ARTEMIS was the great Olympian goddess of hunting, wild animals, children and birth.
This page contains stories of the wrath of Artemis directed against impious women and girls, mostly companions who betrayed their virginal pledges or girls who insulted the goddess with hybristic boasts, as well as historical incidents attributed to the goddess. The most famous of these tales include:
1. The Metamorphosis of Kallisto
2. The Slaying of Koronis.
|(5) WRATH HYBRISTIC & FALLEN MAIDENS
|AURA A Titanis goddess of the breeze, who offended Artemis by comparing her virginal body with that of the goddess, describing the goddess' as too womanly in form to be that of a true virgin. Artemis was wrothful and brought about Dionysos' rape of the haughty girl.
|BYSSA A Princess of the island of Kos (in the Greek Aegean), who shared the arrogance of her siblings. Her brother Agron insulted Hermes, her sister Meropis Athena, and Byssa herself insulted Artemis, besmirching the goddess' night-wandering. In anger the gods transformed the three into birds: Byssa was transformed into a "byssa" (some sort of diving sea-bird) by Artemis.
|EUTHEMIA A Nymphe of the island of Kos (in the Greek Aegean) who was struck down by the goddess for some offence (perhaps scorning her worship).
|KALLISTO An Arkadian princess (of Southern Greece) and companion of the goddess Artemis. When she was impregnated by Zeus, she attempted to hide her condition from the goddess, and violated the holy circle of virgins by remaining within their company beyond her time. Artemis was wrothful, when she discovered the deception and transformed Kallisto into a bear. (There were several other versions of the story: in one Kallisto was raped by Zeus disguised as Artemis herself, and the maiden accused the Virgin goddess of the deed).
|KHIONE A Princess of Phokis (in Central Greece) who was struck down by Artemis with an arrow as punishment for claiming to be fairer than the goddess. (Khione perhaps believed that her two divine lovers, Hermes and Apollon, could protect her from the goddess' wrath).
|KORONIS A Princess of Trikka in Thessalia (Northern Greece) who was loved by the god Apollon. When it was discovered that she had betrayed the god, by sleeping with another man during her pregnancy, Artemis slew her during the labour with her arrows. (In another version of the story, Artemis slew Koronis, in a tit-for-tat reprisal against Apollon for the death of her beloved Orion).
|MELANIPPE A Nymphe of Mt Pelion in Thessalia (Northern Greece) who was transformed into a black mare by the goddess as punishment for some offence (perhaps for scorning her worship).
|POLYPHONTE A princess of the Triballoi tribe of Thrake (North of Greece) and hunting companion of Artemis, who was filled with an unnatural desire and coupled with a bear. Artemis in disgust cast her from her circle of maidens and turned all wild beasts against the girl.
|(6) WRATH SEMI-HISTORICAL LEGENDS
|ARISTOMELIDAS A despot of Orkhomenos in Arkadia (Southern Greece) who plotted to defile a Tegean maiden (perhaps the virgin priestess of the goddess). The girl killed herself in fear and shame, and Artemis sent a dream to the girl's guardian Khronios, demanding that he slay the impious Aristomelidas, which he did.
|ASTRABAKOS & ALOPEKOS Princes of Sparta in Lakedaimonia (Southern Greece) who were driven mad by Artemis when they discovered her sacred Orthian statue (a holy statue which only pure maidens were permitted to see).
|LYGDAMIS A King of Skythia (in North Eastern Europe) who led his armies against Lydia (in Asia Minor) with the intention sacking the shrine of Artemis at Ephesos. The goddess struck the king and his army down with deadly plague.
|MELANIPPOS & KOMAITHO Two youths of Patrai in Akhaia (Southern Greece) who defiled the local temple of Artemis by consumating their passions in the precinct. The goddess was wrothful and sent a plague down upon the town, until the sacrilege was revealed, and the pair offered up to the goddess as sacrifice.
ARTEMIS WRATH: AURA
LOCALE: Phrygia (in Asia Minor)
This story is only partially quoted here, see the Aura page for the full account.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 375 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Artemis complains to Nemesis the goddess of retribution:] ‘That sour virgin Aura, the daughter of Lelantos, mocks me and offends me with rude sharp words. But how can I tell you all she said? I am ashamed to describe her calumny of my body and her abuse of my breasts.’ . . .
