Artemis (/ˈɑːrtɪmɪs/; Greek: Ἄρτεμις Artemis, Attic Greek: [ár.te.mis]) was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name, and indeed the goddess herself, was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals". The Arcadians believed she was the daughter of Demeter.
In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. The deer and the cypress were sacred to her. In later Hellenistic times, she even assumed the ancient role of Eileithyia in aiding childbirth.
For example, according to J. T. Jablonski, the name is also Phrygian and could be "compared with the royal appellation Artemas of Xenophon. According to Charles Anthon the primitive root of the name is probably of Persian origin from *arta, *art, *arte, all meaning "great, excellent, holy," thus Artemis "becomes identical with the great mother of Nature, even as she was worshipped at Ephesus". Anton Goebel "suggests the root στρατ or ῥατ, "to shake," and makes Artemis mean the thrower of the dart or the shooter".
The name could also be possibly related to Greek árktos "bear" (from PIE *h₂ŕ̥tḱos), supported by the bear cult that the goddess had in Attica (Brauronia) and the Neolithic remains at the Arkoudiotissa Cave, as well as the story about Callisto, which was originally about Artemis (Arcadian epithet kallisto); this cult was a survival of very old totemic and shamanistic rituals and formed part of a larger bear cult found further afield in other Indo-European cultures (e.g., Gaulish Artio). It is believed that a precursor of Artemis was worshipped in Minoan Crete as the goddess of mountains and hunting, Britomartis. While connection with Anatolian names has been suggested, the earliest attested forms of the name Artemis are the Mycenaean Greek 𐀀𐀳𐀖𐀵, a-te-mi-to /Artemitos/ and 𐀀𐀴𐀖𐀳, a-ti-mi-te /Artimitei/, written in Linear B at Pylos. R. S. P. Beekes suggested that the e/i interchange points to a Pre-Greek origin. Artemis was venerated in Lydia as Artimus. Georgios Babiniotis, while accepting that the etymology is unknown, also states that the name is already attested in Mycenean Greek and is possibly of Pre-Greek origin.
Ancient Greek writers, by way of folk etymology, and some modern scholars, have linked Artemis (Doric Artamis) to ἄρταμος, artamos, i.e. "butcher" or, like Plato did in Cratylus, to ἀρτεμής, artemḗs, i.e. "safe", "unharmed", "uninjured", "pure", "the stainless maiden".
Artemis in mythology
Leto bore Apollo and Artemis, delighting in arrows,
Both of lovely shape like none of the heavenly gods,
As she joined in love to the Aegis-bearing ruler.
Various conflicting accounts are given in Classical Greek mythology regarding the birth of Artemis and Apollo, her twin brother. However, in terms of parentage, all accounts agree that she was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and that she was the twin sister of Apollo.
An account by Callimachus has it that Hera forbade Leto to give birth on either terra firma (the mainland) or on an island. Hera was angry with her husband Zeus 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.
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 about 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 midwife upon the birth of her brother Apollo.
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, at the age of three years, Artemis, 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 golden 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.
Oceanus' 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 bitches 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.
As a virgin, Artemis had interested many gods and men, but only her hunting companion, Orion, won her heart. Orion was accidentally killed either by Artemis or by Gaia.
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 Iapetus, sees Artemis and thinks about raping her. Reading his sinful thoughts, Artemis strikes him at Mount Pholoe.
Siproites 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 of the Actaeon myth survive, though many are fragmentary. The details vary but at the core, they involve a great hunter, Actaeon who Artemis turns into a stag for a transgression and who is then killed by hunting dogs. Usually, the dogs are his own, who 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 Actaeon was the hunting companion of the goddess who, seeing her 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, Actaeon 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 her.
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 for being with Aphrodite.
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 Artemis' followers, and she kills him. In a version by Aratus, Orion takes hold of Artemis' robe and she kills 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.
The twin sons of Poseidon and Iphidemia, 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's 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 and took advantage of her or, according to Ovid, raped 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 about 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.
Chione 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 Chione 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 Calydon 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 Dionysus. 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.
Polyphonte was a young woman who fled home preferring the idea of a virginal life with Artemis to the conventional life of marriage and children favoured by Aphrodite. As a punishment Aphrodite cursed her, causing her to have children by a bear. The resulting offspring, Agrius and Oreius, were wild cannibals who incurred the hatred of Zeus. Ultimately the entire family were transformed into birds and more specifically ill portents for mankind.
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 worshipped 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.
Artemis played quite a large part in this war. Like her mother and brother, who was widely worshipped 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 that promise. Other sources said he boasted about his hunting ability and provoked the goddess' anger. Artemis saved Iphigenia because of her bravery. In some versions of the myth, Artemis made Iphigenia her attendant or turned her into Hecate, goddess of night, witchcraft, and the underworld.
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.
Worship of Artemis
Artemis, the goddess of forests and hills, was worshipped throughout ancient Greece. Her best known cults were on the island of Delos (her birthplace), in Attica at Brauron and Mounikhia (near Piraeus), and in Sparta. She was often depicted in paintings and statues in a forest setting, carrying a bow and arrows and accompanied by a deer.
