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date: 07 February 2023



  • Herbert Jennings Rose
  •  and Jenny March


  • Greek Myth and Religion

Actaeon, in mythology son of Aristaeus and Autonoë, daughter of Cadmus, and a great huntsman. Ovid gives the most familiar version of his death (Met. 3. 138 ff.): one day on Mt. Cithaeron he came inadvertently upon Artemis bathing, whereupon the offended goddess turned him into a stag and he was torn apart by his own hounds. Other versions of his offence were that he was Zeus' rival with Semele (our oldest authorities: Stesichorus fr. 236 Davies, PMGF; Acusilaus fr. 33 Jacoby), or that he boasted that he was a better huntsman than Artemis (Eur. Bacch. 339–40), or that he wished to marry Artemis (Diod. Sic. 4. 81. 4). After his death his hounds hunted for him in vain, howling in grief, until the Centaur Chiron made a lifelike image of him to soothe them (Apollod. 3. 4. 4).

Actaeon torn by hounds is found in many works of art from the 6th cent. In earlier pictures he sometimes wears a deerskin (as apparently in Stesichorus), but the first vases on which he sprouts antlers are after the middle of the 5th cent. Artemis surprised bathing appears first in Pompeian paintings. See L. Guimond, LIMC 1/1. 454–69; Gantz, EGM 478–81.