Artemis (Ancient Greek: Ἄρτεμις Ártemis) is the Greek goddess of the hunt, the moon, wild forests, hills, wild animals, wilderness, virginity, midwifery, archery and protection of maidens. She is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, as well as the twin sister of Apollo. She is one of the three virgin goddesses of Mount Olympus.
Various conflicting accounts are given in Classical Greek mythology of the birth of Artemis and her twin brother, Apollo. All accounts agree, however, that she was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and that she was the twin sister of Apollo because he had impregnated Leto. But the island of Delos (or Ortygia in the Homeric Hymn to Artemis) disobeyed Hera, and Leto gave birth there.
Once, Artemis was tricked into having a child. Artemis had offended Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. She told Athena and Hera that they were not the true virgin goddess. After all, Athena had children, and Hera was the goddess of marriage. She then told Aphrodite that love was worthless since you would most likely have a broken heart in the end. She showed the example of Orpheus and Eurydice. They still had broken hearts. Of course, this goddess did not take offense easily. They plotted to get revenge. With the help of Dionysus, they made every young man look like a golden stag. But really, they were the men of Athens. Soon she was in childbirth, which was very painful. Hera (who was also the goddess of childbirth), made sure that the birth would not come easily for Artemis. People are not sure who her daughter was. Some say it is Haley's comet. Others say that she is the shadows of night. Most people believe that it was the moon that was her daughter, always shining down upon us.
In ancient Cretan history, Leto was worshiped at Phaistos and in Cretan mythology, Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis at the islands known today as the Paximadia. A scholium of Servius on Aeneid iii. 72 accounts for the island's archaic name Ortygia by asserting that Zeus transformed Leto into a quail (ortux) in order to prevent Hera from finding out his infidelity, and Kenneth McLeish suggested further that in quail form Leto would have given birth with as few birth-pains as a mother quail suffers when it lays an egg.
The myths also differ as to whether Artemis was born first, or Apollo. Most stories depict Artemis as born first, becoming her mother's mid-wife upon the birth of her brother Apollo. Artemis caused no pain to Leto, earning her the title of goddess of childbirth. After she was born she helped Leto give birth to Apollo her twin brother.
The childhood of Artemis is not fully related in any surviving myth. The Iliad reduced the figure of the dread goddess to that of a girl, who, having been thrashed by Hera, climbs weeping into the lap of Zeus. A poem of Callimachus to the goddess "who amuses herself on mountains with archery" imagines some charming vignettes: according to Callimachus, Artemis, at three years old, while sitting on the knee of her father, Zeus, asked him to grant her six wishes: to remain always a virgin; to have many names to set her apart from her brother Apollo; to be the Phaesporia or Light Bringer; to have a bow and arrow and a knee-length tunic so that she could hunt; to have sixty "daughters of Okeanos", all nine years of age, to be her choir; and for twenty Amnisides Nymphs as handmaidens to watch her dogs and bow while she rested. She wished for no city dedicated to her, but to rule the mountains, and for the ability to help women in the pains of childbirth.
Artemis believed that she had been chosen by the Fates to be a midwife, particularly since she had assisted her mother in the delivery of her twin brother, Apollo. All of her companions remained virgins, and Artemis closely guarded her own chastity. Her symbols included the silver bow and arrow, the hunting dog, the stag, and the moon. Callimachus tells how Artemis spent her girlhood seeking out the things that she would need to be a huntress, how she obtained her bow and arrows from the isle of Lipara, where Hephaestus and the Cyclops worked.
Okeanus' daughters were filled with fear, but the young Artemis bravely approached and asked for bow and arrows. Callimachus then tells how Artemis visited Pan, the god of the forest, who gave her seven female dogs and six dogs. She then captured six golden-horned deer to pull her chariot. Artemis practiced with her bow first by shooting at trees and then at wild beasts.
