Greco-Roman deities: Artemis of Ephesus 1

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Greco-Roman deities: Artemis of Ephesus 1,' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified February 11, 2023,

Here is perhaps the best known statue of Artemis Ephesia (or Artemis of Ephesus) as preserved in the Selçuk Archeological Museum (room C, inv. 718) near the ancient site of Ephesus:

After my recent trip to the Naples archeological museum, I now have a number of depictions of Artemis Ephesia and other gods and goddesses in photo form.  So I will be making a series of posts on Greco-Roman deities. There were many different local understandings and depictions of a particular god: in other words, there were many Dionysoses, Zeuses, and Artemises.  Often one Zeus would be distinguished from another Zeus by an epithet: for example, there was a Zeus Soter (“Saviour Zeus”), a Zeus Brontos (“Thunderer Zeus”), and a Zeus Polieus (City-protecting Zeus). One local understanding of Zeus could be distinguished from another through art, in the depiction of the specific form of the god in statues.

Artemis of Ephesus is just one local way in which this goddess was understood.  This Artemis Ephesia is consistently depicted as associated with nature and the wild, as the animals integrated within her garb and the deer at her side indicate.  And she is also always depicted with the strange protuberances which you will see in each of the photos I post.

There is some debate as to what these are.  Are they multiple breasts?  This may indicate notions of fertility and Artemis’ oversight over birth and life.  Are they part of Artemis’ outfit here (perhaps a garment made using bull-testicles, as some scholars suggest)?  Was this similar to an outfit worn by Artemis Ephesia’s main priestess and representative?  Did interpretations of these objects vary even among ancient observers and sculptors?  Actually, some of the photos I will show subsequently help to answer this mystery about the multiple breast-like objects.

More statues of this mysterious goddess to come!

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