The ancient Spartans used to sacrifice to her as one of their patron goddesses before starting a new military campaign.
Pre-pubescent and adolescent Athenian girls were sent to the sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron to serve the Goddess for one year. During this time, the girls were known as arktoi, or little she-bears. A myth explaining this servitude states that a bear had formed the habit of regularly visiting the town of Brauron, and the people there fed it, so that, over time, the bear became tame. A girl teased the bear, and, in some versions of the myth, it killed her, while, in other versions, it clawed out her eyes. Either way, the girl's brothers killed the bear, and Artemis was enraged. She demanded that young girls "act the bear" at her sanctuary in atonement for the bear's death.
Virginal Artemis was worshipped as a fertility/childbirth goddess in some places, assimilating Ilithyia, since, according to some myths, she assisted her mother in the delivery of her twin. During the Classical period in Athens, she was identified with Hecate. Artemis also assimilated Caryatis (Carya).
As Aeginaea, she was worshipped in Sparta; the name means either huntress of chamois, or the wielder of the javelin (αἰγανέα). Also in Sparta, Artemis Lygodesma was worshipped. This epithet means "willow-bound" from the Gr. lygos (λυγός, willow) and desmos (δεσμός, bond). The willow tree appears in several ancient Greek myths and rituals.
She was worshipped at Naupactus as Aetole; in her temple in that town there was a statue of white marble representing her throwing a javelin. This "Aetolian Artemis" would not have been introduced at Naupactus, anciently a place of Ozolian Locris, until it was awarded to the Aetolians by Philip II of Macedon. Strabo records another precinct of "Aetolian Artemos" at the head of the Adriatic. As Agoraea she was the protector of the agora.
As Agrotera, she was especially associated as the patron goddess of hunters. In Athens Artemis was often associated with the local Aeginian goddess, Aphaea. As Potnia Theron, she was the patron of wild animals; Homer used this title. As Kourotrophos, she was the nurse of youths. As Locheia, she was the goddess of childbirth and midwives.
Alphaea, Alpheaea, or Alpheiusa (Gr. Ἀλφαῖα, Ἀλφεαία, or Ἀλφειοῦσα) was an epithet that Artemis derived from the river god Alpheius, who was said to have been in love with her. It was under this name that she was worshipped at Letrini in Elis, and in Ortygia. Artemis Alphaea was associated with the wearing of masks, largely because of the legend that while fleeing the advances of Alpheius, she and her nymphs escaped him by covering their faces.
Artemis was born on the sixth day, which made it sacred for her.
- Festival of Artemis in Brauron, where girls, aged between five and ten, dressed in saffron robes and played at being bears, or "act the bear" to appease the goddess after she sent the plague when her bear was killed.
- Festival of Amarysia is a celebration to worship Artemis Amarysia in Attica. In 2007, a team of Swiss and Greek archaeologists found the ruin of Artemis Amarysia Temple, at Euboea, Greece.
- Festival of Artemis Saronia, a festival to celebrate Artemis in Trozeinos, a town in Argolis. A king named Saron built a sanctuary for the goddess after the goddess saved his life when he went hunting and was swept away by a wave. He held a festival in her honor.
- On the 16th day of Metageitnio (second month on the Athenian calendar), people sacrificed to Artemis and Hecate at Deme in Erchia.
- Kharisteria Festival on 6th day of Boidromion (third month) celebrates the victory of the Battle of Marathon, also known as the Athenian "Thanksgiving".
- Day six of Elaphobolia (ninth month) festival of Artemis the Deer Huntress where she was offered cakes shaped like stags, made from dough, honey and sesame seeds.
- Day 6 or 16 of Mounikhion (tenth month) is a celebration of her as the goddess of nature and animals. A goat was sacrificed to her.
- Day 6 of Thargelion (eleventh month), is the Goddess's birthday, while the seventh was Apollo's.
- A festival for Artemis Diktynna (of the net) was held in Hypsous.
- Laphria, a festival for Artemis in Patrai. The procession starts by setting logs of wood around the altar, each of them 16 cubits long. On the altar, within the circle, the driest wood is placed. Just before the festival, a smooth ascent to the altar is built by piling earth upon the altar steps. The festival begins with a splendid procession in honor of Artemis, and the maiden officiating as priestess rides last in the procession upon a chariot yoked to four deer, Artemis' traditional mode of transport (see below). However, the sacrifice is not offered until the next day.
- In Orchomenus, a sanctuary was built for Artemis Hymnia where her festival was celebrated every year.
Artemis in art
The oldest representations of Artemis in Greek Archaic art portray her as Potnia Theron ("Queen of the Beasts"): a winged goddess holding a stag and leopard in her hands, or sometimes a leopard and a lion. This winged Artemis lingered in ex-votos as Artemis Orthia, with a sanctuary close by Sparta.
