Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Tobias Fischer-Hansen, Birte Poulsen (ed.), From Artemis to Diana: The Goddess of Man and Beast. Acta hyperborea 12. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 2009. Pp. 585. ISBN 9788763507882. $94.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Maria Beatrice Bittarello, John Cabot University


From Artemis to Diana: the Goddess of Man and Beast, is a welcome and valuable contribution to the study of the many facets of Artemis and Diana, from the Bronze Age to modern reinterpretations and from mainland Greece to the frontiers of the Greek and Roman world. All the contributions are in English but one, which is in German, , and are generally very well written.1 The number and high quality of the illustrations (black and white and colors) are worth a mention, as well as the bibliographies attached to each article, since they offer an excellent panorama of the state of the studies on Artemis, and list relevant works in many modern languages. Three distinct indexes (of sources, names, and epithets) complete the volume.

In the introduction to this volume of Acta Hyperborea, the editors (Fischer-Hansen and Poulsen) briefly outline the main issues connected to the study of Artemis, and summarize each of the twenty contributions.2 Almost all the articles are revised versions of papers presented to a conference held at the University of Copenhagen in March 2005. Most papers are by archaeologists, philologists, and historians, which perhaps explains the presence in several articles of expressions such as, for example, 'nature goddess' or 'mana', whose validity is largely questioned in the study of religions.

The first of the four sections of the volume focuses on Artemis in the Near East and in Greece.3 Nosch examines the attestations of Artemis name in Linear B, explores the issue of the possible derivation of Artemis from the 'Potnia Theron'(Mistress of wild animals), and concludes that Artemis was an important figure in the Mycenaean Bronze Age.

Hjerrold also focuses on Artemis as 'Potnia Theron' but explores the possible connections between Artemis and the Anatolian great goddesses such as Cybele. Particularly intriguing is the connections between Artemis and the Iranian goddess known to the Greeks as Anaïtis.

As Jensen shows, in the Homeric poems and in the Homeric hymns, Artemis does not play a central role, even if there are significant allusions to mythic cycles in which Artemis had greater relevance (such as the stories related to the Calydonian boar). The author's detailed analysis of Artemis's epithets in the texts is of particular interest; for example, the most frequently used appellative is ioechaira ('arrow-pouring') which refers to the goddess's activity as archer and death giver.

Mejer draws on archaeological and literary sources in his survey of all the sanctuaries of Artemis in Athens. He argues that Artemis in Athens was associated with civic values, whereas her role as goddess of the wild (Agrotera) was not equally important. The next short contribution is also by Mejer, who presents a dedicatory inscription to Artemis recently found by the new Danish-Greek excavations at Calydon.

Nielsen analyses the available evidence on the sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia, in the attempt to locate the settings of the rituals that took place at Brauron. Nielsen examines the rituals depicted on the krateriskoi found in the sanctuary, and the vast area occupied by the sanctuary. She makes distinctions between rituals involving initiations and rituals connected to the procession related to the Attic festival of the Brauronia.

Lundgren discusses the history of the interpretations of the marble head of a child now in Copenhagen. Although Lundgren does not rule out the possibility that the head comes from Brauron, she stresses that this is not certain. This case study is particularly relevant in relation to a critical issue such as the interpretation of ancient material objects.

Kaasgaard Falb critically analyses the remaining structures of the archaic and proto-archaic temple, the small lead figurines, and the grotesque and heroic masks, found at the Artemis Orthia in Sparta. The author's comparison of the lead objects and of the terracotta masks with analogous examples from the Near East, particularly from the Phoenician world, suggests that the Spartans creatively reshaped Eastern models. Based on the evaluation of such materials, Falb convincingly suggests that the identification of Artemis and Orthia was already completed in the 6th century BC.

des Bouvrie examines the history of the interpretations of the cult of Artemis Ortheia, read either as vegetation/fertility/fecundity ritual or as initiatory ritual, and offers an intriguing reassessment of the cult, highlighting the varying symbolic function of this cult in relation to historical and cultural developments. For example, she suggests that in the Classical age the Artemis Ortheia cult primarily served to sharply separate the elite from the rest of Spartan society. By using a range of methodologies drawn from anthropological studies the author underlines the multidimensional phenomena (p. 165) and undermines interpretations based on modern assumptions, now challenged in the study of religions.

The second section, on Artemis' regional aspects, opens with Wriedt Sorensen's analysis of the evidence for the cult of Artemis in Cyprus, which do not show signs of assimilation to the Great Mother figures of the Near East. Sorensen points out that the statuettes and statues portraying Artemis are significantly consistent with Artemis's iconography in mainland Greece; the appellatives found in inscriptions are also usually known in the rest of Greek world.

Fischer-Hansen's very detailed analysis of the available archaeological and literary evidence for the cult of Artemis in Sicily and in the Magna Grecia, shows that this goddess's cult cannot be found there before Greek colonization. He underlines the link between Artemis and colonization, shown, for example, by the myth of the diffusion of the cult of Artemis Taurian in Southern Italy, and by the expansion of Artemis's cult in connection with Timoleon's new foundations. Fischer-Hansen also highlights the dual role of Artemis as goddess of the wild (with her sanctuaries located in boundary zones), and as goddess connected to rural activities.

