Atalanta | Greek Heroine

Atalanta Greek Mythology

Atalanta, in Greek mythology is one of the Abantias, sometimes linked to the myths of Arcadia, sometimes to the legends of Boeotia. Her filiation is controversial; she is sometimes considered the daughter of Iaso, sometimes of Menalus, and sometimes of Esqueneus.

As her father wanted only male children, Atalanta was abandoned on Mount Parthenus soon after birth, and was fed by a bear and then taken in and raised by hunters. She also became a hunter, protected by Artemis. Very agile, she was so fast "that she could compete with Hermes and Iris" the fastest gods.

She is described as "the blonde Atalanta" by Theogenis.


Pseudo-Apolodorus mentions several versions about who his father would be.

In the text where he talks about her running, she is the daughter of Iaso, son of Lycurgus, king of Arcadia; her maternal grandmother may be Cleophilus or Eurynome, and her mother is Cymene, daughter of Minias.

In the text about the hunt for the Chalidonian boar, Atalanta is the daughter of Sesqueneus, son of Atamante and his third wife, Temistus. This version has the authority of Hesiod.

The third version is attributed, by Pseudo-Apolodorus, to Euripides; by this version, she was the daughter of Maenalus.

Chalidonian boar hunt

Atalanta participated in the Calidonian boar hunt, and was the first to hit the boar with an arrow in the back, followed by Amphiarau, who hit him in the eye. When Meleagro kills him, hitting him in the flank, he gives the boar's skin to Atalanta. The sons of Testio - who was the father of Althaea, Meleagro's mother - jealous that a woman had received the prize, took the skin from Atalanta.

Meleagro, enraged, killed the sons of Testio and gave the skin back to Atalanta. However, his mother, Althaea, saddened by the death of her brothers, threw into the fire the piece of wood on which Meleagro's life depended, killing him. Then, Althaea and Cleopatra, Meleagro's wife, hanged themselves.


After her victory in the hunt for the Chalidonian boar, Atalanta received a prophecy that told her not to marry, for such would be her ruin. So she remained a virgin. To discourage suitors, her father determined that only those who defeated her in a race would be worthy of her hand. Those who were defeated would be killed by Atalanta, who would pierce them with a spear.

Many young men had already lost their lives trying to defeat Atalanta in the race, of which Hippomene, Megareus' son, was the official judge. One day, while facing a more determined suitor, Atalanta ran further than usual, and the wind carried away her robes.

Hypomene, upon seeing the young woman's body, finally understood why those young men were willing to die, something he had always wondered about. He then decided to challenge the young woman, and asked for Aphrodite's help to win her love.

The goddess then gave him three golden poms (apples), so that he could drop them during the race with Atalanta. In the race, when Atalanta saw the apples on the ground, she was dazzled by their beauty, and stopped to pick them up, eventually giving the victory to Hypomene.

This is how Atalanta lost her first race, and ended up marrying Hypomene.


After marrying Atalanta, Hypomene forgot to glorify Aphrodite. As revenge, the goddess induced the couple to violate a shrine of Zeus or Reia (known in Rome as Cybele), where they had sex. As punishment for the sacrilege, Zeus (or Reia) turned them into lions.


In some versions of mythology, Parthenopeus, who took part in the first expedition against Thebes, is the son of Atalanta. His father could be Melanion or Ares, Meleagro or Schoeneus.