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Representations in Art

Hippolytus in Art and Literature. In the Iliad Artemis takes part in the theomachy of Book 21 and is beaten violently by Hera. By far the most important conflict of Artemis with another divinity is her rivalry with Aphrodite in the myth of Hippolytus. The classic interpretation of the conflicting demands of sensuality and chastity is that of Euripides, as we have seen. The full title of his play (to distinguish it from his first Hippolytus, which does not survive) is Hippolytus Stephanephoros (Garland-Bearer) of 428 B.C., in which Artemis is unable to save Hippolytus from his fate as the victim of the anger of Aphrodite: the setting is Troezen, where there was a cult of Hippolytus. Among the post-Euripidean dramas on the myth are the Phaedra of Seneca (d. A.D. 65), set in Athens, which explores the psychological tensions of the myth without bringing in the goddesses; Racine’s Phèdre (1677), in which Hippolytus is made to be the lover of Aricia; Eugene O’Neill’s Desire under the Elms (1924), set in New England in 1850; finally, Robinson Jeffers’ The Cretan Woman (1954), a powerful adaptation of Euripides’ play in which Aphrodite (but not Artemis) has a role.
A collection of plays with related essays is regrettably out of print: Phaedra and Hippolytus, Myth and Dramatic Form, edited by James L. Sanderson and Irwin Gopnik (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966). It contains the plays just mentioned by Euripides, Seneca, Racine, Jeffers, and O’Neill, which so beautifully illustrate how varied, interesting, and illuminating the manipulation of the Hippolytus motif has been. Racine, by giving Hippolytus a girlfriend, Aricia, drastically changes the configuration of the archetype. Jeffers is closer to Euripides by keeping Hippolytus’ abhorrence of sex; but when he introduces a companion for Hippolytus who is "slender and rather effeminate," he suggests another shifting of the archetype. At any rate, once Hippolytus' sexual orientation is made too explicit, the mystery of his psyche is diminished. Euripides gets everything right, a judgment made with due appreciation of the masterpieces that he has inspired.
To be sure, all adaptations of Euripides are not masterpieces. A recent music drama, Ode to Phaedra, by George Roumanis, with libretto by Frank Zajaczkowski (an Opera San Jose/KTEH Production, 1995, seen on TV), has Phaedra commit suicide by poison, after which she is brought to life by Aphrodite to die (again) by her own sword!
The myth has been more forcefully represented in drama than in art, but there is an impressive red-figure vase painting (ca. 340 B.C., now in London) showing the bull rising from the sea as Hippolytus drives his four-horse chariot and a Fury brandishes a torch. Episodes of the myth also have been narrated on many sarcophagus reliefs. A group of three (all ca. 300 A.D.: one, the best, now in Paris) show Phaedra on the left, Hippolytus and the nurse in the center, and Theseus on the right. Of later works, The Death of Hippolytus, an oil-sketch by Rubens, is very powerful (ca. 1612, now in London).
Vergil (Aeneid 7.761–82) and Ovid (Metamorphoses 15.479-546) narrate how Hippolytus was brought back to life by Asclepius and "the love of Diana." He was called Virbius (as was the borne son by Aricia, whom Hippolytus married after his resurrection) and associated with the cult of Diana near the town of Aricia (a few miles southeast of Rome). This legend belongs to the myths of the Roman goddess Diana (identified with Artemis), for which see MLS, Chapter 26.

Depictions of Artemis. Artemis is shown with other Olympians in group representations (e.g., at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis on the François and Sophilos vases, riding in a chariot with Athena, on the Parthenon frieze). Artemis is called the Mistress of Animals by Homer (Iliad 21.470), a title and function that may have been established in pre-Greek (Cretan) and Mycenaean cultures. She is shown holding an animal in each hand in archaic Greek art: for example, as a standing winged figure she holds a lion in each hand on one of the painted handles of the François Vase (ca. 575 B.C., now in Florence), and a stag and a panther on the other handle. She both protects and hunts animals. When one of her protected animals is harmed, she exacts revenge, as in the myth of Iphigenia (see Chapter 18). In Euripides’ play Iphigenia in Tauris (412 B.C.), Athena foretells that Iphigenia herself will return to Greece and be the priestess of Artemis at Brauron (in Attica). The cult at Brauron was connected also with Artemis as goddess of childbirth, and young girls, representing little bears, danced for her and were dedicated to her service there for a period.
As huntress Artemis is shown with bow, arrows, and quiver, her clothing loose and her limbs uncovered: exemplary is Artemis the Huntress, a Roman marble copy of a Greek bronze statue (original 4th-century B.C.; copy now in Paris). In her hunting she is accompanied by a band of virgins, some of whom must once have been goddesses (e.g., Callisto, whose name means "most beautiful"). Those who break their oath of chastity she punishes, as in Titian’s Diana and Callisto (ca. 1559, now in Edinburgh and Vienna). A fine romantic representation of Artemis and her nymphs in a mountainous landscape is the painting by Washington Allston, Diana and Her Nymphs in the Chase (1805, now in Cambridge, Massachusetts).

Artemis, Goddess of Childbirth. Artemis is a virgin goddess yet concerned with fertility of animals and human beings, especially in childbirth. In this aspect she was identified at Rome with Lucina. She is shown assisting at the birth of her twin, Apollo, on a red-figure vase (ca. 340 B.C., in Athens): Marcantonio Franceschini, however, paints her as baby in The Birth of Apollo and Diana and Latona and the Lycian Peasants (1699, in Vaduz), in each case with lunar horns on her head: in Franceschini’s Adonis cycle (also in Vaduz, 1699), she is shown as Lucina at the birth of Adonis (see Chapter 9).

