Artemis | Greek Goddess

Artemis Greek Mythology

Artemis, Artemisa or Artemisia (Greek: Άρτεμις; Romaniz.: Artemis) is the Greek goddess connected with wildlife and hunting; later she also became associated with the moon and magic.

She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. Her Roman equivalent was Diana. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrótera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wild lands, Mistress of the Animals." The Akkadians believed that Artemis was the daughter of Demeter, goddess of agriculture.

Artemis is goddess of the moon, hunting, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth and virginity and protector of girls in ancient Greek religion. She was described as the best hunter among gods and mortals. Bow and arrows are her constant companions. The deer, the bear and the cypress were consecrated to her.

A member of the Greek pantheon, she is a common presence in Western culture. An asteroid, 105 Artemis, and the craters Artemis Chasma and Artemis Corona on the planet Venus were named after this goddess.

Artemis is described by Anacreon as a "blonde daughter of Zeus." Archilochus describes a woman with "yellow hair," mentioning that they were "the same color as those of Artemis."


The name Artemis (feminine noun) is of unknown and uncertain origin, although several have been proposed.

For example, according to Jablonski, the name is Phrygian and could be "compared with the royal appellation Artemis of Xenophon. According to Charles Anthon the primitive root of the name is probably of Persian origin from *arta, *art, *arte, meaning "great, excellent, holy," thus Artemis "becomes identical with the great mother of nature, even when she was worshipped in Ephesus."

Babiniotis while admitting that the etymology is unknown, states that the name is already attested in Mycenaean Greek and is possibly of pre-Hellenic origin.

The name could also be related to the Greek Arcto meaning "Bear" (h₂ŕ̥tḱos), supported by the bear cult that the goddess received at the temple in Attica (Brauronia) and in the Arcudiotissa cave that was used as a cult of Artemis, as well as the story of Callisto, which was originally about Artemis (Callisto was an Arcadian epithet);

this cult was a survival of very ancient shamanic and totemic rituals and was part of a larger bear cult found further back in other Indo-European cultures (e.g. the Celtic god Artio). It is believed that a precursor to Artemis was worshipped in Crete as the goddess of hunting and mountains.

While a connection to Asian names has been suggested, the first attested forms of the name Artemis are in Mycenaean Greek a-te-mi-to /Artemitos/ and a-ti-mi-te /Artimitei/, written in Linear B at Pilos. Linguist Robert SP Beekes has suggested that the "e/i" are dots that interchange from a pre-Greek origin. Artemis was worshipped in Lydia as Artimus.

Ancient Greek writers, through popular etymology and some modern scholars, have linked Artemis (from Doric Artamis) to ἄρταμος, artamos, i.e., "butcher." Or, as Plato did in the Cratus, to ἀρτεμής, Artemes, i.e., "safe," "unharmed," "pure," "the stainless maiden."



Several conflicting accounts are given in Greek mythology of the birth of Artemis and her twin brother, Apollo. All accounts agree, however, that she was the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and that she was Apollo's twin sister.

A tale from Chalimachus says that Hera forbade Leto to give birth on any land (the mainland) or on an island. Hera was angry with Zeus, her husband, because he had betrayed her with Leto. Poseidon, feeling sorry for Leto, took her to the island of Delos (or Ortigia in the Homeric hymn to Artemis) which was floating, not being a continent or an island, for Leto to give birth there.

When the island of Delos finally received her, Ilicia, daughter of Hera and goddess of childbirth, was held back by her mother on Olympus. Only after Zeus distracted Hera, Ilicia was able to rescue Leto and deliver the twins.

In the story of Crete, Leto was worshipped at Festus and in the mythology of Crete, Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis on the islands known today as the Paximadia. The myths also differ as to who was born first, Artemis or Apollo. Most stories depict Artemis being born first, becoming her mother's midwife after the birth of her brother Apollo.


Artemis' childhood is not fully recounted in any surviving myth. The Iliad reduced the figure of the goddess to that of a little girl, who, after being struck by Hera, rises weeping to Zeus' lap.

A poem by Chalimachus to the goddess "who amuses herself on mountains with bow and arrow" recounts that at the age of three, Artemis, as she sat on the lap of her father, Zeus, asked him to grant her six wishes:

to always remain a virgin; to have many names to differentiate her from her brother Apollo; to be the Bringer of Light; to have a bow and arrow; a tunic at knee height so that she could hunt and to have sixty "daughters", all at the age of nine known as "the slayers of Artemis", to be one of her companions, the nymph, mortal ,or demigoddess must take a vow of eternal chastity with Artemis herself thus gaining immortality and the blessing of the goddess.

She wished not to have any city dedicated to her, but to rule the mountains and have the ability to help women in labor pains.

