A tale of feminine empowerment and sticking to your principles is something that would resonate with many people in today’s society. But what if the story took place over 3000 years ago in Ancient Greece?
Women in Greek mythology were usually portrayed as being devious, manipulative, and uncontrollable, with their actions often culminating in promiscuity and disloyalty. So the depiction of Artemis as a goddess who was rewarding of her followers and fiercely protective of her innocence and chastity is a stark contrast to these stories. It is one of the few positive representations in mythology of Ancient Greek women being empowered to make their own decisions, and the tale remains as relevant, inspirational, and empowering today as it was 3000 years ago.
The Greek goddess Artemis, also known by her Roman name Diana, is the daughter of the major god Zeus. She is most commonly associated with being the goddess of hunting but also has associations with the wilderness, wild and domestic animals, fertility and childbirth, rites of passage, chastity, and the moon. She is almost universally depicted in her role as goddess of the hunt, shown as a young, beautiful huntress carrying a quiver of arrows and holding a bow. She is also often accompanied by an animal such as a deer or hunting dog and usually wears a short hunting tunic, although she is sometimes pictured in a long gown due to her associations with femininity and modesty.
“Artemis of the golden shafts... The modest virgin, the deer shooter profuse of arrows, own sister to Apollo of the golden sword.”
— Homer (Homeric Hymn 27)
In Ancient Greece, and particularly in mythological tales, it was common for people to marry young and have many children - take Artemis’ father Zeus for example! But Artemis decided early on that this was not for her. At a young age, she made a vow that she would keep her maidenhood forever. So, like Athena and Hestia before her, she remained chaste for eternity, guarding her vow even more passionately than her predecessors. For instance, when the hunter Actaeon spied on Artemis bathing, she turned him into a deer and turned his hounds on him. But she didn’t just protect her own virginity, she also defended the innocence of her worshippers and priestesses, and rewarded those who kept their vow of chastity. When Hippolytus dedicated himself to keeping Artemis’ vow the goddess of love, Aphrodite, felt scorned, and set off a chain of events that ultimately led to his untimely death. But legend says that Artemis called upon Asclepius to resurrect Hippolytus in recognition of his commitment, and he was reincarnated as Virbius, a man who later travelled to Italy and became a powerful ruler.
Artemis was a divine goddess, but she was also a woman who knew what she wanted from life and went after it no matter if others agreed with her decisions or not. Her legend is an impressive tale of empowerment both of Artemis herself and of the other characters whose autonomy and innocence she protected and defended. Now more than ever we are being faced with choices that the generations before us have never had. At many times previously, a decision like the one Artemis made to remain chaste would have meant joining a religious order or risking social isolation. Society expected that people would get married early, and the choice to have children was less of a choice and more of a necessity, as someone would be needed to take over the family business and care for you in your old age. In a time when we have so many options and outside influences on our decision-making, Artemis’ ability to stick to her principles and do what she believed was the best choice for her is truly inspirational.
A sneak peek of Lladró’s new Artemis Sculpture!
Lladró’s new sculpture inspired by the powerful legend of Artemis, which will be released in September 2022, showcases the goddess with arms outstretched in the act of shooting an arrow. The satiny flesh-toned piece is adorned with meticulously etched floral motifs and ornate detailing, decorated in rich, earthy tones which perfectly complement the striking touches of 24kt golden lustre that finish the piece.
Learn more about the Greek gods below: