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Diana of Versailles
(1st - 2nd centuries, Louvre , Paris)
Diana as a huntress
(Roman mosaic, 2nd century)
Rubens: Diana as a huntress
(private collection, Madrid)

Diana is in Roman mythology the goddess of the hunt , the moon and childbirth, protector of women and girls. It corresponds to Artemis in Greek mythology .


Iana , Deana and Diviana also appear as variants of their name . The name is derived from the Latin dius (“bright day”, “shining”) and a corresponding Indo-European root * dei- meaning “shine”, “shimmer”, “shine”, from which gods such as the Greek Dios ( Διός ) are derived. for Zeus and Latin Deus ("God"). Accordingly, Diana is not seen as an original moon goddess, but as "the shining one", who then becomes the moon deity alongside Luna , the actual moon goddess, as a counterpart to the sun deity Apollo / Sol .

Due to the construction of the name, a god Dianus is assumed to be the male equivalent of Diana . Whether this is identical to Janus is disputed, especially since Dianus also appears as a nickname for Jupiter .


( Joseph Wright of Derby , around 1790)

Diana is originally an Italian deity. Her most important sanctuary ( Dianium ) was in the Alban Hills near Aricia on Lake Nemisee , the speculum Dianae , the "mirror of Diana". The Diana Nemorensis was there along with Egeria and Virbius , adored, two subordinate deities. The sanctuary was well attended. Hence the numerous beggars whom Martial mentions several times, who gathered there at the clivus Virbi . It was also so well endowed that Octavian took a loan from the temple at Nemi.

Diana's main shrine in Rome was her temple on the Aventine , which, according to tradition , had been founded by Servius Tullius . Even at the time of Dionysius of Halicarnassus , the deed of foundation recorded on a bronze column was preserved. The sanctuary is referred to as the "Diana Temple of the Latin Association". The foundation festival on the calendar of sextilis ( August 1st ) coincides with that of the Nemi sanctuary. That day was a feast day of the Roman slaves (servorum dies) and the Roman women washed and groomed their hair in a special way. Then they went in procession to the grove of the goddess of Nemi, carrying torches.

Other shrines in Rome were:

  • Sacellum in Caeliculo , a sanctuary on the Caeliculus , part of Caelius . The sanctuary was built in 58 BC. Destroyed in 54 BC and rebuilt in 54 as a sanctuary of Diana Planciana , probably by Marcus Plancius Varus von Perge .
  • Dianium at the corner of the clivus urbius and vicus Cyprius on the Esquiline
  • a women-only chapel in the vicus Patricius

A temple of Diana-Artemis was built by Marcus Aemilius Lepidus in a battle against the Ligurians in 187 BC. And consecrated eight years later at the Circus Flaminius . This temple was built by Octavian after the victory over Sextus Pompey in the naval battle of Naulochoi in 36 BC. Restored. At the same time, Lucius Cornificius restored the Temple of Diana on the Aventine, which was therefore called the Temple of Diana Cornificiana . Augustus consecrated in 28 BC His (36 BC) Temple of Apollo on the Palatine Hill , Diana Victrix (the "victorious Diana"), the secular celebrations of the year 17 BC. Were placed under the umbrella of the siblings Apollo and Diana and in the imperial era there were dedications for Diana Augusta (the "sublime / imperial Diana"). So Diana was finally fully integrated into the framework of imperial propaganda.

Important places of worship outside Rome were:

It is noticeable that all urban Roman consecrations from the time of the Republic are outside the Pomerium , i.e. outside the Roman city limits in the religious sense. The old sanctuaries of Lazio are also all outside cities. It has been interpreted to the effect that Diana reveals herself to be a deity of the wilderness and the "outside". As the goddess of the wilderness, she was worshiped along with Silvanus and as the deity of the border (between wilderness and civilization) by the troops stationed on the borders of the empire.

Interior of the Temple of Diana in Nimes ( Hubert Robert , 1771)

During the imperial era, places of worship of Diana were found throughout the empire, with "Diana" often being the interpretatio Romana of a local deity. So Diana stands z. B. for the Syrian goddess of Hierapolis or for Abnoba or Arduinna with the Celts.

Remains of temple buildings dedicated to Diana can be found among others. a. in:


Apollo and Diana
( Lucas Cranach the Elder , 1530)

Originally Diana seems to have been mainly an assistant to women during childbirth . As a goddess of the "outside", she protected women from its dangers, especially from demonic temptations during childbirth. Her role as childbirth helper was also expressed in her nickname Lucina , which she shared with Juno , the other obstetrician: she was the one who brought the child to light, made it see the "light of the world".

