Frankincense
Sacred Offerings: Libations of Water, Wine, Milk, Honey and Olive Oil, Cakes or Cookies in the Form of her Sacred Animals, Sacred Plants, Wild Flowers, White Flowers
Sacrificial Animals: Female Deer, Goats,
Sacred Plant: Cypress Tree, Fir Tree, Cedar Tree, Walnut Tree, Laurel (Bay), Amaranth, Asphodel, Mugwort/Wormwood, Wild Flowers (Some specify Daisies or Buttercups)
Sacred Bird: Guinea Fowl, Partridge, Quail, Buzzard Hawk
Sacred Animal: Deers, Dogs, Bears, Boars, Bees, Fish
Festivals: Brauronia, Cnacalesia, Elaphebolia, Laphria, Munichia, Tauropolia, Thargelia
***NOTE: I can not stress how important it is not to take Greek mythology as being literally true. If taken as literal truth then Artemis is horribly evil instead of the beautiful and splendid goddess that worshipers believed her to be. The myths are designed to communicate subtle truths of the nature of reality and human existence by using allegory, metaphor and symbolism.
***NOTE: The myths are simply the opinions of their authors and do not reflect that actual belief of worshipers. For example, in some traditions, Artemis is the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon and she was worshiped with the name of Despoina. In other traditions, Apollo is not her twin brother but is in fact her lover or husband. Thus, Artemis was not universally believed to be a virgin.
***NOTE: In Sparta, the tradition was to flog male youths until their blood splattered the altar of Artemis. Some scholars believe this tradition evolved to replace prior traditions of human sacrifice.
***NOTE: The goddess worshiped as "Artemis of Ephesus", a.k.a. "The Lady of Ephesus" is actually a form of the goddess Cybele. For some strange reason people equated her with Artemis. It has been theorized that the many images of animals associated with the goddess may have fueled the synchronization.
***NOTE: Artemis and the Temple of Artemis of Ephesus appears in the New Testament in the book of Acts. The Apostle Paul preached there and angered local makers of statues of the goddess who then sold such to tourists. Paul actually fled the city for fear that he would be harmed by angry merchants.
***NOTE: There is modern confusion as to the identity of the objects found on the chest of the cult statue of Artemis at Ephesus. Some speculate they are beehives. Others speculate they are castrate bull testicles. However, the preferred opinion and the one that has been held since ancient times is that they are breasts.