artemis mistress of animals goddess of the hunt. iconography
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ArtemisMistress of AnimalsGoddess of the Hunt
I sing about Artemis of the golden arrows, chaste virgin of the noisy hunt, who delights in her shafts and strikes down the stag, the very own sister of Apollo of the golden sword. She ranges over shady hills and windy heights, rejoicing in the chase as she draws her bow, made all of silver, and shoots her shafts of woe. The peaks of the lofty mountains tremble, the dark woods echo terribly to the shrieks of wild beasts. But she with dauntless heart looks everywhere to wreak destruction on animals.Huntress
But when the huntress, who delights in her arrows, has had her fill of pleasure and cheered her heart, she unstrings her curved bow and makes her way to the great house of her dear brother, Phoebus Apollo, in the rich land of Delphi, where she supervises the lovely dances of the Muses and Graces. After she has hung up her unstrung bow and arrows, she takes first place and, exquisitely attired, leads the dance. And they join in a heavenly choir to sing how Leto of the beautiful ankles bore two children who are by far the best of the immortals in sagacious thought and action.Homeric Hymn to Artemis. . . and dancer . . .
virginitythe hunt and destruction of animalsthe bow, arrows, = distance, mercilessnessmountains, winds, wildernesssilverher twin Apollodancing and singinga group of maidens, either her hunting companions or her dancing companionsThe hymn shows some of the associations of Artemis:
promoter and overseer of the fertility of animalshelp to women in childbirthoverseer of the transition of virgins into bridesemblem of transition of young men into adult status, from wild to civilized
Roman name: DianaArtemis other range of powers is hinted at by her cult statue at Ephesus:
Origins of ArtemisArtemis appears first in Greek art as a figure with Near Eastern connections, the potnia theron or Mistress of Animals.Her destructive capacity was matched by her role as protector of young animals and overseer of animal fertility.
Zeus has made you a lion among women, and given you leave to kill any at your pleasure. (Hera to Artemis, Homers Iliad)
Artemis, lovely Artemis, so kind to the ravening lions tender, helpless cubs, the suckling young of beasts that stalk the wilds. (Chorus in Aeschylus, Agamemnon)Destructive and Nurturing
The combination of hunter and nurturer may seem strange but it makes sense in a hunter-gatherer context.Hunter-gatherers are aware that they can only live by killing their fellow creatures, but they also have a big stake in maintaining the populations of the wild animals they hunt without them, they starve.In the agricultural society of historical Greece, hunting issues are less central to survival, but they are honored in the figure of Artemis.Destructive and Nurturing
Why a female deity of the hunt, when hunting was a male activity?because of the association of fertility with a female figure?because nature is essentialized as feminine in many patriarchal societies?holdovers from the neolithic great goddess (if there really was one)?for the same reasons the war goddess Athena is female?Why a huntress?
Hunting was a liminal activity, in which young men went to the borders of civilization and entered into risky relationships with the wild.Artemis, as a liminal deity, embodies this marginal, dangerous territory.This is one reason for her merciless, destructive side: nature is destructive, as are all liminal areas.What transforms can kill.Goddess in liminal territory
Failed Initiation: ActaeonInitiation in many societies is a formal rite of status change. Rituals signalling passage from child to adult are most universal.Greek cities marked this transition in many different ways, and several stories involving Artemis seem to be cautionary tales about the young men who dont make it through the trials.The story of Actaeon is the best known. He saw Artemis bathing nude. She turned him into a deer, and he was hunted and killed by his own hunting dogs.Wilderness 1, initiands 0.
Interpretations of ActaeonThere are many different versions of what happened that day.Ovid says Actaeon was unaware:And while Diana was being bathed, as she had been many times before, Actaeon, Cadmus grandson, came to the grotto uncertain of his way and wandering through the unfamiliar wood; so fate carried him along. Ovid, MetamorphosesOther versions paint Actaeon as a voyeur who deliberately spied on the goddess.Different stories have different points about the wild, divine justice, or fate. Either way, Artemis, like nature, is dangerous and merciless.
Artemis and the transitions of maidensIn Homers Odyssey, the marriageable girl Nausicaa is compared to Artemis: standing out above her companions, even more beautiful.Greek girls dedicated their dollies to Artemis when they were about to get married.In Greek society, marriage was a womans most vital initiation, and Artemis was equally their liminal deity.
