Myths about the Roman Goddess Diana

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Myths about the Roman Goddess Diana
Diana daughter of Jupiter and Latona, and sister of Apollo, was born in the island of Delos. She had a threefold divinity, being styled Diana on earth, Luna, or the moon, in heaven, and Hecate, or Proserpine, in hell. The poets say she had three heads, one of a horse, another of a woman, and the third of a dog. Hesiod makes Diana, Luna, and Hecate, three distinguished goddesses.

Of all the various characters of this goddess, there is no one more known than that of her presiding over woods, and delighting in hunting. The Diana Venatrix, or goddess of the chase, is frequently represented as running on, with her vest flying back with the wind, notwithstanding its being shortened, and girt about her for expedition. She is tall of stature, and her face, though so very handsome, is something manly. Her feet are sometimes bare, and sometimes adorned with a sort of buskin, which was worn by the huntresses of old. She often has a quiver on her shoulder, and sometimes holds a javelin, but more usually her bow, in her right hand. It is thus she makes her appearance in several of her statues, and it is thus the Roman poets describe her, particularly in the epithets they give this goddess, in the use of which they are so happy that they often bring the idea of whole figures of her into your mind by a single word. The statues of this Diana were very frequent in woods: she was represented there in all the different ways they could think of; sometimes as hunting, sometimes as bathing, and sometimes as resting herself after her fatigue. The height of Diana's stature is frequently marked out in the poets, and that, generally, by comparing her with her nymphs.

Another great character of Diana is that under which she is represented as the intelligence which presides over the planet of the moon; in which she is depicted in her car as directing that planet. Her figure under this character is frequently enough to be met with on gems and medals, which generally exhibit her with a lunar crown, or crescent on her forehead, and sometimes as drawn by stags, sometimes by does, but, more commonly than either, by horses. The poets speak of her chariot and her horses; they agree with the artists in giving her but two, and show, that the painters of old generally drew them of a perfect white color.

A third remarkable way of representing Diana was with three bodies; this is very common among the ancient figures of the goddess, and it is hence the poets call her the triple, the three-headed, and the three-bodied Diana. Her distinguishing name under this triple appearance is Hecate, or Trivia; a goddess frequently invoked in enchantments, and fit for such black operations; for this is the infernal Diana, and as such is represented with the characteristics of a fury, rather than as one of the twelve great celestial deities: all her hands hold instruments of terror, and generally grasp either cords, or swords, or serpents, or fire-brands.

There are various conjectures concerning the name Hecate, which is supposed to come from a Greek word signifying an hundred, either because an hundred victims at a time used to be offered to her, or else because by her edicts the ghosts of those who die without burial, wander an hundred years upon the banks of the Styx. Mythologists say that Hecate is the order and force of the Fates, who obtained from the divine power that influence which they have over human bodies; that the operation of the Fates are hidden, but descend by the means and interposition of the stars, wherefore it is necessary that all inferior things submit to the cares, calamities, and death which the Fates bring upon them, without any possibility of resisting the divine will.

Hesiod relates of Hecate, to show the extent of her power, that Jupiter had heaped gifts and honors upon her far above all the other deities; that she was empress of the earth and sea, and all things which are comprehended in the compass of the heavens; that she was a goddess easy to be entreated, kind, and always ready to do good, bountiful of gold and riches, which are wholly in her power; that whatever springs from seed, whether in heaven, or on earth, is subject to her, and that she governs the fates of all things.

Diana the Goddess of the Moon
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