Who is Artemis?

Diane Goettel

In Greek mythology, Artemis is the daughter of Leto and of Zeus, ruler of all of the gods. She is also the twin sister of the god Apollo. Artemis is one of the most widely known and worshiped of the gods. She is known to have been venerated in almost all of the Hellenic world. In Roman mythology, her name is Diana. In the Etruscan mythological tradition, she is Artume.

The Greek god Zeus's children included Artemis.
The Greek god Zeus's children included Artemis.

As with all of the gods and goddesses, certain symbols are sacred to Artemis. Both the deer and the cypress are sacred to her. Perhaps it is because she is considered to be the goddess of the hunt and the wild that these forest symbols are associated with her. By displacing the Titaness Selene, Artemis also became the goddess of the moon. In artwork, she is almost always painted with her sacred images and symbols. In paintings, she is usually naked, in a forest scene with deer. She may be holding or wearing a bow and quiver of arrows.

Artemis is goddess of the Moon.
Artemis is goddess of the Moon.

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Legend has it that Artemis assisted her mother in the birth of her twin, Apollo. Due to a curse set upon Leto by Hera, Zeus’ wife, Artemis’ mother had to give birth to her children on a place where the sun had never shone. In order to supply such a place, Zeus raised an island that had always crested just beneath the ocean waves. This is the island of Delos. While grasping a palm tree, she gave birth to Artemis. One month later, Apollo came into the world.

Therefore, in her virginal aspect, Artemis is considered by some to be the goddess of both fertility and childbirth in addition to her other distinctions. Furthermore, over the centuries, different groups have assimilated her with other goddesses. In Athens during the classical period, for example, she was identified with the goddess Hecate. She has also been similarly linked with Ilithyia and Caryatis.

Artemis was traditionally celebrated in Athens as well as Delos, her birthplace. However, her most incredible temple is located in Turkey. The Temple of Artemis is located in Ephesus, which is in the western part of the country. The temple is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In fact, there were a number of temples venerating the goddess built on the same site. In 1904, an excavation of the site lead by the British museum identified evidence of at least five temples there.

The deer is sacred to Artemis.
The deer is sacred to Artemis.

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Discussion Comments


thanks for the information. i have a few versions of the story, but this is the most simple one. your summarizing is good.


@ElizaBennett - I think there are different versions of the myth and both those stories are about Artemis. Different Greek and Roman writers would record different oral versions that were circulating. As for Aphrodite, she wasn't born at all. According to legend, she rose up from the sea foam (a classic subject for paintings).

Here's an odd note. Artemis is Diana is a woman. So why the name Artemis Fowl? I haven't read the books, but isn't Artemis Fowl, you know, a dude? I mean, it's not just a girl's name, it's the name of a man-avoiding virgin hunter goddess.


I thought the legend I heard was that Hera cursed their mother (because she was jealous, as always, of Zeus's dalliance) so that she could give birth neither on dry land nor on water, and so she gave birth on an island that was believed to be floating. But maybe I'm mixing up my myths--could be Aphrodite?

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