Gateway to the Classics: Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men by Caroline H. and Samuel B. Harding
Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men by  Caroline H. and Samuel B. Harding

Artemis, the Huntress-Goddess

A RTEMIS was the twin sister of Apollo, and like him she was very skillful with the bow and arrow. When very young, she went to her father, Zeus, and begged him to allow her to live a free and happy life upon the beautiful mountains. Zeus granted her wish, and so she became the great huntress-goddess of the fields and forests.

As Apollo was the god of the sun and the bright daylight, so Artemis was the goddess of the moon. She loved to hunt by moonlight; and when the Greeks made statues of her, they sometimes represented her with a torch held high in one hand and a bow in the other. Artemis always had a band of maidens with her, who ran beside her, and took care of her dogs, and carried her arrows. She could run so swiftly that she could overtake the fleetest deer in the hunt. She and her maidens would dash through the forests with cries and merry laughter, and then when the hunt was over they would bathe in the pure mountain streams.

Artemis loved the woods and mountains so dearly that she rarely left them for the cities of men. But she was very selfish in her love of them, and did not wish to be disturbed in her enjoyment. There was once a young man named Actaeon, who was a great hunter, and who often wandered through the forests alone with his dogs. One day he came upon the goddess Artemis, playing with her maidens upon the banks of a stream. Instead of going away at once, as he should have done, he stood quite still and watched them. This made Artemis so angry that she changed him into a deer, and his own dogs then turned upon him, and tore him to pieces.

Artemis loved all the animals of the forest, but her favorite was the deer. Once a great king of the Greeks killed a doe of which Artemis was very fond. This king was just starting out upon a great war, and he had many vessels in the harbor all ready to sail. But day after day passed, and the wind blew constantly from the wrong direction, and the vessels could not put out to sea. The Greeks grew impatient, and asked the priest why it was that the gods gave them no fair breeze.

Then the priest consulted the gods, and told the people that Artemis was angry because the king had killed her doe, and that she would not let the right winds blow until the king gave up his young daughter to be sacrificed upon the altar of the goddess At first the king refused to do this, for he loved his daughter greatly; but at last he had to consent. Then the beautiful girl was led to the altar, and the priest raised his long knife to strike. But before it fell upon her breast, a cloud dropped over her, and hid her from sight. When it floated away the girl was nowhere to be seen; only a white doe remained in her place, and this the priest sacrificed in her stead.

The goddess had taken pity upon the maiden, and carried her in the midst of that thick cloud far away to a distant country. There she served for a long time as priestess in one of the temples to Artemis. But at last, after many years, her brother found her, and she was allowed to come back to her own country and friends once more.

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