In the ancient Greek religion and myth, is the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, the Moon, and chastity.
Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the patron and protector of young girls, and was believed to bring disease upon women and relieve them of it. Artemis was worshipped as one of the primary goddesses of childbirth and midwifery along with Eileithyia. Much like Athena and Hestia, Artemis preferred to remain a maiden and is sworn never to marry.
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities and her temple at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Artemis' symbols included a bow and arrow, a quiver and hunting knives and the deer and the cypress were sacred to her. The goddess Diana is her Roman equivalent.
Various conflicting accounts are given in Classical Greek mythology regarding the birth of Artemis and Apollo, her twin brother. However, in terms of parentage, all accounts agree that she was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and that she was the twin sister of Apollo.
An account by Callimachus has it that Hera forbade Leto to give birth on either terra firma (the mainland) or on an island. Hera was angry with her husband Zeus because he had impregnated Leto but the island of Delos disobeyed Hera and Leto gave birth there.
According to the Homeric Hymn to Artemis the island where Leto gave birth was Ortygia. In ancient Cretan history Leto was worshipped at Phaistos and, in Cretan mythology, Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis on the islands known today as Paximadia.
A scholium of Servius on Aeneid III accounts for the island's archaic name Ortygia by asserting that Zeus transformed Leto into a quail (Ortux) in order to prevent Hera from finding out about his infidelity, and Kenneth McLeish suggested further that in quail form Leto would have given birth with as few birth-pains as a mother quail suffers when it lays an egg.
The myths also differ as to whether Artemis was born first, or Apollo. Most stories depict Artemis as born first, becoming her mother's midwife upon the birth of her brother Apollo.
The childhood of Artemis is not fully related in any surviving myth. The Iliad reduced the figure of the dread goddess to that of a girl, who, having been thrashed by Hera, climbs weeping into the lap of Zeus.
A poem by Callimachus to the goddess "who amuses herself on mountains with archery" imagines some charming vignettes.
Artemis, while sitting on the knee of her father, Zeus, asked him to grant her several wishes:
- to always remain a virgin
- to have many names to set her apart from her brother Phoebus (Apollo)
- to have a bow and arrow made by the Cyclops
- to be the Phaesporia or Light Bringer
- to have a knee-length tunic so that she could hunt
- to have sixty "daughters of Okeanos", all nine years of age, to be her choir
- to have twenty Amnisides Nymphs as handmaidens to watch her dogs and bow while she rested
- to rule all the mountains
- any city
- to have the ability to help women in the pains of childbirth.
Artemis believed that she had been chosen by the Fates to be a midwife, particularly since she had assisted her mother in the delivery of her twin brother, Apollo. All of her companions remained virgins, and Artemis closely guarded her own chastity. Her symbols included the golden bow and arrow, the hunting dog, the stag, and the Moon. Callimachus tells how Artemis spent her girlhood seeking out the things that she would need to be a huntress, how she obtained her bow and arrows from the isle of Lipara, where Hephaestus and the Cyclops worked.
Oceanus' daughters were filled with fear, but the young Artemis bravely approached and asked for bow and arrows. Callimachus then tells how Artemis visited Pan, the god of the forest, who gave her seven bitches and six dogs. She then captured six golden-horned deer to pull her chariot. Artemis practiced with her bow first by shooting at trees and then at wild beasts..