goddess of the hunt and the wild in ancient Greek religion and mythology

Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis (Greek: (nominative) Ἄρτεμις, (genitive) Ἀρτέμιδος) was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the Hellenic goddess of forests and hills, child birth, virginity, fertility, the hunt, and often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. The goddess Diana is her Roman equivalent.

In her the piously intuitive spirit has learned to perceive this eternal image of sublime femininity as a thing divine. ~ Walter Friedrich Otto

Quotes edit

  • Artemis of the wilderness (agrotera), lady of wild beasts (potnia theron).
  • Over the shadowy hills and windy peaks Artemis draws her golden bow ... The tops of the high mountains tremble and the tangled wood echoes awesomely with the outcry of beasts.
  • Regina nemorum, sola quae montes colis

et una solis montibus coleris dea,
conuerte tristes ominum in melius minas.
O magna siluas inter et lucos dea,
clarumque caeli sidus et noctis decus,
cuius relucet mundus alterna uice,
Hecate triformis, en ades coeptis fauens.

O Diana queen of the groves, thou who in solitude lovest thy mountain-haunts,
and who upon the solitary mountains art alone held holy,
change for the better these dark, ill-omened threats.
O great goddess of the woods and groves,
bright orb of heaven, glory of the night,
by whose changing beams the universe shines clear,
O three-formed Hecate, lo, thou art at hand, favouring our undertaking.

  • She is life and being, starry-bright, sparkling, blinding, mobile, whose sweet strangeness draws man on the more irresistibly the more disdainfully it dismisses him; an essence crystal-clear, which is nevertheless intertwined with the dark roots in all animate nature; a being childishly simple and yet incalculable, sweetly amiable and diamond-hard; girlishly demure, fleeting, elusive, and suddenly brusque and contrary; playing, frolicking, dancing, and in a flash most inexorably serious; lovingly anxious and tenderly solicitous, with the enchantment of a smile that outweighs perdition, and yet wild to the point of gruesomeness and cruel to the point of repulsiveness. All of these are traits of the free, withdrawn nature to which Artemis belongs, and in her the piously intuitive spirit has learned to perceive this eternal image of sublime femininity as a thing divine.
  • The Moon! Artemis! the great goddess of the splendid past of men! Are you going to tell me she is a dead lump?
  • Mistress maiden (despoina nymphê), ruler of the stormy mountains.
    • Aeschylus, Fragment 188 from Orion, Etymologicum (Greek tragedy 5th century B.C.)
  • The Curetes and the Aetolians were fighting and killing one another round Calydon - the Aetolians defending the city and the Curetes trying to destroy it. For Artemis of the golden throne was angry and did them hurt because Oeneus had not offered her his harvest first-fruits.
  • Artemis of the wilderness (agrotera), lady of wild beasts (potnia theron) ... Zeus has made you a lion among women, and given you leave to kill any at your pleasure ... you hunt down the ravening beasts in the mountains and deer of the wilds.
  • Over the shadowy hills and windy peaks Artemis draws her golden bow, rejoicing in the chase, and sends out grievous shafts. The tops of the high mountains tremble and the tangled wood echoes awesomely with the outcry of beasts: earth quakes and the sea also where fishes shoal. But the goddess with a bold heart turns every way destroying the race of wild beasts: and when she is satisfied and has cheered her heart, then the huntress (theroskopos) who delights in arrows (iokheaira) slackens her supple bow.
  • Artemis with shafts of gold (khryselakatos) loves archery and the slaying of wild beasts in the mountains.
  • The lone huntress Artemis, who hath yoked the brood of savage lions for Bromius, who is enchanted even by the dancing herds of wild beasts.
    • Pindar, Dithyrambs Heracles the Bold (trans. Sandys) (Greek lyric 5th century B.C.)
  • And the hunters as they advance will hymn Artemis Agrotera (Goddess of the Hunt); for yonder is a temple to her, and a statue worn smooth with age, and heads of boars and bears; and wild animals sacred to her graze there, fawns and wolves and hares, all tame and without fear of man. After a prayer the hunters continue the hunt.
  • Leto's daughter Artemis, goddess of the wilds.
    • Colluthus, Rape of Helen 14 (trans. Mair) (Greek poetry 5-6th century A.D.)
  • All things that feed in the lonely fields, whether the Arabian knows them in his rich forests, or the needy Garamantian and the wandering Sarmatian on his desert plains, whatever the heights of the rough Pyrenees or the Hyrcanian glades conceal, all fear thy bow. If, his offerings paid, thy worshipper takes thy favour with him to the glades, his nets hold the tangled prey, no feet break through his snares; his game is brought in on groaning wains, his hounds have their muzzles red with blood, and all the rustic throng come home in long triumphant line. Lo, Artemis, thou dost hear me: the shrill-tongued hounds have given the sign. I am summoned to the woods to hunt.
  • Staghunter Artemis, on the hills thou dost eagerly hunt with fawnkilling Dionysos.
    • Nonnus, Dionysiaca 44 (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic 5th century A.D.)
  • Praise Artemis too, the maiden huntress, who wanders on the mountains and through the woods.
  • Driving off with her fast-trotting deer over the hills ... fawning beasts whimper in homage and tremble as Artemis passes by.
  • [Odysseus compliments the girl Nausikaa :] ‘You are most like Artemis, daughter of sovereign Zeus; you are tall as she is, lovely as she is, you have her air.
    • Homer, Odyssey 6 (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic 8th century B.C.)
  • [Plato invents philosophical etymologies for the names of the gods:]