Possible Relations & Others
As a virgin, Artemis had interested many gods and men. Artemis was friends with the giant Orion, but long after Orion's death, humans thought that they could have been something more. This was unlikely true because the first stories of their friendship were things like Orion being a rapist and attempting to take advantage of their friendship and rape Artemis, which in turn led to her killing him. Others were things like Orion attempting to kill every beast in the world to win her heart, in order to stop him either Artemis killed him without regret (she thought he was crazy and that she would never fall in love no matter what, or Gaia sending Scorpio to kill him. Either way unlike popular belief there was plenty of evidence that they had nothing other than a mere friendship (despite Orion wanting more but he may or may not have acted on it and tried to rape her). In the unlikely case of Artemis being in love with Orion, it would have likely ended with Apollo wanting to make sure Artemis kept her vow and he either sent Scorpio to kill him or tricked Artemis into shooting Orion. Orion was the self-proclaimed best hunter in another version and Hera sent Scorpio to kill him, in this version Zeus put him in the stars as a constellation as an apology to Orion for what his wife did. It was most likely in most case that Zeus was the one who put him in the sky and only the ones where Artemis was in love with him would Artemis have put her in the sky. The whole idea of Artemis loving Orion was started way after the first stories of any possible friendship between the two.
Alpheus, a river god, was in love with Artemis, but he realizes that he can do nothing to win her heart. So he decides to capture her. Artemis, who is with her companions at Letrenoi, goes to Alpheus, but, suspicious of his motives, she covers her face with mud so that the river god does not recognize her. In another story, Alphaeus tries to rape Artemis' attendant Arethusa. Artemis pities Arethusa and saves her by transforming Arethusa into a spring in Artemis' temple, Artemis Alphaea in Letrini, where the goddess and her attendant drink.
Bouphagos, the son of the Titan Iapetos, sees Artemis and thinks about raping her. Reading his sinful thoughts, Artemis strikes him at Mount Pholoe. Sipriotes is a boy, who, either because he accidentally sees Artemis bathing or because he attempts to rape her, is turned into a girl by the goddess.
Multiple versions Actaeon myth survive, though many are fragmentary. The details vary but at the core, they involve a great hunter, Aktaeon who Artemis turns into a stag for a transgression and who is then killed by hunting dogs. Usually, the dogs are his own, whom no longer recognize their master. Sometimes they are Artemis' hounds.
According to the standard modern text on the work, Lamar Ronald Lacey's The Myth of Aktaion: Literary and Iconographic Studies, the most likely original version of the myth is that Aktaeon was the hunting companion of the goddess who, seeing her stark naked in her sacred spring, attempts to force himself on her. For this hubris, he is turned into a stag and devoured by his own hounds. However, in some surviving versions, Aktaeon is a stranger who happens upon her. Different tellings also diverge in the hunter's transgression, which is sometimes merely seeing the virgin goddess naked, sometimes boasting he is a better hunter than she, or even merely being a rival of Zeus for the affections of Semele.
In some versions of the story of Adonis, who was a late addition to Greek mythology during the Hellenistic period, Artemis sent a wild boar to kill Adonis as punishment for his hubristic boast that he was a better hunter than she.
In other versions, Artemis killed Adonis for revenge. In later myths, Adonis had been related as a favorite of Aphrodite, and Aphrodite was responsible for the death of Hippolytus, who had been a favorite of Artemis. Therefore, Artemis killed Adonis to avenge Hippolytus's death.
In yet another version, Adonis was not killed by Artemis, but by Ares, as punishment out of jealousy.
Orion was Artemis' hunting companion. In some versions, he is killed by Artemis, while in others he is killed by a scorpion sent by Gaia. In some versions, Orion tries to seduce Opis, one of her followers, and she killed him. In a version by Aratus, Orion took hold of Artemis's robe and she killed him in self-defense.
In yet another version, Apollo sends the scorpion. According to Hyginus, Artemis once loved Orion (in spite of the late source, this version appears to be a rare remnant of her as the pre-Olympian goddess, who took consorts, as Eos did), but was tricked into killing him by her brother Apollo, who was "protective" of his sister's maidenhood.
