A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

4. The Ephesian Artemis was a divinity totally distinct from the Greek goddess of the same name. She seems to have been the personification of the fructifying and all-nourishing powers of nature. It is an opinion almost universally adopted, that she was an ancient Asiatic divinity whose worship the Greeks found established in Ionia, when they settled there, and that, for some resemblance they discovered, they applied to her the name of Artemis. As soon as this identity of the Asiatic goddess with the Greek Artemis was recognised, other features, also originally peculiar to the Greek Artemis, were transferred to her; and thus she is called a daughter of Leto, who gave birth to her in the neighbourhood of Ephesus. Her original character is sufficiently clear from the fact, that her priests were eunuchs, and that her image in the magnificent temple of Ephesus represented her with many breasts (πολυμαστός). The whole figure of the goddess resembled a mummy : her head was surmounted with a mural crown (corona muralis), and the lower part of her body, which ended in a point, like a pyramid upside down, was covered with figures of mystical animals. (Strab. xiv. p.641; Paus. 4.31.6, 7.5.2., The symbol of this divinity was a bee, and her highpriest bore the name of king (ἐσσήν). Her worship was said to have been established at Ephesus by the Amazons. (Paus. 2.7.4, 8.12.1; Hesych. and Suid. s. v. ἐσσήν.)

Respecting some other divinities, or attributes of divinities, which were likewise regarded as identical with Artemis in Greece, see BRITOMARTIS, DICTYNNA, and EILEITHYIA. The Romans identified their goddess Diana with the Greek Artemis, and at a comparatively early time they transferred to their own goddess all the peculiar features of the Greek Artemis. [DIANA.] The worship of Artemis was universal in all Greece, in Delos, Crete, Sicily, and southern Italy, but more especially in Arcadia and the whole of the Peloponnesus. The sacrifices offered to the Brauronian Artemis consisted of stags and goats; in Thrace dogs were offered to Artemis. Among the animals sacred to the Greek Artemis we may mention the stag, boar, dog, and others; the fir-tree was likewise sacred to her.

It is impossible to trace the various relations in which Artemis appears to us to one common source, or to one fundamental idea : the very manner in which such a complicated mythus was formed renders the attempt futile, or, to say the least, forced. In the case of Artemis, it is evident, that new elements and features were added in various places to the ancient local mythus; the worship of one divinity is identified with that of another, and the legends of the two are mixed up into one, or those of the one are transferred to the other, whose legends then sink into oblivion.

The representations of the Greek Artemis in works of art are different accordingly as she is represented either as a huntress, or as the goddess of the moon; yet in either case she appears as a youthful and vigorous divinity, as becomes the sister of Apollo. As the huntress, she is tall, nimble, and has small hips; her forehead is high, her eyes glancing freely about, and her hair tied up behind in such a manner, that some locks float down her neck; her breast is covered, and the legs up to the knees are naked, the rest being covered by the chlamys. Her attributes are the bow, quiver, and arrows, or a spear, stags, and dogs. As the goddess of the moon, she wears a long robe which reaches down to her feet, a veil covers her head, and above her forehead rises the crescent of the moon. In her hand she often appears holding a torch. (Mitscherlich, de Diana Sopita, Göttingen, 1821; Müller, Dorians, book 2.100.9; Musco Pio-Clem. 1.30 ; Hirt, Mythol. Bilderb. i. p. 37.)