I always thought that Artemis was the Goddess of the Moon (and Hunting, stags, etc.)... until I thought about how there's Helios/Apollo which caused me to learn about Selene. But further research revealed yet another Moon goddess - Hecate, who is associated with the moon, and is Selene's grandmother. Still further research revealed Phoebe, whose Wikipedia article is pretty sparse and is the grandmother of Selene.

Did the goddess who had domain of the moon change over time? Did they all sort of do it together?


4 Answers 4


Actually the list of moon-goddesses goes on since, according to Selene's Theoi page:

Other Greek moon goddesses included Pasiphae, the Leukippides, Eileithyia, Hekate, Artemis, Bendis, and Hera (who sometimes doubled for Selene in the Endymion myth).

But let's focus first on the one you mentioned:

  • Artemis. Her association with the moon seems relatively straight-forward: if Apollo is associated with the Sun, then his sister has to be associated with the moon.
  • Selene (= Mene or Luna). She is the proper Titan-goddess of the Moon, often even the personnification of the moon itself. See among many other sources, Apollonius Rhodius's Argonautica:

    Rising from the distant east, the Lady Selene (Moon), Titanian goddess...

  • Phoibe/Phoebe. The Titan Phoibe doesn't actually seem to be associated with the moon, the confusion comes from Selene being often nicknamed Phoebe (i. e. 'bright'). Phoibe was apparently a prophetess Titan-goddess and as such is supposed to have held the Oracle of Delphi at some point. From the first line of Aeschylus's Eumenides:

    First, in this prayer, of all the gods I name
    The prophet-mother Earth; and Themis next,
    Second who sat-for so with truth is said-
    On this her mother's shrine oracular.
    Then by her grace, who unconstrained allowed,
    There sat thereon another child of Earth-
    Titanian Phoebe.

  • Hecate. Now Hecate is something else I think. The different sources we have tend to contradict each other on her parentage, descendance, attributions etc. leading some scholars to think that Hecate was in fact a goddess foreign to the Greek Pantheon that was only added later (and well integrated thanks to the place Hesiod gave her in the Theogony). See for instance what Sarah Johnston says about it in Restless Deads:

    Let us go back further, to Hecate's place of origin. There is general agreement that this was Caria, in southwestern Asia Minor, which is supported by the fact that by the Hellenistic period her precinct in Lagina was the largest of all the precincts there (in constrast, in all of Greece, only Aegina seems to have had any significant sanctuary devoted wholly to Hecate).

    Caria being in southwestern Anatolia. Similarly (from the list I mentioned earlier), Pasiphae seems to have been the cretan moon-goddess and Bendis the one from Thrace.

    The specific reason why Hecate was associated with the moon seems a bit complex. Originally, in Caria, Hecate seems to have been a fairly generic mother Goddess. Even in Hesiod's Theogony she is presented as having dominion over basically everything:

    For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favour according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. [...] For as many as were born of Earth and Ocean amongst all these she has her due portion. The son of Cronos did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea.

    According to Sarah Johnston in Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate's Role in the Chaldean Oracles and Related Literature (which I haven't been able to find and thus read so I might be misrepresenting her idea here), the association came relatively late (1st Century AD) from the fact that at some point Hecate was seen as a "liminal" goddess, an intermediary between two worlds (hence also probably the association between Hecate and witchcraft), which is a quality that was supposedly shared by the Moon.

So to summarize, the difference between Selene and Artemis is that one is the moon while the other is just associated with it, and on top of that one is a Titan while the other is an Olympian; Phoebe has nothing to do with the moon; and the others are foreign/regional goddesses integrated a posteriori into the Greek Pantheon.

  • 1
    ... but I'm afraid I didn't find anything interesting on Achelois
    – plannapus
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 8:31
  • 1
    Thanks! I've upvoted, but I'd like to see a little more discussion on what Hecate's relationship is with the moon in particular before I accept.
    – durron597
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 14:36
  • Apollo was not associated with the sun until Hellenic times, and neither was Artemis with the moon.
    – Mary
    Commented Apr 10, 2021 at 0:48

The short answer is the Greco-Roman paganism of the era never thought about systemizing the gods as such. Conflicts such as these goddesses got two main results:

  1. Ignore it. Worship the gods according to the practices of your forefathers, respect that your neighbors (who immigrated to your city, or you to theirs) worshiped the gods according to theirs, and do not even think about the logical inconsistencies in your beliefs. Or, if you pick up a rite and a god in a foreign land, or import one, don't think about the inconsistencies.

  2. Identify your god with the most similar god(s) of the foreigners. Hence, we have Romans writing that Mercury/Hermes was the same god as Thoth of the Egyptians -- or Odin of the Germans. Sometimes with more than one identification: Osiris with both Dionysus and Pluto. Or Horus with both Helios and Apollo -- Apollo not having been regarded as a solar god in classical times, only in Hellenistic.

Now, rites could rise and fall in fashion, so one goddess might be ascendant at one time only to give way to another. But the typical pagan response to four (or more) moon goddesses would be to ignore the confusion, or identify them as one goddess of many names. (We have inscriptions where a god is saluted with the epithet "polyonymous" -- many-named.)


Hecate isn't heavily associated with the moon. So we can rule her out. Nor is Phoebe.

That leaves Artemis and Selene. According to early Greek myths, Selene used to be a Titan goddess of the moon and Artemis used to be a goddess of hunting and animals.

As time progressed, they merged into one identity. Selene was written off and Artemis became the goddess of the moon, hunting, and animals.

Same thing happened with Helius and Apollo. That said, it is up to you how you interpret Greek sources, as there is officially no 'canon source'. I like to think of Selene and Artemis as two different goddesses and same goes with Helius and Apollo.


Hecate, Artemis and Selene are one in the same. Artemis is known as the Goddess of the Triple Aspect because she has three identities. Artemis is the virgin goddess of the hunt (Earth form), Selene is goddess of the moon (sky form) and Hecate is the goddess of witchcraft and the underworld (cthonian/underworld form). We can see this in depictions of Artemis wearing the "horns of the moon" on her crown, or images of Hecate as a three-faced goddess. It is possible that at some point they were separate deities and their stories became confused by later Greeks and Romans but our current understanding is of the three as different aspects of one.

Source: Classics 430 class at University

  • 1
    "Our current understanding is of the three as different aspects of one." I'm going to need to see a source for that statement, because as far as I am aware that statement is incorrect.
    – user62
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 16:32
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    According to Theoi.com(theoi.com/Olympios/ArtemisGoddess.html#Selene) the Artemis-Selene-Hecate triad comes from Roman-period poetry, not from Greek myth.
    – solsdottir
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 17:24
  • I was taught the same.
    – tox123
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 20:43

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