10 Most Famous Myths Featuring The Greek Goddess Artemis

Artemis was one of the twelve major Olympian Gods and she held a place of prominence in Ancient Greek mythology. In particular, Artemis was the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, the moon and chastity. Artemis was the daughter of Zeus, the king of Gods; and Leto, who was a Titaness. She helped in the delivery of her twin brother Apollo due to which she was also worshiped as one of the primary goddesses of childbirth and midwifery. There are numerous myths featuring Artemis. She was one of the three major Virgin Goddess of Greek mythology and there are several myths related to protection of her chastity. Her other myths are often based on her supremacy as a huntress and any kind of threat to her beauty. Artemis also played a minor role in the Trojan War in which she supported the Trojans. Here are the 10 most famous myths featuring the Greek Goddess Artemis including Artemis And Orion; Artemis And Callisto; Artemis And Niobe; and her role in the Trojan War.

#1 Birth of Artemis

Artemis was the daughter of Zeus, king of the gods, and the Titaness Leto. When Hera, the sister-wife of Zeus discovered that Zeus had impregnated Leto, she cursed Leto not to find a solid ground or island on earth to give birth to her children. In labor and massive pain, Leto wandered all over Greece to find a place to give birth until she found Delos, a barren and floating island. According to myth, it was Zeus who emerged Delos from the sea so that Leto would find a place to bring forth her off springs Artemis and Apollo. The delivery of Artemis was painless but the birth of her younger twin Apollo was painful and treacherous because by then Hera had kidnapped Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth. In the absence of Eileithyia, Artemis, having been born first, played the role of a midwife and assisted her mother with the birth of her twin brother Apollo. It is due to this myth that Artemis was worshiped as one of the primary goddesses of childbirth and midwifery along with Eileithyia.

Leto with Apollo and Artemis
Leto with the infants Apollo and Artemis (1824) – Francesco Pozzi

#2 Artemis And Actaeon

Actaeon was the son of Aristaeus, a minor god, and Autonoe, the daughter of Cadmus, the founder of the city of Thebes. Actaeon was the hunting companion of Artemis. One day, after a tiring hunting session, Artemis was bathing in the waters of the spring Parthenius amid the woods on Mount Cithaeron. Actaeon happened to be wandering through the woods with his hounds and stumbled onto the goddess, thus seeing her naked. Amazed at her ravishing beauty, he attempted to force himself on her. Being a virgin goddess, Artemis was outraged with his audacity and transformed Actaeon into a stag. Soon, he was spotted by his own hounds and was relentlessly chased by them. Unaware that the stag was their own master, the raging hounds cornered the animal and killed him by tearing him apart into pieces. In ancient art as well as in Renaissance and post-Renaissance depictions, Actaeon is recognized by this iconic motif where the hunter became the hunted.

Diana and Actaeon
Diana and Actaeon (1559) – Titian

#3 Artemis And Adonis

Adonis was the son of Theias, king of Syria, and Myrrha, Theias’ daughter. Being an astonishingly handsome young man, Adonis was considered the god of beauty and was also the mortal lover of the goddess Aphrodite. Unfortunately, he died during a hunting spree when he was attacked by a wild boar that was sent by Artemis. According to one version of the myth, Adonis was punished by Artemis because he had arrogantly boasted that he was a better hunter than her. There is also a different version of the myth. Hippolytus was the son of Theseus, the founder hero of Athens. He refused to revere Aphrodite and instead became a devotee of Artemis by vowing chastity to her. As an act of vengeance, Aphrodite made Phaedra, Theseus‘ wife and Hippolytus‘ stepmother, to fall madly in love with him. However, Hippolytus rejected the advances of Phaedra and it caused her to commit suicide. Misinterpreting Phaedra’s suicide letter which contained false allegations against Hippolytus, Theseus cursed his son to death or at least exile, calling on his father Poseidon to enforce the curse. On his way to exile, Hippolytus was killed by a sea monster sent by Poseidon on the request of Aphrodite. Since Adonis had been dearest to Aphrodite and she was responsible for the death of Hippolytus, Artemis killed Adonis to avenge the death of Hippolytus.

The Death of Adonis (1709)
The Death of Adonis (1709) – Giuseppe Mazzuoli

#4 Artemis And Orion

Orion was a handsome huntsman born in the regional unit of ancient Greece called Boeotia. One day, while hunting in the forest, Orion saw the young and beautiful Artemis who was also out for a hunting session. Before long they became each others’ hunting companions. Hunting together, they challenging each other to races and archery contests. At nights, they sat by the campfire and told each other about their lives. However, Apollo, the twin brother of Artemis, grew possessive and disapproved of their friendship due to the fear that her sister might fall in love with Orion and marry him, despite her vows of chastity. Therefore, Apollo hatched a plan to end their friendship and sent a giant scorpion to kill Orion. In the middle of the night, a great battled ensued and the creature backed the mortal toward the sea. On the other hand, Apollo visited his sister and lied about how an evil man raped Opos, one of her hyperborean priestesses, and was swimming to a distant island, hoping to escape her wrath. Enraged and furious with anger, Artemis sped down to the sea and loosened her arrow with unerring aim to slew Orion. Soon, she realized her mistake and with great sadness, she put Orion’s body among the constellations as a tribute to their majestic friendship.