[Nemesis replies:] ‘Aura the maid of the hunt has reproached your virginity, and she shall be a virgin no longer. You shall see her in the bed of a mountain stream weeping fountains of tears for her maiden girdle.’"
For MORE information on this Titaness see AURA
ARTEMIS WRATH: BYSSA
LOCALE: Kos (Greek Aegean)
The story is told by Antoninus Liberalis in the fifteenth book of his Metamorphoses (not currently quoted here).
ARTEMIS WRATH: EUTHEMIA
LOCALE: Kos (Greek Aegean)
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 16 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Meropes, who ruled the island of Cos . . . had a wife, Ethemea, of the race of nymphs, who was stuck with the arrows of Diana [Artemis] when she ceased worshipping her. At last she was snatched away alive by Proserpina [Persephone] to the Land of the Dead. Meropes, moved by longing for his wife, would have committed suicide, but Juno [Hera], pitying him, changed him into an eagle."
ARTEMIS WRATH: KALLISTO
LOCALE: Mt Nonakris, Arkadia (Southern Greece)
Hesiod, The Astronomy Fragment 3 (from Pseudo-Eratosthenes, Catasterismi Frag 1.2) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"The Great Bear [Constellation Ursa Major] . Hesiod says she [Kallisto] was the daughter of Lycaon and lived in Arcadia. She chose to occupy herself with wild-beasts in the mountains together with Artemis, and, when she was seduced by Zeus, continued some time undetected by the goddess, but afterwards, when she was already with child, was seen by her bathing and so discovered. Upon this, the goddess was enraged and changed her into a beast. Thus she became a bear and gave birth to a son called Arkas . . . but [later] Zeus delivered her because of her connection with him and put her among the stars, giving her the name Bear (Arktos) because of the misfortune which had befallen her."
Homerica, Contest of Homer and Hesiod 316 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic B.C.) :
"[Artemis] slew Kallisto with a shot of her silver bow."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 100 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Eumelus [poet C8th BC] and certain others maintain that Lykaon had a daughter named Kallisto, although Hesiod says she was one of the Nymphai, while Asios identifies her father as Nykteus, and Pherekydes as Keteus. She was a hunting companion of Artemis, imitating her dress and remaining under oath a virgin for the goddess. But Zeus fell in love with her and forced her into bed, taking the likeness, some say, or Artemis, others, of Apollon. Because he wanted to escape the attention of Hera, Zeus changed Kallisto into a bear. But Hera persuaded Artemis to shoot the girl with an arrow like a wild animal. There are those who maintain, however, that Artemis shot her because she did not protect her virginity. As Kallisto died, Zeus seized his baby and handed it over to Maia to rear in Arkadia, giving it the name Arkas. Kallisto he changed into a star, which he called Arktos."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 3. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Kallisto was loved by Zeus and mated with him. When Hera detected the intrigue she turned Kallisto into a bear, and Artemis to please Hera shot the bear."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 35. 8 :
"Descending from Krounoi [in Arkadia] for about thirty stades you come to the grave of Kallisto, a high mound of earth, whereon grow many trees, both cultivated and also those that bear no fruit. On the top of the mound is a sanctuary of Artemis, surnamed Kalliste."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 1 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Great Bear [constellation Ursa Major] . Hesiod says she is named Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, who ruled in Arcadia, Out of her zeal for hunting she joined Diana [Artemis], and was greatly loved by the goddess because of their similar temperaments. Later, when made pregnant by Jove [Zeus], she feared to tell the truth to Diana [Artemis]. But she couldn’t conceal it long, for as her womb grew heavier near the time of her delivery, when she was refreshing her tired body in a stream, Diana realized she had not preserved her virginity. In keeping with her deep distrust, the goddess inflicted no light punishment. Taking away her maiden features, she changed her into the form of a bear, called arktos in Greek. In this form she bore Arcas.
