It’s common knowledge that being a woman in Ancient Greece wasn’t the greatest experience. Women didn’t enjoy the same rights as men, which is often reflected in Ancient Greek mythology. Despite that, there are some shining exceptions, powerful female figures that were worshipped, feared, and adored throughout Greece. One of those was Artemis, goddess of the hunt, the moon, nature, girls, childbirth… and sudden death!
Here are some interesting facts about one of the only two virgin goddesses in the Ancient Greek pantheon:
11 Fun Facts About the Greek Goddess Artemis
1. Basic facts
Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo, the god of the sun, music, and the arts. Her father is Zeus, the king of the gods and god of the sky and lightning. Her mother is Leto, the goddess of motherhood. Artemis is an eternal maiden. She swore to remain a virgin forever, and that’s why she’s considered a patron goddess of young girls and unmarried women.
Artemis’ more recognizable symbols are the bow and arrow, the crescent moon, and the deer. She was an excellent huntress and could hunt any animal. Her bow would always hit the target. She had a chariot pulled by four sacred deer with golden horns. But her most sacred deer was called the Cerynitian Hind and was always free to roam the world. It was huge, female, and glowing. It had golden horns like a male, and some myths say it also had hooves made of bronze.
2. Hera didn’t want Artemis to be born.
When Zeus had his affair with Leto, getting her pregnant with twins, Hera was enraged. She wanted revenge, but she couldn’t do it to Zeus. So, she targeted Leto instead. She ordered that Leto couldn’t go have her birth anywhere where there was solid land. So, feeling the pains of labor,
Leto traveled here and there, unable to settle anywhere to have her children. However, she eventually found a new island that wasn’t solid land because it would float around in the Aegean Sea. She hurried there and settled to have her babies.
But even then, Hera wasn’t done. She invited Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, to Olympus and kept her busy there. Eileithyia didn’t know that Leto was in labor pains, so she stayed with Hera. This made Leto unable to give birth, and she was in labor for nine days.
On the ninth day, Iris, one of the messengers of the gods, went to Eileithyia and called her to Leto’s side. As soon as she appeared, Leto could finally give birth, and Apollo and Artemis were born. As soon as that happened, the island stopped floating and became solid land named Delos- the sacred island in the Cyclades.
3. Zeus granted Artemis ten wishes.
When she was a child, Artemis went to her father Zeus and asked him to grant her ten wishes. Zeus was amused by her and said he would grant her whatever she wished. Artemis asked:
- To remain forever a virgin
- To have many names that distinguish her from Apollo
- To have a bow and arrow made by the Cyclopes, the craftsmen that create Zeus’ lightning
- To be the Light Bringer (Phaesporia)
- To wear short tunics to make hunting easier
- To have the 60 daughters of Oceanus be her choir
- To have 20 nymphs, the Amnisides, be her handmaidens to watch after her bow and her dogs while she rested
- To rule over the mountains
- To be called only by birthing mothers
- To be able to help women with the pains of childbirth
She got her dogs, six male, and six female ones, from Pan, the god of the forest. She got her weapons from the Cyclopes as she asked, and she befriended the daughters of Oceanus until they stopped being afraid of her and followed her as her entourage.
4. She brutally punished Actaeon.
Actaeon was a great hunter who roamed the mountains. The myths about what happened to him and who exactly he was varied, but most agree that he was either a companion to Artemis because of his great skill or someone who had her blessing and thus was such a great hunter.
However, one day Actaeon approached a lake where Artemis and her nymphs were having a bath. Instead of turning to go, he approached more and peeked, seeing the goddess naked. Some myths say that he also tried to force himself on her, others that he just kept staring. Artemis was greatly offended, and to keep him from talking about what he had seen, she turned him into a stag.
As a stag, Actaeon ran away, but his dogs noticed him and thought he was prey. They didn’t recognize him and attacked him, killing him in a messy, brutal way.
Other myths say that Actaeon got this punishment because he boasted he was greater at hunting and archery than Artemis, and she punished him for his hubris.
5. She taught men how to hunt and shoot bows.
Artemis was glad to have young men in her following if they remained respectful. One such was Daphnis, a son of Hermes, the god of commerce. She accepted him when he wanted to dedicate himself to her, and he would play panpipes and sing when not hunting with her.
