In Greek mythology, Leto (Greek: Λητώ; Λατώ, Latō in Dorian Greek, etymology and meaning disputed) is a daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe. Kos claimed her birthplace. In the Olympian scheme, Zeus is the father of her twins, Apollo and Artemis, the Letoides, which Leto conceived after her hidden beauty accidentally caught the eyes of Zeus. For the classical Greeks, Leto is scarcely to be conceived apart from being pregnant and finding a place to be delivered of Apollo and Artemis, for Hera being jealous, made it so all lands shunned her. Finally, she finds an island that isn't attached to the ocean floor so it isn't considered land and she can give birth. This is her one active mythic role: once Apollo and Artemis are grown, Leto withdraws, to remain a dim and benevolent matronly figure upon Olympus, her part already played. In Roman mythology, Leto's equivalent is Latona, a Latinization of her name, influenced by Etruscan Letun.
In Crete, at the city of Dreros, Spyridon Marinatos uncovered an eighth-century post-Minoan hearth house temple in which there were found three unique figures of Apollo, Artemis and Leto made of brass sheeting hammered over a shaped core (sphyrelata). Walter Burkert notes that in Phaistos she appears in connection with an initiation cult.
Leto was identified from the fourth century onwards with the principal local mother goddess of Anatolian Lycia, as the region became Hellenized. In Greek inscriptions, the Letoides are referred to as the "national gods" of the country. Her sanctuary, the Letoon near Xanthos predated Hellenic influence in the region, however. and united the Lycian confederacy of city-states. The Hellenes of Kos also claimed Leto as their own. Another sanctuary, more recently identified, was at Oenoanda in the north of Lycia. There was, of course, a further Letoon at Delos.
A measure of what a primal goddess Leto was can be recognized in her father and mother. Her Titan father is called "Coeus," and his obscure name links him to the sphere of heaven from pole to pole. Leto's mother "Phoebe" is precisely the "bright, purifying" epithet of the full moon.
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