Ancient Hymns and Poetry for Artemis

Hymns of Kallimachos 3: To Artemis

[1] Artemis we hymn – no light thing is it for singers to forget her – whose study is the bow and the shooting of hares and the spacious dance and sport upon the mountains; beginning with the time when sitting on her father’s knees – still a little maid – she spake these words to her sire: “Give me to keep my maidenhood, Father, forever: and give me to be of many names, that Phoebus may not vie with me. And give me arrows and a bow – stay, Father, I ask thee not for quiver or for mighty bow: for me the Cyclopes will straightway fashion arrows and fashion for me a well-bent bow. But give me to be Bringer of Light and give me to gird me in a tunic with embroidered border reaching to the knee, that I may slay wild beasts. And give me sixty daughters of Oceanus for my choir – all nine years old, all maidens yet ungirdled; and give me for handmaidens twenty nymphs of Amnisus who shall tend well my buskins, and, when I shoot no more at lynx or stag, shall tend my swift hounds. And give to me all mountains; and for city, assign me any, even whatsoever thou wilt: for seldom is it that Artemis goes down to the town. On the mountains will I dwell and the cities of men I will visit only when women vexed by the sharp pang of childbirth call me to their aid even in the hour when I was born the Fates ordained that I should be their helper, forasmuch as my mother suffered no pain either when she gave me birth or when she carried me win her womb, but without travail put me from her body.” So spake the child and would have touched her father’s beard, but many a hand did she reach forth in vain, that she might touch it.

[28] And her father smiled and bowed assent. And as he caressed her, he said: “When goddesses bear me children like this, little need I heed the wrath of jealous Hera. Take, child, all that thou askest, heartily. Yea, and other things therewith yet greater will thy father give thee. Three times ten cities and towers more than one will I vouchsafe thee – three times ten cities that shall not know to glorify any other god but to glorify the only and be called of Artemis And thou shalt be Watcher over Streets and Harbours.” So he spake and bent his head to confirm his words.

[40] And the maiden faired unto the white mountain of Crete leafy with woods; thence unto Oceanus; and she chose many nymphs all nine years old, all maidens yet ungirdled. And the river Caraetus was glad exceedingly, and glad was Tethys that they were sending their daughters to be handmaidens to the daughter of Leto.

[46] And straightway she went to visit the Cyclopes. Them she found in the isle of Lipara – Lipara in later days, but at the at time its name was Meligunis – at the anvils of Hephaestus, standing round a molten mass of iron. For a great work was being hastened on: they fashioned a horse-trough for Poseidon. And the nymphs were affrighted when they saw the terrible monsters like unto the crags of Ossa: all had single eyes beneath their brows, like a shield of fourfold hide for size, glaring terribly from under; and when they heard the din of the anvil echoing loudly, and the great blast of the bellows and the heavy groaning of the Cyclopes themselves. For Aetna cried aloud, and Trinacia cried, the seat of the Sicanians, cried too their neighbour Italy, and Cyrnos therewithal uttered a mighty noise, when they lifted their hammers above their shoulders and smote with rhythmic swing the bronze glowing from the furnace or iron, labouring greatly. Wherefore the daughters of Oceanus could not untroubled look upon them face to face nor endure the din in their ears. No shame to them! On those not even the daughters of the Blessed look without shuddering. Though long past childhood’s years. But when any of the maidens doth disobedience to her mother, the mother calls the Cyclopes to her child – Arges or Steropes; and from within the house comes Hermes, stained with burnt ashes. And straightway he plays bogey to the child, and she runs into her mother’s lap, with her hands upon her eyes. But thou, Maiden, even earlier, while yet but three years old, when Leto came bearing thee in her arms at the bidding of Hephaestus that he might give thee handsel and Brontes set thee on his stout knees – thou didst pluck the shaggy hair of his great breast and tear it out by force. And even unto this day the mid part of his breast remains hairless, even when mange settles on a man’s temples and eats the hair away.