Artemis of Ephesus. In Asia Minor she was worshiped as Artemis Ephesia at Ephesus, where her temple was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. Her statues show her standing, wearing a long skirt on which are rows of animal heads and figures: in front of the upper half of her body she displays three rows of breastlike objects, and on her head she wears a turreted crown (in this being similar to the Asiatic fertility goddess, Cybele: see Chapters 9 and 26). These statues date from ca. 130 A.D.: for example, two in Selçuk, Turkey and one in Naples, which is made of alabaster and bronze with black skin. The many-breasted Artemis appears as a fountain figure in Peter Paul Rubens’ The Discovery of the Infant Erichthonius (1616, now in Vaduz).

Artemis and Apollo. Artemis joins with Apollo in a number of myths, especially legends of punishment. She is present when Apollo tries to prevent the attack of Tityos on Leto, in a red-figure Attic vase (ca. 510 B.C., now in Paris). Franceschini (see above) shows her joining him in killing Python. She is present at the contest of Apollo and Marsyas, for example, in an Athenian red-figure vase (ca. 400 B.C., now in London), in which she holds a torch. She is present at the contest of Apollo and Heracles for the Delphic tripod (see Chapter 22) in a red-figure vase by the Andocides painter (ca. 525 B.C., now in Berlin).

Niobe. Artemis joins Apollo in the punishment of Niobe, as shown in the red-figure vase by the Niobid painter (ca. 450 B.C., now in Paris), in which she coolly takes an arrow from her quiver to kill yet another victim. While Ovid focuses as much on the pride of Niobe as on her grief, it is her grief and the suffering of her murdered children that have dominated the artistic tradition. Both emotions are shown in the Niobe Group in Florence, large marble copies of originals of the fourth century B.C. made by Skopas or Praxiteles for the pediment of a great temple or monument. Another famous antique marble copy of a fifth-century B.C. original is the Niobid (i.e., a dying daughter of Niobe) in the Baths of Diocletian in Rome.

Actaeon. On her own, Artemis punishes Actaeon, perhaps the most popular of her myths with postclassical artists. The best-known ancient representation is the vase painted by the Pan painter (ca. 460 B.C., now in Boston), on which Actaeon is still human in form as he is devoured by his hounds and shot by the arrows of Artemis. Titian’s Diana and Actaeon (ca. 1559, now in Edinburgh) shows Actaeon unwittingly coming upon Artemis bathing, while Rubens (in an oil-sketch of 1639, now privately owned) shows him already transformed. Ovid tells the story of Actaeon and the anger of Artemis most fully (Metamorphoses 3. 158–255), and Apuleius (ca. 150 A.D.), in Book 2 of his novel, Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass), describes a statue-group of Diana and Actaeon (already turned into a stag) that stood in the atrium of the house of Byrrena, as a foreshadowing of the consequences of the curiosity of the novel’s hero, Lucius. Shakespeare likens the lovesick Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night (1.1) to Actaeon turned into a "hart" pursued by the hounds of his desire. The myth has been repeatedly portrayed by storytellers, poets, and artists to the present day. The Italian-American painter Bruno Civitico, in his 1983 work Diana and Acteon [sic], depicts the myth in a parklike setting whose woods in the background alone hint at the tragedy that is to come. A vivid retelling is the fate of Larry Actaeon in the first part of John Cheever’s Metamorphoses (published in The Stories of John Cheever, 1978).

Orion. Like Callisto and Arcas, another victim of Artemis, Orion became a constellation, mentioned by Homer in the Iliad (22.29), and this is the context in which he is most frequently mentioned in astronomical poems (e.g., the Astronomicon of the Roman poet Manilius, ca. 15 A.D.) or portrayed in Renaissance skymaps. In the Odyssey (5.121–24), however, Calypso refers to him as a victim of the jealousy of the gods, and Odysseus sees him as a hunter in the Underworld (11.572-75). Poussin’s painting Landscape with Diana and Orion (1658, now in New York) shows Orion as a blind giant striding to the east, guided by the child on his shoulder as Diana looks down from the sky. The painting is also known as Blind Orion Searching for the Rising Sun. A modern version of the blind Orion is by the English painter Stephen McKenna, The Blind Orion with Eos and Artemis (1981, now in a private collection).
Artemis, in another display of her anger, sent the Calydonian boar to punish Oeneus for his failure to sacrifice to her (see Chapter 19).

Artemis, Hecate, and Selene. Artemis is often identified with Hecate, a pre-Olympian chthonic goddess associated especially with magic, who was worshiped especially at crossroads or places where three roads met: hence her title in Latin as Trivia (she of the three ways), and the title of George Meredith’s novel (1885) The Crossways, which has nothing to do with myths of Artemis. Hecate is invoked in literary representations of magic rituals, for example, in Book 6 of Lucan’s epic Bellum civile (65 A.D.), by far the most extended narrative of its sort, and in acts 2 and 3 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1606).
Artemis is more consistently identified with Selene, the moon, which in Latin and English poetry is therefore often called Cynthia. In art (for example, the Franceschini paintings referred to above) she is shown with lunar horns. In this aspect she was especially popular in Elizabethan and Jacobean poetry (i.e, in the period between 1558 and 1625), for example, in Ben Jonson’s Hymn to Diana, "Queen and huntress, chaste and fair." The myth of Artemis-Selene and Endymion was represented on Roman sarcophagi as an allegory of the sleep of death and hope for a new life: she is shown, for example, approaching the sleeping Endymion in a sarcophagus (now in New York) of about 160 A.D.  Preeminent among many later representations is the painting of Diana and Endymion (ca. 1630, now in Detroit), showing Artemis standing lovingly over the kneeling Endymion, who implores her not to diminish his human life by giving him eternal sleep (the same fear of the results of the intercourse between a mortal and a goddess is expressed by Anchises to Aphrodite: see Chapter 9).

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