Artemis was the Greek goddess of the hunt, wild animals, vegetation, the moon, chastity, and childbirth. She was the daughter of Zeus, the King of Gods, and Leto, a Titaness, and the twin sister of Apollo, the God of the Sun, music, and poetry. Artemis was usually accompanied by chaste nymphs and protected wildlife, women, and children. She was also a favourite amongst rural populations.
She also asked her father to let her remain a virgin, and for similar companions, these are the nymphs who always accompanied her. Her chastity was of great importance to her, and she was furious if anyone attempted to violate her or her companions. Furious at a nymph for being seduced by Zeus, she had her turned into a boar, and later killed.
The Goddess is a female version of her brother, who was a protector but was destructive when angry. He had a bow and arrow, too. Apollo protected men and boys, while Artemis protected women and girls. In some accounts, they were also called husband and wife.
She would cause disease and death when she was angry and took back the diseases she had caused once she was angry no more. There are many famous tales of her wrath.
1. Greek Goddess of the Hunt, the Moon, Archery
Artemis was known by many names, one of them was “Mistress of the Wild”. It is believed that Homer gave her this name. She protected and hunted wildlife. The wilderness was declared as her realm in certain hymns.
She asked her father Zeus, for a bow and arrow, so that she me be equal to her brother, she also asked to be known by many names and to be allowed to keep her chastity. And as mentioned above, she asked for chaste nymphs to accompany her.
2. The Origins of Artemis
She was the daughter of Zeus, the King of Olympus, and the titaness Leto. She was also Apollo’s older twin sister.
On finding out that her husband had yet another extra-marital affair, Hera was enraged. When she found that Leto was pregnant, she forbade her from giving birth on land. Leto, who went into labour, then found an island not connected to the mainland to give birth in.
Here she gave birth to Artemis first, who then helped her mother with delivering her twin brother Apollo, this act is one of the reasons as to why she is considered the deity of childbirth, despite being a virgin Goddess. As the older twin, she was fiercely protective of her brother.
Artemis grew up on this island, but not much is known about her childhood. It is believed that she learned archery and hunting during this time.
3. Sacred animals and plants
Artemis’ chariot was pulled by a pair of deer, and she was often shown hunting deer, or wearing deer skin. She was also angry with Agamemnon for killing a deer from her sacred grove. Therefore, her sacred animal was the deer.
The golden-horned Cerynitian Hind is also a celebrated sacred animal, along with the bear, and certain birds. Her sacred plants were the cypress and palm tree.
4. Depictions of Artemis
She is usually depicted carrying a bow and arrow, as a huntress. Although a Goddess of many things, hunting is one of her most well-known characteristics. She was also shown wearing a short tunic, which would help her with hunting in the forest. Other depictions include Artemis with her nymph companions and other wild animals.
5. Descriptions of Artemis
Multiple sources state that she is tall and that she is a head taller than her nymph companions. She also has wings on her shoulders, and a leopard in her right hand, a lion in her left hand. She also has a bow, and a quiver of arrows, which she uses to hunt wild animals. Her clothes include a knee-length tunic, which helps her with her hunting. She also had a pair of hunting arrows, a torch, and a lyre.
The huntress is also said to ride a chariot pulled by a pair of deer. Her nymphs accompany her everywhere, with some running ahead of the chariot acting as forerunners and some running alongside her chariot. These nymphs also assisted her when she got out of her chariot; some held her bow and arrows, and another loosened her shoes.
6. Worship of Artemis
Her temple in Ephesus was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Other places of worship included sanctuaries and a sacred spring. Artemis was one of the most revered deities of the ancient world, and people in all parts of Ancient Greece worshipped her.
Ancestral Gods were held in higher regard than other Gods in a state. Artemis was the ancestral goddess of quite a few places including Troy. These gods were called upon to defend them in times of war or great need.
7. Associations with other Gods
Artemis was frequently associated with Hecate. These Goddesses shared quite a few similarities, like knee-length skirts, hunting boots, and hunting dogs. Apollo, the twin brother of Artemis, was also referred to as Herkatos by Homer.
Hecate was the Goddess of the moon, magic, witchcraft, sorcery, and necromancy. She also had familiars, like the dog, the Trojan Queen, and the cat, a witch who was transformed as a punishment by another Goddess but later adopted by Hecate.
The association of Artemis with Selene was late and could have coincided with the introduction of the Thracian Goddess, Bendis, into Greece. Selene was the Goddess of the moon, and this could be the possible reason why Artemis is also called a Goddess of the moon.
Bendis was the Goddess of the moon, hunting, and magic. For the Greeks, this seemed to be a merging of Artemis, Selene, and Hecate.
8. Patron Goddess
8.1. Of the Amazons
Artemis was one of the patron Gods of the Amazons. The Amazons were a mythical war tribe full of soldiers and fighters. They are rumoured to have built a lot of shrines for Artemis, and these are some of her most famous shrines.
8.2.Of the Hyperboreans
Artemis and her brother Apollo were the patron gods of this mythical race of men, known as Hyperboreans. They lived in the far north of the known world their land was so remote it was considered farther than the North wind. These people lived long lives of up to a thousand years.
9. Her wrath
When Agamemnon killed a deer in her sacred grove, she was furious and stranded his fleet in the ocean. Only sacrificing his daughter would sate her fury, and make her give fair wind for the fleets. Agamemnon agreed to this, but there are many different stories about what happened to Iphigenia, his daughter. Some say she felt sorry for her and a deer for a sacrifice instead. But some other tales say that she is not so merciful.
When Queen Niobe of Thebes boasted that she was better than Leto for having 14 children instead of 2 like her, Leto’s two children went to avenge their mother. Artemis killed the 7 daughters of Niobe, and Apollo killed the 7 sons of Niobe, rendering her childless and with nothing left to boast about.
Her husband and father of her children, Amphion, killed himself on learning of their children’s death, and Niobe was turned to stone by Artemis as she wept. Some versions of the tale say that Apollo and Artemis each left a child, one boy and one girl, alive.
Actaeon was a prince and a hunter, and one day, when passing through the forest, he saw Artemis and her nymphs bathing (some say by chance, and others say he deliberately spied on her). Furious that her chastity was violated, she turned him into a stag, who was later hunted down by his dogs, and killed.
There are many versions of the story of Orion, but the one that speaks about her wrath goes like this: He was a giant and a hunter, he either claimed to be better than Artemis at hunting or attempted to violate her. This incurred her wrath and led her to kill Orion.
10. Roman counterpart
Artemis’ Roman counterpart was known as Diana. She was also the Goddess of the hunt, wild animals, and the moon. She was initially not associated with the moon, but after being associated with Artemis, who Selene also influenced, she was given the title, of Goddess of the Moon. She is also the Goddess of fertility and aids conception and childbirth.
Diana is also often depicted with a bow and arrow and accompanied by a hound or a deer. She was also worshipped at Artemis’ temple in Ephesus. These are some of the similarities she shares with Artemis.
Greek mythology has a rich history, and this only scratches the surface! There is so much more to Artemis and her stories that is worth looking into. For example, there are more stories about her wrath than what is mentioned here, but that is not all, there are stories of her kindness too! So, hopefully, this article has piqued your interest in learning about the Greek Goddess!