ARTEMIS (Gr. Artemis, Lat. Diana). Diana was the Roman goddess of the moon. A daughter of Jupiter, she was a twin sister of Apollo, who was associated with the sun, as she was with the moon. She was represented as a virgin huntress and was widely worshiped. When the Greek worship penetrated Italy about 400 b.c., the Italians identified Diana with their Artemis, her Greek counterpart. Her worship was pure compared with the sensual worship of eastern gods and goddesses.

“Artemis of the Ephesians” is mentioned only in Acts.19.24-Acts.19.35 (“Diana” in Jb, kjv, neb), and her myths were of a very different sort. Her silver “shrines” (Acts.19.24) were little “temples” containing an image of Artemis as imagined by the Asiatics, a combination of the Greek virgin goddess with the many-breasted and lewd Semitic moon goddess Ashtoreth. For the Ephesians, Artemis was the great Asiatic nursing mother of gods, men, animals, and plants, and was the patroness of the sexual instinct. Her images, instead of being artistically beautiful like those of the Greeks, were ugly, more like the lascivious images of India and Tyre and Sidon. Her special worship was centered in the great temple at Ephesus, probably because of the discovery of a very interesting aerolite that supposedly fell from heaven (Acts.19.35). The feasts of Diana, “who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world” (Acts.19.27), were commercialized, and among the silversmiths there was a large industry in making shrines and idols for the worship of this goddess. The preaching of Paul interfered with this commerce and aroused violent opposition. It seems that Paul and his companions had preached the gospel from the positive side instead of directly attacking the idolatry, for the city clerk testified that they “neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess” (Acts.19.37).——ABF

ARTEMIS är’ tə məs (̓Αρτεμις). Artemis was a goddess universally worshiped throughout the Gr. world, but may have had pre-Hellenic origin, as for example at Ephesus, in which city her cult was undoubtedly grafted on to that of an Asiatic fertility goddess. It may be significant that the name yields no clear Gr. meaning, and it is idle to speculate on the form and shape of the original concept of the deity and her functions. In historical times her sphere was the uncultivated earth, the forests, and the hills. Homer gave her the title, “lady of wild things,” the virgin huntress, armed with bow and arrows.

Other functions were acquired. For example, her role as a city goddess was the result of her popularity among women because she was invoked in childbirth. Aetiological myths accounted for this office by stories of Artemis’ horror at her mother’s birth pains, or by the quite contradictory tale that after Leto had borne her painlessly on the island of Ortygia, she fulfilled herself an obstetric function at the subsequent birth of her twin brother Apollo on the island of Delos. In ancient mythology she is not frequently associated with Apollo. The most probable explanation of Artemis’ function as a goddess of birth is that, in spite of her classical virginity, in ultimate origin she was one of the many mother goddesses of the pre-Hellenic world. Some forms of her ritual seem to have involved the simulation of beast shapes. For example, in one part of Attica little girls in saffron dresses, imitating perhaps the pelt of a bear, danced before her image and were said to “play the bear.” Does this suggest that the original form of the deity was animal? At Halae a pretense of human sacrifice was made by drawing a few drops of blood from a man’s throat with a sword, and this may very well represent an original prehistoric practice and a recollection of some horrifying ritual of fertility worship. It was the Artemis cult of a barbarous people of the Tauric Chersonese (the Crimea) which, allegedly introduced by Orestes, the hero of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Tauris, gave rise to the simulated sacrifice at Halae. At Ephesus, where, as above mentioned, the cult of Artemis was merged with that of an Anatolian fertility goddess, a mighty temple, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was built. Here some cult object, possibly a meteoric stone, was associated with Artemis (Acts 19:35). Amazons, the warrior maids of Asia Minor, are said to have founded the cult of the Ephesian Artemis, and certainly the girls who served the temple were dressed in short skirts with one breast bare, Amazon and huntress fashion. Coins and surviving images seem to depict Ephesian Artemis as many-breasted, but the multiple protuberances may be stylized bunches of grapes or figs, symbols of fertility. The shrine in Ephesus had become a tourist attraction and an economic asset in the days of the city’s commercial decline. The ire of the silversmiths who made little models of the temple for tourists and pilgrims is told in the brilliant narrative of Acts 19. Diana (KJV) is a Romanization of Artemis.


W. M. Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches (1904), ch. XVII; C. Seltman, The Twelve Olympians and Their Guests (1960), ch. X.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A deity of Asiatic origin, the mother goddess of the earth, whose seat of worship was the temple in Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia. Diana is but the Latinized form of the Greek word Artemis, yet the Artemis of Ephesus should not be confused with the Greek goddess of that name.

