by: Romulus Aurelius Orcus
Artemis is the Greek version of the maidenly goddess of nature. She is the patroness of wild animals and hunters, of chaste youth and women in childbirth. Her totemic animals include the deer, bear, and dog. The cypress was her tree, though she was also fond of myrtle and oaks, olives and palms were dedicated to her as Artemis Dendritis. She is also commonly identified with the moon, and as such may be synonymous with Selene and Phoebe. She was invoked by women in labor for easy childbirth, and by land and sea travelers for safe journeys. Goats were commonly sacrificed to her. At Patrae, wild beasts and birds were sacrificed, presided over by a priestess in a stags-drawn chariot.
Artemis is the twin sister of the great god Apollo. Their mother, the Titaness Leto, bore them on the island of Delos after Hera persecuted her in retribution for her liason with Zeus. Some myths have the nine-day-old Artemis assisting her mother in delivering Apollo. Artemis, like Apollo, was very protective of her mother and loyal to her brother. She would even slay foolish mortals that angered Apollo at his request. In Classical times Artemis was depicted in a animal-skin tunic along with her silver bow and quiver full of silver arrows. She is often in the company of her many attendants, dogs, and deer. Stags pull her chariot. As the goddess of unspoiled "virgin territories", Artemis never had a lover. She also required that her many attendants also remain chaste. These lesser divinities were mostly nymphs - commonly associated in Greek mythology with nature. In one myth, Artemis turned her attendant Callisto into a bear for having been seduced by Zeus (like Callisto had a choice?). Artemis could also be quite harsh and unforgiving to mortals who "forgot" to sacrifice to her (mortals seem to have had this bad habit in Greek mythology). Artemis could also be merciful, with women dying in childbirth said to have been shot by one of her arrows and passing a painless death.Agamemnon was ordered to sacrifice his daughter Iphegenia at Aulis before the Achaean fleet could safely sail to Troy. This demand was made for some offense Agamemnon had made. Euripides said that Artemis, who substituted a hind in her place, and made her priestess in the Tauric Chersonese, saved Iphigenia. A local legend of Brauron has the threatened sacrifice of Iphigenia taking place there, except that a bear was substituted. This story is interesting. It might suggest that human sacrifice, known to the early Celts, Germans, and others in historic times, be still practiced in Bronze Age Greece. This "saving" of Iphegenia may have been a later modification by the Classical Greeks to edit out this distasteful practice of their ancestors.
In one of Artemis' more famous myths, the hunter Actaeon stumbled upon Artemis and her attendants while they were bathing. Embarrassed and humiliated, she turned him into a stag and then had his dogs chase him down and tear him to pieces. Another hunter to suffer at the hands of Artemis was the great hunter Orion. Apollo, who was fearful that Orion would seduce his sister, instigated Artemis' destruction of him. In her remorse she placed him in the heavens as a constellation.
Artemis' most famous temple was at Ephesus in Asia Minor, which was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. Here she was depicted as a many-breasted fertility goddess. In this local version, I think, she was assimilated with a local version of the great Anatolian mother-goddess commonly known as Cybele. Her cult there was said to go back to the Amazons. Artemis is popularly believed to have been a pre-Hellenic goddess, with her name found on a Linear B tablet but this is still in dispute. However, nature- and hunting- goddesses identified with uncultivated hills, forests, and the wild animals found therein are common in most mythologies. The Greeks also identified Artemis with major goddesses in Thrace and Scythia. Also, the Spartans seems to have kept their own version of Artemis, called Artemis Orthia, as a legacy that their Dorian ancestors brought with them from the north.Her symbols are the bow, the moon, and the deer. Her sacred animals are usually wild animals, but especially deers, bears and boars. Artemis blesses us with self- reliance, physical prowess, cunning, skills. She protects the innocent, especially the wild creatures of the forest, but also pregnant women, children, and those who are just. She punishes wrongdoers, especially those who offend the Gods through hubris or unremitting pride. The best way to honor Artemis is to care for the natural world. Clean up pollution, protect wildlife, donate time and money to ecological concerns. But don't just do it from your safe cities: actually get out into the wild, and experience the natural world. Go on nature walks, go for picnics, camp, hunt - but get outside! If you eat meat, respect the animal that it came from. Be mindful of what the animal went through, and the intimate connection that exists between its death and your life, even if you can't. Be respectful of personal space, privacy, and of women-only spaces. Support pregnant women, children's rights, and women's sports.
Agreia (Hunteress), Agrotera (of the Wilderness), Arktos (the Bear), Cedreatis (Cedar), Daphnaia (of the Bay Laurel), Delia (of Delos), Eukleia (Glorious), Hegemone (She Who Leads), Karytis, Keladeine (Sounding [of the chase]), Koruthalia (Laurel-Maiden), Kynthia, Laphria (of the Hunt), Leukophruene (White-Browed), Limnatis (of the Marshes), Lokhia (Protector in Childbirth), Lygodesma (Willow), Megale (Great), Ortheia (the Upright), Parthenos (the Virgin), Phoebe (Shining), Phosphoros (Lightbringer), Potnia Theron (Mistress of the Animals), Puronia (Fiery), Sosipolis (Savior of the City), Soteira (Savior), Tauropolos (Bull-Hunter)
HYMNS TO ARTEMIS
I sing of Artemis, whose shafts are of gold, who cheers on the hounds, the pure maiden, Shooter of Stags, who Delights in Archery , own sister to Apollon with 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, this 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 (Muses) and Kharites (Graces). 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!
-Homeric Hymn 27 to Artemis
O venerable Goddess, hear my prayer, for labour pains are thy peculiar care. In thee, when stretched upon the bed of grief, the sex, as in a mirror, view relief. Guard of the race, endued with gentle mind, to helpless youth benevolent and kind; benignant nourisher; great natureís key belongs to no divinity but thee. Thou dwellest with all immanifest to sight, and solemn festivals are thy delight. Thine is the task to loose the virginís zone and thou in every work art seen and known. With births you sympathise, though pleased to see the numerous offspring of fertility. When racked with labour pangs, and sore distressed the sex invoke thee, as the soulís sure rest; for thou Eileithyia alone canst give relief to pain, which art attempts to ease, but tries in vain. Artemis Eileithyia, venerable power, who bringest relief in labourís dreadful hour; hear, Prothyraia and make the infant race thy constant care.
-Orphic Hymn 2 to Prothyraia
CULT STATUE OF ARTEMIS AGROTERE: This statue titled Diana of Versailles belongs to the collection of the Louvre in Paris. It is a Roman marble adaptation of a C4th BC Greek cult statue by Leokhares.
Sannion's Compendium of Gods
Walter Burkert: Greek Religion
The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th-4th BC
The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns C? BC
Pausanias, Guide to Greece - Greek Geography C2nd AD
Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - C3rd AD
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana - Greek Biography C2nd AD
Pliny the Elder, Natural History - Latin Natural History C1st AD
Suidas - Byzantine Lexicographer C10th AD
Romulus Aurelius Orcus