Artemis was friends with the giant Orion, but long after Orion's death, humans thought that they could have been something more. This was unlikely true because the first stories of their friendship were things like Orion being a rapist and attempting to take advantage of their friendship and rape Artemis, which in turn led to her killing him. Others were things like Orion attempting to kill every beast in the world to win her heart, in order to stop him either Artemis killed him without regret (she thought he was crazy and that she would never fall in love no matter what, or Gaia sending Scorpio to kill him. Either way unlike popular belief there was plenty of evidence that they had nothing other than a mere friendship (despite Orion wanting more but he may or may not have acted on it and tried to rape her). In the unlikely case of Artemis being in love with Orion, it would have likely ended with Apollo wanting to make sure Artemis kept her vow and he either sent Scorpio to kill him or tricked Artemis into shooting Orion. Orion was the self-proclaimed best hunter in another version and Hera sent Scorpio to kill him, in this version Zeus put him in the stars as a constellation as an apology to Orion for what his wife did. It was most likely in most case that Zeus was the one who put him in the sky and only the ones where Artemis was in love with him would Artemis have put her in the sky. The whole idea of Artemis loving Orion was started way after the first stories of any possible friendship between the two.
These twin sons of Iphidemia and Poseidon, Otos, and Ephialtes, grew enormously at a young age. They were aggressive, great hunters, and could not be killed unless they killed each other. The growth of the Aloadae never stopped, and they boasted that as soon as they could reach heaven, they would kidnap Artemis and Hera and take them as wives. The gods were afraid of them, except for Artemis who captured a fine deer (or in another version of the story, she changed herself into a doe) and jumped out between them. The Aloadae threw their spears and so mistakenly killed each other.
Callisto was the daughter of Lycaon, King of Arcadia and also was one of Artemis' hunting attendants. As a companion of Artemis, she took a vow of chastity. Zeus appeared to her disguised as Artemis, or in some stories, Apollo gained her confidence, then took advantage of her. As a result of this encounter, she conceived a son, Arcas.
Enraged, Hera or Artemis (some accounts say both) changed her into a bear. Arcas almost killed the bear, but Zeus stopped him just in time. Out of pity, Zeus placed Callisto the bear into the heavens, thus the origin of Callisto the Bear as a constellation. Some stories say that he placed both Arcas and Callisto into the heavens as bears, forming the Ursa Minor and Ursa Major constellations.
Iphigenia and the Taurian Artemis
Artemis punished Agamemnon after he killed a sacred stag in a sacred grove and boasted that he was a better hunter than the goddess. When the Greek fleet was preparing at Aulis to depart for Troy to begin the Trojan War, Artemis becalmed the winds. The seer Calchas advised Agamemnon that the only way to appease Artemis was to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia. Artemis then snatched Iphigenia from the altar and substituted a deer. Various myths have been told around what happened after Artemis took her. Either she was brought to Tauros and led the priests there or became Artemis' immortal companion.
A Queen of Thebes and wife of Amphion, Niobe boasted of her superiority to Leto because while she had fourteen children (Niobids), seven boys and seven girls, Leto had only one of each. When Artemis and Apollo heard this impiety, Apollo killed her sons as they practiced athletics, and Artemis shot her daughters, who died instantly without a sound. Apollo and Artemis used poisoned arrows to kill them, though according to some versions two of the Niobids were spared, one boy and one girl. Amphion, at the sight of his dead sons, killed himself. A devastated Niobe and her remaining children were turned to stone by Artemis as they wept. The gods themselves entombed them.
Niobe and Amphion boasted they were better than Leto because they had raised fourteen children and Leto had only raised two. Artemis and Apollo, very angered that the two dared to compare their mortal lives to that of a goddess, killed their children. Apollo killed all the male children and Artemis killed all the female children, each with their bow and arrows. Amphion committed suicide and Niobe wept until she was turned into a rock. This myth is said to be the explanation of why rocks "cry".
