In the description of the nature and character of this goddess, it is necessary to distinguish between the different points of view from which the Greeks regarded her, and also between the really Greek Artemis and certain foreign divinities, who for some resemblance or another were identified by the Greeks with their own Artemis.
1. Artemis as the sister of Apollo, is a kind of female Apollo, that is, she as a female divinity represented the same idea that Apollo did as a male divinity. In the character of sister of Apollo, Artemis is like her brother armed with a bow, quiver, and arrows, and sends plague and death among men and animals: she is a thea apollousa. Sudden deaths, but more especially those of women, are described as the effect of her arrows. She also acts sometimes in conjunction with her brother.
As Apollo was not only a destructive god, but also averted the evils which it was in his power to inflict, so Artemis was at the same time a thea sôteira; that is, she cured and alleviated the sufferings of mortals. Thus, for instance, she healed Aeneas, when he was wounded and carried into the temple of Apollo. In the Trojan war she sided, like Apollo, with the Trojans. The man whom she looked graciously upon was prosperous in his fields and flocks, his household was thriving, and he died in old age.
She was more especially the protectress of the young, whence the epithets paidotrophos, kourotrophos, and philomeirax; and Aeschylus calls her the protectress of young sucking-animals, and of the game ranging through the forests of the mountains. Artemis thus also came to be regarded as the goddess of the flocks and the chase: she is the huntress among the immortals ; she is called the stag-killer (elaphêbolos), the lover of the tumult connected with the chase (keladeinê), and agrotera.
Artemis is moreover, like Apollo, unmarried; she is a maiden divinity never conquered by love. The laurel was sacred to both divinities, and both were regarded as the founders and protectors of towns and streets.
There are, however, some points also, in which there is no resemblance between Artemis and Apollo: she has nothing to do with music or poetry, nor is there any trace of her having been regarded as an oracular divinity like Apollo. Respecting the real and original character of Artemis as the sister of Apollo, we encounter the same difficulties as those mentioned in the article Apollo, as to whether she was a purely spiritual and ethical divinity, as Müller thinks, or whether she was the representative of some power in physical nature; and the question must be decided here in the same manner as in the case of Apollo.
When Apollo was regarded as identical with the sun or Helios, nothing was more natural than that his sister should be regarded as Selene or the moon, and accordingly the Greek Artemis is, at least in later times, the goddess of the moon. Buttmann and Hermann consider this idea of Artemis being the moon as the fundamental one from which all the others are derived. But, at any rate, the idea of Artemis being the goddess of the moon, must be confined to Artemis the sister of Apollo, and is not applicable to the Arcadian, Taurian, or Ephesian Artemis.
2. The Arcadian Artemis is a goddess of the nymphs, and was worshipped as such in Arcadia in very early times. Her sanctuaries and temples were more numerous in this country than in any other part of Greece. There was no connexion between the Arcadian Artemis and Apollo, nor are there any traces here of the ethical character which is so prominent in Artemis, the sister of Apollo. These circumstances, together with the fact, that her surnames and epithets in Arcadia are nearly all derived from the mountains, rivers, and lakes, shew that here she was the representative of some part or power of nature. In Arcadia she hunted with her nymphs on Taygetus, Erymanthus, and Maenalus; twenty nymphs accompanied her during the chase, and with sixty others, daughters of Oceanus, she held her dances in the forests of the mountains. Her bow, quiver, and arrows, were made by Hephaestus, and Pan provided her with dogs. Her chariot was drawn by four stags with golden antlers. Her temples and sanctuaries in Arcadia were usually near lakes or rivers, whence she was called limnêtis or limnaia. In the precincts of her sanctuaries there were often sacred wells, as at Corinth. As a nymph, Artemis also appears in connexion with river gods, as with Alpheius, and thus it is intelligible why fish were sacred to her.
3. The Taurian Artemis. The legends of this goddess are mystical, and her worship was orgiastic and connected, at least in early times, with human sacrifices. According to the Greek legend there was in Tauris a goddess, whom the Greeks for some reason identified with their own Artemis. and to whom all strangers that were thrown on the coast of Tauris, were sacrificed. Iphigeneia and Orestes brought her image from thence, and landed at Brauron in Attica, whence the goddess derived the name of Brauronia. The Brauronian Artemis was worshipped at Athens and Sparta, and in the latter place the boys were scourged at her altar in such a manner that it became sprinkled with their blood. This cruel ceremony was believed to have been introduced by Lycurgus, instead of the human sacrifices which had until then been offered to her.
A kindred divinity, if not the same as the Taurian Artemis, is Artemis tauropolos, whose worship was connected with bloody sacrifices, and who produced madness in the minds of men, at least the chorus in the Ajax of Sophocles, describes the madness of Ajax as the work of this divinity. In the legends about the Taurian Artemis, it seems that separate local traditions of Greece are mixed up with the legends of some Asiatic divinity, whose symbol in the heaven was the moon, and on the earth the cow.
4. The Ephesian Artemis was a divinity totally distinct from the Greek goddess of the same name. She seems to have been the personification of the fructifying and all-nourishing powers of nature. It is an opinion almost universally adopted, that she was an ancient Asiatic divinity whose worship the Greeks found established in Ionia, when they settled there, and that, for some resemblance they discovered, they applied to her the name of Artemis. As soon as this identity of the Asiatic goddess with the Greek Artemis was recognised, other features, also originally peculiar to the Greek Artemis, were transferred to her; and thus she is called a daughter of Leto, who gave birth to her in the neighbourhood of Ephesus. Her original character is sufficiently clear from the fact, that her priests were eunuchs, and that her image in the magnificent temple of Ephesus represented her with many breasts (polumastos). The whole figure of the goddess resembled a mummy : her head was surmounted with a mural crown (corona muralis), and the lower part of her body, which ended in a point, like a pyramid upside down, was covered with figures of mystical animals. The symbol of this divinity was a bee, and her highpriest bore the name of king. Her worship was said to have been established at Ephesus by the Amazons.
images: 1. Guillaume Seignac // 2. Peter Paul Rubens // 3. Artemis Brauronia (roman copy) // 4. Ephesian Artemis