Diana is a Roman goddess of the hunt, wild animals, the moon, chastity, and childbirth. She was the patron of slaves, who could always find sanctuary in her temples, and also of women seeking to conceive healthy children. Much of her history has been erroneously conflated with the Greek goddess Artemis, and thus little is known. Even her Roman myth is likely a reinterpretation of an earlier Sabine goddess.
She is a twin, though the identity of this counterpart fluxes. Depending on the source, it is sometimes credited to be Apollo or Lucifer. Occasionally she is associated with Janus.
In Roman art Diana usually appears as a huntress with bow and quiver, accompanied by a hound or deer. She often has a small crescent moon woven into her hair. The Roman poet Nemesianus describes her as follows: “She carried a bow and a quiver full of golden arrows, wore a golden cloak, purple half-boots, and a belt with a jeweled buckle to hold her tunic together, and wore her hair gathered in a ribbon.”
Diana Nemorensis and Lake Nemi
Diana spent much of her time at her sanctuary at Nemi, a basin lake surrounded by sacred groves. She preferred this isolation to the vigour of the cities. Her lands were well known to offer refuge to slaves and fugitives seeking escape, particularly women. Nemi also welcomed expectant mothers and children, and even the care of pups and pregnant dogs.
The lake was also known as “Diana’s Mirror” for it reflected the moon so clearly.
Diana preferred solitude, and was selective of those she was closest to, however she lived with two permanent companions:
- Egeria, a water nymph who assisted with midwifery and had political ties as counsellor and consort to a king of Rome.
- Virbius, a woodland god, thought to be Diana’s head priest and once a slave himself.