GREEK MYTHOLOGY – THE OLYMPIAN GODS – ARTEMIS. Artemis, daughter of Zeus and Leto, was born on the island of Delos together with her twin brother Apollo.
She was the goddess of hunting and wildlife, but also of childbirth, hence her role as protectress of children. Typically depicted with a bow and quiver of arrows and accompanied by a deer, Artemis was a virgin deity, like Athena and Hestia. She would punish harshly anyone who dared to cross her.
From Agamemnon, who had killed her sacred deer, she demanded the sacrifice of his own daughter Iphigenia in retribution. Due to the nature of her cult, she was mainly worshipped in country areas.
Major sanctuaries to Artemis were located in Sparta (Artemis Orthia), in Caryes, Laconia, where the local women (Caryatids) honoured the goddess with dances, as well as in Brauron, Attica. The famous temple dedicated to her in Ephesos was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, was one of the most popular Olympian deities. According to Homer, she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione, while according to Hesiod, she was born from the sea foam produced by Ouranos’s genitals, severed by his son Kronos. Her birthplace was contested by Paphos (Cyprus) and Kythera, hence her epithets Kypris and Kythereia. She was worshipped as Aphrodite Ourania (the heavenly) and Pandemos (“of all folk”, the vulgar), alluding, respectively, to spiritual and to sensual love. Although married to Hephaistos, Aphrodite had numerous lovers, including gods (most notably Ares) and mortals (Adonis or Anchises, to whom she bore Aeneas, progenitor of the Romans). One tradition portrays her as mother of Eros (Cupid), the mischievous winged god. Over the centuries, Aphrodite has inspired such masterpieces of art as the Knidian Aphrodite (by Praxiteles), the Venus de Milo and the Birth of Venus (by Boticelli).
Ares, son of Zeus and Hera, was the god of war. His children from his adulterous affair with Aphrodite, the wife of Hephaistos, included Harmonia (who later wed Cadmos, the founder of Thebes) and his companions in battle, Phobos and Deimos (embodiments of fear and dread, respectively). In contrast with his sister Athena, who represented protection of cities and strategy,
Ares was associated with the blind brutality of war. This explains why he was not popular with the Greeks, who – despite their frequent wars and high regard for military valour – were not a bellicose people. Even his own father, Zeus, in the Iliad calls him the most loathsome of the Olympian gods because of his belligerent nature. Very few temples were devoted to Ares in the Greek world (in Troizina, Geronthrai and Alikarnassos).
As for the Temple of Ares in the ancient agora of Athens, it had originally been erected in some other community of Attica, in honour perhaps of another god, before being moved to the centre of Athens and rededicated to Ares during the reign of Augustus, probably in connection with the Roman cult of Mars Ultor.