Atalanta

21.05.2015 |

Episode #10 of the course “Heroes of Greek Legend”

One of the most famous women of ancient Greece, Atalanta began her life rejected by her father for being born female. Her father left her on a hillside to die, but a bear rescued her. She remained with the bear and was later adopted by a family of hunters. By adulthood, Atalanta was one of the most skilled hunters in Greece. A virgin priestess, she joined a group of hunters in the famed hunt for the boar of Calydonia, a beast terrorizing the land. Her hunting companion, Meleager, fell in love with her.

Atalanta drew first blood on the boar, and when Meleager killed it, he presented her with its head. This caused jealousy among the other hunters, and Meleager killed his two uncles in a fight over the trophy. Meleager fled and Atalanta pursued him. Some accounts say that Meleager joined Jason on the Argo and so did Atalanta. On the quest, she was wounded in battle and healed by Medea. In other accounts, Jason would not allow her to join the journey. For killing his uncles, Meleager’s mother burned an enchanted log that killed him.

After wrestling Peleus publicly, Atalanta was rediscovered and adopted by her father. To perform his fatherly duties, he offered to find her a husband. A sworn virgin, she tricked him into agreeing that she would marry whoever could beat her in a foot race. After many men were defeated—at the cost of their lives—Aphrodite, the goddess of love, helped Melanion win the race and marry Atalanta. But Melanion forgot to pay tribute to Aphrodite. The goddess enticed Melanion to sleep with Atalanta in Zeus’ temple, which angered the king of the gods. Zeus then turned Melanion and Atalanta into lions, condemning them to a life apart.


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