Khione was a princess of Pokis. She was beloved by two gods, Hermes and Apollo, and boasted that she was prettier than Artemis because she made two gods fall in love with her at once. Artemis was furious and killed Khione with her arrow or struck her dumb by shooting off her tongue. However, some versions of this myth say Apollo and Hermes protected her from Artemis' wrath.
Atalanta, Oeneus, and the Meleagrids
Artemis saved the infant Atalanta from dying of exposure after her father abandoned her. She sent a female bear to suckle the baby, who was then raised by hunters. But she later sent a bear to hurt Atalanta because people said Atalanta was a better hunter. This is in some stories.
Among other adventures, Atalanta participated in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar, which Artemis had sent to destroy Kalydon because King Oeneus had forgotten her at the harvest sacrifices. In the hunt, Atalanta drew the first blood and was awarded the prize of the skin. She hung it in a sacred grove at Tegea as a dedication to Artemis.
Meleager was a hero of Aetolia. King Oeneus had him gather heroes from all over Greece to hunt the Calydonian Boar. After the death of Meleager, Artemis turned his grieving sisters, the Meleagrids into guineafowl that Artemis loved very much.
In Nonnus Dionysiaca, Aura was Greek goddess of breezes and cool air, daughter of Lelantos and Periboia. She was a virgin huntress, just like Artemis and proud of her maidenhood. One day, she claimed that the body of Artemis was too womanly and she doubted her virginity. Artemis asked Nemesis for help to avenge her dignity and caused the rape of Aura by Dionysos. Aura became a mad and dangerous killer. When she bore twin sons, she ate one of them while the other one, Iakhos, was saved by Artemis. Iakhos later became an attendant of Demeter and the leader of Eleusinian Mysteries.
Artemis may have been represented as a supporter of Troy because her brother Apollo was the patron god of the city and she herself was widely worshiped in western Anatolia in historical times. In the Iliad, she came to blows with Hera, when the divine allies of the Greeks and Trojans engaged each other in conflict. Hera struck Artemis on the ears with her own quiver, causing the arrows to fall out. As Artemis fled crying to Zeus, Leto gathered up the bow and arrows.
Like her mother and brother, who was widely worshiped at Troy, Artemis took the side of the Trojans. At the Greek's journey to Troy, Artemis becalmed the sea and stopped the journey until an oracle came and said they could win the goddess' heart by sacrificing Iphigenia, Agamemnon's daughter. Agamemnon once promised the goddess he would sacrifice the dearest thing to him, which was Iphigenia but broke the promise. Other sources said he boasted about his hunting ability and provoked the goddess' anger. In some versions, Artemis saved Iphigenia because of her bravery. In versions of that, Artemis made Iphigenia her attendant or turned her into Hekate, goddess of magic, witchcraft and ghosts.
Aeneas was helped by Artemis, Leto, and Apollo. Apollo found him wounded by Diomedes and lifted him to heaven. There, the three of them secretly healed him in a great chamber.
Artemis' Bow & Arrows
Chariot of Artemis: A chariot used by Artemis that is drawn by two golden antlered hinds which she may have used to move the cycles of the moon.
- Crocale (Seashore)
- Hyale (Crystal)
- Nephele (Cloud)
- Phiale (Water-bowl)
- Psecas (Rain-shower)
- Rhanis (Raindrop)
- (Hamilton 1998, p. 31)
|Deities in Greek mythology|
|Protogenoi||Chaos • Gaia • Tartarus • Uranus • Erebos • Nyx • Aether • Hemera • Eros • Oceanus • Pontus • Thalassa|
|Titans||Atlas • Cronus • Mnemosyne • Prometheus • Rhea • Tethys • Themis • Metis • Hecate • Eos • Helios • Selene|
|Twelve Olympians||Zeus • Hera • Demeter • Hestia • Poseidon • Ares • Artemis • Apollo • Athena • Hermes • Hephaestus • Aphrodite • Dionysus|
|Daemones||Bia • Dike • Eris • Hebe • Hygieia • Hypnos • Nemesis • Nike • Phobos • Poena • Soteria • Thanatos|