In Greek mythology, Atalanta was a skilled huntress and swift runner. As an infant, she was abandoned by her father, a king who was disappointed that she was not a boy. The goddess Artemis (Diana) * sent a female bear to nurse the child until some hunters took her in. A prophecy foretold that Atalanta would be unhappy if she married, so she decided to remain a virgin and dedicate herself to hunting. While still a girl, she used her bow and arrows to kill two centaurs who tried to rape her.
Atalanta gained fame in the Calydonian boar hunt. Meleager, the son of the king of Calydon, organized a great hunt to kill a huge boar. Atalanta joined the hunt, and Meleager fell in love with her. Atalanta was the first to wound the boar; Meleager was the one to kill it. Meleager gave Atalanta the hide, the prize of the hunt, over the protests of the other hunters.
prophecy foretelling of what is to come; also something that is predicted
centaur half-human, half-animal creature with the body of a horse and the head, chest, and arms of a human
Later Atalanta tried to join Jason * on the quest for the Golden Fleece. Some sources say that she sailed as one of the Argonauts; other sources state that Jason refused to accept her, fearing that a woman in the crew would create problems among the men.
When Atalanta's fame spread, her father invited her to return home. He wanted to see her properly married, but she made a condition: the suitor would have to beat her in a foot race and forfeit his life if he lost. Many young men tried—and died. Finally, a young man named Hippomenes prayed to Aphrodite * for help, and the goddess gave him three golden apples. By throwing an apple across Atalanta's path at different times during the race, he distracted her and made her run after them. Thus, Hippomenes was able to pull ahead and win. He and Atalanta were married and had a son. Later they angered Aphrodite, who turned them into a lion and lioness.
See also Argonauts .