Artemis believed that she had been chosen by the Parcas to be a midwife, especially since she had helped her mother in the birth of her twin brother, Apollo. All of her companions remained virgins, and Artemis closely guarded her own chastity.

Her symbols include the bow, the golden arrow, the hound, the deer, and the moon. Chalimachus says that Artemis spent her childhood searching for things she would need to be a hunter, so she obtained her bow and arrows on the island of Lípara, where Hephaestus and the Cyclops built them.

The daughters of Oceanos were afraid of the young goddess, but Artemis bravely approached and asked for her bow and arrows. Chalimachus then tells how Artemis visited Pan, the god of the forest, who gave her seven bitches and six dogs. She then captured six golden deer and put the horns on them to pull her chariot. Artemis practiced with her bow first by shooting at trees and then at wild animals.


Being a virgin, Artemis aroused the interest of many gods and men, but only her hunting companion, Orion, won her heart. Orion was accidentally killed either by Artemis or by Gaia.

Alpheus, a river god, was in love with Artemis, but he realized that he could do nothing to win her heart, so he decided to capture her. Artemis, who was with her companions in the river, finds Alpheus, but, suspicious of his motives, she covers her face with mud so that the river god won't recognize her.

In another story, Alpheus tries to rape Artemis' protected nymph, Arethusa. Artemis takes pity on Arethusa and saves her, turning Arethusa into a fountain on the island of Ortigia, in Syracuse, Sicily.

Bouphagos, son of the titan Jápeto, sees Artemis and thinks of raping her. Reading his sinful thoughts, Artemis strikes him on Mount Foloi.

Sipriotes is a boy, who, either because he accidentally sees Artemis in the bath or because he tries to rape her, is turned into a girl by the goddess.


Several versions of the Acteon myth survive, although many are fragmented. Details vary, but at the core they involve a great hunter, Actéon who is turned by Artemis into a deer because of a transgression and who is killed by hounds. Usually the dogs are his own, who do not recognize their master. Sometimes they are Artemis' dogs.

According to the standard modern text by Lamar Ronald Lacey, The Myth of Aktaion: Literary and Iconographic Studies, the most likely original version of the myth is that Acteon was the goddess' hunting companion who, after seeing her naked in her sacred fountain, tried to rape her. For this attitude he is turned into a deer and devoured by his own hunting dogs.

However, in some surviving versions Actéon is an outsider who accidentally sees the goddess naked in the fountain. There is also disagreement over the hunter's transgression, which is sometimes simply seeing the virgin goddess naked, sometimes boasting that he is a better hunter than her, or even just being a rival of Zeus for Sêmele's affection.


In some versions of the story of Adonis, which was a late addition to Greek mythology in the Hellenistic period, Artemis sent a boar to kill Adonis as punishment for his arrogant boast that he was a better hunter than she was.

In other versions, Artemis killed Adonis out of revenge. In later myths, Adonis had been related as one of Aphrodite's favorites and Aphrodite was responsible for the death of Hippolytus, who had been a favorite of Artemis. Therefore, Artemis killed Adonis to avenge the death of Hippolytus.

In another version, Adonis was not killed by Artemis, but by Ares, who was jealous of Adonis with Aphrodite.


Orion was a hunting companion of Artemis. In some versions, he is killed by Artemis, while in others he is killed by a scorpion sent by Gaia. In some versions, Orion tries to seduce Opis (another name for Artemis), and she killed him. In one version by Arato, Orion took Artemis' robe and she killed him in self-defense.

In another version, Apollo sends the scorpion. According to Hyginus, Artemis once loved Orion (although a late addition to the myth, this version seems to be a rare remnant of Artemis as a pre-Olympian goddess who took on consorts), but was tricked and killed by her brother Apollo, who was "protective" of his sister's virginity.

The Alloys

The twin giants sons of Posidon, Otos and Ephialtes, grew enormously at a young age. They were aggressive, great hunters, and could not be killed unless they killed themselves.

The growth of the Alloys never stopped, and they boasted that as soon as they could reach heaven, they would kidnap Artemis and Hera and take them as wives.

The gods were afraid of them, except for Artemis who captured a beautiful stag (or in another version of the story, she captured a doe) and threw it among the giants. The Alloys threw their spears at each other by mistake and killed each other.


Callisto was the daughter of Lycaon, king of Arcadia and was also one of Artemis' slayers. As a companion of Artemis, she took a vow of chastity. Zeus appeared to her disguised as Artemis, or in some stories as Apollo, gained her trust, then took advantage of her (or raped her, according to Ovid) virginity. As a result of this encounter, she conceived a son, Arcas.

