Artemis

Artemis was the goddess of hunting, the wilderness and wild animals. She was also a goddess of childbirth, and the protector of the girl child up to the age of marriage, her twin brother Apollo was similarly the protector of the boy child. Together the two gods were also bringers of sudden death and disease, Artemis targeted women and girls, Apollo men and boys.

In ancient art Artemis was usually depicted as a girl or young maiden with a hunting bow and quiver of arrows.

Residence: Mount Olympus
Symbols: Bow, arrows, stags, hunting dog, and Moon
Parents: Zeus and Leto
Siblings: Aeacus,  Angelos, AphroditeApolloAresAthenaDionysusIlithyiaEnyoEris, Ersa, Hebe, Helen of Troy, HephaestusHeraclesHermes, Minos, Pandia, Persephone, Perseus, Rhadamanthus, the Graces, the Horae, the Litae, the Muses and the Moirae
Roman equivalent: Diana

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The Diana of Versailles, a Roman copy of a Greek sculpture by Leochares. Louvre.

Birth

When Zeus‘ wife Hera discovered that Leto was impregnanted by Zeus, she banned Leto from giving birth on terra firma. In her wanderings, Leto sought shelter on many lands, only to be rejected by them. Finally, she saw Delos, a floating island, which was neither a real island nor a mainland. Leto, when welcomed by Delos, gave birth there, clinging to a palm tree.

Leto with Artmeis and Apollo, by Lazar Widmann

Actaeon

Actaeon was a famous hunter. Whilst hunting, he accidentally happens upon Artemis and her accompanying nymphs bathing. For this transgression, the goddess turns him into a stag and he is ripped to pieces by his own hunting dogs.

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 Statue group depicting Actaeon the hunter in the grounds of the palace of Caserta near Naples.

Adonis

In a version of the myth, Artemis killed Adonis for revenge. Adonis had been a favourite of Aphrodite, and she was responsible for the death of Hippolytus, who had been a favourite of Artemis. Therefore, Artemis sent a boar to kill Adonis to avenge Hippolytus’s death.

Orion

Orion was the hunting companion of Artemis, who once loved Orion, but was tricked into killing him by her brother Apollo, who was “protective” of his sister’s maidenhood.

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 her disguised as Artemis. As a result of this encounter, she conceived a son, Arcas.

Enraged, Hera and/or 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.

Agamemnon and Iphigenia

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. 

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François Perrier’s The Sacrifice of Iphigenia (17th century), depicting Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia.

Niobe

Niobe was the queen of Thebes and wife of Amphion. She displayed hubris when she boasted of her superiority to Leto because she had fourteen children, seven male and seven female, while Leto had only two. She further mocked Apollo‘s effeminate appearance and Artemis’ manly appearance. Leto, insulted by this, told her children to punish Niobe. Accordingly, Apollo killed Niobe’s sons, and Artemis her daughters. Apollo and Artemis used poisoned arrows to kill them, though according to some versions of the myth, among the Niobids, Chloris and her brother Amyclas were not killed because they prayed to Leto. Amphion, at the sight of his dead sons, either killed himself or was killed by Apollo after swearing revenge.

Niobe’s children are killed by Apollo and Diana by Pierre-Charles Jombert.

A devastated Niobe fled to Mount Sipylos in Asia Minor and turned into stone as she wept. Her tears formed the river Achelous. Zeus had turned all the people of Thebes to stone and so no one buried the Niobids until the ninth day after their death, when the gods themselves entombed them.

When Chloris married and had children, Apollo granted her son Nestor the years he had taken away from the Niobids. Hence, Nestor was able to live for 3 generations.