Nielsen and Rathje's excellent article surveys the available evidence on the Etruscan goddess Artumes, who was not just a calque of Artemis. As the authors show, the divine profile of Artumes was probably originally shaped by Phoenician influences and Greek myths and adapted to the Etruscan religious framework. Nonetheless Artumes was constantly recreated in original ways: for example, in certain areas closely related to Latium she developed into a Moon goddess with rituals similar to those of Diana Nemorensis.

Guldager Bilde's article is an overview of where and when Artemis was worshipped in the Black Sea, which is based on the analysis of dedications, coins and theophoric names, summarized in eleven tables. The article is notable for the careful methodology and for the clever use of the possibilities offered by electronic resources for crossing data.

Ballesteros Pastor links the possible existence of an Artemis sanctuary in Themiscyra near the mouth of the river Thermodon, which was traditionally described as a stronghold of the Amazons, to the use of Artemis in the Greek colonization of the Black Sea. The strongest piece of evidence in support of the presence of a sanctuary of Artemis in Themiscyra is perhaps the author's interpretation of a passage in Appian (Mith. 78), in which the inhabitants of Themiscyra use bees and bears as weapons against the Romans.

The third section of the volume, on Artemis and Diana in Rome, is opened by Moltesen . By comparing a group of terracotta sculptures photographed from the excavations at Nemi in 1885 with photographs of a fragment at the Boston Museum, recently identified as coming from Nemi, Moltesen convincingly shows that they all belonged to a temple pediment. In the fascinating final section of the paper the author shows details on how Diana and the Egyptian goddesses Isis and Bastet were both assimilated and juxtaposed in the sanctuary at Nemi, where their cults both supplemented each other and overlapped.

In his paper, Carlsen analyses two inscriptions that link two Domitii Ahenobarbi to the sanctuaries of Artemis in Samos and Ephesos, in order to test whether this aristocratic family had a special relation with Artemis. He also explores the connections between the Roman Diana Aventina and the Ephesian Artemis.

Raja argues that the construction of an Artemis sanctuary in the city of Gerasa in modern Jordan in the Antonine period is part of a re-inscription of the city center and of a strategic plan to expand the city, since a sanctuary of Artemis already existed in a different urban location. Raja also shows that the elites of Gerasa consistently attempted to found the city's identity on its religious cults (especially of Artemis and Zeus).

Poulsen focuses on the iconography of Artemis as goddess of the hunt (Agrotera) in the imperial and Late antique period. Poulsen examines Greek and Roman literary texts on various aspects of hunting, several representations of the hunting Artemis and of her sanctuaries in a non urban context. Poulsen connects the frequent scenes of sacrifices that take place in front of Artemis's statues to rituals presumably performed before (or after) the hunt in sanctuaries located in groves and probably frequented only by hunters.

Hannestad's interpretation of the Bertrich Diana as a goddess of healing, since she was found in a sanctuary near a curative spring, where also Celtic goddesses of healing were worshipped , is consistent with Artemis's functions.4 He argues that the Bertrich Diana is part of a group of a small size marble statuettes that may have been produced in the 4th century in a workshop near Arles. Hannestad's comparison of several marble sculptures offers evidence that such a workshop most probably produced both sarcophagi and small size sculptures.

The fourth section, devoted to the modern reception of Artemis, contains only one paper, Nielsen's history of the modern interpretations of the Ephesian Artemis 'multimammia'. Nielsen shows how modern interpretations of Artemis Ephesia, which are based on the mistaken interpretation of the goddess's pectoral as breasts, start with Raphael, who linked Artemis Ephesia to Nature. This case study of the role played by Artemis of Ephesus in the European cultural world throughout the centuries can be of particular interest for those interested in contemporary reinterpretations of Artemis and Diana.

In conclusion, it is not just the lack of monographic studies on Artemis and Diana, but the variety of approaches to the study of these goddesses and the quality of the contributions that make of this valuable book a worthy addition to academic libraries.


1.   The very low number of typos is a remarkable achievement in a volume of more than 500 pages. Here are listed the ones found: Hypplolitus for Hyppolitus (p. 73); "questioned:" for "questioned." (p. 166); Cheronesean for Chersonesean (p.318); "When Paganism became dominant" for "When Christianity..." (p. 433); the full reference for Weichkert (1929) is missing (p. 488).
2.   The editors mention two important recent contributions to the study of Artemis (Susan Guettel Cole, Landscapes, Gender, and Ritual Space: the Ancient Greek Experience, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004 reviewed in BMCR 2004.09.18), and Diana (Carin M.C. Green, Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007 reviewed in BMCR 2007.10.49).
3.   A fifth section of the journal, entitled 'Forum', is devoted to other topics: an interesting exploration of trenches in the countryside by Alexandra Fani-Alexandridou; reports for Danish fieldwork in the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas; and two book reviews.
4.   Artemis is presented as a healing goddess already in book 5 of the Iliad, in which she cures the wounded Aeneas together with her mother Leto.

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