– The myth of the golden apples
Atalanta was a woman of many adventures starting at birth, when she was left on a mountainside to die by her very disappointed father. As so often happens in myths, animals proved kinder than humans. She was nursed by a she-bear and raised by hunters who found her. Atalanta became a more formidable hunter than many of the men around her, “swifter and stronger by far.” She had no liking for men except as companions in the hunt and she was determined never to marry.
After the famous hunt of the Calydonian boar, sailing with Jason and the Argonauts, and winning a wrestling match with the father of the famous warrior Achilles, Atalanta was reunited with her parents, her father reconciled to having a daughter who really seemed almost if not quite as good as a son.
It seems odd that a number of men wanted to marry her because she could hunt and shoot but she had a great many suitors. As a way of disposing of them easily she declared she would marry whoever could beat her in a foot race. No one could outrun her.
But at last one came who used his head as well as his heels. He came armed with three irresistible golden apples courtesy of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, who was always on the lookout to subdue young maidens who despised love.
When Atalanta surged ahead during the race her suitor threw one of the golden apples. As she picked up the third apple her prospective husband crossed the finish line. She was his. Her free days alone in the forest and her athletic victories were over.
How fast she runs
Keeps her from the prison
Of domestic bliss
Free to hunt, to roam, to travel
Searching for adventure
No one has come close to catching her
And she thinks she is safe
She is distracted
She slows down
She is caught
Atalanta is commonly viewed as a feminist fable in which a free wheeling young woman is ultimately reined in. In any endeavor, however, distraction is often the kiss of death compounded by mistaking something bright and shiny for something of true value. As Shakespeare said a mere 2000+ years later, “All that glisters (glistens) is not gold!” (Merchant of Venice)