Sokrates: Let us inquire what thought men had in giving them the gods their names ... The first men who gave names to the gods were no ordinary persons, but high thinkers and great talkers ... Artemis appears to get her name from her healthy (artemes) and well-ordered nature, and her love of virginity; or perhaps he who named her meant that she is learned in virtue (aretê), or possibly, too, that she hates sexual intercourse (aroton misei) of man and woman; or he who gave the goddess her name may have given it for any or all of these reasons."

    • Plato, Cratylus 400d & 406a (4th century B.C.)
  • The Egyptians hold solemn assemblies not once a year, but often. The principal one of these and the most enthusiastically celebrated is that in honor of Artemis.
    • Herodotus, Histories (trans. Godley) (5th century B.C.)
  • The compelling thing about making art — or making anything, I suppose — is the moment when the vaporous, insubstantial idea becomes a solid there, a thing, a substance in a world of substances. Circe, Nimbue, Artemis, Athena, all the old sorceresses: they must have known the feeling as they transformed mere men into fabulous creatures, stole the secrets of the magicians, disposed armies: ah, look, there it is, the new thing. Call it a swine, a war, a laurel tree. Call it art.
  • All cities worship Artemis Ephesia (of Ephesos), and individuals hold her in honor above all the gods. The reason, in my view, is the renown of the Amazones, who traditionally dedicated the image, also the extreme antiquity of this sanctuary.
  • The festival of Artemis Stymphalia at Stymphalos was carelessly celebrated, and its established ritual in great part transgressed. Now a log fell into the mouth of the chasm into which the river descends, and so prevented the water from draining away, and (so it is said) the plain became a lake for a distance of four hundred stades. They also say that a hunter chased a deer, which fled and plunged into the marsh, followed by the hunter, who, in the excitement of the hunt, swam after the deer. So the chasm swallowed up both the deer and her pursuer. They are said to have been followed by the water of the river, so that by the next day the whole of the water was dried up that flooded the Stymphalian plain. Hereafter they put greater zeal into the festival in honor of Artemis.
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue 2nd century A.D.)
  • The goddess Artemis had a twin brother, Apollo, the many-faceted god of the Sun. He was her male counterpart: his domain was the city, hers the wilderness; his was the sun, hers the moon; his the domesticated flocks, hers the wild, untamed animals; he was the god of music, she was the inspiration for round dances on the mountains. The goddess Diana is her Roman equivalent.

See also edit

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