Greek goddess, daughter of Zeus and Leto, twin sister of musical Apollo. The Romans called her Diana. She was born one day before her brother on the isle of Ortygia; she then helped her mother across the water to Delos, where Apollo was born. Because Artemis was born on Mount Cynthus, she is sometimes called Cynthia.

Like so many females in the western tradition, Artemis was associated with many contradictions. Her purview among the Olympians was the wilderness, the hunt and wild animals, and she was said to roam forests and wild lands, accompanied by her nymphs, looking for lions, panthers, hinds, and stags. But she didn't kill, as you might expect given her association with hunting, instead protecting them and assuring their successful reproduction. She had a bow and arrows made for her by the Cyclops and was often pictured with a crescent moon above her forehead; she was associated with Selene, goddess of the moon. She was a virgin - Zeus granted her eternal virginity when she was very young - as were her nymph attendants. In spite of this, she was associated with fertility and childbirth, perhaps because of the aid she gave her mother when she was but one day old. Artemis was said to protect women in labour, but if while giving birth women were hit by her arrows, they would die suddenly. (Artemis was fond of meting out a quick death for those who angered her.) She was said to be a healer, but also brought leprosy, rabies and gout.

Well, a beautiful virgin goddess, you know what's going to happen. Actaeon stumbled across Artemis and her attendants bathing naked one day while out hunting, and was naturally transfixed by their beauty. An enraged Artemis caught him in the act of peeping, so turned him into a stag, then set his own hounds upon him; they chased and killed him. And I heard a different story about Orion and Artemis than the one Causabon relates. As I understand it, he tried to rape her once, and she dispatched him swiftly, as was her wont. One legend says she shot him with her arrows, another that she conjured up a scorpion that killed him; in either case, after his death she sent him up to the heavens to become a constellation - you know, Orion - and his dog was similarly deployed, to become Sirius, the Dog Star.

Horny old Zeus once took the form of Artemis to trick one of her attendants, Callisto; he seduced her and she eventually gave birth to Arcas, ancestor to the Arcadians. But Artemis was enraged and merciless; she turned Callisto into a bear and shot her, after which she too was sent up into the heavens to become the Great Bear or Plough constellation. This dire reaction was quite in character for Artemis, who was very possessive and wrathful. She and Apollo once killed all the children of Niobe - a mere mortal - because Niobe boasted to Leto that she had had more children than Leto and so was better than her. (Artemis and Apollo were pretty close and often supported each other.) Artemis becalmed Agamemon on his way to besiege Troy after he had killed a stag in her sacred grove; she demanded that he sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia to placate her and get the winds he needed to sail on. Some accounts say he did so, others that Artemis exchanged Iphigenia for a deer and made her into a priestess in one of her own temples.

Artemis was a minor player in the central Greek pantheon, but she was very popular in Asia Minor (now Turkey). A great temple built for her in Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; here she was mainly worshipped as a fertility goddess and was identified with the mother figure Cybele. She was represented with many nodes on her chest which some say are breasts and some say are eggs and some say are bull testicles sacrificed for her. That's confusing.

Artemis's love life offers some choice stories. The hunter Actaeon heard her bathing in a sylvan glade while he was out hunting, and snuck a peek at her naked Olympian gloriosity. As punishment, Artemis transformed him into a stag, who was then run down and torn to pieces by his own hounds.

Additionally, she once found her equal in hunting prowess in Orion, the hunter and giant-killer. The two of them ranged over the earth, hunting and hanging out. Apollo became jealous at their close relationship and arranged for a little accident for Orion. He sent Orion on a journey across the ocean (Orion could walk on water, I think, possibly because he was Poseidon's son? I misremember) and then went to find Artemis on an island where she was practicing her archery. Apollo kept daring her to make harder and harder shots with her bow, and finally pointed out a tiny dot, far out over the waves, near the horizon. "Betcha can't hit that dot, sis," he said. Artemis pegged the dot, which was, of course, Orion. She felt rather badly for this, and arranged for his constellation to be placed in the night sky.


Identified by the Romans with the Italian and Latin Diana. Although she is sometimes said to have been the daughter of Demeter, she is generally regarded as the twin sister of Apollo, their parents being Zeus and Leto. Artemis, the elder twin, was born in Delos and as soon as she was born she helped her mother to give birth to her brother. Artemis was always a virgin and eternally young, an untamed girl with no interests beyond hunting. Like her brother, her weapon was the bow which she used while she was hunting stags as well as mortals, and she inflicted pain on women who died in childbirth. Her arrows were said to inflict sudden death, especially when they caused no pain. She was vindictive and there were many who suffered from her anger. One of her first actions, together with her brother, was to kill the children of Niobe. While Apollo was killing the six boys in turn when he hunted on Mount Cithaeron, Artemis was killing the six daughters who had stayed at home. They took this action out of love for their mother, who had been insulted by Niobe and it was in defence of Leto again that Artemis and Apollo, though scarcely born, killed the dragon which had come to attack them; in the same way they attacked and killed Tityus, who was trying to violate Leto.