Diana over Orion's corpse (1685)
Diana over Orion’s corpse (1685) – Daniel Seiter

#5 Artemis And Callisto

Callisto was the daughter of Lycaon, the king of Arcadia and a nymph named Naiad. She was one of the female huntresses who accompanied Artemis and she was also considered her most devoted attendant. As a companion of Artemis, she took a vow of chastity and agreed to remain a virgin. As she was a beautiful maiden, Zeus longed for her. One day, when she was separated from the company of Artemis and other fellow nymphs, Zeus approached Callisto disguised as Artemis in order to lure her into his embrace. As a result of this encounter, she became pregnant with his child and the subsequent pregnancy was discovered several months later while Callisto was bathing with Artemis and her retinue. Outraged at Callisto for breaking her vow of chastity, Artemis expelled the nymph from the group. Later, Callisto gave birth to a son named Arcas in the forest and that is when she was transformed into a bear by Artemis as a form of punishment.

Diana and Callisto (1580)
Diana and Callisto (1580) – Gillis Coignet

#6 Artemis And Aura

Aura was the daughter of the Titan Lelantos and a nymph named Periboia. She was a minor deity and a virgin huntress who was proud of her maidenhood. One day, she dared to compare her body with that of Artemis and claimed that the Greek goddess had a voluptuous body like a woman, raising a question mark on her supposed “unviolated maidenhood”. Deeply offended, the angry Artemis pursued Nemesis, the goddess of divine retribution for help to avenge her dignity. Nemesis made Dionysus, the wine god, fall mad with desire for Aura by an arrow from the bow of Eros. Knowing that he had no chance to seduce Aura, Dionysus drugged Aura with wine and then went on to rape her. The act of violation drove Aura to madness and she ended up killing every man she met. After finding out about her unwanted pregnancy, Aura tried to take her own life but was unable to do so. When she bore twin sons, she swallowed one of them while the other one, Lacchus, was saved by Artemis. Aura ultimately ended her life by drowning herself in the river Sangarios, where Zeus turned her into a spring.

#7 Artemis And Aloadae

Aloadae is the collective name for two giants namely Otus and Ephialtes. They were the twin sons of Poseidon, the god of the sea and a mortal named Iphidemia. Both of the brothers were aggressive hunters and grew enormously at a young age. According to myth, Aloadae hatched a plan to storm Mt. Olympus, the home of the gods by piling up three mountains namely Olympos, Ossa and Pelion, one on top of the other. Their main motive was to gain access to goddesses Artemis and Hera; Otus desiring Artemis and Ephialtes desiring Hera. Ares, the Greek god of war tried to stop them but Aloadae managed to defeat him. They subsequently imprisoned Ares inside a bronze urn in the island of Naxos. Artemis came to Naxos Island and asked the twin brothers to release Ares and promised herself to Otus. Unable to take a unanimous decision, Otus and Ephialtes started arguing and meanwhile, Artemis transformed herself into a beautiful stag and raced between them. Being hunters, they both cast their spears at the stag but missed their mark and instead struck each other dead.

Artemis as a huntress
Artemis as a huntress – Sculpture in the Louvre, Paris

#8 Artemis And Chione

Chione was was the daughter of Daedalion, the son of Eosphorus, the Morning Star. She was a mortal princess and grew up to become a beautiful young woman desired by mortals and immortals, including the gods Apollo and Hermes. Hermes utilized his magical powers and placed Chione into a deep-sleep and forced himself upon her. Apollo would subsequently visit Chione that night, and disguising himself as an old woman, also slept with Chione. As a result of that night, Chione gave birth to two semi-divine sons, Autolycus, son of Hermes; and Philammon, son of Apollo. The mortal princess realized that it was her flawless beauty which had drawn Hermes and Apollo to her and boasted how she was more beautiful than goddesses, one of them being Artemis. Furious with her audacity, Artemis took up her bow and shot an arrow through the tongue of Chione so that she would be unable to boost about her beauty anymore. The wound by the arrow killed Chione through loss of blood.

The Death of Chione (1622)
The Death of Chione (1622) – Nicolas Poussin

#9 Artemis And Niobe

Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus, the wicked king of Sipylus; and the wife of Amphion, the king of Thebes. Niobe and Amphion gave birth to fourteen children, seven sons and seven daughters. At a ceremony held in honor of Leto, the mother of Artemis and her brother Apollo, Niobe boasted that she was more fortunate than Leto, because she had more number of children than her. When Artemis and Apollo heard about the insult, they got enraged and at once, came down to Earth to kill all the fourteen children of Niobe. Artemis took the responsibility of killing all the daughters with her lethal arrows while Apollo killed all the sons. Niobi lost her entire family within a matter of moments and had to pay a high price of her arrogance. Devastated, she fled back to Mount Sipylus and was turned into stone. The Weeping Rock in Mount Sipylus has been associated with the myth of Niobe from ancient times.

Artemis and Niobe (1772)
Apollo and Diana Attacking the Children of Niobe (1772) – Jacques-Louis David

#10 Artemis In The Trojan War

In Homer’s epic The Iliad, Artemis plays a minor role in the Trojan War which was waged against the city of Troy by the Greeks. Since, Apollo, the brother of Artemis, was the patron god of Troy and favored the Trojans, she also took the side of Troy. A notable episode at the start of the Trojan War includes a battle between King Agamemnon of Troy and Achilles, the greatest Greek warrior. Just before venturing out to Troy in a ship, King Agamemnon had shot one of the sacred stags of Artemis and boasted about his hunting skills being better than than the goddess. Displeased by the act, Artemis becalmed the sea and stopped Agamemnon’s voyage to Troy as a form of punishment. An oracle came and told Agamemnon that the only way to convince Artemis into letting them continue their journey was to sacrifice his oldest daughter, Iphigenia, to the goddess. Bloodthirsty about going to war with the Trojans, he lied to his daughter about getting married to Achilles and duly offered her for sacrifice. However, Artemis being a patron and protector of young girls, substituted a stag in place of the girl at the sacrificial alter and made Iphigenia a priestess at her sanctuary at Tauris.

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