[80] Therefore right boldly didst thou address them then: “Cyclopes, for me too fashion ye a Cydonian bow and arrows and a hollow casket for my shafts; for I also am a child of Leto, even as Apollo. And if I with my bow shall slay some wild creature or monstrous beast, that shall the Cyclopes eat.” So didst thou speak and they fulfilled thy words. Straightway dist thou array thee, O Goddess. And speedily again thou didst go to get thee hounds; and thou camest to the Arcadian fold of Pan. And he was cutting up the flesh of a lynx of Maenalus that his bitches might eat it for food. And to thee the Bearded God gave two dogs black-and-white, three reddish, and one spotted, which pulled down very lions hen they clutched their throats and haled them still living to the fold. And he gave thee seven Cynosurian bitches swifter than the winds – that breed which is swiftest to pursue fawns and the hare which closes not his eyes; swiftest too to mark the lair of the stag and where the porcupine hath his burrow, and to lead upon the track of the gazelle.

[98] Thence departing (and thy hounds sped with thee) thou dist find by the base of the Parrhasian hill deer gamboling – a mighty herd. They always herded by the banks of the black-pebbled Anaurus – larger than bulls, and from their horns shone gold. And thou wert suddenly amazed and sadist to thine own heart: “This would be a first capture worthy of Artemis.” Five were there in all; and four thou didst take by speed of foot – without the chase of dogs – to draw thy swift car. But one escaped over the river Celadon, by devising of Hera, that it might be in the after days a labour for Heracles, and the Ceryneian hill received her.

[109] Artemis, Lady of Maidenhood, Slayer of Tityus, golden were thine arms and golden thy belt, and a golden car didst thou yoke, and golden bridles, goddess, didst thou put on thy deer. And where first did thy horned team begin to carry thee? To Thracian Haemus, whence comes the hurricane of Boreas bringing evil breath of frost to cloakless men. And where didst thou cut the pine and from what flame didst thou kindle it? It was on Mysian Olympus, and thou didst put in tit the breath of flame unquenchable, which thy Father’s bolts distil. And how often goddess, didst thou make trial of thy silver bow? First at an elm, and next at an oak didst thou shoot, and third again at a wild beast. But the fourth time – not long was it ere thou didst shoot at the city of unjust me, those who to one another and those who towards strangers wrought many deeds of sin, forward men, on whom thou wilt impress thy grievous wrath. On their cattle plague feeds, on their tilth feeds frost, and the old men cut their hair in mourning over their sons, and their wives either are smitten or die in childbirth, or, if they escape, bear birds whereof none stands on upright ankle. But on whomsoever thou lookest smiling and gracious, for them the tilth bears the corn-ear abundantly, and abundantly prospers the four-footed breed, and abundant waxes their prosperity: neither do they go to the tomb, save when they carry thither the aged. Nor does faction wound their race – faction which ravages even the well-established houses: but brother’s wife and husband’s sister set their chairs around one board.

[134] Lady, of that number be whosoever is a true friend of mine, and of that number may I be myself, O Queen. And may song be my study forever. In that song shall be the Marriage of Leto; therein thy name shall often-times be sung; therein shall Apollo be and therein all thy labours, and therein thy hounds and thy bow and thy chariots, which lightly carry thee in thy splendour, when thou drivest to the house of Zeus. There in the entrance meet thee Hermes and Apollo: Hermes the Lord of Blessing, takes thy weapons, Apollo takes whatsoever wild beast thou bringest. Yea, so Apollo did before strong Alcides came, but now Phoebus hath this task no longer; in such wise the Anvil of Tiryns stands ever before the gates, waiting to see if thou wilt come home with some fat morsel. And all the gods laugh at him with laughter unceasingly and most of all his own wife’s mother when he brings from the car a great bull or a wild boar, carrying it by the hind foot struggling. With this sunning speech, goddess, doth he admonish thee: “Shoot at the evil wild beasts that mortals may call thee their helper even as they call me. Leave deer and hares to feed upon the hills. What harm could deer and hares do? It is boars which ravage the tilth of men and boars which ravage the plants; and oxen are a great bane to men: shoot also at those.” So he spake and swiftly busied him about the mighty beast. For though beneath a Phrygian oak his flesh was deified, yet hath he not ceased from gluttony. Still hath he that belly wherewith he met Theiodamas at the plough.

[162] For thee the nymphs of Amnisus rub down the hinds loosed from the yoke, and from the mead of Hera they gather and carry for them to feed on much swift-springing clover, which also the horses of Zeus eat; and golden troughs they fill with water to be for the deer a pleasant draught. And thyself thou enterest thy Father’s house, and all alike bid thee to a seat; but thou sittest beside Apollo.