Votive offer for Diana as thanks for success in the bear hunt, Römisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne

Their importance as the goddess of women and midwife (obstetrix) is evidenced by numerous relating to birth and fertility votive offerings , which were found in Nemi, z. B. vulvas , phalluses therefore, mothers with babies etc. Wissowa argued that Diana Nemorensis was no political goddess per se, but its political significance only therefore stir that Aricia was the capital of a Latin Cities. There are also votive offerings for hunting success, for example from a centurion stationed in Germania Inferior, who thanks them for having caught 50 bears within only six months . The animals were used in rushing animals in the arena.

From an original myth of Diana - independent of Greek mythology - nothing has survived, since Diana was identified very early and almost completely with the Greek Artemis. The Greek myths were adopted by replacing the Greek deities with their Roman equivalents. According to this, Diana arose from Jupiter's connection with Latona , was Apollo's sister , remained a virgin , did not marry, etc.

The connection between Artemis and Hecate was also transferred to Diana, which is why Diana very often carries the torch of Hecate as an attribute next to the arch. Since Hecate was also the goddess of crossroads and crossroads (trivium) , Trivia appears as the name of Diana from the Augustan period . Virgil also calls Nemisee lacus triviae .

The Celtic goddess Artio is also equated with Diana in the Interpretatio Romana.


The claim that the cult image in Aricia was threefold like some depictions of Hecate cannot be derived from the name alone. Rather, the cult image of Nemi as well as the cult image of Diana Tifatina (at least in the surviving copies) portrayed her as a young huntress with a short chiton , quiver and bow, hunting boots and torch, similar to the well-known type of " Diana of Versailles ".

She is often depicted as a young huntress with a short chiton , a quiver with a bow and arrows, and a young stag.

Denarius with a three-form deity

That the denarius of Publius Accoleius Lariscolus from 43 BC BC, which shows three female deities on the lapel , is a representation of Diana Nemorensis, is not certain. The goddesses carry arch, twig and torch or staff as attributes and are connected by a yoke or a beam at shoulder height.

The cult image of the Aventine temple is said to have been of the type of Artemis from Ephesus , since according to Strabo it was an image of Artemis from Massilia , which in turn corresponded to the Ephesian Artemis.

Diana as mistress of witches in the Middle Ages

Witches dance in an ancient ruin
Two witches (Hans Baldung, 1523)

In the Middle Ages Diana became the goddess of witches . This seems to be backed up by numerous documents from several centuries. As early as 906, Regino von Prüm published De synodalibus causis et disciplinis ecclesiasticis , which contained the Canon episcopi , a collection of instructions for bishops and their representatives. There is a list of ideas to be stamped out:

It must not be ignored that there are certain criminal women who have followed Satan and, seduced by the delusion and pretense of demons, believe and confess that they ride certain animals at night together with the pagan goddess Diana and an innumerable number of women to travel great distances in the quiet of the night, to obey the goddess' instructions as if she were the mistress, and to be called to her service on certain nights.

The whole myth of the Witches' Sabbath is represented here, with the difference that it is not Satan but the pagan Diana who is mistress of the Sabbath. Something similar can be found in Book XIX of the Decretum of Burchard von Worms , which supplements the biblical Herodias on the goddess Diana .

However, in his study of witchcraft, the Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg reported doubts about the authenticity of Diana in such texts and the (later) reports of the witch hunters. He suspected a kind of Interpretatio Romana , that is, when the accused's statements of witchcraft were recorded, the names mentioned by them were translated into others familiar to the authors of the texts. Occasionally these authentic names appear, then there is talk of a Bensozia (perhaps Bona Socia : "good companion") and Madona Horiente , according to the files of a trial from 1390. In the records of the inquisitor Beltramino da Cernuscullo, however, one reads that instead "Game of Diana whom they call Herodias".

In another case, which in a sermon of Nicholas of Cusa finds these reports of women who had been known to belong to a "society of Diana" whom they worship as a source of wealth, as "whether they Fortuna " ( quasi Fortunam) . And he refers to the Diana of Ephesus, who has always been an adversary of the faith, as can also be inferred from the Acts of the Apostles . He then adds that these women would call the goddess Richella in Italian , which means "mother of wealth and fortune", hence Fortuna. And learned he goes on to identify this as Abundia or Dame Habonde , a medieval legendary figure that goes back to the Roman Abundantia .

