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Wrestling match between Peleus and Atalante at the funeral games for King Pelias , black-figure hydria , around 550 BC BC , State Collections of Antiquities (Inv. 596)
Peter Paul Rubens : Meleager and Atalante , around 1635, Alte Pinakothek , Munich

Atalante ( ancient Greek Ἀταλάντη Atalántē or Ἀταλάντα Atalánta ; Latin Atalanta ) is a virgin huntress in Greek mythology and the stories from Boeotia and Arcadia , the daughter of the Klymene .

In Boeotia Schoineus , son of Athamas , is given as her father, in Arcadia Iasus , son of Lycurgus .


After the birth, Atalante is abandoned on the Parthenian hill near Kalydon by the disappointed Iasos, who wanted a male heir . Artemis sends a bear to help suckle the child. It is becoming the fastest runner in Greece among hunters. Atalante becomes an Amazon-like hunter herself , swears perpetual virginity and is always armed.

When Oineus , the king of Kalydon , forgets one day to include Artemis in his sacrifices, she angrily sends a boar who ravages the fields and kills the king's workers and cattle. Atalante also answers the call to the bravest heroes of Greece to hunt the boar. After the celebration to mark the start of the hunt, Hylaios and Rhoikos , two centaurs , attempt to rape them intoxicated. However, their attempt fails and Atalante shoots both of them with her arrows.

When they arrive at Oineus, two of the heroes who have come to hunt refuse to hunt with a woman: Ankaios and Cepheus of Tegea , both also from Arcadia. Meleagros , who, although married to Cleopatra , begins to fall in love with Atalante, can persuade both of them to give in.

When she catches sight of the boar and attacks it, she can wound the animal with a targeted shot with her bow and at least distract it when it is about to overrun Telamon and Peleus . Ankaios, however, is killed by the boar, Peleus accidentally kills Eurytion in the battle ; the seer Amphiaraos manages to blind the animal with an arrow, Meleager pierces its flank with a spear - and this the monster finally drives itself further into the body and dies.

Meleagros, in love, wants to give the skin of the animal Atalante, which angered some participants in the hunt: If it is not clear who is really responsible for the death of the animal, then the fleece belongs to the most venerable participant in the hunt, namely Meleagros' uncle Plexippos - says Plexippos. When his younger brother Toxeus joins him and claims that Iphikles was the first to at least touch the animal with his arrow, Meleagros kills his two uncles, according to a version reproduced by Robert von Ranke-Graves , “in anger of being in love”.

After all: Iasos is now proud of Atalante's achievement, recognizes her as his daughter - and decides to marry her off. Atalante, who swore permanent virginity, stipulates that the future husband must defeat her in a race, otherwise she will kill him. Iasos agrees - and so are many suitors who all compete naked against the equally naked Atalante, lose and die. Only when Meilanion in the Arcadian tradition and Hippomenes in the Boeotian version asks the goddess Aphrodite for help, does she give him three golden apples , which he should drop to the ground during the race. Indeed, Atalante bends down to pick up the apples, and Melanion wins the race.

The two marry, but then the versions split up: According to one, the couple desecrate a temple of Zeus by lying there together so that they are transformed into two lions and can no longer mate according to the old totemic view. Another claims that Atalante had previously conceived a child from Meleager - the Parthenopaios . And still others think that his father was Ares , or that a sanctuary of Cybeles was desecrated; or that Meleagros fled to the woods before the wedding, lived there as a hunter and only afterwards campaigned for Atalante for a long time until he found her approval.

Some sources also mention Atalante as a participant in the Argonauts ' procession , in which she was wounded in a battle and healed by Medea . After Apollonios of Rhodes , Jason refused to take her on his voyage because he saw a virgin on a ship full of men as potential for conflict. Atalante is said to have given him a particularly valuable spear from the Mainalos Mountains, which never missed its target. Tired and thirsty from the hunt, she once struck a spring from a rock with her own spear, reports Pausanias , who also claims to have seen a grave of the Atalante.


Web links

Commons : Atalante  - collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Atalanta in the Theoi Project (English; accessed June 1, 2020)


  1. For example, Theokritos 3.41 ( Greek ); see also the epigram Anthologia Graeca 314.