Artemis is the Virgin Goddess of Hunting, Wild Animals, and Forests. She is also considered as the protectress of young children and women in labor. She is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, who is also known as Letona.
Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo, who is often associated with the Moon and silver, since it was believed that she wore silver costumes, had a silver chariot, and came out in moonlit nights.
The name 'Artemis' is derived from the Greek word 'artemes', which means healthy and energetic, and who also serves as the source of strength and vitality for other people. Aretemis is often associated with Diana, a Roman Goddess, and Bast, an Egyptian Goddess.
Aretemis can be identified as the first epitome of female independence and decisiveness, because on her third birthday, she asked for six things from her father:
- She asked him to let her remain a virgin and out of any bonding of romantic love or marriage.
- She demanded for a bow and arrow like one that Apollo, her brother had.
- She also demanded for a hunting costume and liberty to dress up. She wanted to dress up like a man.
- She also wanted sixty nymphs who would be her companions.
- She wanted to bring light to the world.
- The last wish or demand that she had was to give her all the mountains on Earth, so that she could live on any one of them.
She was the first woman to place her opinions openly, and to claim equality with men, especially her brother and father. She lived an independent life.
The greatest myth that surrounds Artemis is about her birth. As stated earlier, she is the twin sister of Apollo, who is believed to be born nine hours after she was born. Since his birth was difficult for their mother Leto, Artemis helped her birthe Apollo, acting as a mid wife. That is why she is considered as a protectress of children and women in labor.
It is said that once she was bathing with her nymphs in a vale in a distant forest, and Actaeon had gone there for hunting. He came upon her by chance and saw her bathing, which enraged her, and she transformed him into a stag, which was hunted down by his own hounds.
Alternatively, there is another legend according to which Actaeon boasted of being a better hunter than Aretemis, as a result of which she turned him into a stag to be hounded and killed by his own wild dogs.
Since Artemis herself pledged to remain a virgin all her life, she wanted her companions and followers to do the same. Callisto, according to some legends, is considered to be one of her companions, and according to others, is considered to be her follower.
In either case, she should have been a virgin, but she broke her vow, and became pregnant due to an affair with Zeus. She became the subject of Artemis's wrath, and was transformed into a bear, so that some hunter would hunt her. It would have happened and Callisto would have been killed, if Zeus had not interfered and given her a place in the constellation.
It is said that there were very few men with whom Artemis shared a friendly relationship, and the most important was with her brother Apollo. They were very close to each other, and seldom was there another man who could make Apollo insecure of his sister's affection.
But when Orion came into her life, that was the first time that she felt romantically for somebody, which was not taken by Apollo in good spirit. He tricked Artemis into killing her lover Orion, by challenging her aim in archery, and while Orion was swimming across the ocean, Apollo asked her to aim at something in the horizon.
As was obvious and known that she never missed, the arrow struck Orion and he was killed. This is how the story goes according to some legends, while some say that Artemis killed Orion in self-defense when he tried to rape her. Again, some are of the opinion that she killed him while he tried to rape one of her companions.
Role of Artemis in Art and Painting
In art and literature, this Greek goddess is looked upon as an epitome of beauty and freedom. She is portrayed as an independent and impulsive female figure, whose nature and beauty cannot be tamed.
She is considered to be the Goddess of Wilderness and Wild Animals. In most of the paintings, she can be seen in the garb of a huntress, who is wearing a short skirt, hunting shoes, with bows and arrows.
The character of Artemis represents an indifferent woman of free spirit, who defies all the norms of female archetype of being submissive, humble, and restrained. She is carefree, and denies being a victim of all these norms and prejudices. She establishes her freedom and equality from a very early age.