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Chapter 10: Artemis


Read the Commentary for Chapter 10.


Investigate the images of Artemis in vases, coinage, and sculpture from the Perseus Project and the other links provided on this website. What are her associations with other deities, and why have these arisen?

From the Vase Catalog of the Perseus Project, view the various depictions of Artemis and Actaeon.


Read Apollodorus for his accounts of the myths of Artemis.

Consult Homer Il. 24.596-24.620, in which Achilles tells Priam the story of Niobe.

Read Ovid Heroides 4, a humorous letter from Phaedra to Hippolytus.

Consult the section of Pausanias in which he recounts many myths about Artemis and her association with human sacrifice. This account will have even greater importance in MLS, Chapter 19 in connection with the sacrifice of Iphigenia.

Compare Euripides’ Hippolytus with that of the Roman dramatist Seneca. How is Seneca indebted to the Euripidean portrait? What is unique in Seneca’s treatment?

Froma Zeitlin, in Chapter 6 of Playing the Other (pp. 219–284), investigates the problem of constructing and maintaining the notion of self. Specifically she inquires into the problems faced by Hippolytus in his evolving self-discovery, as he comes into conflict with the power of Aphrodite. For the purposes of this chapter, how do Phaedra’s demands align her more with Artemis than, as one might expect, with Aphrodite? How does Zeitlin link Hippolytus with the self-gazing Narcissus, and why then is it impossible for Hippolytus to replicate the “sequence” of the actions of Actaeon so that by his failure, he incurs Artemis’ vengeance?

One of America’s greatest playwrights, Eugene O’Neill, exploited the possibilities of updating the Hippolytus of Euripides in Desire under the Elms. Transplanted to rural New England of 1850, Ephraim Cabot (Theseus) runs a farm with his three grown sons Simeon, Peter, and Eben (Hippolytus). Early in the play, Abbie Putnam (Phaedra), the young wife of Ephraim Cabot, tries to seduce a not altogether unwilling Eben. In some repects Abbie is more like the Phaedra of Euripides’ first play on the subject. How does O’Neill change the dynamics of the ancient play? What are his purposes in doing so? What takes the place of the divine figures of Artemis and Aphrodite?
Well worth studying is Robinson Jeffers’ The Cretan Woman, a powerful adaptation of Euripides’ play in which Aphrodite (but not Artemis) has a role.

In Theocritus 2, also known as the Pharmaceutria, a woman who has been spurned by her lover invokes the aid of Hecate and casts a spell to win him back, or if he will not be won, to destroy him.

For a fascinating conception of what the matriarchal society of the Amazons might have been like, one should read the novel The Bull from the Sea by the wonderful Mary Renault, telling us about how Theseus wooed the Amazon mother of Hippolytus.

Compact Discs and Videos

Listen to Cavalli’s opera La Calisto. The libretto of this early opera is particularly provocative; it underscores Callisto’s infatuation with Diana, and an important subplot revolves around Diana’s love for Endymion.

Study the music and text of two songs by Schubert, “Hippolits Lied” (“Song of Hippolytus”) and “Der zürnenden Diana” (a passionate eulogy “To Wrathful Diana”).
Latinists will be interested in the musical setting of the Latin text of Horace’s hymn to Apollo and Diana by Philidor, Carmen Saeculare, a cantata.

View the video of O’Neill’s Desire under the Elms.
You might enjoy on video the Kirov Ballet in a performance of Diana and Actaeon.


Know the meaning of cynosure.

View the following constellations:

  • Boötes
  • Canes Venatici
  • Canes Major
  • Lepus
  • Orion
  • Scorpio
  • Ursa Major
  • Ursa Minor

Essay Questions

  1. How do you interpret and assess the character of Hippolytus?

  2. What do Artemis and Aphrodite represent for Euripides in the Hippolytus?

  3. Artemis demands purity for herself and her female followers. Defend this statement using the mythology surrounding the goddess.

  4. Write an appreciation of the character of Phaedra.

  5. What aspects of the virginal Artemis reveal the characteristics of a fertility goddess?

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