The Gods of Greek and Roman Mythology - Artemis (Diana)
Role in the Mythos: Goddess of Virginity and Hunting
- Protector of Women and Children
- Protector of Virgins and Chastity Oaths
- Goddess of the Woods and the Moon
- Patron of Wildlife and Hunters
- Parents: Zeus and Leto
- Spouse: None (one of the three virgins)
- Brother: Apollo, her twin
- Bow and arrow
- Cypress tree
- Wild animals
- Water jug
Myths to Know:
Artemis and Actaeon
Actaeon is a famous hunter who is known far and wide for his abilities. One day, he encounters the chaste goddess Artemis bathing naked in a stream. Actaeon looks upon the goddess’s body for a moment too long, and Artemis catches his gaze. Infuriated by the violation, she transforms the hunter into a stag, the very same kind that Actaeon is known to hunt. Not knowing their master has changed into an animal, Actaeon’s hunting dogs chase him down and tear him to pieces.
Orion, a giant, is a hunting companion of Artemis. There are multiple stories about how Orion dies, but in the most popular one, Apollo becomes jealous of Artemis’s affection for Orion and tricks her into killing him. Apollo sees Orion swimming far off shore and bets Artemis that she cannot hit the black mark in the sea. Thinking that the target is driftwood or a sea animal, Artemis unleashes an arrow and strikes Orion through the skull. When his body washes ashore, Artemis is devastated. She asks Zeus to set him in the stars as a constellation.
The Sacrifice of Iphigenia
On the eve of the Trojan War, Agamemnon, commander of the Greek forces, accidentally kills a deer in the woods. Enraged by the deer’s death, Artemis stops the wind and halts the Greek fleet. A prophet tells Agamemnon that he must sacrifice his eldest daughter, Iphigenia, in order to repay the goddess for her lost deer. Agamemnon sends for Iphigenia and her mother, Clytemnestra, promising the two women that Iphigenia will be married off to Achilles. While some stories feature the death of the young girl, most end with Artemis’s saving the girl from death. She carries Iphigenia away to Crimea and leaves behind a doe with its throat cut.