Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her name is derived from artemês, meaning uninjured, healthy, vigorous; according to which she would be the goddess who is herself inviolate and vigorous, and also grants strength and health to others. 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 Wild Land, Mistress of Animals”.
Various conflicting accounts are given in Classical Greek mythology as to 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.
Zeus was married to Hera, who became enraged when she found out about Leto. Zeus then transformed Leto into a quail in order to prevent Hera from finding out his infidelity. The accounts of Artemis’ birth depict Artemis as born first, becoming her mother’s mid-wife upon the birth of her brother Apollo.
Once, as Artemis was sitting on the knee of her father, Zeus, she 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.
She was also a goddess of childbirth, and the protectress of the girl child up to the age of marriage. Her twin brother Apollo was similarly the protector of the boy child. But, together the two gods were also bringers of sudden death and disease–Artemis targeted women and girls, and Apollo men and boys.
Artemis is the goddess of the wilderness, the hunt and wild animals, and fertility (she became a goddess of fertility and childbirth mainly in cities). She was often depicted with the crescent of the moon above her forehead and was sometimes identified with Selene (goddess of the moon).
Her main vocation was to roam mountain forests and uncultivated land with her nymphs in attendance hunting for lions, panthers, hinds and stags. She was armed with a bow and arrows which were made by Hephaestus and the Cyclopes. But while she was known as a great huntress, her chief car was to watch over the animals – protecting and seeing to their well-being, also their safety and reproduction.
Artemis and Callisto
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 Callisto 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, Artemis 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.
Bow and arrow
The arrows of Artemis could bring sudden death and disease to girls and women. Artemis got her bow and arrow for the first time from the Cyclopes, 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. She is also depicted 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. Artemis got her hunting dogs from Pan in the forest of Arcadia. 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’).
Trees and Plants –
Palm and Cypress were issued to be her birthplace. Other plants sacred to Artemis are Amaranth and Asphodel.
The Temple of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis also known less precisely as the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was located in Ephesus (near the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey), and was completely rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction in 401. Only foundations and sculptural fragments of the latest of the temples at the site remain. The first sanctuary dates to the Bronze Age.
The Temple of Artemis, as imagined in this hand-coloured engraving by Martin Heemskerck (1498 – 1574), has the “old-fashioned” look of Santa Maria Novella in Florence and other Italian quattrocento churches of the previous generation.In the 7th century, a flood destroyed the temple, depositing over half a meter of sand and flotsam over a floor of hard-packed clay. Among the flood debris were the remains of a carved ivory plaque of a griffin and the Tree of Life, apparently North Syrian, and a number of drilled tear-shaped amber drops of elliptical cross-section.
Honoring Artemis –
Artemis is honored when you love her animals and Her land. Leave food for her creatures. Take the time to clean the yard. Go into the woods and send healing energy to the Earth. Each time you honor the Earth and its creatures, you are honoring Artemis.