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Diana (Artemis) of the Ephesians


The Latin name Diana was adopted by the Old Latin and the Vulgate as the equivalent of the Greek Artemis (Acts 19:2440). The Artemis of Ephesus had or was given certain Greek traits characteristic of Artemis on the mainland of Greece, but she was essentially a Greek adaptation of the Great Mother-Goddess of Asia Minor. She was at once a mother-goddess and a virgin-goddess of the woods and hills. Her temple at Ephesus was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. In the Hellenistic and early Roman period her worship was the most important of the cults of Asia Minor, and she was venerated throughout the whole Mediterranean area. The chief priest in her worship was a eunuch, but she was served also by maiden priestesses who held office for a fixed time and were then free to marry. Sacrifices of food, libations, incense, and, more rarely, animal victims were made to her. Her main festival, the Artemision, was celebrated with great pomp in the month Artemisios (March 24April 24). Her temple was widely recognized as an asylum for fugitives and, in particular, for runaway slaves.

The goddess herself, who was called "the great Ephesian goddess Artemis" and "Artemis of the Ephesians," among other titles, was originally represented as nude or draped, sitting or standing, with accompanying symbols. Before the 4th century b.c., there is no trace of the representation of the goddess as a multibreasted standing figure. The earliest dated examples of this type come from Ephesus and Tralles (133 b.c.). The headdress, the numerous breasts, the animals and birds depicted among the bands covering the lower part of her body all point to the Oriental character of her cult and to her identification as a syncretistic divinity of fertility.

The cult of Artemis played a major role in the economic life of Ephesus as well as in its religious life. Her rich temple served not only as a center of cult and pilgrimage but also as an important bank. Accordingly, it is easy to understand the hostility that St. Paul's successful preaching aroused among craftsmen and others deriving their livelihoods from her cult.

Bibliography: l. r. taylor, "Artemis of Ephesus," f. j. foakes jackson and k. lake, eds., The Beginnings of Christianity: pt. 1, Acts of the Apostles, 5 v. (London 192033), Part 1, v.5 (London 1933) 251256. p. antoine, Dictionnaire de la Bible, supp. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928) 2:10761104. f. miltner, Ephesos, Stadt der Artemis und des Johannes (Vienna 1958).

[m. r. p. mcguire]

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