The Roman Goddess Diana

The Roman goddess Diana was the equivalent of the Greek goddess Artemis. She was the daughter of Jupiter and Latona and Apollo’s sister. Initially, in Roman mythology, she was a goddess of nature. She was later identified with the Greek goddess Artemis, under the influence of the Greek colonies established in Southern Italy, that’s how she also became the goddess of hunt. She was considered a protector of the weak and the slaves turned to her for help.

The most important temples of the Roman goddess Diana were in Capua and in Aricia, near Lake Nemi, where she was also called Diana Nemorensis (Diana of the woods). There was a festival held in her honour on the 13th August (the Ides of August).

The priest in the Temple of Diana Nemorensis was said to be, in the beginning, a runaway slave. If somebody else wanted to take his place, he had to kill the priest with a wooden branch.

One of the stories says that Artemis (i.e Diana) took Hippolytus, son of Theseus, after he was brought to life again by Asclepios, and brought it to Italy, at her temple in Aricia, where he became her priest, under the name Virbius (he who lived twice).

And a curious fact: in the Romanian language, the Latin name of the Roman goddess Diana became the word “zana”, which means “fairy”. In Romanian folk tales, the fairies are women with magical powers (some good, some bad) who would usually wander through the woods, in large groups. In many tales, a young man sees the fairies bathing and steals some clothes. When they discover someone is watching, they get out of the water, get dressed and fly away. The fairy whose clothes were stolen can’t go away, so she hides behind a bush, promising to marry him if he gives her back her clothes (which have magical powers). The young man refuses and gives her other clothes, they marry and they live happily for a while, until, one day, she manages to find her fairy clothes. When she does, she can fly back to her sisters, leaving her son and her husband, who will be forever sad. Because, when someone was married to a fairy, the other women mean nothing to him any more. Not exactly Actaeon's story, but anyway, the man who saw the fairies naked is punished for this, with an eternal sadness.

In art, this goddess was mainly represented under the name Diana.

For more pictures of the Roman goddess Diana, click here.

For the story of the Greek goddess Artemis, click here.

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