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The Strangled Goddess

3051716Apankhomene, the strangled goddess, is another surname of Artemis. Tradition claims that in the neighbourhood of the town of Caphyae in Areadia, in a place called Condylea, there was a sacred grove of Artemis Condyleatis.

Once, some children playfully tied a rope around the neck of her statue and claimed she was strangled. They were stoned to death by the village people. Later the gynaikes, young women, of Caphyae were struck with a disease and all their children were stillborn. The villagers saw this as a sign of the wrath of Artemis for stoning of children. The Oracle ordered that the children should be buried properly, and annual sacrifices made to them since they were wrongly killed.

Artemis does not shed her blood in the hunt, in sex or in childbirth. This mode of death can be associated with her being strangled. Fundamentally, the duality of Artemis strangled is primarily evident in the fact that she is a goddess who does not bleed, but who makes others bleed.

Helen King posits that Artemis being strangled, and therefore without blood, allows her to lead in the transitions of the parthenoi or virgins, into gyne or maiden, by initiating them into this new phase of life which is identified with menstruation, marriage and child birth.

Her position as a transitory agent between child and woman, or child and man, is fundamental.  Artemis is lysizonos, the ‘releaser’ of the girdle [the girdle is put on at puberty and later dedicated to Artemis as a part of the marriage process]. A special girdle is worn on the wedding night and a woman unties her girdle to give birth.

Consequently, Artemis is powerful in the lives of women and invoked by women during childbirth often as lysizonos, and after childbirth the girdle is dedicated to her.  King notes that also dedicated to her is the Lochia, often one of Artemis’ names, which is the placenta.  This clearly depicts her responsibility as overseer of the transition of young people from parthenoi and into being full gynaikes.


Works Cited:

King, H. Bound to Bleed: Artemis and Greek Women. Images of Women in Antiquity. A.Cameron and A. Kuhrt (Eds), London. 1993, p. 109-127.

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