14. Divine Vengeance Visited Upon an Innocent Who Had Done Nothing to Deserve It
Actaeon was a Theban hero who loved to hunt in the outback of his native region of Boeotia. Like the hero Achilles, of Iliad fame, Actaeon was taught how to hunt by the centaur Chiron. Chiron – a mythical creature with the lower body of a horse, and the torso and upper body of a human – was notable in Greek legends because he liked to nurture the young. He instilled in Actaeon a passion for the hunt that proved the Theban’s undoing. It happened when Actaeon was on a hunt with his dogs in Boeotia, and accidentally stumbled upon the chaste goddess Artemis.
Artemis, or Diana to the Romans, was naked and bathing in a spring with some wood nymphs. Although the extent of Actaeon’s sin, if it could even be called that, was that he had simply bumped into a naked goddess, Artemis was livid that a mortal saw her in the nude. So she turned him into a stag. The terrified Actaeon bounded into the woods, but his own dogs detected the scent of a stag, failed to recognize their master in his new body, chased him down, and tore him to pieces.