Artemis of the Ephesians and Blessed Virgin Mary


I recently saw an argument on the internet by a non-Catholic who claimed, among other things, that:

  1. Catholicism, in order to placate the former worshippers of the goddess Artemis of the Ephesians, co-opted Mary and bestowed on her the title ‘Mother of God’ in AD 431 so that the innate need of some of the Mediterranean peoples to have a female goddess could be met.

  2. August 15 was chosen for the Assumption of Mary because the Artemis worshippers finished their yearly celebration on Aug 15, which therefore ties the two together.

Note: I do not believe that Catholics worship Mary but they venerate her, which is different. However I am curious how Catholics refute these claims. In a way, this is similar to the argument that Jehovah’s Witnesses make about Christianity establishing Christmas on Dec 25 to redirect former pagans from their long-standing celebration of the winter solstice to the Christian holiday of Christmas.


Why would they wait 400 years to implement this change? Depending on how factual the claim that the Blessed Virgin Mary lived in Ephesus is, this should also be considered.


:unamused: Artemis? As in the Greek goddess Artemis? The same Artemis who, like Athena, remained a virgin and childless? To placate the worshippers of this virginal goddess who had no children, we raise up a human who has a child as a goddess, yet say her child is fully god and not a Demigod? A woman who has no connection to hunting was made a substitute for the goddess of hunting?

He can make whatever outlandish claim he likes, but it means nothing if he has no proof.

“Regarding the origin of the feast we are also uncertain. It is more probably the anniversary of the dedication of some church than the actual anniversary of Our Lady’s death. That it originated at the time of the Council of Ephesus, or that St. Damasus introduced it in Rome is only a hypothesis.
According to the life of St. Theodosius (d. 529) it was celebrated in Palestine before the year 500, probably in August (Baeumer, Brevier, 185). In Egyptand Arabia, however, it was kept in January, and since the monks of Gaul adopted many usages from the Egyptian monks (Baeumer, Brevier, 163), we find this feast in Gaul in the sixth century, in January [mediante mense undecimo (Greg. Turon., De gloria mart., I, ix)]. The Gallican Liturgy has it on the 18th of January, under the title: Depositio, Assumptio, or Festivitas S. Mariae (cf. the notes of Mabillon on the Gallican Liturgy, P.L., LXXII, 180). This custom was kept up in the Gallican Church to the time of the introduction of the Roman rite. In the Greek Church, it seems, some kept this feast in January, with the monks of Egypt; others in August, with those of Palestine; wherefore the Emperor Maurice (d. 602), if the account of the “Liber Pontificalis” (II, 508) be correct, set the feast for the Greek Empire on 15 August.”

Also, if Mary is a replacement for Artemis, then why do we have so many feast days for her which presumably do not coincide with the end of the yearly (which may as well be a no-win anyway because then every day is a celebration of Artemis) celebration of her? I’m not even sure that the Assumption is considered to be the most important of the Marian feast days (I think the most important is Mary, Mother of God), so why isn’t the most important one on that same day then?


Just curious… is there a timeline in the writings of the Church as to when the veneration of Mary started? I sssume it started much sooner than 431AD.


The Memorare is oldest Marian prayer but I think it dates to the 300s which is still quite off.


Good ol’ Catholic Encyclopedia! Their research was excellent; you’d be wise to shy away from dogmatic statements about a feast they describe with so many conditionals.
You could also look at what they say about Christmas and Jesus’ birthdate.
For an independent, secular view, read the World Book Encyclopedia article on Christmas. It also is well researched, still found in schools, and reads like an article from those rascally Watchtower people. :smiley:

Diana/Artemis was the goddess of wisdom, and many RCC apologists give Mary as the personification of Wisdom at Pro ch. 8. (Although the Church no longer does, I think.)

In the event, CathEn has many other explicit examples of the adoption of pagan gods and festivals into the liturgy. The aim was to “wean” pagans from false worship. Paul disagreed: 2Cor 6:14 ff.
Cdl. Newman, a lover of Greek culture, also admired these ‘adoptions’.


I believe the Church says something like ‘it was from earliest times’. But, that often turns out to be 300, 500, 1000 C.E. and so on.
CathEn says, “Devotion to Our Blessed Lady … must be regarded as a practical application of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints … [which] is not contained, at least explicity, in the earlier forms of the Apostles’ Creed … we do not meet with any clear traces of the cultus of [her] in the first Christian centuries.” Emphasis added.
The council of Ephesus, 431 C.E., declared Mary as Theotokos or God-bearer*, but no special rites grew out of that.
CathEn again says “a vast multitude of [Marian] devotional practices” did arise, but not until the Middle Ages.

  • I’ve often wondered. Isn’t the mother of a god necessarily a goddess herself? In that case, why are Catholics upset by ‘accusations’ that they “worship” Mary. Shouldn’t you be proud of it?


Actually, quite a bit earlier than that.

Luke 1: 28 Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you.

42 Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

48-49 Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.


Are you sure these apply to the RCC elevation of Mary?
In the NJB Gabriel’s speech is translated “Rejoice, you who enjoy God’s favour!” Cf. 1:30. That phrase and the idea it represents are often found in scripture. The Douai says Stephen was “full of grace”. Jael, at Judges 5:4 Dy is " blessed among women".

There are two facts that Catholics do well to learn before defending their mariolatry.
First, a “queen of heaven” is indeed found in the Bible. Five times on fact, all in Jeremiah at 7:18, 44:17-19,25. There, she’s a false goddess being worshiped by apostate Israelites. Nothing else.

