December 9, 2023

The Artemis Cult in Ancient Greece


Worshipers of Artemis were found throughout the ancient Greek world. One of the most famous places of worship for Artemis was in Attica near Brauron. Artemis is said to have guided all of a woman’s biological transitions from pre-puberty to her first birth.

The cult of Artemis: what is it?

Worshipers of Artemis were found throughout the ancient Greek world. One of the most famous places of worship for Artemis was in Attica near Brauron. Artemis is said to have guided all of a woman’s biological transitions from pre-puberty to her first birth. Even young girls danced for Artemis and played animal roles in some places. At the Attic Site or Brauron, the girls representing the Athenian polis imitated the bear, Arkutoi, in a ceremony called Arcteia, called Brauronia, where the rites performed before girls reached puberty were completed. Brauron is said to have been built by Agamemnon’s daughter, Iphigenia, in the temple of Artemis on the orders of Athena.

History of the cult

The first recognized myth regarding the city is about Artemis taking offense at a sacrifice Agamemnon made to her—she believed it was beneath her. Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek empire, needed favorable winds so his army could leave Greece and sail towards the distant enemy city of Troy. But due to the offense, Artemis wouldn’t grant them this blessing until they gave a proper sacrifice. Agamemnon agreed to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigeneia, to the goddess.

Artemis saved Iphigeneia, taking her to Scythian Tauris, where she became Artemis’ priestess over time. It wasn’t until many years later that Iphigeneia’s brother, Orestes, would be sent by an oracle to steal the cult statue of Artemis. Sadly, Orestes would end up being caught by the Scythians and sentenced to a sacrificial death to please Artemis. Iphigeneia recognized who the man was and agreed to assist her brother in the theft.

Their theft, having been a success, would set up two cult cities for Artemis in Greece. One would be at Halae Araphenides and the second at the city of Brauron. These two locations were chosen by Athena herself who had ordered the cult statue be taken back to Greece. Orestes would set the groundwork for the Artemis Tauropolos cult while his sister, the priestess Iphigeneia, would set the plans for the Artemis Brauronia at nearby Brauron.

The cult of Artemis flourished in Crete or mainland Greece, probably in pre-Hellenistic times. However, local Artemis cults preserved traces of other gods, often with Greek names, and after being adopted by the Greeks.

Religious practices

Artemis, in Greek religion, goddess of wild animals, hunting, vegetation, chastity, and childbirth. She was identified with Diana by the Romans.

Maiden dances depicting tree nymphs (dryads) were especially common in the worship of Artemis as the goddess of tree worship, a role that was particularly popular in the Peloponnese. Throughout the Peloponnese, Artemis, known as Lymnea or Limnatis (Lady of the Lake), accompanied by the nymphs of wells and springs (naiads), oversaw waters and nurtured wild plants in abundance. In parts of the peninsula, their dances were wild and licentious.

Their character and function varied greatly from place to place, but behind all forms there seemed to be a wild nature goddess who danced in the mountains, forests, and marshes, usually accompanied by nymphs. Artemis was the ideal of the sportsman. As an embodiment of this, she protected not only games but games, especially young people. This was the Homeric meaning of the title Queen of Animals.


In Greek mythology, there are various conflicting accounts of the birth of Artemis and her twin brother Apollo. However, in terms of parentage, all accounts agree that she was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin sister of Apollo. In some sources, she was born at the same time as Apollo. but in other sources, was born sooner or later.

Traditionally called twins, the authors of The Homeric Hymn 3 to Apollo (the earliest surviving account of Leto’s migration and the birth of his children) note that only the birth of Apollo, who replaced Artemis, We are dealing with, in fact, it is the somewhat later poet, Pindar, who speaks of monotonous pregnancies, not twins at all in Homer’s hymns. Two of his earliest poets, Homer and Hesiod, affirm that Artemis and Apollo were full brothers born of the same mother and father, although neither is explicitly twins.

According to Callimachus, Hera, angry with her husband Zeus for impregnating Leto, forbade her to give birth on hard ground (the mainland) or on an island, but Delos disobeyed and Leto was born there. According to Homer’s hymn to Artemis, the island where she and her twin were born was Ortigia. In ancient Cretan history, Leto was worshiped on Phaistos, and in Cretan mythology, Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis on the island now known as Paximadia.

School by Servius of Aeneid III. 72 explains the island’s ancient name, Ortygia, and claims that Zeus turned Leto into a quail (ortux) to prevent Hera from learning of his infidelity, while Kenneth MacLeish further states: suggested that Leto was born in the form of a quail. Labor pains are almost non-existent, as when a quail mother lays her eggs.

Myths also differ as to who was born first, Artemis or Apollo. Most stories portray Artemis as the firstborn, who becomes the mother’s midwife after the birth of the brother Apollo. Servius, a grammarian from the late 4th century to his early 5th century states that Artemis was first born on the first night when the moon representing Artemis was the instrument, and then the sun representing Apollo was the instrument. I wrote it because it was noon. But Pinder wrote that when the twins stepped into the bright light, they shone like the sun.

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