Artemis was the goddess of the hunt in Classical Greece. And for the Romans she became Diana, a mythological character that has been reinterpreted by numerous artists throughout history, from Vermeer orTitian to great sculptors like Houdon, author of the famous and delicate Diana the Huntress.
Artemis of Ephesus
However Artemis, for the Greeks was also the deity of wild animals and maidens, as well as fertility. And as such we see it represented in this ancient sculpture that must have been the great Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which obviously has not survived to this day, since of that bunch of incredible works today only the Pyramids of Egypt remain standing.
That temple was known as Artemision, and in it the Greek cult was mixed with other more Eastern beliefs typical of this area of the world located in Asia Minor , in today's Turkey. There the goddess had a strong connection with animals, nature, as well as with fertility and motherhood. Hence the peculiar iconography that we appreciate in this figure, in which her multiple breasts are striking.
The truth is that there are many details of interest. For example, the woman appears crowned with forms that would bethe city walls of Ephesus, which are also reinforced by the presence of dangerous griffins on the sides.
She also wears a necklace with the signs of the Zodiac, yes, of a very archaic character. There are those who date the figure to around the 5th century BC, although it is more than possible that it is not an original, but rather a replica from Roman times. In fact, the figure was found in the 18th century in the Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, a villa that was built on the outskirts of Rome on Emperor Hadrian, one of the greatest admirers of Ancient Greece, who did not hesitate to commission replicas of works created at that time. Something that, on the other hand, was very common in Roman times, and thanks to which we can discover many Hellenic works by authors such as Policleto or Mirón.
Also, keep in mind that the Artemision of Ephesus was already destroyed in ancient times. The chronicles tell that it was set on fire in the year 356 a. C. A fire caused by the local shepherd Herostratus, who wanted to go down to posterity at all costs. And he certainly succeeded, as several millennia later we continue to name him