Another man she taught was Scamandrius, whom she helped become one of the greatest archers of his time.
6. She made Orion into a constellation.
Orion was one of Artemis’ greatest hunting partners. He was so good with the bow that Artemis enjoyed having contests with him. Unfortunately, one day Orion boasted that he would kill every animal on earth, angering Gaia, the Earth goddess. Gaia sent a scorpion to sting and kill him, protecting her animals from him. Artemis was too late to save him, so she turned him into a constellation in the sky where he lives forever.
Other myths say that it was Artemis that killed Orion for trying to rape one of her attendants or Artemis herself.
There’s a later myth where Artemis falls in love with Orion and decides to give up her vow of chastity and marry him. Her brother Apollo though opposes that and tricks her into killing him to keep her from breaking her vows. Afterward, she turned him into a constellation.
7. She punished Niobe for dissing her mother.
Niobe was the queen of Thebes, and she had 12 beautiful children, six boys, and six girls. She was very proud of them and, in a moment of excitement, she claimed that she was better than Leto, who only had two children.
The twins, Artemis and Apollo, were enraged at this audacity and hubris for a mortal. To punish her, Apollo shot Niobe’s six boys with his arrows, and Artemis with her six girls, killing them all and leaving Niobe childless.
Niobe was so grieved that she turned into stone. From that stone sprung water, which was Niobe’s tears.
8. Her temple at Ephesus was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus also called the Artemision, was destroyed and reconstructed three times. The third time it was at its greatest and biggest and was considered one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, together with the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Pyramids of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and the Statue of Zeus in Olympia.
9. Artemis’ Roman name is Diana.
In the Roman pantheon, Diana is the goddess of the hunt, and she has absorbed a lot of the mythology of Artemis into her own. For the Romans, Diana was the goddess of the hunt, the moon, crossroads, and the countryside. She still had her twin named Apollo, exactly like Artemis, and her birth story remains the same.
10. A girl’s death started her festival.
In the town of Brauron in Greece, there once was a bear that would visit regularly. However, a young girl made the mistake of teasing and goading the bear until the bear attacked and killed her. Her family was grief-stricken, and in revenge, they killed the bear.
However, this caused Artemis’ wrath because she loved all wild animals and considered them under her protection. On the other hand, she realized that the deed was done out of grief, so she ordered the town to make amends in a different way:
All young girls of Brauron were to serve at Artemis’ sanctuary for a year, acting the bear, to make amends. The girls would wear saffron clothes to symbolize bear skins and danced a special dance with heavy steps called the “arkteia” to imitate and act the bear. While they remained in servitude to Artemis, the girls were called Does. The festival they danced at was called Brauronia and was annual.
11. Artemis demanded human sacrifice before the Trojan War
Artemis was insulted and enraged by Agamemnon, the king leader of all the other kings of the Greek city-states: he had boasted he was a better hunter than her and had wounded one of her sacred deer. So, when the Greeks were about to sail to Troy to begin the Trojan War, Artemis calmed the weather and wouldn’t let the Greek ships sail.
When the seer Calhas asked her how she would be appeased, she demanded Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia be sacrificed to her. Agamemnon was greatly grieved, but he agreed. He tricked Clytemnestra, his wife, and Iphigenia’s mother, into making her bring the girl, saying that she would marry Achilles. When Clytemnestra realized that she had brought her daughter to die, she vowed revenge, but she was powerless to do anything.
Iphigenia eventually agreed for the good of the fleet, and she willingly gave herself up to be sacrificed. Artemis was touched, and she didn’t want the girl to die. Just before she was killed on her altar, she took the girl and placed a deer in her place. She then installed Iphigenia in her temple in Tauris as her high priestess until Iphigenia’s brother Orestes finds her and helps her escape.
You might also like:
Interesting Facts About Ares, the God of War
Interesting Facts About Poseidon, God of the Sea
Interesting Facts About Apollo, the God of the Sun
Interesting Facts about Aphrodite, Goddess of Beauty and Love
Interesting Facts About Hermes, the Messenger of Gods
Interesting Facts About Hera, Queen of the Gods
Interesting Facts About Persephone, Queen of the Underworld
Interesting Facts About Hades, God of the Underworld