She and her maidens
shunned the fellowship of men and would not
hear of marriage, for they disdained all
household arts; and there are countless
tales of their cruelty to suitors.
Syrinx and Atalanta were of their company,
and Arethusa, who was changed into a
fountain and ever pursued by Alpheus the
river-god, till at last the two were united.
Daphne, too, who disdained the
love of Apollo himself, and would never
listen to a word of his suit, but fled like Syrinx, and prayed like Syrinx for escape;
but Daphne was changed into a fair
laurel-tree, held sacred by Apollo forever
All these maidens were as untamed and free
of heart as the wild creatures they loved to
hunt, and whoever molested them did so at
his peril. None dared trespass in the home
of Diana and her nymphs, not even the
riotous fauns and satyrs who were heedless
enough to go a-swimming in the river Styx,
if they had cared to venture near such a
dismal place. But the maiden goddess laid a
spell upon their unruly wits, even as the
moon controls the tides of the sea. Her
precincts were holy. There was one man,
however, whose ill-timed curiosity brought
heavy punishment upon him. This was Actaeon,
a grandson of the great king Cadmus.
Wearied with hunting, one noon, he left his
comrades and idled through the forest
perhaps to spy upon those woodland deities
of whom he had heard. Chance brought him to
the very grove where Diana and her nymphs
were wont to bathe. He followed the bright
thread of the brook, never turning aside,
though mortal reverence should have warned
him that the place was for gods. The air was
wondrous clear and sweet; a throng of fair
trees drooped their branches in the way, and
from a sheltered grotto beyond fell a
mingled sound of laughter and running
waters. But Actaeon would not turn back.
Roughly pushing aside the laurel branches
that hid the entrance of the cave, he looked
in, startling Diana and her maidens. In an
instant a splash of water shut his eyes, and
the goddess, reading his churlish thought,
said: "Go now, if thou wilt, and boast of
He turned to go, but a stupid bewilderment
had fallen upon him. He looked back to
speak, and could not. He put his hand to his
head, and felt antlers branching above his
forehead. Down he fell on hands and feet;
these likewise changed. The poor offender!
Crouching by the brook that he had followed,
he looked in, and saw nothing but the image
of a stag, bending to drink, as only that
morning he had seen the creature they had
come out to kill. With an impulse of terror
he fled away, faster than he had ever run
before, crashing through bush and bracken,
the noise of his own flight ever after him
like an enemy.
Suddenly he heard the blast of a horn close
by, then the baying of hounds. His comrades,
who had rested and were ready for the chase,
made after him. This time he was their prey.
He tried to call and could not. His antlers
caught in the branches, his breath came with
pain, and the dogs were upon him, his own
With all the eagerness that he had often
praised in them, they fell upon him, knowing
not their own master. And so he perished,
hunter and hunted.
Only the goddess of the chase could have
devised so terrible a revenge.
The Legend and Myth of Diana and Actaeon
The Myth of Diana and Actaeon
The story of Diana and Actaeon is featured in the book
entitled Old Greek Folk Stories by Josephine
Preston Peabody, published in 1907 by
Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.