Atalanta Was No Match For Aphrodite’s Powers
King Iasus believed that all kings deserved a son, not a daughter. So when his daughter Atalanta was born, he was angry. Despite the queen’s persistence, King Iasus wanted nothing to do with Atalanta and ordered his guards to leave her high in the mountains where she could die alone.
Yet, the universe had other plans for Atalanta. She did not die on the mountaintop. Instead, a mother bear that took her in and raised Atalanta as if she was her own along with her other cubs discovered her. Due to this upbringing Atalanta grew up to be as strong, courageous, and as fast as a bear. Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, was impressed by Atalanta and when she turned fifteen, sent two huntsmen to take over in raising Atalanta. She learned how to shoot a bow and arrow and to run fast. She won hunting contests and races all over Greece.
Eventually Atalanta discovered her royal roots and returned home to King Iasus. He was impressed by her achievements and apologized for sending her away when she was born. Atalanta accepted the apology and agreed to live in the palace and rule with him. She continued to hunt on the palace grounds.
After some time, King Iasus decided that it was time for Atalanta to get married. Since she was royalty, she had plenty of suitors. However, Atalanta had no desire to get married. She enjoyed her independent lifestyle and feared that a husband wouldn’t allow her to hunt or run and that she’d be trapped inside cooking and sewing all day. She wanted nothing to do with it.
King Iasus continued to persist that she must marry and finally Atalanta agreed to get married on one condition, the man she marries must be able to beat her in a race. King Iasus agreed and added an additional rule. If a man tried and lost, he would be killed. This way only serious suitors would attempt to race Atalanta. Needless to say, many men raced Atalanta and many men died; this kept Atalanta happy. She’d never have to get married.
However, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, had other plans. She believed that all mortals should fall in love and get married so she intervened. She made the young prince Hippomenes fall in love with Atalanta and decide to race. What was different about this race was that he was going to get Aphrodite’s help.
Together, Hippomenes and Aphrodite were able to trick Atalanta. Before the race, Aphrodite gave Hippomenes three golden apples and instructed him to throw the apples whenever Atalanta got ahead of him in the race. He followed her instructions and every time he threw the apple, Atalanta would veer off course to get the apple allowing Hippomenes to get ahead. Hippomenes defeated Atalanta only by a few seconds, but he won. Instead of hating him, Atalanta, under Aphrodite’s spell, fell in love with Hippomenes and married him.
Categorized in: Greek Mythology
This post was written by Greek Boston