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Atalanta (Greek: Αταλάντη, Atalantē, "balanced") is a character in Greek mythology.



Atalanta was the daughter of Hades or Iasius (or Mainalos), a Boeotian (according to Hesiod) or an Arcadian princess (according to Apollodorus) or Schoeneus according to Hyginus. Many categorized Atalanta as a goddess. Apollodorus is the only one who gives an account of Atalanta’s birth and upbringing. King Iasos wanted a son; when Atalanta was born, he left her on a mountain top to die. Some stories say that a she-bear suckled and cared for Atalanta until hunters found and raised her, and she learned to fight and hunt as a bear would. She was later reunited with her father.

Atalanta, having grown up in the wilderness, became a fierce hunter and was always happy. It is said that she took an oath of virginity to the goddess Artemis. When two centaurs Rhoikos and Hylaios tried to rape her, Atalanta killed them.

Calydonian Boar Hunt

When Artemis was forgotten at a sacrifice by King Oineus, she was angered and sent a wild boar that ravaged the land, men, cattle and prevented crops from being sown. Atalanta joined Meleager and many other famous heroes on a hunt. Many of the men were angry that a woman was joining the hunt, but Meleager, though married, lusted for Atalanta,and so he persuaded them to let Atalanta join the chase. Several of the men were killed before Atalanta was the first to hit the boar and draw blood. After Meleager finally killed the boar with his spear, he awarded the boar skin to Atalanta. Meleager’s uncles, Plexippus and Toxeus, were angry and tried to take the skin from Atalanta. In his anger, Meleager killed his uncles. In her grieving, Meleager's mother Althaea "kindled the brand" [1] , and Meleager died.


After the Calydonian Boar Hunt, Atalanta was discovered by her father. He wanted her to be wed, but Atalanta, uninterested in marriage, agreed to marry only if her suitors could outrun her, though fully armed, in a footrace. King Schoineus agreed and many young men died in the attempt until Melanion (or Hippomenes) came along. Melanion asked the goddess Aphrodite for help and she gave him three golden apples to toss as Atalanta caught up, in order to slow her down. The apples were irresistible, so every time Atalanta got ahead of Melanion, he rolled an apple ahead of her, and she would run after them. In this way, Melanion won the footrace and came to marry Atalanta. Eventually they had a son Parthenopaios, who was one of the Seven against Thebes. Zeus (or Cybele, or Rhea) turned Atalanta and Melanion into lions after they made love together in one of his temples. Other accounts say that Aphrodite changed them into lions because they did not give her proper honor. She filled Melanion with lust and he stripped Atalanta in the temple. They were cursed by the priests after seeing Melanion stroking her large breasts as if they were Aphrodite's own (thus making so that her naked guise was as beautiful as the goddess's). The belief at the time was that lions could not mate with their own species, only with leopards, thus Atalanta and Hippomenes would never be able to remain with one another.

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