Atlanta is a Greek heroine, a huntress devoted to the god Artemis. At a young age, she was forsaken by her father in the forest but, rather than dying, she was suckled by a she-bear and later stolen by hunters. She pledged her virginity to the god Artemis and, when two centaurs broke into her grove to take it from her, she slew them with her arrows.
Atlanta took part in the Calydonian Boar hunt, where many great heroes took part. It is said that the only reason that she was allowed in the hunt was because the hero Meleager fell in love with her and insisted that she be let in. She was the first in the hunt to draw the Boar’s blood, and she received the prize of the boar’s skin from Meleager, who dealt the final blow. Two of the hunters, Meleager’s uncles Plexippus and Toxeus, cried out that a woman does not deserve the skin in the face of men, and they were promptly slain by Meleager. Meleager was later killed, though details of how it happened are lost in time.
Atlanta is soon rediscovered as a young woman by her father, who welcomes her
back into his household on one condition; she must marry. She is unable to refuse her father, and she proposes to him one condition; the suitor must defeat Atlanta in a footrace, and if he loses he will be slain. Atlanta was confident that this would protect her, due to the fact that she was one of the fastest mortals. One day, the youth Hippomenes was stricken with love for her, and he prayed to Aphrodite that she help him in his course. Aphrodite has a weakness, for lovers, and granted him 3 beautiful golden apples. She instructed him that he must throw the apples down in the race, and Atlanta would be unable to resist picking them up. This would slow her down, allowing Hippomenes to win the race.
It was in such a way that Hippomenes, grandson of Poseidon, had slowed
down Atlanta enough to win victory. But in his lovers joy, had forgotten to give tribute or even thanks to the temperamental god Aphrodite, and she sought revenge. While Atlanta and Hippomenes returned to Hippomenes’ home, they passed by a shrine to Zeus. Aphrodite struck them with an irresistible desire for each other and, as they consorted in the shrine, Zeus cursed them to become a lion and lioness. In Greek belief, the lion and the lioness can only mate with leopards, meaning that Atlanta and Hippomenes cannot be together.
It is said that Atlanta, or otherwise called Atalanta, was named from the Greek word Atalantos, which means equal in weight. Some theorize that the reason that she is named this because she is equal or better than any man, making the legend of Atlanta one of the first important legends to empower women.
Written by William Vovers
“Atalanta.” Www.theoi.com. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.theoi.com/Heroine/Atalanta.html>