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Artemis Seeks Revenge




Preceding Section: Artemis Goddess of Transitions

Artemis Kills for Revenge

Although we may not always be privy to her motives, Artemis also kills when she thinks it is deserved. Eumaios, Odysseus' swineherd, tells how when he was little, Phoenician traders persuaded his family's Phoenician servant to return to Sidon with them. On her way, she grabbed the young Eumaios and took him on board the ship where Artemis shot her down. When the traders arrived in port, they sold Eumaios as a slave to Odysseus' father Laertes. (Odyssey 15.478).

In another case, the goddess is angry with Laodameia, daughter of Bellerophon, for unspecified reasons and so the woman must die:

but when Bellerophon came to be hated by all the gods, he wandered all desolate and dismayed upon the Alean plain, gnawing at his own heart, and shunning the path of man. Mars, insatiate of battle, killed his son Isander while he was fighting the Solymi; his daughter was killed by Diana [Artemis] of the golden reins, for she was angered with her.
Iliad 6.203-206 Butler translation

Artemis kills Orion for consorting with the Dawn

"Oh you vile gods, in jealousy supernal!
You hate it when we choose to lie with men -
immortal flesh by some mortal side.
So radiant Dawn once took to bed Orion
until you easeful gods grew peevish at it,
and holy Artemis, Artemis throned in gold,
hunted him down in Delos with her arrows...."
Odyssey 5.118-24 Fitzgerald translation
In Iliad 9, Artemis sends the Kalydonian Boar to do her dirty work after Oineus forgets to give her his first fruits.
For Diana of the golden throne was angry and did them hurt because Oeneus had not offered her his harvest first-fruits. The other gods had all been feasted with hecatombs, but to the daughter of great Jove alone he had made no sacrifice. He had forgotten her, or somehow or other it had escaped him, and this was a grievous sin. Thereon the archer goddess in her displeasure sent a prodigious creature against him -- a savage wild boar with great white tusks that did much harm to his orchard lands, uprooting apple-trees in full bloom and throwing them to the ground.
Iliad 9.533-40 Butler translation

Artemis Kills for Other Gods or to Preserve her Modesty

Artemis also kills for other gods. She kills Ariadne on Dionysus' say-so alone:
... and Ariadne,
daughter of Minos, the grim king. Theseus took her
aboard with him from Krete for the terraced land
of ancient Athens; but he had no joy of her. Artemis killed her on the Isle of Dia
at a word from Dionysos.
Odyssey 11.320-25 Fitzgerald translation

She kills Asklepios' mother Koronis at Apollo's request, according to Pindar (Pythian 3).

In an early version of the story of Artemis' killing Aktaion, the goddess acts not for herself, but for Zeus, who fears Aktaion is a rival for Semele's affection. In a later version, told by Kallimachos and by Ovid in his Metamorphoses, Aktaion is out in the woods hunting deer when he inadvertently runs across Artemis washing. Outraged, she turns him into a deer. Then his companions and his own hounds, without being able to recognize him, hunt Aktaion down and tear him to pieces.

There's a lesson to be learned: If you're going to thwart the virgin huntress goddess, make sure she's fully dressed and armed. Then the odds are good, since she's a perfect marksman, that your death will be as swift as her arrows.

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