The hunting nurturer part 2: The Ionian Artemis

I had purposely decided to make this into two different posts (just didn’t get around to writing it until now) because alot of scholars make a big distinction between the Artemis of mainland Hellas and that of Ionia. And since the words of scholars tend to hold alot of weight with the recon community I felt it in better taste to address it seperately. That said, I don’t agree with them on this point. The Hellenes clearly saw the Artemis of Ionia to be the same goddess, and evidence of Hellenic representations of the goddess in her hunting attire gifted to the goddess as devotional statuary certainly attests to this. There is also a fine book that I read some years ago (just months before I lost an entire notebook of research during a movie..I know..I know… what is with me habitually loosing research?) from the university library about the festivals of Ephesus and it remarked on a pair of statues that were paraded on Artemis’ birthday in Ephesus. A gold statue of the goddess with her torch and a silver statue of the goddess with her bow and a gold stag beside her (I think I got that correct and not turned around because I recall thinking it was curious that the stag was of a different and more precious metal than the goddess herself). While the birth of Apollon and Artemis was celebrated on Delos as part one Ionian alliance, simultaneously another Ionian alliance (primarily of those principalities of Ionia itself) celebrated at the temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

The most objection to the Ionian Artemis not being differentiated from that of the mainland Hellas is based on the cult image of Artemis. It seems to me that alot of this though comes from remodelation of the cult image by Romans in which the egg-like shapes at her torso (and I believe them to represent eggs which are not uncommon imagery, they can be found all over the place at Eleusis for example) where made literally into breasts. The fact that they are not breasts and are spiritual representations can be demonstrated by depictions of Zeus from Ionia (picture attached is of Zeus Heliopolintanus which somewhat resembles the Ephesian Artemis and appears to be have one of these orbs at his chest. Sadly since I don’t have access to my articles I can’t provide the better image that was in one that had three orbs but otherwise looked almost identical), where he is also garlanded with this shapes about his chest..often though as few as three. Therefore the dividing line just had be affirmed between the Ephesian Ionian Artemis and that of Hellas, regardless of the viewpoint clearly demonstrated by the ancient peoples which believed that this was Artemis.

The main cult statue of the goddess is distinct in its image and seems to have a pose and expression that is of a more archaic nature (including the more column-like form of the dress and the facial features of the goddess) though most samples of this statue that have been discovered are of a later date. All the same, the Ephesian statue has some interesting characteristics about it. The crown on the goddess in many examples is a representation of the city, not unusual imagery for any deity that was the patron/ess of a particular city, so while it is interesting it is not all that remarkable in itself. As I have already talked of the “breasts” above I will skip that here, and go on to her skirt. Her skirt on the large cult statues is typically adorned with all manner of animals. The sphinx is perhaps the only mythical creature displayed on her form. Often around the crown and sometimes in the skirt. There is however, a row on skirt which appears to be griffins. In looking at photographs I have also discerned leopards, lions, cattle, antelopes, and of course bees at the side panels. None of these would be considered particularly unusual to be associated with Artemis. The sphinx itself is a celebrated spiritual creature of which copies can be found all over Hellas.  I recall the rather large one that I saw when visiting Delos for instance. Spirit-type adornments can also be found in side panels of her skirt, full view of which are never documented in photographs to my frustration, in which some winged feminine being presides in each panel scene. All the animals decorating her skirts though indicates that these are animals possibly particular to her cult, but more so represent living creatures in general and the nurture the goddess provides to life in general. The pose of the hands always gave me some confusion. While they appeared to be open and easily made me think of the goddess gathering to her life, the position of the hands themselves often made me feel that something was missing. And I found what I feel is the answer in perhaps the last likely place.

This image of Artemis at Ephesus was obviously a powerful one, and became very popular in Rome after a copy from Ephesus was installed at the Aventine temple of Diana. Supposedly Caesar wrote of seeing this statue in the temple in his youth. And certainly it was popular in common worship. I think the most plentiful and most intact images of the Ephesian Artemis as preserved in Roman copies…particularly the small household images (these I had mentioned in a previous post about Artemis and Hekate), placed outside the front door of homes in little niches, made of terracotta. Sometimes they had animals on them, sometimes just roses and bees, and the number of orbs on the torso varied. But the posture was always the same and her side the two deer. Yet it was the hands that caught my attention. In one statue you could you see in the open palm, between the palm and thumb, torches. And in the article (there are many articles of Artemis Ephesus that can be found in Jstor..I wish I could recall specifically which article had the specific pictures I am talking of) it was explained how in one statue, the touch the torches were absent, there were grooves at the base beside her feet and it was likely the small lit torches were set in her hands. Therefore with the Ionian Artemis I was seeing another beautiful example of the torch bearing Artemis, the cult statue being one that is nurturing all life, gathering it to herself, and was bearing her torches. A goddess of the portal of life indeed!

