Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sisters That Changed History - Athena and Artemis

Blogger: Amber Schamel
 Today we're continuing our exploration of sisters in history. If you missed last month's post on Leah and Rachel, you can find it here.

Athena (known as Minerva to the Romans) and Artemis (Diana) were the mythical daughters of Zeus in Greek Mythology. While these two figures are either legends stretched to extraordinary proportions or complete products of imagination, they did affect history, as we will see.

Athena, considered the goddess of wisdom, handicraft, and war, was the principle deity of the Greek Capital of Athens. She is best known for the story of her...ahem...unusual birth. As the story goes, her father Zeus swallowed her mother after she became pregnant for fear of her bearing a son that would threaten his reign. Afterward, he developed such a horrible headache that he begged a friend to split his skull with an ax to relieve the pressure. When his friend obliged, Athena sprang full-grown, wearing weapons and armor, from the slit in his head. Of course, such tales are of little interest to us, except for the fact that they had a tremendous influence upon the Greeks as well as Romans, who in turn influenced the entire world. Especially America. Here’s why.

According to the myth, Athena ended up being Zeus’s favorite child and was given great power. She was widely worshiped but is most commonly remembered for the city of Athens which emerged about the time that Greece went from monarchy to democracy. The city of Athens seemed to be an intricate piece in the development of democracy in Greece, the form of which greatly influenced the founding fathers when they set up the United States as a republic. Had it not been for this goddess which, “protected the city and inspired restraint and practical insight,” Greece may never have become the world influence that it has.

The temple built to her is also a part of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World and was a religious hub for the Greeks. 

Depiction of Athena's Birth
The city of Athens is also mentioned in the Scriptures. In Acts chapter seventeen, Paul is visiting Athens when he notices an inscription “to the unknown god.” His heart was grieved for the idolatry of the people and he delivered one of his most famous sermons here.

Artemis, the huntress, was Athena’s sister, as well as the twin of Apollo. She was known as the goddess of nature and fertility, also possessing power over all forms of wildlife and even the moon. She was the principle deity of Ephesus, and there was a temple there dedicated to her. This temple also became one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

So great was the influence of this goddess, especially in Ephesus, that the businessmen of the city became enraged when Christians began missionary work in the area. The Scriptures (in Acts chapter 19) record the incident where the silversmiths enrage the entire city against Paul for preaching against the goddess. They proclaim:

“Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.

Moreover, ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:

So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.”

Whom all Asia and the world worships. So then, the influence of this mythical woman must have been great at the time. Some scholars also argue that Artemis was a “savior goddess” which would have made the preaching of Christ as Savior even more offensive to the Ephesians. Still, many in Ephesus were converted to the truth and one of the epistles recorded in the Holy Scriptures was addressed to them.

Ephesus Coin with Artemis' Image
It also seems that this figure was the inspiration behind fairies and nymphs. In more current times, she is considered the “feminist goddess”.

So we see that these two sisters, while they were mythical, still affected the culture of ancient times and even beyond. They generated commerce, inspired temples that became icons, dictated the lives of those who worshiped them, influenced their thinking, and had cities dedicated to them that became major in the Christian movement.

If a “legend” or imaginary character can do that, what more could you and I? 


Author of over half a dozen books, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".  She lives in Colorado and spends half her time volunteering in the Ozarks. Visit her online at and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!


  1. Interesting choice of influential sisters, but I see why you chose mythical characters! That's one thing I love about this blog; how you all think outside the box!!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by today, Connie. Glad you enjoyed it.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Very interesting! It's amazing what was done in honor of two mythical sisters. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Interesting how so many have worship mythical Gods instead of the one true God. Thank you for bringing the Word of God into this post. You are amazing with your history and the depth of your study to bring God's Word to light. God bless you richly.

  4. Thanks for the history lesson. And thanks for bringing up the significance of Diana in Ephesus