Myths of the World Wiki


File:Atalanta Peleus Staatliche Antikensammlungen 596.jpg

Peleus and Atalanta wrestling, black-figured hydria, ca. 550 BC, Staatliche Antikensammlungen (Inv. 596).

Atalanta (Template:Lang-el, 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 made an oath of maidenhood to the goddess Artemis. When two centaurs Rhoikos and Hylaios tried to rape her, Atalanta killed them.

Calydonian Boar Hunt[]

File:Giulio Romano - Meleager et Atalanta.jpg

Meleager et Atalanta, engraving after Giulio Romano.

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", 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. Melanion tossed the apples every time Atalanta came near him and in this way 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.

Apollodorus also says she wrestled and defeated Peleus at the funeral games for Pelias.

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 would not allow a woman on the ship.

Cultural Depictions[]

File:Guido Reni 006.jpg

Detail from Atalanta and Hippomenes, Guido Reni, c. 1622–25

Handel wrote a 1736 opera about the character, Atalanta. In the 20th century, Robert Ashley also wrote an opera, Atalanta (Acts of God), with loose allegorical connections to the myth. Other works based on the myth include a play by Algernon Charles Swinburne written (in the style of Greek tragedy) Atalanta in Calydon in 1865.

A version of Atalanta appears in three episodes of the television series Hercules: the Legendary Journeys: Ares, Let the Games Begin and If I Had a Hammer, played by Corinna 'Cory' Everson. In this version, she is a Spartan blacksmith, as well as a superior athlete. An Atalanta action figure was included in the 'Hercules' toy line.

Atalanta features prominently in the Hallmark mini-series of Jason and the Argonauts where she is played by Olga Sosnovska. This version depicts her as being a childhood friend of Jason's and abruptly joining the voyage despite his protests. On the Isle of Lemnos it is she who discovers Hypsipyle's plan and saves them. Later on in the story she confesses that she loves Jason but he views her as a sister, preferring Medea. Although she is unhappy at this rejection there are hints of a possible romance between her and a thief throughout the mini-series.


A cartoon version of the story of Atalanta's foot race was included in Free to Be... You and Me, a record album and illustrated songbook first released in November 1972, and later in 1974 as a television special. It is presented as the story of a Princess Atalanta, whose father the King wants her to marry. The story highlights Atalanta's role as a feminist figure, where she is a skilled athlete and gifted astronomer. She makes an agreement with her father that she will marry only if there is a man as fast as her, confident there is no such man as fast as her. Meanwhile, a man known only as 'Young John' is seen training, and after seeing he completed a track run before an hourglass expired he feels confident enough to compete in the race. While she beats almost all the men in the foot race, she ties Young John, who is then awarded her hand in marriage by the King. Young John refuses the prize, saying he could not possibly marry the princess unless she wished to marry him, and that he ran the race for the chance to get to know Atalanta. Note this is a retelling of the original myth from a feminist perspective. Atalanta agrees that she could not possibly marry John without first going off to see the world. The two part as friends, going off to travel the world individually. The fable ends with, "Perhaps someday they’ll be married, and perhaps they will not. In any case, it is certain, they are both living happily ever after.”, reinforcing the feminist message of the tale.

In the animated television series Class of the Titans, the character Atlanta is descended from Atalanta and has her super speed and hunting skills.

Video Games[]

In the Nintendo Game Boy Advance game, Golden Sun, and its sequel Golden Sun: The Lost Age, Atalanta (the Heavenly Huntress) is a second-level Jupiter element Summon that requires the use of 2 Jupiter Djinn to summon. She throws a volley of green arrows to all the enemies on screen. In the 1997 Sega Saturn/Sony Playstation game Herc's Adventures, she is a playable character. In the PC game, Poseidon (an expansion pack for Zeus: Master of Olympus), the player can summon Atalanta to fulfill quests given to the player by the Gods, namely Artemis. She will say the line "this city is as wonderful as a golden apple" if your city is especially liked. In the videogame Rise of the Argonauts, Atalanta appears as a headstrong huntress who was orphaned at a young age and raised by centaurs on the island of Saria. She joins the crew of the Argo and can assist the player, as Jason, with her archery. She appears as a minor hero in the game Age of Mythology.

Comic books[]

In 2000, the Belgian comic book artist and writer Crisse (Didier Chrispeels) introduced the first of a series of comic books featuring Atalanta, who is also abandoned by her father but saved by goddesses and nurtured by a bear. She is adopted by the hunters who killed the bear and becomes well known for her fast running. The series focuses mainly on her adventures with the Argonauts whom she accompanies as a means of later joining the Amazons. The series also features Jason, Hercules, and other heroes and gods and goddesses of Greek mythology, though the emphasis is mainly on humour. [1]

Atalanta is currently one of the featured characters in the comic Hercules: the Thracian Wars from Radical comics. In this version she is a lesbian and seeks death after being defeated by Hippomenes and the three "golden apples" in the legendary foot race and then deflowered. She kills Hippomenes and joins up with Hercules hoping for an honorable death to be forgiven by Artemis. Other notables include the familiar Meleager, Autolycus, and Iolcaus.

In Peter David's run on The Incredible Hulk in the 1990s, there was a character named Atalanta who was a member of a group called The Pantheon. She and other members of this group were descendants of an immortal youth named Agamemnon and were named after characters in Greek mythology. This Atalanta was a brash, confident warrior-woman. Like the majority of her fellow Pantheon teammates, she had somewhat enhanced strength and agility. Her weapon was a bow that could shoot energy projectiles. She was the unwilling object of affection to a Troyjan (an alien race whose people have no noses) prince named Trauma.

External links[]

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