Artemis Takes Offense
Artemis was not one to take insults and perceived slights lightly. She could be merciless in punishing those who offended her in any way.
Actaeon was the grandson of Apollo. He was a great hunter, trained either by his father or by the centaur Chiron. One day, Actaeon accidentally came across Artemis while she was bathing in a spring. Though he tried not to disturb her, Artemis was furious that he'd seen her naked. Artemis turned Actaeon into a stag, and he was torn apart by his own hunting dogs.
The story of Actaeon was a popular myth, and there are several versions. In some, Actaeon wanted to marry Artemis; in others, he boasted that he was a better hunter than she. One twist was that Artemis did not turn Actaeon into a stag immediately. Instead, she forbade him to speak — if he did, he would become a stag. When Actaeon heard his hunting party in the distance, he forgot this prohibition and called out to them. When he did, he turned into a stag and was killed by his dogs.
Actaeon's hounds did not realize whom they had just killed. They went howling through the forest in search of their master. Eventually, Chiron created a statue in the image of Actaeon. The statue was so lifelike that the dogs believed they'd found their master at last.
Admetus was the king of Pheres. He fell in love with Alcestis, the daughter of the king of Iolcos. However, the king would not consent to their marriage. The king sent a proclamation out that no man could marry his daughter unless that man had a chariot that was drawn by a wild boar and a lion yoked together. Luckily for Admetus, he was favored by Apollo, who provided his friend with the chariot.
Admetus won the hand of Alcestis. However, he forgot to offer a sacrifice to Artemis on their wedding day, as was the custom. Insulted by this neglect, Artemis wanted revenge. On their wedding night, Admetus and Alcestis found their bridal chamber seething with snakes. Again, Apollo came to his friend's aid. He soothed his sister's anger and advised Admetus to offer Artemis the sacrifice she was due. After he did, Artemis removed the snakes.
Chapter 10 tells a version of the death of Adonis, a beautiful young man loved by Aphrodite, in which Ares takes the form of a boar and gores him to death. Other myths make Artemis responsible for Adonis's death. In one, Artemis punished Adonis's boast that he was a better hunter than she by sending a wild boar to kill him. In another, Aphrodite caused the death of Hippolytus, a hunter who'd scorned her to serve Artemis instead. Artemis then killed Adonis in retaliation for the death of Hippolytus.
Agamemnon, commander of the Greek forces during the Trojan War, was already disliked by Artemis because of his family's history. (His father, Atreus, had promised to sacrifice his best lamb to Artemis but broke that promise when he found and hid a golden lamb, keeping it for himself.)
Before sailing for Troy, Agamemnon went hunting and killed a deer in a grove sacred to Artemis. Impressed with his own accomplishment, Agamemnon boasted that his skill as a hunter was equal to — or even better than — that of Artemis. The goddess, offended by both his act and his boast, decided to punish Agamemnon.
Artemis prevented the winds from blowing, so Agamemnon's fleet could not sail to Troy. She refused to relent unless Agamemnon made a sacrifice to her, but she didn't want just any sacrifice. Artemis demanded that he sacrifice his eldest daughter, Iphigenia.
Agamemnon sent for his daughter. The myths differ on what happened next. Some say that Agamemnon did indeed sacrifice his daughter to Artemis so the winds would blow again. Others say that Artemis took Iphigenia to Tauris (where she became a priestess in Artemis's temple) and left a deer or goat in her place to serve as the sacrifice.
Oeneus, king of Calydon, learned how to make wine from Dionysus and taught this skill to his people. Oeneus was normally a pious man who took care to honor the gods. One year, however, he neglected to honor Artemis in the sacrifices to celebrate the harvest.
Artemis sent a monstrous boar to ravage the area around Calydon. The boar did massive damage, trampling vineyards and destroying crops, and forced the Calydonians to shut themselves up inside their city, where they were in danger of starving. A group of the best hunters in Greece went after the boar, and several were killed before Atalanta, a young huntress raised by Artemis herself, wounded it with an arrow. Oeneus's son Meleager then killed the boar. During a dispute over who should claim the boar's hide (Meleager thought it belonged to Atalanta, who'd first injured the beast), Meleager was killed — and Artemis had her revenge against his father.
The Calydonian Boar Hunt was a famous event in which several heroes and princes took part. Included in the hunting party were Jason, Theseus, Atalanta, Castor, Polydeuces, and Peleus. The event was so highly regarded by the ancients that it stands beside the Trojan War and the quest for the Golden Fleece among the most popular myths.