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Who Was the Twin of Artemis?

Artemis and Apollo were twins, but did they have more differences than they had in common?

Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo. Both children of Zeus, they had been born to a maternal Titaness named Leto.

In relation to their mother, the twins often worked very closely together. Armed with the bows that they were both experts with, they were her protectors and defenders.

Away from their mother, however, the two had little in common. Their viewpoints were so opposed that Artemis was even said to have killed one of Apollo’s lovers because she disagreed with him.

The bonds of twinship, however, made the differences between Apollo and Artemis more significant than they would be among real-world siblings. They were not just brother and sister who had different interests, but were an example of the balancing nature of an ancient archetype.

Artemis and Her Twin Brother

Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo, the god of music and poetry. Their mother, Leto, was a Titaness and one of the many mistresses of Zeus.

When Leto went into labor, Hera did everything in her power to make the ordeal more difficult. She kidnapped the goddess of childbirth and even forbade any solid land from offering Leto sanctuary.

Leto found a safe place on the floating island of Delos, which did not qualify as solid ground. According to some writers, her labor with Artemis was long and painful because of Hera’s intervention.

Artemis was the first of the twins to be born. Many writers said that Apollo was born the following day and that his sister acted as Leto’s midwife.

Stories of Artemis and Apollo often feature the two of them together. While a few writers imagined scenes on Olympus, most of these stories involve their protection of their mother.

When Apollo was given the oracular site of Delphia, for example, the three traveled there together to claim it. Leto was attacked by the site’s guardian, the giant snake Python, but the twins worked together to kill it.

Hera sent an enormous giant, Tityos, to attack Leto while they were at Delphi as well. Once again the twins shot it down with their arrows.

The two protected their mother’s sense of honor as well as her safety. When Queen Niobe insulted Leto by saying she was a better mother because she had more sons and daughters, Leto’s children killed the princes and princesses to punish the queen.

The two worked together in war, as well. During the Trojan War both sided with Troy as the city held Apollo to be one of their patrons.

While Apollo and Artemis often fought as a pair, there were hints of sibling rivalry in some of their stories, as well.

One writer laid out the gifts young Artemis asked her father, Zeus, to grant her. When she asked to be known by many titles, she specified that she wanted to have more than her brother and to be set apart from him.

Perhaps the most famous story of the rivalry between the twins is the story of Adonis.

According to legend, the human prince was so handsome that many of the Olympians fell in love with him. One of these was Apollo.

Some stories say that Artemis killed Adonis for a slight against her. Others, however, said that she did so because of her brother.

Artemis was a virgin goddess and was openly contemptuous of the many affairs of the other gods. When her brother began abandoning his duties and acting foolishly out of love for a human, the goddess of the hunt was so disgusted that she killed Adonis to end her brother’s infatuation.

The story of Adonis shows that while Apollo and Artemis were twins, they were far from identical in many ways.

My Modern Interpretation

Twins were a common theme in Greek mythology. In fact, the concept of divine twinship is considered by some historians to be one of the ancient archetypes of world religions.

Twins in Greek myths often complemented one another, like Castor and Pollux, but just as often twinship was the result of having two different fathers. When this was the case, the twins would be distinguished by the fact that one was fully mortal and one was the child of a god.

In the case of Apollo and Artemis, however, their twinship had a different meaning. They were not half-siblings with different fates, but equal and opposite aspects of the same pairing.

The twin children of Leto and Zeus had much in common. They were both archers, were considered protectors of the young, and were believed to have the ability to cure disease.

They were not identical, however. In many ways, Artemis and her brother were opposites.

Many religions, in both the ancient and modern worlds, emphasize duality and balance. The symbol of yin and yang, for example, represents the perfect balance between complementary forces in nature and the cosmos.

Artemis and Apollo embodied this idea of balance between opposite forces. The twins were complimentary opposites of each other in almost every way.

Artemis was the goddess of the hunt and represented the wild, while her brother represented culture and urban civility as the god of poets and musicians.

As a huntress, Artemis was symbolized by wild animals like stags and bears. Apollo had been the god of shepherds before Hermes stole his cattle, so his sacred animals were domesticated ones.

Artemis was associated with the night while Apollo was a god of light. Even their adornments represented this – she wore a silver crescent moon on her brow while he had been crowned with a circlet of gold by their father.

Of course, their genders were also opposites. Male and female are two of the most often cited forces that require balance.

Artemis therefor watched over girls and unmarried young women. Apollo was the protector of boys and young men.

Although they were protectors, both could also bring disease to those same populations. On the whole, though, Apollo was more associated with healing while his sister was more often a cause of death.

Apollo and Artemis are one of many examples of divine twinship in Greek mythology, but they are the pantheon’s best representation of the concept of complementary duality. Whether working together or reigning over opposing domains, the twins balanced one another.

In Summary

Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo. She was the goddess of the hunt while he was the god of music and culture.

They were closely bonded in regards to their mother. When Leto’s life or honor was in jeopardy, her children worked together to protect her with their famous bows.

In most stories, however, Apollo and Artemis were almost polar opposites.

She represented the forests and the moon while he was a god of cultured spaces and the sun. Artemis was a woman and a virgin while Apollo was a male god with many lovers.

The pair were a Greek example of an ancient archetype of divine twins. While such twins were sometimes inseparable, Leto’s children were an example of the type that represented duality and balance.

While Artemis and Apollo were opposites, they also complemented one another. One would not be able to work without the other.

The divine twins of Greece represented male and female, day and night, nature and culture. Both were necessary in equal parts for society, and the world, to function.

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Mike Greenberg, PhD

My name is Mike and for as long as I can remember (too long!) I have been in love with all things related to Mythology. I am the owner and chief researcher at this site. My work has also been published on Buzzfeed and most recently in Time magazine. Please like and share this article if you found it useful.

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