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Artemis

Artemis (ärˈtəmĭs) [key], in Greek religion and mythology, Olympian goddess, daughter of Zeus and Leto and twin sister of Apollo. Artemis' early worship, especially at Ephesus, identified her as an earth goddess, similar to Astarte. In later legend, however, she was primarily a virgin huntress, goddess of wildlife and patroness of hunters. Of the many animals sacred to her, the bear was most important. Artemis valued her chastity so highly that she took terrible measures against anyone who even slightly threatened her (e.g., Actaeon). She was attended by nymphs, whose virginity she guarded as jealously as her own. She was also an important goddess in the life of women, concerned with marriage and with the young of all creatures. As the complement to Apollo, she was often considered a moon goddess and as such was identified with Selene and Hecate. In ancient Greece, the worship of Artemis was widespread. The Romans identified her with Diana. She is mentioned in the biblical book of Acts of the Apostles, where she appears to be in competition with the god of the Christians.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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