The examples given by Ginzburg at least cast doubt on the survival of ancient Diana in popular belief. What is actually authentic here and what was constructed by theologians who were familiar with the pagan gods, if not by ancient authors, then at least by the apologetic writings of the Church Fathers , can hardly be decided today.

For example, Diana as a leader of the Wild Hunt : In the sermons of the Dominican Johannes Herolt be mentioned in a list of superstitious people those who believe that "Diana, in the vernacular fiends or blessed frawn called bypasses at night with their armies and they cover great distances. "

The fact that in some languages ​​and dialects a term for “witch” can be derived from the name “Diana” - jana in Old Tuscan and Sardinian, janára in Neapolitan, gene in Old French, šana in Asturian, jana in Old Provençal, etc. - is not a thing either Evidence of the survival of a living tradition of the pagan deity.


Visual arts

Diana and Endymion
( Jérôme Martin Langlois , 1822)

Because (especially in post-ancient mythology) Apollo was identified with Helios , Artemis and thus Diana were equated with the Greek Selene and the Roman Luna . This led to the fact that, for example, “Diana and Endymion ” (actually: “Selene and Endymion”) is a popular subject in the visual arts in modern times. This iconographic amalgamation becomes complete when Diana's arch becomes a crescent moon, as seen for example in the final scene of the Pastorale episode in Walt Disney's Fantasia .

There are, however, numerous other subjects from the myths surrounding Diana-Artemis, which were often designed in painting, but also in modern sculpture.

This includes, above all, the depiction of the myth about the hunter Aktaion , who watches Diana bathing and is torn apart by his own dogs. This myth initially provided as a motif Diana bathing (with her nymphs), together with Actaion hidden in the bushes as a voyeur, and also the dramatic scene of Aktaion being torn to pieces by his dogs.

The siblings Apollo and Diana were also a popular subject, especially in the 16th century (Dürer, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Jan Brueghel the Elder).


Diana found a literary form in 19th century literature in the pantomime "The Goddess Diana" by Heinrich Heine , which he published in 1854 in his "Mixed Writings" following his essay " The Gods in Exile ". It initially Diana appears in the forest as a destination of longing and love of the romantic knight, then, on the German castle, she asks, accompanied by Apollo and Bacchus with respective entourage who betrayed love of the knight and invites him to her to Venusberg to accompany, but the castle woman does not allow that. Then the knight wanders through romantically rugged areas, where he is teased by Heine's elemental spirits. Finally Diana appears on horseback with the Wild Hunt . When they come together in front of the gate of the Venusberg, Treue Eckart stands in their way. In a duel, he stabs the knight so that his soul may be saved for heaven. Finally, in the last tableau in the interior of the Venusberg, one can see the sensual joy of prehistoric times gathered (including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was already dead at the time ). Desperate Diana carries her dead knight in, who is then revived by Apollo with lyre music and Bacchus with wine, so that everything has a happy ending. As you can see, the concise libretto combines a considerable number of romantic main motifs, centered around the goddess Diana.

Diana-Artemis appears as the main character in the background in the novel “The Mask Play of Genii” by the Austrian author Fritz von Herzmanovsky-Orlando . The fate of the hero Cyriak von Pizzicolli is already hinted at on the first pages:

Then there was another remarkable thing about him that he detested game, especially venison; that he also had a peculiar relationship between attraction and aversion to hunting, and that the name "Anna" caused him downright horror. The article "the" in front of the ominous name made this situation almost frightening.

The mythical equivalent of Cyriak is the hunter Aktaion , whose terrible fate Cyriak also has to share in the end.

Diana found a completely different formation in the first volume "The Duchess - a Diana in Rome" of the trilogy " The Goddesses or The Three Novels of the Duchess of Assy " by Heinrich Mann , which was published in 1902. As the first in the series of the three goddesses - Diana, Minerva , Venus - Mann shows his youthful heroine as a woman filled with the urge for personal and political freedom, who of course fails because of male lies and deceit and is ultimately abused.


