The Greek Goddess Artemis: Mythology & Facts

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the Greek goddess Artemis, goddess of the forest, the hunt, and nearly all aspects of female life. Discovering Artemis in Greek myth can help us learn more about the Greek world view.

Don't Cross the Family

Most families stick together; if as a child you saw someone picking on your little sister on the playground, chances are you went over and diffused the situation. Parents, likewise, are often very protective of their children. Regardless of how defensive of each other a family is, it is likely they would not go to the same lengths as the Greek goddess Artemis to defend their familial honor.

Artemis, along with her brother Apollo, murdered the children of the mortal woman, Niobe. Niobe had bragged to any who would listen that she had given birth to more children than Artemis' and Apollo's mother, Leto, and was therefore a greater being than the goddess. When Apollo and Artemis discovered the bragging, they set out through the land, murdering any of Niobe's children they came across. Artemis, clearly, took her family's honor quite seriously.

Artemis' Birth

According to Greek mythology, Artemis was the daughter of Leto and Zeus, and had a twin brother, Apollo. When Hera, Zeus' wife, learned of Leto's pregnancy, Hera sent a serpent monster, Python, to pursue Leto and chase her far away from Greece. In one interpretation of the myth, Leto gave birth to Artemis one day before she gave birth to Apollo. Immediately after being born, Artemis helped her mother cross a stretch of sea to the island of Delos, where Leto gave birth to Apollo the next day. This myth helps explain how Artemis came to be considered the patron god of childbirth and the protector of pregnant women.

Artemis in Greek Society

Artemis, as the goddess of the hunt
Artemis, as the goddess of the hunt

Artemis was an important and revered deity in the ancient world. The temple built in her name, at Ephesus in Asia Minor, was so grand it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Indeed, festivals to Artemis were held in Greek cities such as Sparta, and Brauron's largest festival of the year also honored the goddess.

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