(ahr' tih mihss) names the Greek goddess of the moon, the daughter of Zeus and Leto, whose worship was threatened by Paul's preaching of the gospel. Artemis was the goddess who watched over nature for both humans and animals. She was the patron deity of wild animals, protecting them from ruthless treatment and at the same time regulating the rules of hunting activities for humans. She was considered the great mother image and gave fertility to humankind. In the Greek homeland she was usually portrayed by the statues as a young, attractive virgin, wearing a short tunic and having her hair pulled back on her head. In Ephesus and western Asia Minor she was portrayed as a more mature woman. Her robe is draped in such a way as to expose her bosom which is covered with multiple breasts, depicting her gift of fertility and nurture. Often standing beside her is a fawn or stag on each side representing her relation to the animal world. The official local statue was carefully housed in a temple honoring Artemis.
The most famous statue was located in the city of Ephesus, the official “temple keeper” for Artemis. Artemis was the chief deity of Ephesus, and her temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. See Ephesus. The temple ceremonies were carried out by priests who were eunuchs and priestesses who were virgins. They conducted the daily ceremonies caring for the deity and for the gifts brought by worshipers, as well as an annual festival on May 25, when numerous statues of the goddess were carried in procession to the amphitheater in Ephesus for a celebration of music, dancing, and drama. This could be the background of the outcry in
Acts 19:28: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.”
The statues of the goddess, often miniature models of the temple with an image of the goddess within, were sold widely. In Acts, a silversmith named Demetrius rallied support against Paul's preaching of the gospel for fear that it might damage his business selling statues.
Diana was a Roman deity somewhat similar to the more popular Artemis. As the Italic and Greek divinities met, she was quickly identified with Artemis.