Artemis doesn’t get as much time in the spotlight as some of the other goddesses
, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have much interesting history to her name. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I’m rather convinced that Artemis simply stayed out of many stories because she was a maiden - a polite way of saying virgin. When the rest of the gods and goddesses were being a bit wild and crazy, if you know what I mean, Artemis was just hanging out with her huntresses, trying to save humanity.
A Bad Beginning
Artemis’s mother, Leto had an affair with Zeus, the king of the gods. Unfortunately, Zeus’s wife, Hera, discovered the affair and cursed Leto. Hera was more than a bit upset, so she banned Leto from giving birth on firm land, on any island, and on any land under the sun. Eventually Leto wound up on the floating island of Delos which miraculously met Hera’s criteria.
Artemis was born very easily without causing her mother any pain. Her brother Apollo, on the other hand, was challenging to deliver, but the newly born Artemis helped her mother deliver Apollo the day after her own birth (or nine days later in other stories.) Hera never found a liking for Artemis or Apollo after this, although their father, Zeus, did spend quite a bit of time with each of the twins and help them along their divine ways.
In fact, when Artemis was three years old (according to legend) she sat upon Zeus’ knee and asked for some wishes to be granted. Zeus agreed and Artemis rattled off her desires. She wanted to be chaste for eternity so that she would never be bound by marriage. She also wished for “lop eared hounds” or hunting dogs, stags or deer to lead her chariot and nymphs to be her companions. In all, she gained eternal virginity, hunting dogs, deer and sixty nine-year-old girls to buddy around with. Artemis was so determined to remain a maiden, that she also insisted that her companions remain chaste as well. If you broke that rule, there was trouble…
Artemis and her Temper
Callisto was one of Artemis’ attendants and took a vow of chastity. Artemis’ father, Zeus, disguised himself as Artemis (or Apollo depending on the story version) and came to Callisto and tricked her. He gained her trust and then took advantage of her. The result was a son, Arcas.
When Artemis discovered the situation, she was furious. She turned her beloved companion into a bear. Callisto’s own son, Arcas, almost killed his mother who was now a bear, but Zeus stopped him just in time. Instead of letting Callisto be killed, Zeus placed her in the heavens where she formed Callisto the Bear constellation we can still see today. Some stories claim Zeus put both mother and son in the sky forming Ursa Major and Ursa Minor or Big Bear and Little Bear.
Artemis and her Brother
Artemis is the only Olympian to have a twin. Artemis and Apollo have a great deal in common and get along well in most of the legends. In fact, in most legends, the two stick together to protect their mother’s honor and safety as well as their own. Artemis is very protective of her brother as well. In one instance, a girl became a bit too proud of an affair with Apollo. Her bragging offended Artemis, so the young goddess
simply killed the annoying girl for her vanity. Ouch.