But as Amphis [C4th BC], writer of comedies, says, Jupiter [Zeus], assuming the form of Diana [Artemis], followed the girl as if to aid her in hunting, and embraced her when out of sight of the rest. Questioned by Diana as to the reason for her swollen form, she replied that it was the goddess’ fault, and because of this reply, Diana changed her into the shape we mentioned above . . .
Some, too, have said that when Callisto was embraced by Jove [Zeus], Juno [Hera] in anger turned her into a bear; then, when she met Diana [Artemis] hunting, she was killed by her, and later, on being recognised, was placed among the stars.
But others say that when Jupiter [Zeus] was pursuing Callisto in the woods, Juno [Hera] suspecting what had happened, hurried there so that she could say she had caught him openly. But Jove [Zeus], the more easily to conceal his fault, left her changed to bear form. Juno, then, finding a bear instead of a girl in that place, pointed her out for Diana [Artemis], who was hunting, to kill. Jove [Zeus] was distressed to see this, and put in the sky the likeness of a bear represented with stars. . .
All this is shown to have taken place on the Arcadian mountain Nonacris."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 414 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Kallisto] a country Nympha of Nonacris caught his [Zeus'] eye and love flared in his heart. She was no girl to spin soft skeins of wool or vary her hair-style; a buckle held her dress, a plain white band her strangling hair. She carried a light spear - sometimes a bow - Phoebe’s [Artemis’] warrior; none so high as she in Trivia's [Artemis'] favour on the mountain slopes of Maenalus; but favourites soon fall. One afternoon, the sun still riding high, she found a glade deep in the virgin woods and there unstrung her bow, took off her quiver, and lay down on the grass, the coloured case a pillow for her head.
Juppiter [Zeus] saw her there, weary and unprotected and alone. ‘This prank,’ he thought, ‘my wife [Hera] will never learn, or should she, all her scolding’s worth the prize.’ Taking at once Diana's [Artemis'] form, her face and dress, ‘My dear’, he said, ‘best of my troop, which mountain coverts have you drawn?’ The girl rose from the greensward; ‘Hail, my queen’, said she, ‘Greater than Jove [Zeus] I say though Jove should hear.’ Jove [Zeus] heard and smiled, happy that she preferred him to himself, and kissed her on the lips - no modest, maiden’s kisses - checked her tale, seized her and by his outrage stood betrayed. She fought, it’s true, as hard as girls can fight . . . . she fought, but how could any girl succeed, how master Jove?
Victorious, he retired to heaven above; she loathed the forest glade, the woods that knew, and, as she turned to go, nearly forgot her quiver and her bow. And now Dictynna [Artemis] across high Maenalus progressing with her troop, proud of her kills, observed the girl and called her. At the call she shrank at first lest it were Juppiter [Zeus] again, but then she saw the Nymphae came with their queen, and feared no trap and joined their company. How hard it is for a face to hide its guilt! She scarce could raise her eyes, nor as before stayed by her goddess’ side and led the train. Silent, her awkward blushes told her shame. Diana [Artemis], but for her own chaste innocence, might well have learnt by countless little signs the guilty truth; no doubt the Nymphae knew well. Nine times the crescent moon had filled her orb, when Diana [Artemis], wearied by her brother’s beams and by the chase, reached a cool shady grove, through which there flowed a babbling rivulet, whose gliding current shaped its shelving sands. Charmed by the place, the goddess dipped her feet into the stream; and that was charming too. ‘No spy is near’, she said, ‘here let us strip and bathe.’ The poor girl Parrhasis [Kallisto] blushed; they all undressed; one lingered waiting. As she hesitates, they strip her body - and her secret - bare. Aghast, she spread her hands to hide her shape. ‘Begone!’ Cynthia [Artemis] cried, ‘you shall not stain my stream!’ and bade her quit her company."
Ovid, Fasti 2. 155 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Callisto once belonged to the sacred circle of Hamadryades and huntress Diana [Artemis]. She touched the goddess' bow: ‘this bow I touch,’ she cried, ‘Be a witness to my virginity.’ Cynthia [Artemis] praised her, and said: ‘Keep the pledge you vowed and you will be my companions’ princeps.’ She would have kept the pledge but for her prettiness. She shunned mortals, Jupiter [Zeus] made her sin. Phoebe [Artemis] returned from hunting scores of forest beasts, as the sun occupied or passed midday. When she reached the grove (a grove dark with dense ilex, around a deep fountain of cool water), she said, ‘Let’s bathe here in the wood, Tegean virgin;’ the other reddened at virgin’s false ring. She had instructed the Nymphae too. The Nymphae undress; Callisto is shamed and suspiciously slow. She stripped off her dress. Her womb’s obvious plumping betrays her with incriminating weight. The goddess said to her: ‘Perjured Lycaonid, leave this virgin band, do not foul pure water.’"
