In Roman mythology and according to Ovid’s Metamorphoses Bk III, Diana was the Goddess of the Moon, the hunt and woodlands. She had the power to transform animals and people. One day Actaeon, son of a preistly herdsman was hunting with his dogs and came upon her as she was bathing with her Nymphs, all of whom had sworn an oath of virginty and devotion to her. Seeing his lustful intentions, she forbade him the power of speech. If he did try to speak would be turned into a stag. As he tried to call out to his hunting party, he was transformed and torn to pieces by his own dogs.
Above: Actaeon sees The Goddess Diana. Below: Actaeon killed by his own dogs. Paintings by Titian
Callisto was the most beautiful of Diana’s Nymphs and the most loved by her. When by chance the God Jupiter sees Callisto, he is instantly taken by her. Knowing that she will only respond to Diana, and to disguise himself from his wife Juno, he transforms himself into Diana and thereby seduces Callisto when she is seperated from Diana and the other Nymphs and impregnates her. Below: Jupiter sees Callisto. by Nicolaes Berchem
Below: Jupiter as Diana with Callisto, by Francois Boucher.
After some months pass, Diana is bathing with her Nymphs and notices Callisto is pregnant and thereby breaking her vow of virgnity and devotion to her. She banishes her from her sight and her order. Callisto is forced into the wilderness even though she did not knowingly deceive Diana. Juno meanwhile has been waiting for a chance to seek revenge on her and her husband Jupiter. She transforms Callisto into a bear. Callisto gives birth to a son, Arcas, who grows up to be a hunter. One day he is in the forest and sees a bear. Not knowing it is his mother he is about to kill her with his javelin. Seeing this Jupiter intervenes by setting mother and son amongst the Stars as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor respectively. Below: By Titian, Diana and the pregnant Callisto