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The Greek goddess Artemis

Artemis (Roman equivalent: Diana) was the goddess of the hunt and of wild animals. She was a virgin goddess who was particularly associated with childbirth. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and twin sister of Apollo, to whom she remained close. Her main pursuit was hunting. Apollo sometimes hunted with her, but she was often accompanied by various nymphs whom she required to remain virginal, like herself. Often her would-be suitors came to unhappy ends: the great hunter Orion was killed either by the goddess or by Apollo, while Actaeon paid a high price for seeing her bathing: he was transformed into a stag and torn apart by his own hounds.

It was the anger of Artemis that kept the Greek fleet in port at the beginning of the expedition to Troy. Artemis demanded the sacrifice of Agamemnon's daughter Iphigeneia in return for a fair wind - though in one version of the myth she spirited the girl away at the last moment and substituted a sacrificial deer.

The most famous temple of Artemis was that at Ephesos, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Here Artemis was clearly identified with an eastern deity. In her cult she was associated with childbirth, and with young things, both human and wild. Early representations show her in the pose of 'Mistress of Animals', with a wild creature at each hand. Later her bow and arrow identify her as a huntress.

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Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99

Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99