Enraged, Hera or Artemis (some accounts say both) turned her into a bear. Arcas almost killed the bear, but Zeus stopped him just in time. Out of pity, Zeus placed Callisto as a bear in the heavens, thus the origin of the Big Dipper Constellation. Some stories say that he placed both Arcas and Callisto in the heavens as bears, forming the constellations Ursa Minor and Ursa Major.


Artemis punished Agamemnon after he killed a deer in a grove sacred to the goddess and bragged that he was a better hunter than her. When the Greek fleet was preparing to go to Troy and take part in the war, Artemis calmed the winds by preventing the ship from setting sail.

The seer Calcas advised Agamemnon that the only way to appease Artemis was to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia. Artemis then took Iphigenia from the sacrificial altar and replaced her with a deer.

Various myths were made about what happened after Artemis took her. Either she was brought to the Tauro Mountains and lived with her parents, or she became one of Artemis' immortal companions.


The queen of Thebes and wife of Amphion, Niobe boasted of her superiority over Leto, forbidding his worship in Thebes and claiming that while she had fourteen children, seven boys and seven girls, Leto had only one of each.

Leto sought revenge on his sons, Artemis and Apollo; so Apollo killed the sons of Niobe while they were practicing athletics, and Artemis shot her daughters, who died instantly, without a sound.

Apollo and Artemis used poison on the arrows to kill them, but according to some versions, two children were spared, a boy and a girl. Amphion, at the sight of his dead children, killed himself. Níobe devastated by the death of her children, made Zeus sympathize with her pain and turned her into a rock, but she still mourned the loss of her children by constantly pouring water into a spring.


Chione was a princess of Pokis. She was loved by two gods, Hermes and Apollo, and boasted that she was more beautiful than Artemis, because she made two gods fall in love with her at the same time.

Artemis was furious and either killed Chione with her arrow or struck her, taking out her tongue. However, some versions of this myth say that Apollo and Hermes protected her from Artemis' wrath.

Atalanta, Aeneus and the Meleaggrides

Artemis saved baby Atalanta from dying after her father abandoned her. She sent a bear to nurse the baby, who was then raised by hunters. But soon after, in some versions, she sent a bear to hurt Atalanta because people said she was a better hunter.

Among other adventures, Atalanta participated in the hunt for the Calydonian boar, which Artemis had sent to destroy Calydon because King Aeneus had forgotten to make the harvest sacrifices to her.

On the hunt, Atalanta drew first blood from the boar, and was awarded the animal's skin as a prize. She hung the skin in a sacred grove in Tegea as a dedication to Artemis.

Meleagro was a hero of Aetolia. King Aeneus gathered heroes from all over Greece to hunt the Calydonian boar. After Meleagro's death, his sisters, the so-called Meleagroids, screamed and cried a lot in mourning, and Artemis turned them into Numididae.


In Nono's Dionysia of Panopolis, Aura was the Greek goddess of breeze and fresh air, daughter of the titan Lelantos and Periboea. She was a virgin hunter, just like Artemis, and proud of her virginity. One day, she claimed that Artemis' body was too feminine and that she doubted her virginity.

Artemis asked Nemesis for help to avenge her dignity and caused Aura to be raped by Dionysus. Aura became a mad and dangerous killer. When she gave birth to twin sons, she ate one of them, while the other, Iakhos, was saved by Artemis. Iakhos later became an attendant of Demeter and leader of the Mysteries of Elêusis.

Trojan War

Artemis was represented as a defender of Troy, because her brother Apollo was the patron god of the city and she herself was widely worshipped in western Anatolia in historical times.

In the Iliad she came to blows with Hera, when the divine allies of the Greeks and Trojans fought each other in the conflict. Hera struck Artemis in the ears with her own quiver, causing the slayer's arrows to fall. Afterwards Artemis fled crying to Zeus, and Leto collected her bow and arrows.

Artemis played a large part in this war. Like her mother and brother, who were widely worshiped in Troy, Artemis sided with the Trojans. On the Greeks' journey to Troy, Artemis calmed the wind and stopped the journey until the sacrifice of Iphigenia. Aeneas was helped by Artemis, Leto, and Apollo. Apollo found him wounded by Diomedes and lifted him up into the sky. There, the three secretly healed him in a large chamber.


Artemis, the goddess of the forests and hills, was worshipped throughout ancient Greece; her best known cults were on the island of Delos (her home town), in Attica at the Brauron shrine, and in Sparta. She was often depicted in paintings and statues in a forest setting, carrying a bow and arrows, and accompanied by a deer.

The ancient Spartans used to sacrifice animals to her; as Artemis was one of their patron goddesses, they did this before starting a new military campaign. Athenian festivals in honor of Artemis included Elafebolia, Munitia, Caristeria, and Brahuronia. The Artemis Orthia festival was seen in Sparta.

