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Artemis - Goddess of the Hunt

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Artemis - Goddess of the Hunt

Artemis is the goddess of the hunt, and represented by the bow and arrow.

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Artemis is a daughter of Zeus concieved during a romp with the Titan Leto, according to the Homeric Hymns. She was the Greek goddess of both hunting and childbirth. Her twin brother was Apollo, and like him, Artemis was associated with a wide variety of divine attributes.

As a divine huntress, she is often depicted carrying a bow and wearing a quiver full of arrows. In an interesting paradox, although she hunts animals, she is also a protector of the forest and its young creatures. Artemis was known as a goddess who valued her chastity, and was fiercely protective of her status as divine virgin. If she was seen by mortals -- or if one attempted to relieve her of her virginity -- her wrath was impressive. The Theban hunter Actaeon spied on her once as she bathed, and Artemis turned him into a stag, at which point he was felled (and possibly eaten, depending on which story you read) by his own hounds. This story is described in The Iliad and other myths and legends.

Despite her own lack of children, Artemis was known as a goddess of childbirth, possibly because she assisted her own mother in the delivery of her twin, Apollo. She protected women in labor, but also brought them death and sickness. Numerous cults dedicated to Artemis sprouted up around the Greek world, most of which were connected to women's mysteries and transitional phases, such as childbirth, puberty, and motherhood.

Artemis had many names in the Greek world. She was Agrotera, a goddess who watched over hunters and blessed them in their endeavors; in yet another contradiction she was the guardian of wild creatures in her guise as Potnia Theron. When she was being honored as the goddess of childbirth, she was sometimes known as Locheia, and expectant mothers and midwives made offerings in her honor. Occasionally she is referred to as as Phoebe, a variant of Apollo's nickname, Phoebus, related to the sun.

Because her twin, Apollo, was associated with the Sun, Artemis gradually became connected to the Moon and the Roman Diana in the post-Classical world. During the ancient Greek period, although Artemis was represented as a lunar goddess, she was never portrayed as the moon itself. Typically, in post-Classical artwork, she is depicted beside a crescent moon.

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