Artemis: Goddess of the Hunt

March 20, 2009
By Anonymous

Who commanded the power of Pan, the beauty of Aphrodite, and the skill of Apollo? None did but Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt. Ancient myths tell the story of Artemis, from the Olympian’s peaceful birth, to the many battles fought after the maiden became a goddess. The legends of Artemis are among the most beautiful and enchanting myths the Greek people created.

The birth of Artemis was the beginning of a magical story. This goddess was the daughter of Zeus, the Lord of the Sky, and Leto, the Titan goddess of being unseen. Artemis also had a twin brother, Apollo, who later became the god of prophecies and the sun. Due to a curse set by Hera, Zeus’s jealous wife, Leto had to find a place where the sun had never shone to give birth. The resentful goddess also sent Python, a monstrous serpent, to pursue Leto, so that the Titan would never rest. Finally, when it came time for Leto to give birth, Zeus raised an island that had been floating underwater and had never been touched by the sun. The place where the birth took place was called Ortygia. The Titan gave birth to Artemis there while grasping a sacred palm tree and it was easy and painless. However, still being followed by Python, Leto had to leave Ortygia and go to another island called Delos to have Apollo. The sun god’s delivery was so exhausting and excruciating for Leto that Artemis had to act as a midwife to the struggling mother. It was the beginning of a lifetime of protecting others.

When Artemis became a goddess of Mount Olympus, the maiden gained much respect. At the age of three, while sitting on Zeus’s knee, Artemis asked the Lord of the Sky to be granted several wishes. These requests included to remain a virgin forever, to never have to marry, and to have all the mountains in the world as a home. Zeus was so intrigued by the young girl’s precociousness, that the god granted those wishes and more. The maiden goddess was given a silver bow with silver arrows, like Apollo’s gold ones. The god of the forge, Hephaestus, made these gifts. Sixty woodland nymphs were found to be companions of Artemis, along with five golden deer, and three hunting dogs from Pan, god of the wild places. Lastly, Zeus made for Artemis a chariot of stars. Because of the immortal’s love of hunting and nature, Artemis became the goddess of the hunt and the wild. In addition, because the Olympian helped with Apollo’s birth, the maiden was associated with childbirth, and was thought of as the protector of children. Despite the fact that Artemis became the guardian of women, the immortal’s silver arrows caused death and disease in girls. The Olympian was normally portrayed as a maiden, clothed in a short tunic and hunting boots, with the bow and quiver. A deer or bear was usually at the goddess’s side. Artemis guarded the maiden’s virginity fiercely, and so did the huntress’s nymph companions. Any man who approached the group with romantic intent was severely punished by the Olympian. In spite of this rigid discipline, Artemis enjoyed singing, dancing, and music, but mostly having the freedom of a child. However, being an immortal was not without its duties. After helping the gods defeat the Titans to gain control of Mount Olympus, Artemis had to petition Zeus to free the Titan Prometheus. Nevertheless, the maiden thoroughly enjoyed being a goddess of Mount Olympus.

The myths of Artemis are as numerous and celestial as the stars of the night sky. One of the most widely known stories of the huntress is that of Acteon. This man unknowingly wandered into a thicket where the young goddess was bathing. Enthralled by the maiden’s beauty, the fool continued to watch. When Artemis found out, the virgin turned Acteon into a stag, and then it was eaten by the man’s own hounds. Another legend is one concerning Alpheios, a river god, who fell in love with the huntress. The immortal planned to steal Artemis away while the goddess was at a gathering of nymphs. However, Artemis knew of the plan, and had all the nymphs cover each other’s faces with mud. Upon arriving, Alpheios could not figure out who was the river god’s beloved, and left. Artemis was very proud, as can be seen in the myth of Adonis. The mortal boasted to be superior in hunting to the goddess. In anger, Artemis sent a boar that killed the man. Much like that story is the myth of Niobe, who claimed to be greater than Leto because the woman had fourteen children. To protect Leto’s honor, Artemis and Apollo killed Niobe’s offspring. Apollo slayed the boys, while Artemis slaughtered the girls. After seeing the children die, Niobe went mad with grief, and Artemis turned the mortal into stone. A tale that proved Artemis’s worth is the one of the Aloeids, who were two giants that grew six feet taller every year. Determined to overthrow Olympus, the giants captured Hera, and attempted to rape the goddess. Artemis transformed into a while deer and ran between the Aloeids. Both giants aimed darts at the doe and shot. While the huntress was unhurt, the Aloeids were killed by one another’s darts. The story of Callisto, a hunting companion of Artemis, is a tragic one. Zeus came to Callisto in disguise and seduced the girl. For having a son and breaking the vow of virginity, Callisto was turned into a bear and shot by Artemis. However, not all the myths end unhappily. The story of Atalanta begins when the girl is abandoned as a baby on a mountain. Artemis took pity on and saved the small child by sending a female bear to suckle the girl. When Atalanta became a young adult, the woman participated in the hunt for the Calydion Boar, which had been sent to punish King Oenus. Because the huntress drew first blood, Atalanta received the skin and dedicated the kill to Artemis. The goddess rewarded Atalanta greatly for this loyalty.

Stories of Artemis, created by the Greek people, paint a beautiful picture of the huntress’s life. From the luscious island of the immortal’s birth, to the mountains where Artemis roamed after becoming a goddess, these myths show the world the result of a culture’s imagination. Artemis will hunt forever in the minds of those who read these legends.

The author's comments:
I am a fantasy-loving writer who dreams of becoming a novelist.

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