In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Artemis

  • Introduction
  • Bibliography
  • Etymology and Early History
  • Art
  • Reception

Classics Artemis
Eveline Krummen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0317


Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto and a goddess of many aspects. Her cult is found in many corners of the Mediterranean, from Asia Minor in the East to the Greek colonies of the West, in Magna Graecia and Sicily. She is one of the oldest deities, possibly attested in Linear B scripts, and was worshipped as Diana throughout the Roman Empire. She is strongly connected to aspects of vegetation and wild animals, among them lions and panthers. Accordingly, she rules over the mountains, untouched nature, but also over border regions and marshes (en limnais), where we find many of her sanctuaries. She is, or appears, as the “goddess of the outside.” This is in keeping with the dominant aspect of her cult, which marks the transition of adolescents to adults: of girls to wives (young girls serve in her temples before their wedding), and of ephebes to citizens. The most famous rite in this context is certainly the most cruel one conducted in Sparta at the altar of (Artemis) Orthia, during which young boys were whipped (cf. Plato, Xenophon, Pausanias), sometimes until they died, as authors of the Roman period attest. In Sparta and elsewhere, Artemis, mainly as Agrotera (the “Wild” or “Rustic”) also appears as a goddess of war receiving sacrifice before and after battle. She is not only the “nourisher” of youth (kourotrophos), but the bringer of death, especially to young women in childbirth. Her aspects as city deity are less considered in research, though she appears as such especially in Asia Minor, but also in Athens as depicted on the Parthenon frieze. She incorporates traits of the “Great Mother” with begging priests and eunuchs as part of her temple cult, similar to Cybele or Anahita. Later periods show distinct syncretistic traits of her cult, connecting Artemis to Hecate, goddess of death, or Isis, as well as Selene/Luna. Distinctions are blurry at best. Most important in literature are the Hymns to Artemis by Homer and especially by Callimachus. In Homer, Artemis appears either as potnia theron (Mistress of Animals) or as a very young and even spoiled girl, but also as lovely paradigme of the young unmarried girl dancing with her companions. In tragedy she is especially involved with Hippolytus and with Artemis (Tauropolos) as Euripides’ tragedies show.

General Overviews

Regarding Greek religion, cults, rites, and myths, and their relation to the cult calendar of Greek poleis, have been the focus of research in the past years. Single deities and their cults were of less interest. This holds true for Artemis as well. Ancient literature has led us to consider Artemis mostly as a hunting deity and the goddess of young girls. Only recently have other aspects of her cult been considered, outlining the complexity of this divinity. Three monographs have been published recently. An encompassing presentation of Artemis is given by Budin 2015, whereas Fischer-Hansen and Poulsen 2009 is a fine collection of articles presenting an overall picture of a multifaceted divinity. Both books represent the latest state of research. Add the very informative online article Artemis and Petrovic 2010. Still very valuable as an introduction to Artemis are the articles in DNP (Der Neue Pauly), Graf 1997 and Burkert 1985 and Burkert 1979; comprehensive regarding the reception of Artemis in literature and art from antiquity to modernity is Föcking 2008. Artemis’s sanctuaries, cults, rituals, and their relation to myths are excellently discussed in Cole 2004. A good introduction and survey of the Roman Artemis is given by Green 2007.

  • Artemis.

    Very good and informative encyclopedic article on Artemis, her epithets, the most important literary texts on the subject but also pictures; survey of the myths, the heroes and heroines related to Artemis, discussion of her estate, cult places and statues in various parts of Greece, her titles and epithets. Recommended to all readers who look for a very succinct article on Artemis.

  • Budin, Stephanie Lynn. 2015. Artemis: Gods and heroes of the ancient world. London and New York: Routledge.

    An excellent and very detailed study of the goddess that discusses a wide range of literary, iconographic, and archaeological material from early to modern times. From a feminist angle the book is also an excellent resource for information about young girls and women. It is also very successful in discussing some modern misconceptions of Artemis. The book may serve as an introduction and is recommended to anyone interested in the subject.

