Carrying on with our articles series on Greek god symbols, we will be discussing the Greek goddess of wilderness Artemis, her symbols, sacred animals and plants in today’s post. Let us get right into it.
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Who is Artemis in Greek Mythology?
Being one of the most revered ancient Greek goddesses, Artemis was the goddess of the hunt and wilderness as well as chastity, childbirth, and the moon. Artemis was also considered to be the protector of young girls until they got married.
She is depicted as a young and beautiful huntress, always carrying a golden bow and a quiver of arrows, and accompanied by a deer. Her gold chariot was also pulled by stags.
Honored as she was, a lot of temples were built to worship her. Amongst these, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus is so magnificent, that it became one of the seven wonders of the ancient Greek world.
Artemis’ counterpart in Roman mythology is Diana.
Artemis’ Parents, Birth and Childhood
Artemis and her twin brother Apollo were born to Zeus, and his favorite lover, Leto, who was a Titan goddess. When Hera, who was married to Zeus, found out that Leto was pregnant with her husband’s children, she was so furious she exiled Leto from Mount Olympus.
Hera didn’t leave Leto alone even while she was wandering the earth alone. She made her pregnancy and childbirth very tough, and set a serpent after her.
In the midst of all the hardships, Leto gave birth to Artemis. Apollo was born a day later, with the help of Artemis.
As a child, Artemis was granted ten wishes by her father, Zeus. Her wishes included staying a virgin, ruling over the mountains, and having sixty nymphs as maids of honor.
Hera continued to bother Leto and her children. However, her children, who were both proficient at archery, joined forces to avenge anyone who tried to harm their mother.
Artemis grew up defending her mother as she was insulted and hunted, she became vengeful and many suffered from her wrath.
Artemis in Greek Myths – A Force to Be Reckoned With
The Queen of Thebes taunted Leto, saying that because she had given birth to seven boys and seven girls, while Leto just had two children, she was more deserving of being a goddess.
This infuriated Artemis so much that she struck down the Queen’s seven daughters with her poisoned arrows, while Apollo killed the sons.
During the Trojan War, King Agamemnon offended Artemis when he killed one of her sacred stags. He was told that the only way he would be forgiven was to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia.
The King was prepared to do that, but at the last moment, the goddess substituted the girl for a deer. Iphigenia was instead taken to Tauris to be a priestess.
The virgin goddess was very particular about guarding her chastity. Actaeon, the grandson of Apollo, was once spying on the goddess and her nymphs, while they bathed in a spring, in a forest.
Artemis caught him staring, and did not like his profane gaze on her naked body. She punished him by turning him into a stag. Actaeon was then chased by his hunting dogs through the forest, and torn to tatters.
In a similar instance, a young boy named Siproites was also mesmerized by Artemis’ beauty when he saw her bathing. Artemis turned him into a girl.
Artemis expected her companions to stay virgins just like herself so that her reputation would not be smeared. Callisto was one of her hunting attendants and she was violated by Zeus. When Artemis found out, she turned her into a bear.
The Aloadae were two giants who all the gods feared. They threatened that they would kidnap Artemis and Hera and take them as their wives.
The brave Artemis transformed herself into a doe and jumped between the Aloadae. The giants threw their spears to kill the doe, and ended up killing themselves instead. In another version of this story, Apollo came to Artemis’s rescue and placed the dear between the giants, who impaled each other
Both Apollo and Hermes fell in love with Chione, a princess of Pokis. The princess gloated that she was more beautiful than Artemis, because two gods had fallen for her. Enraged, Artemis killed Chione with her arrow. In other versions of this myth, Apollo and Hermes intervened and saved the princess.
Artemis and Orion
The goddess of the hunt spent most of her time in the wilderness, amongst animals, caring for them. Devoted to protecting her purity and virginity, she rejected the advances of any man or god who tried to seduce her. An exception to this is Orion.
Orion was a handsome giant huntsman, extremely skilled at his craft. He met Artemis on the island of Crete. Wanting to woo her, he was able to establish a strong connection with her thanks to their shared interest in hunting.
To impress Artemis and her mother, Orion bragged that he could slay anything on earth for Artemis. This did not end well for him. Gaia, the mother of all life, could not bear the thought of all life on earth being under threat.
To protect the living creatures on earth, she sent a giant scorpion to get rid of Orion. Some versions say he died because of the scorpion’s sting. Others say that in an attempt to kill the scorpion, Artemis ended up killing Orion instead.
In another version of the story of Artemis and Orion, Artemis was tricked by her twin brother into killing Orion, by striking him with an arrow.
Apollo was either jealous of his sister’s budding love connection with the giant, or was protective of her maidenhood. Either way, all the variations end with the same tragic outcome.
Upon Artemis’ request, her father, Zeus placed Orion in the sky, as a constellation. The scorpion was also placed in the sky as the constellation, Scorpio.
Artemis had an ambiguous personality. She was nurturing and caring, but at the same time, she never hesitated to ruthlessly kill anyone who tried to dishonor her, or the wildlife she loved so dearly.
The Artemis Symbol List
As the goddess of the hunt and wilderness, Artemis’ symbols were bow and arrow, quivers, hunting dogs, deers, cypress trees and the moon.
Sacred Animals and Plants of Artemis
Deers/stags, wild boars and bears are Artemis’ sacred animals while her sacred plants were walnut and cypress trees and amaranth flowers.
This marks the end of our post about Artemis, the goddess of wilderness and the hunt in Greek mythology, her symbols, sacred plants and animals. If you liked it, you should check out our other pieces on Athena symbols here and Zeus symbols here. See you in the next post!