Second, much of the Immaculate Conception
dogma is founded on reasoning from the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal work. Jerome said such “Christian” apocrypha advertised their falsity on their faces. You would be well advised to read what CathEn has to say about it. Not a pretty sight.


Just as the Old Testament is a prefiguration of the New, so also there is a prefiguration of the coming of Christ in the pagan religions. It is very likely that Artemis can be seen as a prefiguration of the Holy Virgin. It is not that there is a need for a female godess it is that God in His infinite wisdom allowed a glimmer of the truth to shine forth in the darkness of the pagan religions.


Artemis was not the goddess of wisdom. That was Athena. (Also war and household skills.)

Big difference, given that Athena was conceived when her dad, Zeus, ate her mom, Themis. Athena manifested herself as a tumor in Zeus’ head, and the other gods had to split Zeus’ head open so that baby Athena could get out.

Apollo and his twin, Artemis, were the kids of Zeus and a Titan woman, Leto. Zeus’ wife Hera got mad at Leto and persuaded the Greek mainland to refuse to let her give birth, as well as most of the islands. Finally she found a floating island, which got anchored to the sea bottom after the birth.


Do you deny Jesus’ Godhood then?


(1) Claims are easy. Did you see this substantiated? The title theotokos was defended because in every age there’s been people who denied either Christ’s divinity or humanity and their unity in his personhood. Certainly there were plenty of those in the fourth and fifth century in which the Arian heresy and all sorts of variants followed.

(2) It was Diana who had the mid-August festival, not Artemis, so much as I understand it. Whatever the reason for dating a holiday, does it matter, if it encourages people to glorify the Lord and his works?


Elizabeth bestowed the equivalent title (see John 20:28) of “Mother of my Lord” on Mary in Luke 1:43:

And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me.


The original coptic greek of the Sub tuum praesidium, which uses the term theotokos, is from about 250 AD.


It’s an argument that borders on desperation.

You can make a Venn Diagram of all sorts of deities/legends/heroes and find some that have a lot in common. The ones that have the most in common (such as Jesus and Osiris) will still have plenty of differences. The idea of a virgin birth isn’t completely unique to Christianity but that doesn’t automatically make it some kind of ancient Tom Clancy operation by Christians to adapt their faith to pagans. It just means that some pagans (rightfully) understood that sex was a sacred thing and so the idea of a virgin birth was seen as special and supernatural.

In fact, it was many of these more pious pagans who were already warm to the idea of Judaism (via the diaspora of Jews that lived throughout the Hellenic world) that were the most receptive to Christianity when it was evangelized to them. “Theotokos” far predates the 5th century and you can see people like St Ephrem the Syrian already speaking about her in terms of ‘Queen of Heaven’ long before that. The 1st century Jews would have readily understood that Mary wasn’t an ordinary woman, considering the idea of the Incarnation was already a radical concept. God becoming flesh? The God whose glory had to be shielded from Moses so he wouldn’t die? I thought God couldn’t be contained in any earthly or heavenly dwelling? It was a huge deal.


No, not even in pagan mythologies. The mother of Dionysus (a full Olympian god, not just a demigod like Heracles) was Semele, a mortal. Hel(a), the Norse death goddess, was the daughter of Loki (a god of giantish heritage) and Angrboda, another giantess.

Further, Mary is Theotokos because Jesus is truly God (not “a god”), not because she pre-existed or created God. The title was dogmatized not to elevate Mary, but to defend against the notion that some experiences, such as birth and, more importantly, death only applied to Jesus-the-human, not to God the Son. True, God did not come into existence or cease to exist, and He experienced those things by taking on a human nature, but it is a true statement that God experienced human birth and human death, and therefore truly had a human mother who conceived and carried and bore and reared Him.


No, I did not see the argument substantiated. Just that Diana is supposedly the name that the Romans gave to Artemis of the Ephesians, which was the Greek name for the same goddess.

I see no problem in early Christian times with attempting to wean former pagans who had recently become Christanized by pointing them toward the veneration of Mary to meet a possible longing need of their former faith, provided there was proper teaching that she was to be venerated and highly esteemed but not adored or worshipped in the “adoration” sense as if she were a goddess.

I believe the Catholic Church makes that distinction pretty clear between highly favored/ full of grace and goddess but some poorly catechized individual Catholics may not have gotten the point. Those are my thoughts, anyway. Just thinking out loud here. Please correct me if I am wrong on that.


I wouldn’t call it “mariolatry”. That’s quite an offensive way to put it on a Catholic forum. We don’t worship her as a goddess.

Regarding her being called the queen of Heaven, from Haydock’s Commentary:

“Ver. 18. Heaven. That is, the moon, which they worshipped under that name. Ch. — Some understand the sun also the stars. C. xliv. 17. Is. lxv. 11. All the family contributes to promote this idolatry.”

Catholics do not raise Mary as an idol or a goddess. I’d suggest you read this:

It also discusses your Jeremiah verse.

Says who?

I don’t recall the Church declaring the Protoevangelium to be heretical or false. It’s not considered to be Scripture, sure, but not all Apocryphal books are necessarily heresy.

I have no idea who or what CathEn is. Why should I care about what he/they say?


Er… Artemis worshippers? In AD 431?

Even if it could be admitted that there were some pagan worshippers by that time, the Empire was not on their side after the time of Julian. So why there was even a need to “placate” Artemis worshippers? If they were indeed “former” worshippers, then they were Christians, and no need for an Artemis substitute.

And secondly, anyone with half a brain who just reads on the Nestorian heresy and the ACTUAL acts of the Council of Ephesus can see how reasonable the decree was, and why the title of Theotokos or Mother of God is such a safeguard of the doctrines of our salvation.

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