Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and the nymph Leto . Like her twin brother Apollo, who each morning set the azure heavens aflame with his glorious sun chariot, Artemis softly illuminated the evening skies with her delicate moon beams.
In addition to reigning over the ethereal orb of the night, Artemis was also worshiped as the divine huntress, and could often be found in the company of her female attendants happily roaming through the green and leafy woodlands.
She was known to have an ambivalent personality, possessing the power to bring plague and sudden death to mankind as well as to provide them with comfort and healing.
Because Leto did not experience labor pains while giving birth to her daughter, it was common practice for mortal women to call upon Artemis during the delivery of their own children.
Being the elder of the two twins, it has always been concurred that Artemis assisted her mother during the birth of her brother Apollo. For this reason some accounts celebrate her as being the patron goddess of childbirth, thereupon superseding hera’s daughter Eileithyia of the title.
Like Athena, Artemis had very little interest in men, and though she was worshiped as a fertility goddess in Ephesus, chose to live her life as a virgin. She took her vow of celibacy very seriously and as you will see in the story of Actaeon was quite unforgiving to anyone that threatened her virtue.
Actaeon was the son of Aristaeus, the patron god of bee keeping and Autonoe, the daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia . Like his father, Actaeon was a profound hunter and would often spend his spare time roaming about the lush forests looking for game.
One day while out hunting, Actaeon accidently stumbled upon the goddess Artemis as she and her companions were bathing on Mount Cithaeron. The startled nymphs quickly tried to shroud their unclothed mistress from the eyes of the curious stranger but it was too late.
The vision of the goddess standing unveiled and vulnerable had already been forever captured in Acteaon’s memory. In order to prevent the unlucky spectator from boasting of the incident, Artemis swiftly changed the woodsman into a stag.
Failing to recognize Actaeon as their master, his band of once faithful hounds jumped atop the unlucky hunter and tore him to pieces. It is said that when Actaeon failed to return home, the mournful dogs howled so loudly that the centaur Chiron fashioned a statue in his likeness to help console the pack in their time of grief.