Artemis took part in the battle against the Giants, where her opponent was the giant Gration whom she killed with the help of Heracles. She destroyed two other monsters in the shape of the Aloadae and is said to have killed the monster Bouphagus (the eater of oxen) in Arcadia. Other victims of Artemis included Orion, the giant huntsman. The reasons which drove her to kill him differ in various traditions. In come accounts he is said to have incurred her wrath by challenging her at throwing the discus and in others by trying to kidnap Opis, one of her companions whom she had forced to leave his home with the Hyperboreans. In still other accounts, Orion is supposed to have tried to ravish Artemis herself and she sent a scorpion which bit and killed him. Actaeon, the son of Aristaeus, who was another hunter, owed his death to the wrath of Artemis, and she was the instigator of the hunt for the wild boar of Calydon, which was fated to lead to the death of the huntsman Meleager. Artemis sent the wild boar of exceptional size to Oeneus' country because he had forgotten to sacrifice to her when he was offering the first fruits of his crops to all the gods and goddesses. Artemis is sometimes said to have been responsible for the death of Callisto whom she killed with an arrow either at Hera's request or as a punishment for having let herself be seduced by Zeus; Callisto was then changed into a she-bear. All these legends relate to hunting, giving a picture of a ferocious goddess of the woods and mountains, who usually kept company with wild beasts.

An account of the Labours of Heracles tells how he had been ordered by Eurystheus to bring back the stag with the golden horns which was sacred to Artemis. Unwilling either to wound or to kill the sacred beast Heracles pursued it for a whole year but ultimately he became exhausted and killed it. Immediately Artemis and Apollo appeared before him, asking for an explanation. Heracles managed to appease them by blaming Eurystheus for the hunt. The same theme recurs in the story of Iphigenia: the wrath of Artemis against the family was already of long standing (see Atreus) but it was renewed by an unfortunate utterance of Agamemnon who after hunting and killing a stag when he was waiting at Aulis for a favourable wind to enable him to leave for Troy, cried out: 'Artemis herself could not have killed a stag like that'. Artemis promptly sent a calm which kept the whole fleet from sailing and the soothsayer Tiresias disclosed the reason for this setback, adding that the only remedy was to sacrifice Iphigenia, the king's virgin daughter, to Artemis. Artemis would not have this sacrifice and at the last minute she substituted a doe for the girl, removed her and took her away to Tauris (the modern Crimea) to serve as the priestess of her cult in that distant land.

Artemis was held in honour in all the wild and mountainous areas of Greece, in Arcadia and in the country of Sparta, in Laconia on the mountain of Taygetus and in Elis. Her most famous shrine in the Greek world was the one at Ephesus, where she was integrated with a very ancient Asiatic fertility goddess. Antiquity explained Artemis as a personification of the Moon which roams in the mountains and her brother Apollo was also generally regarded as a personification of the Sun, but not all the Artemis cults had lunar significance, furthermore the goddess took the place of the Lady of the Wild Beasts displayed on Cretan religious monuments in the Hellenic Pantheon. Artemis absorbed some barbarous cults which involved human sacrifice such as that practiced in Tauris. (See Amphisthenes.) Artemis was also the protecting deity of the Amazons who were warriors and huntresses like her and resembled her too in being independent of men. For her relationship with magic, see Hecate.


Table of Sources:
- Hom. Il. 21, 470ff.
- Hesiod, Theog. 918
- Homeric Hymn to Artemis
- Apollod. Bibl. 1, 4, 1; 1, 6, 2; 1, 7, 5; 1, 4, 3; 3, 4, 3; 3, 8, 2
- Hom. Od. 5, 121ff.
- Paus. 8, 27, 17; etc.
- Euripides, IT; LA
- Callim. Hymn 3

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(ahr' tuh muhs) GREEK: ARTEMIS

The Greek goddess Artemis, known to the Romans as Diana, was celebrated in mythology as the daughter of Zeus and the sister of Apollo. As goddess of the hunt, she is often pictured with bow and arrow. In Ephesus, however, she was worshipped as a fertility goddess and depicted in a static pose with multiple breasts. This image was repeated with little variation wherever the cult of the Ephesian Artemis existed, and numerous copies statues have been found.

When Paul was in Ephesus, he came in conflict with the silversmiths who made images of the Ephesian Artemis because his success in converting the populace to Christianity was hurting their business. They became enraged and dragged Gaius and Aristarchus, two of Paul's companions, into the theater, threatening them with bodily harm. Had not his prudent friends restrained him, Paul would have joined the pair in confronting the mob. Finally quieted by the town clerk, who warned them that they were "in danger of being charged with rioting" (Acts 19:40), the silversmiths dispersed and there the matter ended.

{E2 Dictionary of Biblical People}

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