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Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Many Faces of Artemis (Diana)

Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, the Moon, and chastity, was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and twin sister of Apollo.   Artemis was worshipped as one of the primary goddesses of childbirth and midwifery along with Eileithyia. Much like Athena and Hestia, Artemis preferred to remain a maiden and is sworn never to marry.  Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities and was assimilated into the Roman pantheon as Diana. The most important sanctuary of Diana for the ancient Romans was located at Aricia, some eleven miles outside of Rome on the shore of lake Nemi, which was known as the speculum Dianae (mirror of Diana).

One of the most famous myths involving Artemis is the story of Artemis (Diana) and Actaeon.  According to the Latin version of the story told by the Roman Ovid[24] having accidentally seen Diana on Mount Cithaeron while she was bathing, he was changed by her into a stag, then pursued and killed by his 50 hounds. This tale was the subject of a beautiful fresco in the women's quarters of the House of Sallust in Pompeii which was originally called the House of Actaeon in archaeological excavation records.  It was, sadly,  destroyed by allied bombs during World War II.

According to Herodotus, the Greek playwright Aeschylus identified Artemis with Persephone as a daughter of Demeter. Her worshipers in Arcadia also traditionally associated her with Demeter and Persephone. In Asia Minor, she was often conflated with local mother goddess figures, such as Cybele, and Anahita in Iran. However, the archetype of the mother goddess was not highly compatible with the Greek pantheon, and though the Greeks had adopted worship of Cybele and other Anatolian mother goddesses as early as the 7th century BCE, she was not directly conflated with any Greek goddesses. Instead, bits and pieces of her worship and aspects were absorbed variously by Artemis, Aphrodite, and others as Eastern influence spread.

The oldest representations of Artemis in Greek Archaic art portray her as Potnia Theron ("Queen of the Beasts"), a winged goddess holding a stag and lioness in her hands, or sometimes a lioness and a lion. This winged Artemis lingered in ex-votos as Artemis Orthia, with a sanctuary close by Sparta.

In Greek classical art she is usually portrayed as a maiden huntress, young, tall and slim, clothed in a girl's short skirt, with hunting boots, a quiver, a bow and arrows. Often, she is shown in the shooting pose, and is accompanied by a hunting dog or stag. When portrayed as a moon goddess, Artemis wore a long robe and sometimes a veil covered her head. Her darker side is revealed in some vase paintings, where she is shown as the death-bringing goddess whose arrows fell young maidens and women, such as the daughters of Niobe.

Artemis (Diana). Marble, Roman copy of a Greek statue. - Galleria dei Candelabri - Vatican Museums, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Jean-Pol Grandmont.

Bronze statuette of Artemis. The very careful workmanship is apparent in spite of the bad state of preservation. The goddess wears a high-girded Attic peplos and a himation. She was holding a libation bowl in her right hand and a bow in her left hand. The type belongs to the school of Praxiteles, known from the Attic reliefs of the end of the 4th century B.C. Accession number: 4648. Archaeological Museum of Piraeus. Piraeus, Greece, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor George E. Koronaios.

Bronze statuette of Artemis. The very careful workmanship is apparent in spite of the bad state of preservation. The goddess wears a high-girded Attic peplos and a himation. She was holding a libation bowl in her right hand and a bow in her left hand. The type belongs to the school of Praxiteles, known from the Attic reliefs of the end of the 4th century B.C. Accession number: 4648. Archaeological Museum of Piraeus. Piraeus, Greece, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor George E. Koronaios.

Although her body appears to be female, it is a fifth century BC Greek statue of the god Apollo with the head of a second century Roman Diana. She is identified as the goddess of the moon because of the lunar crescent on her forehead, and of the hunt as shown by the Greyhound and the quiver at her side, which were carved and attached in the late 18th century by a local sculptor.  Sculpture now in the Vatican Museums courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Henry Townsend.

Diane the Huntress mosaic in the Bardo National Museum originally discovered in Utica, 150-200 CE, Roman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor, Rais67

Mosaic of Diana and her nymph being surprised by Actaeon. House of Venus, Volubilis, Morocco, courtesy of YoTuT.

Artemis (Diana) the huntress, Roman, that I photographed at the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

So-called Artemis of Gabii. Marble, Roman copy of the reign of Tiberius (14-37 CE) after a Greek original traditionnally attributed to Praxiteles. Found in 1792 by Gavin Hamilton at Gabii, Italy now in The Louvre, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Marie-Lan Nguyen.

Statue of Diana in East Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Michael Coghlan.

Diana discovered at bath by Actaeon, Roman mosaic in As-Suwayda, Syria, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Franco Pecchio.

Diana the Huntress by the School of Fontainebleau (1530-1610) courtesy of The Louvre.  

Mosaic Floor with Diana and Callisto Surrounded by Hunt Scenes, Villelaure, France, Gallo-Roman, 3rd century CE, that I photographed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California.  The central element of this mosaic depicts the nymph Callisto and Diana, the virgin goddess of the hunt.  Callisto broke the vow of Diana's followers to remain chaste and was seduced by Jupiter.  Here Diana discovers Callisto's pregnancy.  The mosaic was found in the ruins of an ancient villa (the Villa Laura) in sourthern France, then province of the Roman Empire, near the present-day French town of Villelaure.  

Watercolor of Casa de Sallustio and the fresco of Actaeon and Diana (1886) by Josef Theodor Hansen. This section of the house was destroyed by an Allied bombing raid in 1943.

Roman Mosaic depicting Diana in the bath in the As Suwayda (Suweyda) museum, Syria courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Franco Pecchio.

Beautiful atmospheric photograph of Sleeping Diana by Emil Epple (1877-1948) at the Villa gemmingen-Hornberg in Stuttgart, Germany courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Rainer Halama.

Bronze statue of Artemis and a Deer, ca. 1st century BCE–1st century CE, Greco-Roman, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  Artemis, known to the Romans as Diana, stands with her weight on her right leg, her left foot trailing. She wears a short chiton, appropriate to her role as goddess of the hunt, a finely wrought diadem embellished with silver, and elaborate sandals. Originally, she would have held a bow in her left hand. In other Roman statues of similar type, the goddess is striding, but here she stands as if in an epiphany, an impression that is emphasized by the high classicizing style of the figure with its wind-blown drapery and her strongly idealized features. A deer stands to her left and there was another small figure on her right, possibly a dog. The statue and its base were cast in several sections by means of the lost wax method, as was characteristic in antiquity, and these parts were then joined together with flow welds. 

 

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