In Greek classical art she is usually portrayed as a maiden huntress, young, tall and slim, clothed in a girl's short skirt, with hunting boots, a quiver, a bow and arrows. Often, she is shown in the shooting pose, and is accompanied by a hunting dog or stag. When portrayed as a moon goddess, Artemis wore a long robe and sometimes a veil covered her head. Her darker side is revealed in some vase paintings, where she is shown as the death-bringing goddess whose arrows fell young maidens and women, such as the daughters of Niobe.
- Bow and arrow
According to the Homeric Hymn to Artemis, she had golden bow and arrows, as her epithet was Khryselakatos ("of the Golden Shaft") and Iokheira ("showered by arrows"). The arrows of Artemis could also bring sudden death and disease to girls and women. Artemis got her bow and arrow for the first time from The Kyklopes, as the one she asked from her father. The bow of Artemis also became the witness of Callisto's oath of her virginity. In later cult, the bow became the symbol of waxing moon.
Artemis' chariot was made of gold and was pulled by four golden horned deer (Elaphoi Khrysokeroi). The bridles of her chariot were also made of gold.
- Spears, nets, and lyre
Although quite seldom, Artemis is sometimes portrayed with a hunting spear. Her cult in Aetolia, the Artemis Aetolian, showed her with a hunting spear. The description about Artemis' spear can be found in Ovid's Metamorphosis, while Artemis with a fishing spear connected with her cult as a patron goddess of fishing.
As a goddess of maiden dances and songs, Artemis is often portrayed with a lyre.
Deer were the only animals held sacred to Artemis herself. On seeing a deer larger than a bull with horns shining, she fell in love with these creatures and held them sacred. Deer were also the first animals she captured. She caught five golden horned deer called Elaphoi Khrysokeroi and harnessed them to her chariot. The third labour of Heracles, commanded by Eurystheus, consisted of catching the Cerynitian Hind alive. Heracles begged Artemis for forgiveness and promised to return it alive. Artemis forgave him but targeted Eurystheus for her wrath.
- Hunting dog
Artemis got her hunting dogs from Pan in the forest of Arcadia. Pan gave Artemis two black-and-white dogs, three reddish ones, and one spotted one – these dogs were able to hunt even lions. Pan also gave Artemis seven bitches of the finest Arcadian race. However, Artemis only ever brought seven dogs hunting with her at any one time.
The sacrifice of a bear for Artemis started with the Brauron cult. Every year a girl between five and ten years of age was sent to Artemis' temple at Brauron. The Byzantine writer Suidos relayed the legend in Arktos e Brauroniois. A bear was tamed by Artemis and introduced to the people of Athens. They touched it and played with it until one day a group of girls poked the bear until it attacked them. A brother of one of the girls killed the bear, so Artemis sent a plague in revenge. The Athenians consulted an oracle to understand how to end the plague. The oracle suggested that, in payment for the bear's blood, no Athenian virgin should be allowed to marry until she had served Artemis in her temple ('played the bear for the goddess').
The boar is one of the favorite animals of the hunters, and also hard to tame. In honor of Artemis' skill, they sacrificed it to her. Oineus and Adonis were both killed by Artemis' boar.
Artemis felt pity for the Meleagrids as they mourned for their lost brother, Meleagor, so she transformed them into Guinea Fowl to be her favorite animals.
- Buzzard hawk
Hawks were the favored birds of many of the gods, Artemis included.
Artemis as the Lady of Ephesus
At Ephesus in Ionia, Turkey, her temple became one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was probably the best known center of her worship except for Delos. There the Lady whom the Ionians associated with Artemis through interpretatio graeca was worshipped primarily as a mother goddess, akin to the Phrygian goddess Cybele, in an ancient sanctuary where her cult image depicted the "Lady of Ephesus" adorned with multiple rounded breast-like protuberances on her chest. They have been variously interpreted as multiple accessory breasts, as eggs, grapes, acorns, or even bull testes. Excavation at the site of the Artemision in 1987–88 identified a multitude of tear-shaped amber beads that had adorned the ancient wooden cult image or xoanon. In Acts of the Apostles, Ephesian metalsmiths who felt threatened by Saint Paul's preaching of Christianity, jealously rioted in her defense, shouting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Of the 121 columns of her temple, only one composite, made up of fragments, still stands as a marker of the temple's location. The rest were used for making churches, roads, and forts.
Artemis in astronomy
Artemis is the acronym for "Architectures de bolometres pour des Telescopes a grand champ de vue dans le domaine sub-Millimetrique au Sol", a large bolometer camera in the submillimeter range that was installed in 2010 at the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX), located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.
Artemis in taxonomy
The taxonomic genus Artemia, which entirely comprises the family Artemiidae, derives from Artemis. Artemia are aquatic crustaceans known as brine shrimp, the best known species of which, Artemia salina, or Sea Monkeys, was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae in 1758. Artemia live in salt lakes, and although they are almost never found in an open sea, they do appear along the Aegean coast near Ephesus, where the Temple of Artemis once stood.