Atalanta is the female athlete in Greek myth. It is unclear exactly where Atalanta comes from, some sources say that she came from Arcadia and was the daughter of Iasus and Clymene, but Hesiod and other sources attributes Atalanta’s origin to Boeotia where her father is Schoeneus. The contradiction over Atalanta’s birth contributes to the assumption that there were two maythic women that were merged into one person.
Whoever Atalanta’s father was, he wanted a boy so bad that when Atalanta was born, he exposed her on a hill were she was suckled by a she bear, sent by Artemis, until a group of hunters found her and raised her to womanhood. Atalanta, like Artemis, loved to hunt.
Atalanta is best known for participation in male activities while at the same time having an aura of sexuality surrounding her. For example, some sources say that Atalanta was one of the Argonauts. Atalanta was even wounded in a battle with the Colchians and was healed by Medea, who was also on the voyage. But at the same time, other sources say that Jason refused to let Atalanta go on the voyage because she was a woman.
One male activity Atalanta definitely participated in was the Calydonian Boar Hunt. Other male members of the hunt objected to her presence, but consumed with lust, Meleagerinsisted that Atalanta be allowed to join. During the hunt, centaurs Hylaeus and Rhaecus tried to rape Atalanta. Atalanta killed both of them, thus the first bloodshed of the Calydonian Boar Hunt was human.
Atalanta shot the first arrow to pierce the boar. Because of this, Meleager gave Atalanta the boar’s pelt. This resulted in even more human bloodshed, Meleager’s two uncles protested to Atalanta receiving the pelt, so Meleager killed them. When Meleager’s mother heard that Meleager had killed her brothers, she threw an enchanted log on the fire, once the log finished burning Meleager would die.
After Atalanta’s success at the boar hunt, Atalanta’s father, Iasus or Schoeneus, was proud and claimed her as his daughter. Atalanta was reconciled with her father. Since Atalanta was now a princess, Iasus wanted Atalanta to marry. Atalanta had been warned not to marry by the Oracle. Atalanta came up with a witty plan that would stop her from having to marry. She would race the suitors, the one who beat her in the foot race would be the lucky man to marry her, but if she won, she could kill the man. Atalanta made the bargain knowing that no one could beat her. One day a racer, Melanion or to some sources Hippomenes, fell in love with Atalanta and wanted to marry her, but he knew he could not beat her so he called on Aphrodite, the love goddess, for assistance. Aphroditeprovided Melanion with three golden apples to entice Atalanta. During the race, whenever Atalanta would get ahead of Melanion, he would roll one of the golden apples forward, forcing a curious Atalanta to stop and pick the apple up. Atalanta’s frequent stops gave Melanion the advantage he needed and he won the race and Atalanta’s hand in marriage.
Once married, it seems that Atalanta could not contain her inhibitions any longer, for one day she allowed Melanion to seduce her in the temple of Zeus. Zeus was so angered that he turned them into lions. This was a fitting punishment because lions can not mate with each other.
Atalanta has a son named Parthenopaeus (son of a pierced maidenhead). Once again, there is a dispute as to who the father is. Some sources say that Atalanta had an affair with Meleagar, other sources attribute Parthenopaues to Ares or Melanion. Parthenpaoues was active in the war known as the Seven Against Thebes.