Who is Artemis? Ancient Greek gods

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Artemis: a view of the crescent moon

Artemis is the goddess of the moon.

The Greek god 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 of Artemis as being 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 as the Mistress of Beasts (from the black-figure Francois vase, about 570 BC)

Artemis as the Mistress of Beasts (from the black-figure Francois 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.

Girls playing in a clay model

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.

An Indian moon story
A Chinese moon story
More about the goddess Athena
Real facts about the moon

Bibliography and further reading about the goddess Artemis:

More about the Greek gods
Ancient Greece
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By |2017-07-12T23:13:44+00:00July 12th, 2017|Greeks, Religion|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Who is Artemis? Ancient Greek gods. Quatr.us Study Guides, July 12, 2017. Web. January 22, 2019.

About the Author:

Dr. 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, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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