Pre-pubescent and teenage Athenian girls were sent to the shrine of Artemis at Brauro to serve the goddess for a year. During this time, the girls were known as arctos (arktoi), or little bears.

One myth that explains this title states that a bear was in the habit of regularly visiting the town of Brauro, and the people there fed it, so that over time it became a tame bear.

A girl played with the bear, and in some versions of the myth he killed her, while in other versions he grabbed her eyes. Either way, the girl's brothers killed the bear, and Artemis became enraged. She demanded that the girls "act like bear" at her shrine in atonement for the bear's death.

The virginal Artemis was worshiped as a fertility/partum goddess in some places, assimilated to Ilicia, since, according to some myths, she assisted her mother in the birth of her twin brother. During the classical period in Athens, she was identified with Hecate.


As an Aeginaea (Aeginaea), she was worshipped in Sparta; the name means either chamois huntress, or the possessor of the dart (αἰγανέα). She was worshipped in Lepanto as an Aetola (Aetole); in her temple in that city there was a white marble statue depicting her throwing a dart.

An Aetolian Artemis would not have been introduced in Lepanto, formerly Locida, until worship was granted to the Aetolians by Philip II of Macedon. Strabo records another "Artemis Etolia" enclosure in Adriatic. As Agorea (Agoraea) she was protector of the agora.

As Agrotera (Agrotera), she was especially associated as the patron goddess of hunters. In Athens, Artemis was often associated with the local Egyptian goddess, Apheia (Aphaea/Alpheaea). As Potnia Teron (Potnia Theron), "lady of the animals," she was the patroness of wild animals; Homer used this title. As Curotroph, she was the nurse of young men.

As Lochia (Locheia), she was the goddess of childbirth and midwives. She was sometimes known as Cynthia (Cynthia), from her hometown on Mount Cynthia in Delos, or Amarinthia (Amarynthia) from a festival in her honor originally held in Evia.

She was sometimes identified by the name Feba, the feminine form of the solar epithet of her brother, Apollo Febo. In Sparta she was worshiped as Artemis Ligodesma. This epithet means "willow-thistle" from Ligo (λυγός, willow) and desmo (δεσμός, connection). The willow appears in several ancient Greek myths and rituals. 

Alpheia or Alfiusa (Alpheiusa; Gr. Ἀλφαῖα, Ἀλφεαία, or Ἀλφειοῦσα) was an epithet of Artemis derived from the river god Alpheus, who is said to have been in love with her.

It was under this name that she was worshipped at Letrinos in Élida, and in Ortigia; Artemis Alpheus was associated with wearing masks, mainly because of the legend that during the escape the advances of Alpheus, she and her nymphs escaped him by covering their faces.

Festivals of Ancient Greece

Artemis was born on the sixth day, the reason why the day was considered sacred to her:

Artemis Festival in Brauron: where girls, aged between five and ten, dressed in saffron-colored robes, played a bear to appease the goddess after she sent the plague when her bear was killed;

Festival of Amarisia: it is a celebration in Attica. In 2007, a team of Swiss and Greek archaeologists discovered the ruin of the Artemis Amarysia Temple in Euboea, Greece;

Saronian Artemis Festival: a festival to celebrate Artemis in Trozeinos, a city in Argolid. A king named Saron built a shrine to the goddess after she would have saved his life when he went hunting;

On the 16th of métagitnion (Attic calendar) (second month in the Gregorian calendar), people sacrifice to Artemis and Hecate;

Caristeria festival: on 6 of Boidromion (third month) to commemorate victory in the Battle of Marathon, also known as the Athenian "Thanksgiving";

Day 6 of Elaphobia (ninth month) festival of Artemis Deer Huntress where she is offered deer-shaped cakes, bread dough, honey and sesame;

Day 6, of Mounikhion (tenth month) a celebration of her as the goddess of nature and animals. The goat is sacrificed to her;

Day 6 of Targelius (eleventh month), the "birthday" of the goddess, while the seventh is of Apollo;

Festival of Artemis Dictina: in Hippos;
Latria: a festival of Artemis at Patras. The procession sets the wooden logs around the altar, each sixteen cubits long. On the altar, within the circle, the driest wood is placed. Just before festival time, they make a gentle climb to the altar, piling earth on the altar steps.

The festival begins with a more splendid procession in honor of Artemis, with the maidens and priestesses being the last in the procession atop a quadriga, paired with four deer, the traditional way Artemis transports herself. It is only the next day that the sacrifice is offered;

In Orcomene, a shrine was built to Artemis Hymnia where her festival was celebrated every year.