[170] But when the nymphs encircle thee in the dance, near the springs of Egyptian Inopus or Pitane – for Pitane too is thine – or in Limnae or where, goddess, thou camest from Scythia to dwell, in Alae Araphenides, renouncing the rites of the Tauri, then may not my kine cleave a four-acred fallow field for a wage at the hand of an alien ploughman; else surely lame and weary of neck would they come to the byre, yea even were they of Stymphaean breed, nine years of age, drawing by the horns; which kine are far the best for cleaving a deep furrow; for the god Helios never passes by that beauteous dance, but stays his car to gaze upon the sight, and the lights of day are lengthened.

[183] Which now of islands, what hill finds most favour with thee? What haven? What city? Which of the nymphs dost thou love above the rest, and what heroines hast thou taken for thy companions? Say, goddess, thou to me, and I will sing thy saying to others. Of islands, Doliche hath found favour with thee, of cities Perge, of hills Taygeton, the havens of Euripus. And beyond others thou lovest the nymph of Gortyn, Britomartis, slayer of stags, the goodly archer; for love of whom was Minos of old distraught and roamed the hills of Crete. And the nymph would hide herself now under the shaggy oaks and anon in the low meadows. And for nine months he roamed over crag and cliff and made not an end of pursuing, until, all but caught, she leapt into the sea from the top of a cliff and fell into the nets of fishermen which saved her. Whence in after days the Cydonians call the nymph the Lady of the Nets (Dictyna) and the hill whence the nymph leaped they call the hill of Nets (Dictaeon), and there they set up altars and do sacrifice. And the garland on that day is pine or mastich, but the hands touch not the myrtle. For when she was in flight, a myrtle branch became entangled in the maiden’s robes; wherefore she was greatly angered against the myrtle. Upis, O Queen, fair-faced Bringer of Light, thee too the Cretans name after that nymph.

[206] Yea and Cyrene thou madest thy comrade, to whom on a time thyself didst give two hunting dogs, with whom the maiden daughter of Hypseus beside the Iolcian tomb won the prize. And the fair-haired wife of Cephalus, son of Deioneus, O Lady, thou madest thy fellow in the chase; and fair Anticleia, they say, thou dist love even as thine own eyes. These were the first who wore the gallant bow and arrow-holding quivers on their shoulders; their right shoulders bore the quiver strap, and always the right breast showed bare. Further thou dist greatly commend swift-footed Atalanta, the slayer of boars, daughter of Arcadian Iasius, and taught her hunting with dogs and good archery. They that were called to hunt the boar of Calydon find no fault with her; for the tokens of victory came into Arcadia which still holds the tusks of the beast. Nor do I deem that Hylaeus and foolish Rhoecus, for all their hate, in Hades slight her archery. For the loins, with whose blood the height of Maenalus flowed, will not abet the falsehood.

[225] Lady of many shrines, of many cities, hail! Goddess of the Tunic, sojourner in Miletus; for thee did Neleus make his Guide, when he put off with his ships from the land of Cecrops. Lady of Chesion and of Imbrasus, throned in the highest, to thee in thy shrine did Agamemnon dedicate the rudder of his ship, a charm against ill weather, when thou didst bind the winds for him, what time the Achaean ships sailed to vex the cities of the Teucri, wroth for Rhamnusian Helen.

[233] For thee surely Proetus established two shrines, one of Artemis of Maidenhood for that thou dist gather for him his maiden daughters, when they were wandering over the Azanian hills; the other he founded in Lusa to Artemis the Gentle, because thou tookest from his daughters the spirit of wildness. For thee, too, the Amazons, whose mind is set on war, in Ephesus beside the sea established an image beneath an oak trunk, and Hippo performed a holy rite for thee, and they themselves, O Upis Queen, around the image danced a war-dance – first in shields and armour, and again in a circle arraying a spacious choir. And the loud pipes thereto piped shrill accompaniment, that they might foot the dance together (for not yet did they pierce the bones of the fawn, Athena’s handiwork, a bane to the deer). And the echo reached unto Sardis and to the Berecynthian range. And they with their feet beat loudly and therewith their quivers rattled.

