Greek Goddess Artemis

The Greek goddess Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin sister of Apollo. In Roman mythology, her name was Diana. She was the goddess of hunt and wild animals and sometimes she was also associated with the moon (very often she is represented with a crescent moon on her head).

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Head of Artemis (marble)



When she was three years old, her father, Zeus, asked her what gifts she wished. Being a precocious child, she answered she wanted some golden arrows, to be free from love and to be able to live her life as she pleased. She enjoyed going hunting and wandering in the woods, together with a group of nymphs, who had to remain chaste, too.

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Diana Resting after the Hunt
Francois Boucher



When her mother, Leto, was pregnant, Hera sent a giant serpent, Python, to follow her everywhere. Leto couldn't give birth anywhere on land, but she managed to get to a floating island, Delos. As soon as she was born, Artemis helped her mother to give birth to her brother, Apollo. That's why she was also considered the goddess of childbirth.

Being born on the island of Delos, the Greek goddess Artemis was also called Delia. Another name she was given was Cynthia (Kynthia), because of her birthplace, the Mount Cynthos (or Kynthos) on the island of Delos.

With her golden arrows, the Greek goddess Artemis would bring death (that's why she was also considered the goddess of quick and painless death - an unexplained death was also attributed to her arrows). Very often, she punished those who made her mother angry. When Niobe boasted that she was better than Leto, because she had fourteen children, not just two, Artemis and Apollo decided to revenge their mother and so they killed Niobe's children (Apollo killed the sons and Artemis killed the daughters).

She would also get angry when her privacy was not respected. One day, a young hunter, named Actaeon, saw the Greek goddess Artemis bathing. Furious about this, she transformed him into a stag, and his own dogs tore him apart.

Another time, one of the nymphs in her group, Callisto, was seduced by Zeus, who appeared disguised as the goddess Artemis herself. Callisto got pregnant and she began to avoid appearing naked in front of the other nymphs. One day, Artemis invited all of them to bathe, bu Callisto just wouldn't do it. The other nymphs, laughing and joking, tried to undress her, and then her pregnancy was discovered. Furious for the fact that Callisto hadn't kept her vows of chastity, the Greek goddess Artemis turned her into a bear.

Diana and Callisto


Diana and Callisto
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As it seems, besides hunting, she would spend a lot of time taking revenge for all kind of (may I say it?) trifles. Before leaving for Troy, king Agamemnon went hunting and killed a deer. He was so pleased with his skills, that he exclaimed: "Artemis herself wouldn't have done better." The goddess was so offended, that she sent contrary winds, and the fleet couldn't leave the harbour. An oracle said that the goddess could be convinced to send the winds only if Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia. All the Greek leaders put a lot of pressure on Agamemnon and he had to bring his daughter to the temple, where she had to be killed. In the last moment, the Greek goddess Artemis felt pity for the girl and replaced her with a deer. Iphigenia was taken to Aulis, where she became a priestess in Artemis' temple.

Another person she punished was the king Oeneus. After the harvest, he overlooked to sacrifice the first products to the Greek goddess Artemis, so she punished him by sending the Calydonian Boar, a wild animal that destroyed everything in that country.

The hunter Orion was punished by the Greek Goddess Artemis, too (this list of punished people really gets too long). There are two versions of Orion's story. According to one of them, he tried to assault one of Artemis' nymphs (or the goddess herself). Artemis waqs so angry about this, that she sent a scorpion to kill the hunter. After that, Orion and the scorpion became constellations in the sky. According to another version, Artemis and Orion were in love. Apollo, who felt neglected, because his sister was spending too much time with her fiance, decided to eliminate him. One day, Orion was swimming in the sea (he was a good swimmer and he was very far away from the shore). Apollo told Artemis that she couldn't hit a target as big as the little dot they saw on the surface of the sea. Artemis answered she never missed a target and shot an arrow. But the little dot was Orion's head and that's how she unwillingly killed the only man she ever loved.

For more pictures of the Greek goddess Artemis, click here.

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