Web links

Commons : Diana  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Varro De re rustica 1, 37, 3.
  2. CIL 14, 2212
  3. Varro De lingua latina 5, 68.
  4. ^ Gerhard Köhler: Indo-European dictionary. 3. Edition. P. 188
  5. ^ Theodor Birt: Diana . In: Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (Hrsg.): Detailed lexicon of Greek and Roman mythology . Volume 1.1, Leipzig 1886, column 1002 ( digitized version ).
  6. ^ Theodor Birt: Diana . In: Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (Hrsg.): Detailed lexicon of Greek and Roman mythology . Volume 1,1, Leipzig 1886, column 1003 ( digitized version ).
  7. ^ Servius Commentarius in Vergilii Aeneida 7, 515.
  8. Martial 2, 19, 3; 10, 68, 4; 12, 32, 10; Juvenal Saturae 3, 117.
  9. Appian Bella civilia 5:24 .
  10. Livy Ab urbe condita 1, 45; John Zonaras 7, 9; Aurelius Victor De viris illustribus urbis Romae 7, 9.
  11. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus Antiquitates Romanae 4, 26.
  12. Varro De lingua latina 5, 43: commune Latinorum Dianae templum .
  13. Plutarch Quaestiones romanae 100.
  14. Ovid Fasti 3, 263; Properz Elegiae 2, 32, 9f .; Statius Silvae 3, 1, 55f.
  15. Cicero De haruspicum responso 32; at Varro the place name Caeliolus appears , cf. De lingua latina 5, 46.
  16. CP Jones: The Plancii of Perge and Diana Planciana. In: Harvard Studies in Classical Philology Vol. 80, 1976, pp. 231-237.
  17. ^ Livius Ab urbe condita 1, 48, 6.
  18. Plutarch Quaestiones romanae 3.
  19. Livy Ab urbe condita 39, 2, 8; 40, 52, 1ff.
  20. CIL 6, 128.
  21. Velleius Paterculus Historiae Romanae 2, 25, 4; Plutarch Sulla 6; CIL 2, 2660 ; CIL 10, 3828 .
  22. ^ Livy Ab urbe condita 27, 4, 12.
  23. Horace Carmina 1:21 , 5; Carmen saeculare 69.
  24. Pliny Naturalis historia 16, 242: suburbano Tusculani agri, qui Corne appellatur .
  25. Martial 7, 28, 1.
  26. See e.g. B. John Scheid: Diana in DNP
  27. CIL 3, 8483 ; CIL 13,382 .
  28. CIL 2, 2660 ; CIL 3, 1000 ; CIL 3, 3365 ; CIL 8, 9831 .
  29. Catullus 34, 13 and v. a.
  30. Marcus Nenninger: The Romans and the Forest. Investigations into dealing with a natural area using the example of the Roman north-west provinces . Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden 1997, p. 35.
  31. Virgil Aeneid 7: 516; see. Virgil: Aeneid Latin / German. Stuttgart: Reclam 2008, 2012, p. 959. Compare also Arcinum triviae nemus in Publius Papinius Statius Silvae 3, 1, 56.
  32. Otto Holzapfel: Lexicon of Occidental Mythology . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1993, ISBN 3-451-05500-7 , p. 59.
  33. Hubert Cancik, Richard Faber , Barbara von Reibnitz (eds.): Verse and things: cultural-scientific interpretations of Roman poetry . Würzburg 2003, p. 72.
  34. ^ Sculpture from the Sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis at Lake Nemi. In: Irene Bald Romano (Ed.): Classical sculpture. Catalog of the Cypriot, Greek, and Roman stone sculpture in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia 2006, p. 75.
  35. Strabon 4, 180.
  36. ^ FWH Wasserschleben (ed.): Reginonis abbatis Prumiensis libri duo de synodalibus causis et disciplinis. Leipzig 1840, p. 355 ( digitized version ). Quoted from: Carlo Ginzburg: Hexensabbat. Deciphering a nocturnal story. Wagenbach, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-8031-3549-4 , p. 91f.
  37. ^ Carlo Ginzburg: Witches' Sabbath. Deciphering a nocturnal story. Wagenbach, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-8031-3549-4 , p. 91ff.
  38. ^ Carlo Ginzburg: Witches' Sabbath. Deciphering a nocturnal story. Wagenbach, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-8031-3549-4 , p. 93f.
  39. Acts 19.27 ff  EU
  40. ^ Carlo Ginzburg: Witches' Sabbath. Deciphering a nocturnal story. Wagenbach, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-8031-3549-4 , p. 96f.
  41. ^ Edition Cologne 1474. Quoted from: Carlo Ginzburg: Hexensabbat. Deciphering a nocturnal story. Wagenbach, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-8031-3549-4 , p. 101.
  42. Hans P. Duerr: Dream time - across the border between wilderness and civilization. Syndikat, Frankfurt 1978, pp. 190f.
  43. The name of the main character is a tribute to Cyriacus of Ancona , the important traveler and collector of ancient writings in the 15th century.
  44. ^ Fritz von Herzmanovsky-Orlando: The mask game of geniuses. Complete Works Vol. 3, Residenz, Salzburg 1989, p. 11.