DIANA, in Roman mythology, an old Italian goddess, in later times identified with the Greek Artemis (q.v.). That she was originally an independent Italian deity is shown by her name, which is the feminine form of Janus (= Dianus). She is essentially the goddess of the Moon and light generally, and presides over wood, plain and water, the chase and war. As the goddess of childbirth, she was known, like Juno, by the name of Lucina, the "bringer to light." As the moon-goddess she was also identified with Hecate, and invoked as "three-formed" in reference to the phases of the Moon. Her most celebrated shrine was in a grove at Aricia (whence her title of Nemorensis) near the modern lake of Nemi. Here she was worshipped side by side with a male deity Virbius, a god of the forest and the chase. This Virbius was subsequently identified with Hippolytus, the favourite of Artemis, who was said to have been brought to life by Aesculapius and conducted by Diana to Aricia (Ovid, Fasti, iii. 263, vi. 731, Metam. xv. 497; Virgil, Aeneid, vii. 761). A barbarous custom, perhaps reminiscent of human sacrifice once offered to her, prevailed in connexion with her ritual here; her priest, called Rex Nemorensis, who was a runaway slave, was obliged to qualify for office by slaying his predecessor in single combat (Strabo v. p. 239; Suetonius, Caligula, 35). This led to the identification of Diana with the Tauric Artemis, whose image was said to have been removed by Orestes to the grove of Aricia (see Aricini).
After the destruction of Alba Longa this grove was for a long time the united sanctuary of the neighbouring Latin and Rutulian cities, until at last it was extinguished beneath the supremacy of Rome. The festival of the goddess was on the ides (13th) of August, the full Moon of the hot season. She was worshipped with torches, her aid was sought by women seeking a happy deliverance in childbirth, and many votive offerings have been found on the site. The worship of Diana was brought to Rome by Latin plebeians, and hence she was regarded as the protectress of the lower classes, and especially of slaves. In accordance with this, her most important temple was that on the Aventine, the chief seat of the plebeians, founded by Servius Tullius, originally as a sanctuary of the Latin league (Dion. Halic. iv. 26). No man was allowed to enter the temple, and on the day of its dedication (August 13) the slaves kept holiday (Plutarch, Quaest. Rom. 100). This Diana was identified with the sister of Apollo, and at the secular games she was worshipped simply as Artemis. Another celebrated sanctuary of Diana was that on the slopes of Mount Tifata near Capua (where she was worshipped under the name of Tifatina), a sanctuary specially favoured by Sulla and Vespasian. As Noctiluca ("giving light by night") she had a sanctuary on the Palatine which was kept illuminated throughout the night (Varro, L.L. v. 68). On the Nemi priesthood see J. G. Frazer, Golden Bough.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)