Atalante the myth
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 15/11/2020Back to Blog
For Atalante there are many myths. She was worshipped in Arcadia and Boeotia, and she is the symbol of a woman who was far from the ancient standards of the position of women. She was a great archer and runner. It is believed that she took part in the Argonautica campaign and that in the hunt of the Calydon boar, she first managed to hurt the animal with her arrows. Today, probably, we will call her a liberated woman.
We will focus on the main myth related to the poem you are reading.
Atalante, daughter of Schineas and Clymene, was a beautiful woman and an excellent runner. She used to run and hunt in the woods and had no desire to get married. Under pressure from her father, and the young men who were asking her to marriage, she said she would marry the one who could beat her in a running race. Confident about her own speed, she was certain that no one of them could win. Those young men who would fail, they had to be killed. Despite the terrible threat, many young people dared to try and fail. But Hippomenes who had fallen in love with her, asked help from the goddess Aphrodite (Venus). She gave him three golden apples and told him to throw them at Atalante’s feet as she was running. Every time she bent down to get an apple, she delayed, so he managed to pass her and beat her.
Having no choice, Atalante married Hippomenes. The young couple, then, lived an insane love. One day, unrestrained by lust, they used the temple or the forest of the goddess Hera, as a love nest. The goddess got angry and transformed them into a pair of lions.
Another symbolism repeated in this myth is the apple. In Ancient Greece, as well among the Jews, the apple symbolized knowledge that was not accessible to everyone. Examples are many (the apple of Adam and Eve, the apple of Eris – the one Paris gave to Aphrodite as the prettiest of the goddesses, the apples of Hesperides – that Hercules manage to steal from the garden of Hesperides, etc.).
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