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In Roman mythology, Diana was the goddess of the hunt, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and also of the moon. In literature she was the equivalent of the Greek goddess Artemis, though in cult beliefs she was Italicmarker, not Greek, in origin. Diana was worshiped in ancient Roman religion and is currently revered in Roman Neopaganism and Stregheria.

Along with her main attributes, Diana was an emblem of chastity. Oak groves were especially sacred to her. According to mythology, Diana was born with her twin brother Apollo on the island of Delosmarker, daughter of Jupiter and Latona. Diana made up a triad with two other Roman deities: Egeria the water nymph, her servant and assistant midwife; and Virbius, the woodland god.


Worship

Diana was initially just the hunting goddess, associated with wild animals and woodlands. She also later became a moon goddess, supplanting Luna.

Diana was worshiped at a festival on August 13, when King Servius Tullius, himself born a slave, dedicated her shrine on the Aventine Hillmarker in the mid-sixth century BC. Being placed on the Aventine, and thus outside the pomerium, meant that Diana's cult essentially remained a 'foreign' one, like that of Bacchus; she was never officially 'transferred' to Rome as Juno was after the sack of Veiimarker. It seems that her cult originated in Aricia, where her priest, the Rex Nemorensis remained. There the simple open-air fane was held in common by the Latin tribes, which Rome aspired to weld into a league and direct. Diana of the wood was soon thoroughly Hellenized, "a process which culminated with the appearance of Diana beside Apollo in the first lectisternium at Rome". Diana was regarded with great reverence by lower-class citizens and slaves; slaves could receive asylum in her temples.

Though some Roman patrons ordered marble replicas of the specifically Anatolian "Diana" of Ephesus, where the Temple of Artemismarker stood, Diana was usually depicted for educated Romans in her Greek guise. If she is accompanied by a deer, as in the Diana of Versailles (illustration, above right) this is because Diana was the patroness of hunting. The deer may also offer a covert reference to the myth of Acteon (or Actaeon), who saw her bathing naked. Diana transformed Acteon into a stag and set his own hunting dogs to kill him.

Worship of Diana is mentioned in the Bible. In Acts of the Apostles, Ephesian metal smiths who felt threatened by Saint Paul’s preaching of Christianity, jealously rioted in her defense, shouting “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:28, New English Bible).

Legacy

In religion

Diana's cult has been related in Early Modern Europe to the cult of Nicevenn (aka Dame Habond, Perchta, Herodiana, etc.). She was related to myths of a female Wild Hunt, close to the Benandantis' struggles against evil witches.

Wicca
Today there is a branch of Wicca named for her, which is characterized by an exclusive focus on the feminine aspect of the Divine. In some Wiccan texts Lucifer is a name used interchangeably (in the story lines) for Diana's brother/husband Apollo. (See To Ride A Silver Broomstick and/or http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/aradia/ara05.htm)

Stregheria
In Italy the old religion of Stregheria embraced goddess Diana as Queen of the Witches; witches being the wise women healers of the time. Goddess Diana created the world of her own being having in herself the seeds of all creation yet to come. It is said that out of herself she divided into the darkness and the light, keeping for herself the darkness of creation and creating her brother Apollo, the light. Goddess Diana loved and ruled with her brother Apollo, the god of the Sun. (Charles G. Leland, Aradia: The Gospel of Witches)

Since the Renaissance the mythic Diana has often been expressed in the visual and dramatic arts, including the opera L'arbore di Diana. In the sixteenth century, Diana's image figured prominently at the Château de Fontainebleaumarker, in deference to Diane de Poitiers, mistress of two French kings. At Versaillesmarker she was incorporated into the Olympian iconography with which Louis XIV, the Apollo-like "Sun King" liked to surround himself.

There are also references to her in common literature. In Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet, many references are made to Diana. Rosaline, a beautiful woman who has sworn to chastity, is said to have "Dian's wit". Later on in the play, Romeo says, "It is the East, and Juliet is the sun. Arise fair sun, and kill the envious moon." He is saying that Juliet is better than Diana and Rosaline for not swearing chastity. Diana is also a character in the 1876 Leo Delibe ballet 'Sylvia'. The plot deals with Sylvia, one of Diana's nymphs and sworn to chastity and Diana's assault on Sylvia's affections for the shepherd Amyntas.

In Jean Cocteau's 1946 film La Belle et la Bête it is Diana's power which has transformed and imprisoned the beast.

In literature

In comic book lore, the character of Wonder Woman who hails from the paradise island of Themyscira which is rich in Greek mythology is written to be a descendant of the Gods, and named after the moon goddess, Diana.

Diana, like many aspects of mythology, is depicted in the comic books Asterix. In the Roman temples, many times a statue of Diana can be seen in the background, depicted as a well rounded lady, usually sitting on a stag, who appears to be suffering.

She is also used by Shakespeare in the famous play As You Like It to describe how Rosaline feels about marriage.

There is also a reference to Dian in Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing where Hero is said to seem like 'Dian in her orb', in terms of her chastity.

In The Merchant of Venice Portia states "I will die as chaste as Diana, unless I be obtained by the manner of my father's will". (I.ii)

In language

Both the Romanian word for "fairy", zânǎ and the Leonese word for "water nymph", xana, seem to come from the name of Diana.

In Beaux Arts

Beaux Arts architecture and garden design (late 19th and early 20th centuries) used classic references in a modernized form. Two of the most popular of the period were of Pomona (goddess of orchards) as a metaphor for Agriculture, and Diana, representing Commerce, which is a perpetual hunt for advantage and profits.

In Parma at the convent of San Paolo, Antonio Allegri da Correggio painted the camera of the Abbess Giovanna Piacenza's apartment. He was commissioned in 1519 to paint the ceiling and mantel of the fireplace. On the mantel he painted an image of Diana riding in a chariot pulled possibly by a stag.

Other

In the funeral oration of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, her brother drew an ironic analogy between the ancient goddess of hunting and his sister - 'the most hunted person of the modern age'.

Notes

  1. The date coincides with the founding dates celebrated at Aricium. Arthur E. Gordon, "On the Origin of Diana", Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 63 (1932, pp. 177-192) p 178.
  2. Her cult at Aricia was first attested in Latin literature by Cato the Elder, in a surviving quote by the late grammarian Priscian. Supposed Greek origins for the Aricia cult are strictly a literary topos. (Gordon 1932:178 note, and p. 181).
  3. commune Latinorum Dianae temple in Varro, Lingua Latina v.43; the cult there was of antique religione in Pliny's Natural History, xliv. 91, 242.
  4. The Potnia Theron aspect of Hellenic Artemis is represented in Capua and Signia, Greek cities of Magna Graecia, in the fifth century BCE.
  5. Gordon 1932:179.
  6. Falcon River (2004) The Dianic Wiccan Tradition. From The Witches Voice. Retrieved 2007-05-23.
  7. zână in DEX '98 and NODEX.


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