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ATALANTA, in Greek legend, the name of two Greek heroines,
(1) The Arcadian Atalanta was the daughter of Iasius or Iasion
and Clymene. At her birth, she had been exposed on a hill,
her father having expected a son. At first she was suckled by a
she-bear, and then saved by huntsmen, among whom she grew
up to be skilled with the bow, swift, and fond of the chase,
like the virgin goddess Artemis. At the Calydonian boar-hunt
her arrows were the first to hit the monster, for which its head
and hide were given her by Meleager. At the funeral games
of Pelias, she wrestled with Peleus, and won. For a long time
she remained true to Artemis and rejected all suitors, but
Meilanion at last gained her love by his persistent devotion.
She was the mother of Parthenopaeus, one of the Seven against
Thebes (Apollodorus iii. 9; Hyginus, Fab. 99). (2) The
Boeotian Atalanta was the daughter of Schoeneus. She was
famed for her running, and would only consent to marry a suitor
who could outstrip her in a race, the consequence of failure being
death. Hippomenes, before starting, had obtained from Aphrodite
three golden apples, which he dropped at intervals, and
Atalanta, stopping to pick them up, fell behind. Both were
happy at the result; but forgetting to thank the goddess for
the apples, they were led by her to a religious crime, and were
transformed into lions by the goddess Cybele (Ovid, Metam.
x. 560; Hyginus, Fab. 185). The characteristics of these
two heroines (frequently confounded) point to their being
secondary forms of the Arcadian Artemis.
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