Sanctuary of Artemis at BrauronNear Athens, the sanctuary at Brauron was dedicated to another period of girls lives: the wildness of late childhood.Aristocratic families brought their daughters here to serve the goddess as Little Bears. The Little Bears performed various cult activities, among them a footrace in honor of the goddess.
Proud parents dedicated images of their daughters as Little Bears.(Incidentally, girls also ran races elsewhere in Greece; here in honor of Hera at Sparta.)
The bear association is also present in the story of Callisto.Callisto was raped by Zeus, transformed into a bear, gave birth to a son Arcas. Eventually both were catasterized:transformed into constellations.Callisto and ArcasAs with Actaeon, many versions abound: Zeus, Hera, and Artemis are all credited with transforming and/or tormenting Callisto.Ursa MajorUrsa Minor
WorshipArtemis was patron goddess of a number of major cities, a number of them in Asia Minor. This is her temple at Sardis.
WorshipA gorgon marks the pediment of her archaic temple at Aphaia.Leopards flank the gorgon, which somehow recalls the potnia theron . . .
WorshipAt Jerash in Jordan, she had a vast temple complex in Roman times
This is a reconstruction at perhaps her most famous sanctuary in antiquity, Ephesus in Turkey, whose cult statue was much copied (though less understood . . .)Worship
The divine twinsArtemis and Apollo are twins, both children of Leto by Zeus. In a familiar story, Leto fled to escape Heras wrath.O blessed Leto, rejoice, for you gave birth to children of splendor, Lord Apollo and Artemis, showerer of arrows, her in Ortygia first, Apollo in rocky Delos. Homeric Hymn to ApolloIn some versions, Artemis helps her mother give birth to Apollo, reflecting her role as facilitator of (animal) fecundity.
The twins share many elements of their nature: sometimes they are shown sharing a home, or sitting next to each other at the banquets of the gods, or Artemis and the nymphs dance while Apollo and the Muses play music. Here they fight together against the giants.The divine twins
They both use the bow, Artemis for hunting.They are both distant deities; Artemis is virgin and unapproachable by humans; Apollo has many disastrous liaisons with humans, but keeps his distance in other ways.Both are associated with sudden death: Apollo specifically with diseases and plague.Both can strike humans down unexpectedly.The divine twins
NiobeNiobes story is another story of hubris and its comeupance.Niobe boasted that she was better than Leto since she had 14 children and Leto had only 2.Artemis and Apollo fixed that situation.Niobe turned into a stone which still weeps . . .
Later, Artemis and Apollo become associated with the moon and the sun, respectively.Artemis also becomes associated with Hekate, a mysterious goddess with old Indo-European roots.Hekate eventually becomes the goddess of witchcraft, almost opposite to the chaste Artemis, but paradoxically an aspect of her the dark side.Hekate
Euripides HippolytusEuripides was known as a controversial playwright. He often focused on female characters & womens issues (for better or worse), used startling new musical styles, and challenged his audience with uncomfortable scenes and unresolved issues.Hippolytus focused on a younger wife driven mad by Aphrodite, a virginal young man, and a jealous father.
I am Cypris, a mighty and renowned goddess both in heaven and among mortals. Everyone who looks on the light of the sun throughout the whole world is at my mercy: I reward those who celebrate my power, but I destroy those who with arrogant pride oppose me . . . Hippolytus is the only one who declares that I am the worst of deities. He renounces sex and rejects marriage, and reveres Artemis, believing her the greatest of deities. He hunts throughout the green woods, always intimate with the virgin goddess, enjoying a greater than mortal relationship. I am not envious why should I be?Aphrodite:
But for his sins against me I will take revenge on Hippolytus this very day. Phaedra, the noble wife of his father, was struck to the heart with a terrible desire for him, in accordance with my plans.Some issues in the play:rejection of one god in favor of another is this acceptable? Is it acceptable to violate social mores and conventions?womens difficult lot in life; women as a source of trouble for men.who is to blame when humans are brought down by the gods?
Euripides HippolytusArtemis: There is a law for the gods as follows: no one of us wishes to thwart the will of another but we al