The ancient Greeks represente the spirit of conservationin the shape of a formidable protectress of animals and plants, the goddess Artemis. In the Louvreone can view a striking statueof Artemis(or as the Romans called her, Diana) in a runningpose, known as the Diana of Versailles,a Roman copy of a Greekoriginali This work of art displaystwo facetsof the goddess, as huntressand protectress: though she is armedwith bow and arrows, her hand restscherishinglyon the antler of the stag that runs beside her.
The Diana of Versaillesis only one of an innumerable series of images in art, literature,and popular culture that reveal facets of this complex deity. Artemis would be an important figure in intellectual history even if these images wereonly mattersof artistic symbolism. But Artemis was morethan an artistic symbol. The worship of this goddess involved customs affecting the treatment of living organisms,both as species and in communities,and the use of certain categories of land. For example, sanctuariesof Artemisand other gods often consistedof tractsof forestwhere huntingof deer and other animals was forbidden. Thus the study of her cult is essentialfor understanding ancient Greek attitudes and practicesrelating to wildlife, forests,and the wilderness.