Study Guide

The Story of Atalanta Summary

How It (Supposedly) Went Down

The Short Story

Atalanta is a kick-butt female hunter, which is kind of a rare thing back in ancient Greece. Here's a quick list of some of her awesome accomplishments: Homegirl Atalanta kills two centaurs who try to get frisky, goes on the Quest for the Golden Fleece, beats a dude named Pelias in a wrestling match, and first blood in the Calydonian Boar hunt (awarded the hide by Meleager).

Though she does her best to stay a virgin, Atalanta is eventually forced to marry a sneaky dude named Hippomenes who beats her in a footrace. Hippomenes throws golden apples, which he got from Aphrodite, behind him as he runs. For some reason, Atalanta can't help but stop and pick them up, so she ends up having to marry the dude.

Hippomenes forgets to thank Aphrodite, though, and she inflicts a serious case of lust on him when he and Atalanta are in a temple of Zeus (or the Cybele). The "love birds" are punished for the ensuing inappropriate behavior by being turned into lions.

The Less Short Story

  • Atalanta's story starts off as kind of a bummer.
  • When she's born, her dad, King Iasus of Arcadia, is ticked that she isn't a boy.
  • So, the dude does what any unreasonable dad would do: he abandons his infant daughter in the woods. (See, we told you it was a bummer.)
  • Don't get too stressed out for Atalanta. Lucky for her the wilderness of Arcadia is also the home of a she-bear with extreme maternal instincts.
  • Instead of chowing down on little baby Atalanta when she finds her, the she-bear lets the human girl suckle. (Mm, bear milk.)
  • Later on, some friendly hunters find Atalanta and raise her to be an awesome huntress.
  • This is kind of crazy, because usually women don't hunt at all.
  • Young Atalanta becomes a follower of Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt, and the young huntress fights pretty hard to protect her virginity.
  • When two centaurs bust into a grove and try to have their horsey way with her, she kills them both with her arrows. Girl power is strong with this one.
  • Later on, Atalanta is the only woman to be drafted by Jason to join his crew of Argonauts on the Quest for the Golden Fleece.
  • This is a really big honor, because the crew includes all the who's who and big cheeses of Greek heroes at the time.
  • (In some versions, the Argonauts won't let a girl join, but we don't like those versions, so whatever.)
  • While kickin' it as an Argonaut, Atalanta wows her crewmembers by defeating Peleus in a wrestling match at the funeral games of King Pelias.
  • A little while later, Atalanta gets drafted by a dude named Meleager (who has a thing for Atalanta) to help hunt a gigantic boar that's wreaking havoc in Calydonia.
  • Once again, Atalanta is the only woman asked to go on the hunt, and once again she shows how awesome she is.
  • All the dudes on the hunt are stunned and amazed when Atalanta draws first blood by stabbing the boar with her spear.
  • Meleager finishes the boar off, but is determined to award Atalanta the hide of the boar for her feat.
  • Unfortunately, Meleager's uncles, who are along for hunt, just aren't cool with a woman getting the prize.
  • When they try to keep Atalanta from getting the hide, Meleager kills them. (A little extreme, but alright.)
  • Meleager's mom, Althaea, was so mad that he killed his uncles that she killed him by throwing a log on a fire. (The Fates had decreed that he would die if this special enchanted log was ever fully burnt.)
  • Poor Meleager.
  • A little while later, Atalanta hits up the Oracle of Delphi, and the Oracle tells her to avoid marriage like the plague.
  • Pretty soon after that, Atalanta is reunited with her dad, King Iasus. (Yeah, the jerk who abandoned her.)
  • Iasus decides to accept his daughter, but insists she gets married like a good girl should.
  • We have no idea why Atalanta doesn't just say, "Whatevs" and run off into the woods.
  • Instead, Atalanta declares that she'll marry any dude who can beat her in a foot race.
  • A bunch of guys try, but none of them can beat our girl.
  • (In some versions, Atalanta kills the losers.)
  • Eventually, though, a fella named Hippomenes (or Meilanion) shows up to challenge her.
  • Turns out Hippomenes has talked Aphrodite into giving him some help.
  • The goddess of love is never a big fan of anybody who wants to stay a virgin like Atalanta, so she's loaned Hippomenes some golden apples. (How will that help, you ask? Oh, you'll see.)
  • The starter pistol (or whatever) is fired, and the two races take off.
  • All of a sudden, Hippomenes throws a golden apple on the track.
  • For some reason, Atalanta just can't help but stop and pick up the shiny thing.
  • Every time Atalanta starts to catch up, Hippomenes tosses another apple, until finally he crosses the finish line in front of the huntress.
  • So, Atalanta is forced to get hitched to sneaky Hippomenes.
  • Unfortunately for both of them, Hippomenes totally forgets to thank Aphrodite for her help. (Bad move.)
  • The goddess make him so overcome with lust, that gets it on with Atalanta in a temple of Zeus (or Cybele.)
  • For this offense, both Atalanta and Hippomenes are both turned into lions, and they live out the rest of their days doing crosswords, or whatever lions do.
  • (Is it just us, or does Atalanta really get the short end of the stick here?)

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