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Greek Mythology

Atalanta or Atalante ( Ἀταλάντη, Αταλάντη ) ("balanced") is a character from ancient Greek mythology. She was from the Arcadia region of Greece, a daughter of Iasus or Schoeneus and of Clymene.

Her father (Iasus or Schoeneus) wanted a son, so after Atalanta's birth he left her exposed on a mountaintop. Artemis sent a female bear to suckle her and eventually a group of hunters raised her.

Atalanta participated in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar and drew first blood, though Meleager killed it. Since she had done the first injury, Meleager gave her the hide. According to one account of the hunt, Hylaeus and Rhaecus, two centaurs, tried to rape Atalanta, but Meleager killed them. Also during the hunt, Eurypylus insulted her, and Meleager killed him.

After Atalanta participated in the hunt and received the pelt, her father claimed her as his offspring and wanted her to get married. Although a very beautiful maiden, Atalanta did not particularly want to marry. In order to get her a husband, her father made a deal with Atalanta that she would marry anybody who could beat her in a foot race. Atalanta happily agreed, as she could run extremely fast.

Greek Mythology

Hippomenes and Atalanta

She outran many suitors. The one that finally became her husband accomplished this through brains, not speed. Hippomenes (also known as Melanion) knew that he could not win a fair race with Atalanta, so he prayed to Aphrodite for help. The goddess gave him three golden apples (sometimes the fruit was quince instead) and told him to drop them one at a time to distract Atalanta. Sure enough, she quit running long enough to retrieve each golden apple. It took all three apples and all of his speed, but Hippomenes finally succeeded, winning the race and Atalanta's hand.

In some versions of the quest for the Golden Fleece, Atalanta sailed with the Argonauts as the only female among them, suffered injury in the battle at Colchis and was healed by Medea. Other authors claim Jason wouldn't allow a woman on the ship.

Greek Mythology

Atalanta and Hippomenes, Rene Guido

Greek Mythology

Atalante, Pierre Lepautre [French Sculptor, 1660-1744]

Atalanta bore Hippomenes (or Ares or Meleager) a son: Parthenopaeus, who participated in the campaign of the Seven Against Thebes.

Zeus (or Cybele) turned Atalanta and Hippomenes into lions after they had sex in one of his (or her) temples.

Swinburne reprised the episode relating to the Calydonian boar-hunt in his verse tragedy Atalanta in Calydon.

More Paintings

Bernardino Orsi da Collecchio, Atalante, im Wettlauf von Hippomenes besiegt. 1485/90 (Gemäldegallerie, Berlin, Germany)

See also

Atalanta (opera)

Asteroid 36 Atalante


The Atalanta Legend in Art and Literature, Reet A. Howell Maxwell L. Howell, Journal of Sport History, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Summer, 1989) (PDF)

Bulfinch : Meleager and Atalanta

Rubens's 'Atanlanta and Meleager' (http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/picture-of-month/displaypicture.asp?venue=2&id=6) in the Lady Lever Art Gallery (http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ladylever/index.asp)

Greek Mythology

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