  • Burkert, Walter. 1979. Structure and history in Greek mythology and ritual. Berkeley and London: Univ. of California Press.

    Chapter 5: “The Great Goddess, Adonis, and Hippolytus.” Authoritative survey, provides a very succinct discussion of the Great Goddess and her affinity to Artemis, even when he takes a critical stance toward Great Goddess theories. Focusing on the transmission of myths and rituals from East to West, especially Attis, Adonis, and Hippolytus, each of them connected to the Great Goddess (i.e., Artemis) in a particular way and illustrating different forms of cross-cultural traditions. See pp. 99–122.

  • Burkert, Walter. 1985. Greek religion: Archaic and classical. Translated by John Raffan. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

    This book is a cornerstone to ancient Greek religion. The chapter on the Greek gods, Artemis among them, had great influence on how we conceive them and their position and role in the pantheon of the Greek polis. Recommended as an introductory reading. See especially pp. 149–151 and 218–221. Originally: Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 1977.

  • Cole, Susan Guettel. 2004. Landscapes, gender, and ritual space: The ancient Greek experience. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Very useful and innovative study of Greek ritual practice based on a thorough interpretation of ancient sources. Excellent for an illustration of the profoundly gendered nature of Greek cult practices, while investigating various cults of Artemis. Particularly interesting are chapters 6 and 7, where Cole explains the placement of Artemis’s sanctuaries in the landscape of mainland Greece and their relation to specific rituals which were important for the social life of the polis. See Various Epithets and Spheres: Gender.

  • Fischer-Hansen, Tobias, and Birte Poulsen, eds. 2009. From Artemis to Diana: The goddess of man and beast. Acta Hyperborea 12. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, Univ. of Copenhagen.

    A fine collection of articles covering the whole span of time from the prehistoric period to Late Antiquity, at the same time offering a wide-ranging survey of Artemis’s sanctuaries and cults either in major centers of Greece or dealing with regional aspects. Very informative and recommendable are the chapters on Artemis and her cult in Roman times and the excellent analysis of the reception of Diana Efesia in the Renaissance to the age of neoclassicism.

  • Föcking, Marc 2008. Artemis. In Mythenrezeption. Der Neue Pauly. Supplemente Band 5. Edited by Maria Moog-Grünewald, 151–163. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler.

    An equally succinct introduction to Artemis and her afterlife (Nachleben) in literature and art from archaic to modern times. The role of Artemis in literature and its development throughout the ages (Late Antiquity to modernity) is highlighted by considering the major authors and their writings on the subject. Significant sculpture, such as the Artemis with fawn in Versailles (Hellenistic date), is used to illustrate the text. Ideal for a first orientation.

  • Graf, Fritz. 1997. Artemis. In Der Neue Pauly Band 2. Edited by Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider, 53–58. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler.

    A very concise introduction to the main aspects of the goddess as well as to the basic questions of the scholarly discussion (e.g., Artemis’s presentation in literature, especially Homer, her functions, i.e., hunting, initiation, special rites, her images in cult, but also Artemis as a city-goddess, and her worship in private). Recommended to anyone starting with the subject. See also the article by Adrienne Lezzi-Hafter on the iconograpy, pp. 58–59.

  • Green, Carin M. C. 2007. Roman religion and the cult of Diana at Aricia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    This is a seminal contribution to research on the Italian goddess Diana. The book is also relevant for questions of the political involvement of the emperors, especially Augustus, in Diana’s cult and rituals (especially at Aricia) and more generally for the discussion of the interpenetration of cult and politics in Roman history.

  • Petrovic, Ivana. 2010. Transforming Artemis: From the goddess of the outdoors to city goddess. In The gods of ancient Greece: Identities and transformations. Edited by Jan Bremmer and Andrew Erskine, 209–227.. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press.

    The article gives a succinct survey of Artemis’s representation in early Greek poetry and of the impact this representation had on later Greek poetry. It is very recommended as a short and inspiring introduction into the subject focusing on‚ “a synchronic and diachronic view . . . (by) generating new approaches” as it is presented as the goal of the book. See especially pp. 217–227.

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