For MORE information on this woman see ZEUS LOVES: KALLISTO
ARTEMIS WRATH: KHIONE
LOCALE: Phokis (Central Greece)
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 200 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Apollo and Mercurius [Hermes] are said to have slept the same night with Chione . . . Later on she spoke too haughtily against Diana [Artemis] in the hunt, and so was slain by her arrows."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 11. 321 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"She [Khione, a girl loved by two gods: Apollon and Hermes] dared to set herself above Diana [Artemis], faulting her fair face. The goddess, fierce in fury, cried ‘You’ll like my actions better!’ and she bent her bow and shot her arrow, and the shaft transfixed that tongue that well deserved it [for her sacrilege]. Then that tongue was dumb, speech failed the words she tried to say: her blood and life ebbed away."
For MORE information on this woman see APOLLON LOVES: KHIONE
ARTEMIS WRATH: KORONIS
LOCALE: Trikke, Thessalia (Northern Greece)
Pindar, Pythian Ode 3 str1 - ant3 (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"His [Asklepios'] mother, daughter of Phlegyas the horseman, ere with the help of Eleithyia, the nurse of childbirth, she could bring her babe to the light of day, was in her chamber stricken by the golden shafts of Artemis, and to the hall of Death went down. For so Apollon willed. Not lightly falls the wrath of the children of Zeus. For she in the madness of her heart had spurned the god, and unknown to her father took another lover, even though her maiden bed she had already shared with Apollon of the flowing hair, and bore within her the god's holy seed . . . [and] he [Apollon] saw that son of Eilatos, Iskhys, the stranger share her bed of love, that impious treachery; and sent his sister [Artemis] storming gin resistless anger to Lakereia, where by the high banks of Boibas the maiden had her home. And fate of a far other kind turned to her ruin and smote her down [with her arrows of plague]: and many a neighbour, too, suffered alike and was destroyed beside her; as when on the mountain from one small spark a raging fire leaps up, and lays in ruin all the widespread forest."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 26. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Koronis, they say, when with child with Asklepios, had intercourse with Iskhys, son of Elatos. She was killed by Artemis to punish her for the insult done to Apollon, but when the pyre was already lighted Hermes is said to have snatched the child from the flames."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 34 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Istrus, however, says that Diana [Artemis] loved Orion and came near marrying him. Apollo took this hard, and when scolding her brought no results [he tricked her into slaying the giant with her arrows] . . . But what Diana did after his death, we shall tell in the stories about her [she retaliated by slaying Apollon's love Koronis]."
For MORE information on this woman see APOLLON LOVES: KORONIS
ARTEMIS WRATH: MELANIPPE
LOCALE: Mt Pelion, Magnesia, Thessalia (Northern Greece)
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 18 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"She [Melanippe daughter of Kheiron] was changed into a mare. Callimachus [Alexandrian poet C3rd BC] says that because she ceased hunting and worshipping Diana [Artemis], Diana changed her into the shape we have mentioned. For the reason above, too, she [when she was subsequently transformed into a constellation] is said to be out of sight of the [constellation] Centaurus, sho come say is Chiron, and to show only half her body, since she didn’t want her sex to be known."
For MORE information on this Nymph see MELANIPPE
ARTEMIS WRATH: POLYPHONTE
LOCALE: Triballoi, Thrake (North of Greece)
Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 21 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Polyphonte [of Thrake] scorned the activities of Aphrodite and went to the mountains as a companion and sharer of sports with Artemis. Aphrodite, whose activities Polyphonte failed to honour, made her fall in love with a bear and drove her mad. By daimonic urge she went on heat and coupled with this bear. Artemis seeing her was utterly disgusted with her and turned all beasts against her."
