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Artemis

Goddess of the Hunt, Forests and Hills, the Moon, and Archery

Artemis, daughter of Zeus and Leto, and twin sister of Apollo, was goddess of chastity, hunting, wild animals, forests, childbirth, and fertility. Convincing her father to grant her wishes, Artemis desired to remain forever chaste and unmarried and always to be equipped for hunting. The goddess was also associated with the moon and was the patron of young women, particularly brides-to-be, who dedicated their toys to her as symbolic of the transition to full adulthood and the assumption of a wife's responsibilities.

As a deity of fertility, the goddess was particularly revered at Ephesos, where the famous temple of Artemis (c. 550 BCE) was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Other notable places of worship were the sanctuaries at Brauron, Tauris, and on the island of Delos, where the goddess was born and where she assisted the birth of her brother Apollo, as Greek mythology tells us.

A notable episode involving the goddess is the saving of Iphigeneia, daughter of Agamemnon. The king had displeased the goddess by killing one of her sacred deer. As punishment, Artemis becalmed the Archaean fleet and only the sacrifice of Iphigeneia would appease the goddess into granting a fair wind to Troy. Agamemnon duly offered his daughter in sacrifice but in pity and at the last moment, the goddess substituted a deer for the girl and made Iphigeneia a priestess at her sanctuary at Tauris.

Other accounts of Artemis, however, display her in a far less charitable light. She is said to have killed the hunter Orion after his attempted rape of either Artemis herself or a follower. Callisto was turned into a bear after she had lain with Zeus, who then turned her and her son Arcas into the constellations the great and little bear. The goddess uses her bow to mercilessly kill the six (or in some accounts seven) daughters of Niobe following her boast that her childbearing capacity was greater than Leto's.

The hunter Aktaion was turned into a stag by the goddess after he dared boast he was the greater hunter. Actaion was then torn to pieces by his pack of 50 hunting dogs. Finally, Artemis sent a huge boar to ravage Kalydon after the city had neglected to sacrifice to the goddess. An all-star hunting party of heroes which included Theseus, Jason, the Dioskouroi, Atalanta, and Meleager was organised to hunt and sacrifice the boar in Artemis' honour. After a lengthy expedition, Atalanta and Meleager do finally succeed in killing the boar.

Artemis, playing only a minor role in Homer's Iliad, is described most often as ‘the archer goddess' but also on occasion as the "goddess of the loud hunt" and "of the wild, mistress of wild creatures". Supporting the Trojans, she notably heals Aeneas after he is wounded by Diomedes. Hesiod in his Theogony most often describes her as "arrow-shooting Artemis".

Artemis is most frequently portrayed in ancient Greek art as a maiden huntress with quiver and bow, often accompanied by a deer and on occasion wearing a feline skin. Early representations also emphasise her role as goddess of animals and show her winged with a bird or animal in each hand. For example, on the handles of the celebrated Francois vase, she holds a panther and stag in one depiction and lions in another. In later Attic red- and black-figure vases she is also often depicted holding a torch.

A celebrated marble representation of the goddess is on the east frieze of the Parthenon where she is seated with Aphrodite and Eros (c. 440 BCE).

All wild animals are scared to her and especially the deer.

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Wraths and Vengeances of Artemis

In a shared myth with her twin brother Apollo, she was sent to kill seven daughters of Niobe who mocked of Leto for having only two children, while she was having seven sons and seven daughters. This offended Leto and she sent Apollo and Artemis to kill her children. Artemis cold-bloodedly killed the daughters in a matter of minutes with her bow and arrows, just like her twin brother did with Niobe`s sons. She was also involved in killing the giant brothers Aloadai.

After she found out their evil intentions for overthrowing the gods and that they had abducted Ares and held him prisoner for over a year, she tricked the giants into killing each other, by planting a deer between them.

In desire to kill the animal, they struck each other with their javelins. The goddess also seemed to like her privacy. In a myth, where a huntsman Aktaion accidentally saw her naked while bathing, she turned him into a deer, instantly on spot, and the huntsman was consequently eaten by his own dogs, because they saw him as prey. In another myth, where Oineus, the king of Calydon, forgot to donate her offerings for annual sacrifice of the first fruits, Artemis sent a powerful wild boar of enormous size in order to ravage the herds and the town.

The people of Calydon respectively fought back and with the help from Atalanta and best hunters from other lands, they managed to overcome the beast and kill it. Artemis plotted that thoroughly and later inflicted discord between the camps who helped hunt down the boar. They couldn't agree on the share of the giant beast and soon the rage broke out between them which resulted in many casualties. She was also wrathful towards Agamemnon who had killed her sacred deer and was praising himself to be a better hunter than the goddess.

Therefore, the goddess stopped the winds and made the ships, which were on their way to Troy, motionless. Agamemnon later, on the advice of seer Calchas, sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess and made up for his foolishness.

Trojan War

Artemis was also heavily involved in Trojan war, favouring for Trojans like her brother Apollo. She becalmed the sea, preventing the Greeks from sailing for Troy. Later on she demanded Agamemnon`s eldest daughter Iphigenia who was on her way to be married with Achilles, in order to motivate him. Artemis transported her in Taurus and made her immortal.

In the eyes of Iphigenia, this was merely a salvation from her being sacrificed, by the hands of her father, to Achilles. Artemis also healed trojan hero Aineias who was wounded on the battlefield and brought by Apollo to his temple, where his wounds were tended by Artemis and Leto. She was also mentioned to be outmatched and hurt by Hera and therefore fled from the battlefield.

Other myths

She was also involved in several other myths, such as myth of Orion who was her hunting partner. Artemis was later tricked by jealous Apollo who plotted against Orion and made her sister to shoot an arrow at him, which led to his death. The goddess also helped Atalanta, when she was abandoned at birth by her father and left to be eaten by wild animals.

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Source

[1] "Ancient History Encyclopedia"

[2] "Greek Gods"




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