Who is Artemis? - Greek Gods
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Who is Artemis?

Moon

Apollo had a twin sister named Artemis, who was also the daughter of Zeus and the nymph Leto. Artemis never marries or has any children; she is a wild goddess who spends most of her time hunting with her bow and arrows. She was particularly helpful to women in childbirth, and the Spartans worshipped her especially.

The Greeks thought Artemis was the same thing as the moon - the moon was Artemis, and Artemis was the moon. But at other times the Greeks painted pictures of Artemis looking like a girl.

Artemis
Artemis as the Mistress of Beasts
(from the black-figure Fran´┐Żois vase, about 570 BC)

People were already worshipping Artemis in Greece during the Late Bronze Age. Probably Artemis came to Greece with the Indo-European invaders in the end of the Early Bronze Age about 2000 BC, but the way people thought about Artemis also had a lot in common with a West Asian goddess, the Mistress of Beasts. Probably the Greeks mixed their ideas about Artemis with some West Asian ideas they also heard about.

one girl gives another a piggyback ride
Girls playing (found at Brauron)

In Classical and Hellenistic times, women worshipped Artemis at a festival in Brauron. Athenians sent little girls, 5-13 years old, to spend a year at the shrine of Artemis at Brauron, serving the goddess (people called the girls arktoi, little bears); the girls danced and ran races, which must have been a nice change from being home. Artemis' presence at Brauron may be related to the story of Iphigeneia.

There are a bunch of other Greek myths about Artemis, too, including the story of Phaedra, the story of Niobe, and the story of Actaeon.

Learn by doing: compare the stories about Artemis with Indian and Chinese stories about the moon
More about the goddess Athena

Bibliography and further reading about Artemis:

D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, by Edgar and Ingri D'Aulaire.

Greek Religion, by Walter Burkert (reprinted 1987). By a leading expert. He has sections on each of the Greek gods, and discusses their deeper meanings, and their function in Greek society.

More about the Greek gods
Ancient Greece
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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