Other articles on the archaeolgy of her temple were just as interesting. Scenes of Aclestis returning from the underworld wearing the crown of Persephone (for those who need a reminder Aclestis was the wife of Admetus, Apollon’s favorite king whom he had been sentenced to serve as a shepherd but because of the king’s greatness helped him to not only secure his bride Aclestis but also to escape his fated death around which Euripedes’ tragedy Aclestis addresses) with Thanatos behind her and led forward by Herakles. This is not unexpected, though it is interesting to have an mainland mythic scene featured in an Ionian temple but all the same, as Ephesus boasted itself as the original birthplace of Apollon and Artemis (and Apollon had a large temple in the city which appears to be have weathered time a bit better than that of the temple of Artemis outside the city limits to my way of thinking) it is perhaps not surprising to see such collaborations especially as in the marriage of Admetus to Aclestis Artemis does play a role as an angry goddess who, when forgotten to be sacrificed to at their wedding, sent serpents into their marriage bed and after such amends (with Apollon’s help) would have likely been favorable towards the pair.

Other scenes include, if memory serves me, similar return scenes of Persephone with Hermes, among scenes of Heroic deeds..I believe the labor of Herakles was also depicted on some of the column drums in addition to these. I really need to look at the articles again and make another attempt to catalogue all of these lol. All of these seem to suggest a return of life, or an entrance of life, and the progression of life (and what better way to show such than the labors of hero). That accension of the hero from commonality, and symbolic of the growth and evolution of life, was important to the cult of Artemis in Ionia can be demonstrated by the fact that at the end of her birthday festival those who were selected to carry her statues back to the temple were the “heroic” champions of the games. And of course the famous statuary of the legendary Amazons who were said to have founded her cult should not be forgotten as symbols that represented the ancient presence of the goddess but also a shared history with mainland Greece, particularly with Athens, recalling that Theseus stole away the Amazon queen in marriage when on expedition with Herakles, but, according to Apollodoros’s the Library, when he replaced her with another wife the other Amazons were so insulted that they stormed Athens. But the issue born of himself and the Amazon queen, Hippolytus, had the favor of Artemis. So the Amazons affirm Artemis’ native heritage and her connection with Hellas too. And with all these scenes of Artemis and the return of new life in her temple, it should surprise us little that a statue of Hekate was also erected just behind the temple itself.

Therefore, the long and short of all of this is that while the Ionian representation did not utterly disregard the slaying aspects of Artemis, they, and something not uncommon in Hellas as I think I illustrated well enough in my previous post, celebrated Artemis in the primary cult image in that function which pertains the most to daily life of the living, and that is the goddess who nurtures and sustains life. The divine nurse, the divine spring of the gods. In Ionia the huntress aspect of Artemis seems to had taken a secondary following role to the nature of Artemis, which probably explains why the huntress statue followed that of the torch bearing statue in the procession, and was of a different quality of metal which her stag, that which represented the life she had nurtured into fruitfulness, was of the same metal as the light-bearing image. And of course a testiment to the nature of Artemis, which is both savage through her slaying but nuturing, could also have been demonstrated by the lionesses which were part of the procession train.

this I think rounds out and confludes what I wanted to address of Artemis as the hunting nurturer/nurturing huntress. She is a goddess who greets new life at the portal of life, nurtures and sustains it, and then chases it to the portal of death, typically with arrows but it does give one a new slanted view on the mythic reference to her chasing the chariot of Hades when he kidnaps Persephone!


6 thoughts on “The hunting nurturer part 2: The Ionian Artemis

  1. About those “eggs”, it is interesting to not ethat they seem similar in shape and use in iconography with depictions of Kybele. And in the Kybele-cult they represented the testicles of her priests, as these had to ritually castrate themselves with a potshard in order to serve her.

    • I have heard that too, and I have heard speculations that this may have been the same in the cult of the Ephesian Artemis who also had a sect of castrated priests, but this opinion seems to be a minor one among academics, largely perhaps because there is no direct record or mythic implication of such an act being done in honor of Artemis. Those scholars who held similar ideas for Artemis generally talked about the rituals for Cybele and applied them to the Ephesian Artemis. Not that the Asian Artemis wasn’t fierce. The Tauric Artemis came from a Black Sea island around the northern coast of Asia Minor and we can recall myths of sacrifices to this goddess being stranded sailors. Still with the absent of myths and references about Artemis being honored in the same manner, I tend to go with scholars who call them eggs as they egg represented life on a personal and cosmic scale (ie the orphic egg). At first I wondered at the narrow point being towards the bottom, but the egg reliefs at Eleusis were similarly depicted on the column tops at the same angle. But I don’t let it disturb me too much. If folks want to see testicles that is their right, but I will still call them eggs lol.

      • I don’t think this would have been done in any cult of Artemis, not in the mainstream ones at least… But I don’t know enough about the specific subject of Ephesian Artemis to say anything with great certainty on the matter. In any case, I agree they are probably eggs. The lack of nipples at least proves they aren’t breasts (which would have made some sense because of her begin a “nurse” of life).

      • oohh the roman copies did have nipples lol. Some of them anyway. If you google Diana Ephesus you will see some pretty famous Roman villa copies. One of which water literally pours from them 😉 But like I have said many times before.. Romans weren’t shy about putting a different spin on things. Most simple roman copies didn’t have that addition, but some of the more elaborate ones did. But the statues of Ephesus did not, nor did the majority of Roman copies, so I tend to dismiss this innovation 😉

  2. Pingback: What I’ve Been Reading… « Writ, Ritual, and Revelation

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