Temple of Artemis Medusa at Corfu
In Ephesus, Turkey
erected 580 BC
Doric Temple sculpture seemed confined to a zone framed by architectural components. The pediment acts as a screen, to protect the wooden rafters from moisture. The pronounced relief sculpture in the center of the pediment, overlaps the frame and dominates the scene with bold detail, and expressive yet balanced quasi-symmetrical arrangement. The main figure is not Artemis (as we know her), but Medusa (a gorgon). Medusa and the lions by her side, ward off evil. Medusa is a frightening apotropaic hex sign indeed, with her archaic hideous grin and muscular appendages positioned athletically; as her wings fan out behind her. Greeks were able to convey movement in art, without actual locomotion. The style here also reflects an oriental scheme, inherited from ancient Mycenaean architecture. There is also an ongoing narrative represented with smaller figures presenting an uneasy balance.
Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and Leto. Apollo was her twin brother. In Rome she was called Diana. Artemis began as a powerful Queen Goddess of Fertility; but eventually became known as the Virgin Moon Goddess of the Hunt during the Hellenic Age. She assisted child-birth, and protected young humans and animals. As Goddess of the Hunt, she is associated with animals like bears, birds, dogs, deer, and snakes. In Arcadia she was related to Demeter and Persephone, and sometimes confused with Hecate and Selene. Ephesus was the important center of her cult, and she was represented as having many breasts, inherited from prehistoric fertility goddesses. Artemis was worshiped as a primary goddess in other places too, like Attica (Lady of the Labyrinth) and Aegina (Artemis Aphaia).