ARTEMIS WRATH: ARISTOMELIDAS
LOCALE: Tegea, Arkadia (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 47. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Their [the Tegeans] story about Artemis . . . is as follows. Aristomelidas, despot of Orkhomenos in Arkadia, fell in love with a Tegean maiden, and, getting her somehow or other into his power, entrusted her to the keeping of Khronios. The girl, before she was delivered up to the despot, killed herself for fear and shame, and Artemis in a vision stirred up Khronis against Aristomelidas. He slew the despot, fled to Tegea, and made a sanctuary for Artemis."
ARTEMIS WRATH: ASTRABAKOS & ALOPEKOS
LOCALE: Lakedaimonia (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 16. 9 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"I will give other evidence that the Orthia in Lacedaemon is the wooden image from the foreigners. Firstly, Astrabakos and Alopekos, sons of Irbos, son of Amphisthenes, son of Amphikles, son of Agis, when they found the image [of Artemis Orthia] straightway became insane. Secondly, the Spartan Limnatians, the Kynosurians, and the people of Mesoa and Pitane, while sacrificing to Artemis, fell to quarreling, which led also to bloodshed; many were killed at the altar and the rest died of disease. Whereat an oracle was delivered to them, that they should stain the altar with human blood. He used to be sacrificed upon whomsoever the lot fell, but Lykourgos changed the custom to a scourging of the lads, and so in this way the altar is stained with human blood."
ARTEMIS WRATH: LYGDAMIS
LOCALE: Ephesos, Lydia (Asia Minor)
Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 252 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"In this madness insolent [the historical king] Lygdamis threatened that he would lay it waste [the Ephesian shrine of Artemis], and brought against it a host of Kimmerians which milk mares, in number as the sand; who have their homes hard by the Straights of the cow, daughter of Inakhos. Ah! Foolish among kings, how greatly he sinned! For not destined to return again to Skythia was either he or any other of those whose wagons stood in the Kaytrian plain [of Lydia]; for thy [Artemis'] shafts are ever more set as a defense before Ephesos [she brought a plague down upon the army]."
ARTEMIS WRATH: MELANIPPOS & KOMAITHO
LOCALE: Patrai, Akhaia (in Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 19. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Once upon a time it happened that the priestess of the goddess [Artemis at Patrai, in Akhaia] was Komaitho, a most beautiful maiden, who had a lover called Melanippos, who was far better and handsomer than his fellows. When Melanippos had won the love of the maiden, he asked the father for his daughter's hand. It is somehow a characteristic of old age to oppose the young in most things, and especially is it insensible to the desires of lovers. So Melanippos found it; although both he and Komaitho were eager to wed, he met with nothing but harshness from both his own parents and from those of his lover. The history of Melanippos, like that of many others, proved that love is apt both to break the laws of men and to desecrate the worship of the gods, seeing that this pair had their fill of the passion of love in the sanctuary of Artemis. And hereafter also were they to use the sanctuary as a bridal-chamber. Forthwith the wrath of Artemis began to destroy the inhabitants; the earth yielded no harvest, and strange diseases occurred of an unusually fatal character. When they appealed to the oracle at Delphoi the Pythian priestess accused Melanippos and Komaitho. The oracle ordered that they themselves should be sacrificed to Artemis, and that every year a sacrifice should be made to the goddess of the fairest youth and the fairest maiden. Because of this sacrifice the river flowing by the sanctuary of Triklaria was called Ameilikhos (Relentless). Previously the river had no name. The innocent youths and maidens who perished because of Melanippos and Komaitho suffered a piteous fate, as did also their relatives; but the pair, I hold, were exempt from suffering, for the one thing that is worth a man's life is to be successful in love."
- Hesiod, The Astronomy - Greek Epic C8th-7th BC
- Homerica, Contest of Homer and Hesiod - Greek Epic BC
- Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th BC
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd BC
- Callimachus, Hymns - Greek C3rd BC
- Pausanias, Guide to Greece - Greek Geography C2nd AD
- Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses - Greek Mythography C2nd AD
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd AD
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd AD
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st BC - C1st AD
- Ovid, Fasti - Latin Epic C1st BC - C1st AD