mis] Greek goddess of childbirth, hunting, and
Artemis was the daughter of
Zeus, the king of the gods, and the goddess Leto,
and the twin sister of Apollo. According to one
myth, she was born one day before Apollo. Almost
immediately after Leto gave birth to her on the
island of Ortygia, Artemis helped her mother
cross the straits to Delos, where she then
"occupation" was to roam the wilderness
with her nymphs in attendance hunting for lions,
panthers, hinds, and stags. She also saw to their
well-being, safety, and reproduction. Because she
was a virgin, she demanded that all of her
followers devote themselves to purity. According
to one story, when the young nymph Callisto was
seduced by Zeus and became pregnant, Artemis was
so enraged that she changed her into a bear and
then killed her. Another story tells of the fate
of Actaeon, a mortal hunter who accidentally came
across Artemis and her nymphs bathing naked. When
Artemis saw him looking, she turned him into a
stag and then turned his own dogs against him.
Although she was worshipped as
a protector of all young living things, Artemis
could be cruel and destructive, and was often
blamed for sudden deaths, especially of infants.
When Apollo overheard Queen Niobe of Thebes, a
mortal, boasting that she had given birth to more
children than Leto, he informed his sister. The
enraged twins then methodically hunted down and
killed all of Niobe's children.
Artemis was worshipped
throughout the Greek world, but primarily as a
secondary deity, and was depicted as a beautiful
huntress carrying a bow and a quiver of artists,
sometimes with a stag. Festivals in her honor
included the Brauronia, which was held in
Brauron, and the Orthia, which was held in
Sparta. In the latter, Spartan boys would try to
steal cheeses from the altar while being whipped.
Why this practice was associated with the worship
of Artemis has been lost to history, however.
Young girls could, if they wished, be initiated
into the Artemis cult at puberty, but had to
leave if they chose to marry.
The Greeks in Asia Minor
worshipped Artemis as a prominent fertility
goddess and usually depicted her standing erect
with numerous nodes on her chest. Whether those
nodes were supposed to be breasts or bull
testicles that had been sacrificed to her is
unknown. The most famous temple dedicated to
Artemis was in Ephesus, which became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
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