Mythology Mondays: Atalanta

Every Monday, I highlight a different Greek myth that has woven its way into the Turning Creek series. The first book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. If you pay close attention to the details, you will see where some of the elements and history of the series originated.

This week, I am featuring Atalanta who inflamed men with her virginity, as one does, and outshone them with her prowess in whatever arena she competed.

Atalanta has many stories told regarding her her parentage, but the most prominent one claims that she was the daughter of King Iasus, who wanted a son and instead got a daughter. He was so disgusted by her sex when she was born, he left her on a mountaintop to die. She was raised by a bear who taught her to fight with ferocity.
Despite her beginnings, Atalanta was said to be a cheerful woman who pledged an oath of virginity to the goddess Artemis.

Atalanta went on to have many adventures which included:

  • Vanquishing a destructive boar set upon the countryside by Artemis and in doing so inspiring love in Meleager, who set aside his wife to pursue Atalanta.
  • Stealing upon the Argonauts ship, despite the protestations of the some of the men over having a woman on board, and proceeding to have many adventures where she saved the day.
  • Outrunning all her erstwhile suitors who were put to death when they lost the foot race to her superior stamina and speed.

Eventually, her father heard of his daughter’s exploits and, like many men, thought Atalanta needed to marry so she would settle down, stop showing up all the men around her, and have babies like a proper woman. He also wanted to claim her as his daughter now that she was famous and held her own political power. Atalanta refused to marry and revoke her vow of virginity.

With the help of Aphrodite and some of golden apples, Hippomenes tricked Atalanta into falling in love with him. They had a son named Parthenopaios, who was one of the Seven who stood against Thebes.

There are two versions of the end of their love story, both tragic and vengeful, as Greek myths often are. Either Hippomenes and Atalanta made love in Zeus’s temple, thus angering the god, or they failed to give Aphrodite the proper accolades for their epic love, thus angering the goddess. Whatever the reason, Hippomenes and Atalanta were turned into lions. At the time it was believed that lions could not mate with each other, only with leopards. This separated the lovers for eternity.

In Turning Creek, Cyrene and Atlanta (Atalanta) are huntresses who travel the world in an effort to find the most challenging hunt. Atlanta is the slightly bolder, more mouthy of the duo. Their efforts put them at odds eventually with the harpies of Turning Creek who do not appreciate their methods.