[248] And afterwards around that image was raised a shrine of broad foundations. That it shall dawn behold nothing more divine, naught richer. Easily would it outdo Pytho. Wherefore in this madness insolent Lygdamis threatened that he would lay it waste, and brought against it a host of Cimmerians which milk mares, in number as the sand; who have their homes hard by the Straits of the cow, daughter of Inachus. Ah! foolish among kings, how greatly he sinned! For not destined to return again to Scythia was either he or any other of those whose wagons stood in the Caystrian plain; for thy shafts are ever more set as a defence before Ephesus.

[258] O Lady of Munychia, Watcher of Harbours, hail, Lady of Pherae! Let none disparage Artemis. For Oeneus dishonoured her altar and no pleasant struggles came upon his city. Nor let any content with her in shooting of stags or in archery. For the son of Atreus vaunted him not that he suffered small requital. Neither let any woo the Maiden; for not Otus, nor Orion wooed her to their own good. Nor let any shun the yearly dance; for not tearless to Hippo was her refusal to dance around the altar. Hail, great queen, and graciously greet my song.

Homeric Hymn 9. To Artemis

Muse, sing of Artemis, sister of the Far-shooter, the virgin who delights in arrows, who was fostered with Apollo. She waters her horses from Meles deep in reeds, and swiftly drives her all-golden chariot through Smyrna to vine-clad Claros where Apollo, god of the silver bow, sits waiting for the far-shooting goddess who delights in arrows. And so hail to you, Artemis, in my song and to all goddesses as well. Of you first I sing and with you I begin; now that I have begun with you, I will turn to another song.

Homeric Hymn 27. To Artemis

I sing of Artemis, whose shafts are of gold, who cheers on the hounds, the pure maiden, shooter of stags, who delights in archery, own sister to Apollo with the golden sword. Over the shadowy hills and windy peaks she draws her golden bow, rejoicing in the chase, and sends out grievous shafts. The tops of the high mountains tremble and the tangled wood echoes awesomely with the outcry of beasts: earthquakes and the sea also where fishes shoal. But the goddess with a bold heart turns every way destroying the race of wild beasts: and when she is satisfied and has cheered her heart, this huntress who delights in arrows slackens her supple bow and goes to the great house of her dear brother Phoebus Apollo, to the rich land of Delphi, there to order the lovely dance of the Muses and Graces. There she hangs up her curved bow and her arrows, and heads and leads the dances, gracefully arrayed, while all they utter their heavenly voice, singing how neat-ankled Leto bare children supreme among the immortals both in thought and in deed. Hail to you, children of Zeus and rich-haired Leto! And now I will remember you and another song also.

Orphic Hymn 2. To Prothyraia
Incense: Storax

Hear me, revered goddess, many-named divinity.
You aid in travail, O sight sweet to women in labor;
You save women and you alone love children,
O kindly goddess of swift birth, ever helpful to young women, O Prothyraia.
Accessible to all, O mistress, you are gracious and fond of nurture,
Yours is the power in every house and you delight in festivities;
You loosen girdles and, though invisible, you are seen in every deed.
You share pain, and rejoice in every birth, O Eileithyia,
Freeing from pain those in terrible distress.
Upon you alone pregnant women call, O comforter of souls,
And in you alone there is relief from pains of labor.
Artemis, Eileithyia, Prothyraia!
Hearken, O blessed one, succor me, grant offspring,
And save me, for it is your nature to be a savior of all.

Orphic Hymn 36. To Artemis
Incense: Powdered Frankincense

Hear me, O queen, Zeus’s daughter of many names, Titanic and Bacchic,
Reverend, renowned archer, torch-bearing goddess bringing light to all,
Diktynna, helper at childbirth.
You aid women in labor, though you know not what labor is.
O frenzy-loving huntress, you loosen girdles and drive cares away.
Swift, arrow-pouring, you love the outdoors and you roam in the night.
Fame-bringing, affable, redeeming, nurturer of mortal youths.
Immortal and yet of this earth, you slay wild beasts, O blessed one,
And your realm is in mountain forests.
You hunt deer, O august and mighty queen of all, fair blossom,
Eternal, sylvan, dog-loving, many-shaped lady of Kydonia.
Come, dear goddess, as savior, accessible to all the initiates,
And bring earth’s fair fruits and lovely Peace and well-tressed Health,
And do banish disease and pain to the mountain peaks.