Who Is Artemis?
In Greek mythology, Artemis was a main goddess. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto. She represented virginity and chastity, along with more natural elements like the environment, the hunt, and the moon.
Artemis was a protector. She protected wild and tame animals and all of nature. She also protected agriculture, animal herding, and the hunt.
Artemis was the Greek goddess of the hunt and moon but there were other goddesses quite similar to her. In Roman mythology, the goddess Diana was Artemis’ equivalent though history suggests that Diana had historical roots in Italy.
Legends and Stories
There are several myths that surround Artemis, most of which are nature related. Here is the story of her birth and others that show her protective nature.
The Birth of Artemis
Leto, Artemis’ mother, was searching for a safe place to give birth to her twins. Hera, Zeus’ wife, was furious regarding her husband’s affair with Leto, and would not let her find refuge. Zeus helped Leto make her way to Delos, a body of land that Hera had no jurisdiction over. She first delivered Artemis. The labor and birth were both swift and painless.
But because Hera was unable to stop the birth, she kidnapped Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth. This meant that Leto suffered with labor pains that lasted for nine whole days and nights. Because Eileithyia was unable to help Leto, Artemis, though just an infant, assisted with the delivery of her brother, Apollo.
There was a hunter named Actaeon. He often explored the forests with his dogs by his side. One day, he stumbled upon Artemis. She was enjoying the scenery from a stream bank. The respectable thing to do would have been to leave her be but Actaeon found himself captivated with the goddess and her presence. Artemis eventually spotted him and her anger took over. She turned him into a deer. Actaeon’s dogs, who didn’t realize what had happened to their owner, attacked the deer and devoured it.
Another Hunter Meets Artemis
Though the story of Actaeon traveled quickly, there was a hunter who wasn’t fazed by it. Orion wasn’t afraid of anything and the story didn’t stop him from exploring the same patch of woods. He also followed Merope, a nymph, whenever he could as he had fallen deeply in love with her.
He did take care to avoid coming into direct contact with Artemis. But one fateful day, something white in the bushes caught his attention. He thought it was a flock of birds, and quickly approached. But as he drew closer, there was a flash of white light. He then realized that there were no birds. Instead, he saw seven nymphs all dressed in white, including Merope.
The nymphs ran, but Orion followed. He gained ground and reached for Merope’s tunic. Merope called to Artemis for help and the goddess turned the nymphs into doves so they could fly away.
Artemis asked Zeus to help protect the nymphs. They were then transformed into a cluster of stars. They remained in the sky and became known as the “Seven Sisters.”
Artemis then turned her attention to Orion. She quickly realized how strong and brave he was. She also noticed how handsome he was. Instead of punishing him, she went hunting with him. They challenged each other to races and contests. This went on for quite some time. When they were done hunting for the day, they would sit by fires and tell stories. They quickly become the best of friends, something that neither one saw coming.
Apollo became aware of the relationship and grew jealous. He asked his sister how she could have so much in common with a mortal. She told her brother she thought Orion was heroic, which only made him angrier.
One night, Orion had a violent dream that a giant scorpion had challenged him to a fight. In his dream, he reached for a sword and attempted to injure the scorpion but he was unsuccessful. The dream went on and on, leaving Orion more exhausted and scared. He finally woke up from his nightmare, drenched in sweat. He was relieved to realize that his experience was only a dream.
Orion stepped outside and couldn’t believe what he saw. There was the scorpion, just as it had appeared in his dream. It was the work of Apollo.
Orion battled the scorpion but the results were the same. No matter what he tried, he could not conquer the beast. The scorpion kept charging at Orion, pushing him closer and closer towards the sea. Realizing that he wouldn’t win, Orion jumped into the water and swam far away.
While this was happening, Apollo went to visit his sister and told her that a man had attacked a forest priestess. He then told her that the man was trying to escape punishment by swimming across the sea. Artemis was furious that someone would run from her wrath. She went to the sea and spotted a man swimming far away. She loaded an arrow into her bow, shot it, and hit the man.
When she saw how happy her brother was, she quickly realized something was wrong. She swam out to the body and couldn’t believe it was her Orion she had shot. She took his body and placed it in her silver moon chariot. She placed him in the sky for all of eternity as a tribute to their friendship.
Artemis’ parents were Zeus, who ruled over all the other Greek gods, and the Titaness Leto. She had a twin brother, the god Apollo.
In artistic representations, Artemis is usually shown as a strikingly beautiful woman holding a bow and arrow set. She is also usually wearing a tunic called a chiton that ends just below her knees.
There are two main symbols associated with Artemis, the bow and the pike. Her sacred animals include the bear, the deer, and the snake.