She may, however, be identified with the Cybele of the Phrygians whose name she also bore, and with several other deities who were worshipped under different names in various parts of the Orient. In Cappadocia she was known as Ma; to the Syrians as Atargatis or Mylitta; among the Phoenicians as Astarte, a name which appears among the Assyrians as Ishtar; the modern name Esther is derived from it. The same goddess seems to have been worshipped by the Hittites, for a female deity is sculptured on the rocks at Yazili Kaya, near the Hittite city of Boghazkeui. It may be shown ultimately that the various goddesses of Syria and Asia Minor all owe their origin to the earlier Assyrian or Babylonian Ishtar, the goddess of love, whose chief attributes they possessed. The several forms and names under which she appears axe due to the varying developments in different regions.

Tradition says that Diana was born in the woods near Ephesus, where her temple was built, when her image of wood (possibly ebony; Pliny, NH, xvi. 40; Ac 19:35) fell from the sky (see also ASTRONOMY, sec. I, 8 (2)). Also according to tradition the city which was later called Ephesus was founded by the Amazons, and Diana or Cybele was the deity of those half-mythical people. Later when Ephesus fell into the possession of the Greeks, Greek civilization partly supplanted the Asiatic, and in that city the two civilizations were blended together. The Greek name of Artemis was given to the Asiatic goddess, and many of the Greek colonists represented her on their coins as Greek. Her images and forms of worship remained more Asiatic than Greek Her earliest statues were figures crudely carved in wood. Later when she was represented in stone and metals, she bore upon her head a mural headdress, representing a fortitled city wall; from it, drapery hung upon each side of her face to her shoulders. The upper part of her body was completely covered with rows of breasts to signify that she was the mother of all life. The lower arms were extended. The lower part of the body resembled a rough block, as if her legs had been wrapped up in cloth like those of an Egyptian mummy. In later times her Greek followers represented her with stags or lions standing at her sides. The most renowned of her statues stood on the platform before the entrance to her temple in Ephesus. As the statues indicate, she impersonated the reproductive powers of men and of animals and of all other life.

At the head of her cult was a chief priest, originally a eunuch who bore the name and later the title Megabyzos. Under him were priests known as Essenes, appointed. perhaps from the city officials, for but a single year; it was their duty to offer the sacrifices to the goddess in behalf of the city. Other subordinate classes of priests known as Kouretes, Krobatai and Hilroi performed duties which are now obscure. The priestesses were even more numerous, and, probably from their great numbers, they were called Melissai or bees; the Ephesian symbol therefore which appears commonly upon the coins struck in the city, is a bee. The Melissai, which in the early times were all virgins, were of three classes; it is no longer known just what the special duties of each class were. The ritual of the temple services consisted of sacrifices and of ceremonial prostitution, a practice which was common to many of the religions of the ancient Orient, and which still exists among some of the obscure tribes of Asia Minor.

The temple of Diana was not properly the home of the goddess; it was but a shrine, the chief one, devoted to her service. She lived in Nature; she was everywhere wherever there was life, the mother of all living things; all offerings of every possible nature were therefore acceptable to her; hence, the vast wealth which poured into her temple. Not only was she worshipped in her temple, but in the minute shrines or naoi which were sometimes modeled after the temple. More frequently the shrines were exceedingly crude objects, either of silver or stone or wood or clay. They were made at Ephesus by dependents of the temple, and carried by the pilgrims throughout the world. Before them Diana might also be worshipped anywhere, just as now from the soil of the sacred Mesopotamian city of Kerbela, where the sons of Ali were martyred, little blocks are formed and are carried away by the Shiah Moslems that they may pray upon sacred ground wherever they may be. The makers of the shrines of Diana formed an exceedingly large class among whom, in Paul’s time, was Demetrius (Ac 19:24). None of the silver shrines have been discovered, but those of marble and of clay have appeared among the ruins of Ephesus. They are exceedingly crude; in a little shell-like bit of clay, a crude clay female figure sits, sometimes with a tambourine in one hand and a cup in the other, or with a lion at her side or beneath her foot. Though the shrines were sold as sacred dwelling-places of the goddess, that the pilgrims who carried them to their distant homes, or buried them in the graves with their dead, might be assured of her constant presence, their real purpose was to increase the temple revenues by their sale at a price which was many times their cost. With the shrines of Diana may be compared the household gods of clay found in abundance among the ruins of the earlier Babylonian cities, especially those cities in which temples to the goddess Ishtar stood.

See also

  • Diana