We’ve officially started!
Day Twelve of the A-to-Z Challenge in April 2017. Let’s do this.
This year there’s no linky list or form to fill out to sign up. It might be too late to join at this point (unless you were double posting), but you can always cheer/comment on participants (and find awesome bloggers) at the A-to-Z’s official blog.
Now I should warn, that I didn’t stick to the common sense rule of writing short, pithy posts. Mine are long and bloated, but I’m having fun with it. And if you wanna skim, that’s absolutely cool with me!
Leave a comment down below with your blog so I can visit I’m thrilled to be making new friends. 🙂
As part of my Greek mythic figures, places, and things theme, my “L” post features two of Zeus’s lovers, Leda and Leto.
I should be sick of Zeus’s amorous adventures, but my mind is boggled by just how many ladies he’d gone through in Greek mythic corpora. I mean, yeesh, isn’t there a God-like equivalent of STDs and STIs?
But back to the women, Leda and Leto.
Let’s start with Leda:
Who was Leda?
The daughter of King Thestius, and the wife of Spartan King Tyndareus. She was a “contemporary of Herakles” and her twin sons, the Dioscuri, would go on to join Jason as one of his Argonauts.
Zeus glimpsed the Queen of Sparta, and it was lust at first sight. He disguised himself as a swan and seduced her. The same night she slept with her husband as well.
She would give birth to four children, the Disocuri twins, Castor and Pollux, the beautiful Helen, and the future murderess Clytemnestra.
My baby daddy is who?
In some variants, all four children were sired by Zeus. In others, Zeus sired the demigod, immortal Pollux and the inhumanly beautiful Helen (remember, that face launched 1000 ships…or so they report). There is an inconsistency as to whom fathered who, but it is agreed that Leda was impregnated by both Zeus and Tyndareus.
This happens in real life – super rare, but it can occur. Twins or multiples having different fathers. Check out this riveting article if you’re interested.
Seriously, though: talk about D-R-A-M-A.
And I skipped the best part – she laid eggs, either one or two (though I think two is the more agreed upon number).
But as bizarre as the whole swan + Leda thing is, the Spartan Queen was not as popular as any of her children. Their tales would far outshine hers in history and stand the test of time.
Still…pretty weird. A swan fetish? Or maybe she was drunk and she had no clue when Zeus sneaked in, all incognito as a swan.
Okay, maybe I can think of one other person with a “swan” fetish…
MORAL: Don’t let your dirty secret become history, guys. That’s probably basic knowledge.
On to Leto, an earlier lover of Zeus’s than Leda.
Who was Leto?
Leto is the mother of twin Olympians, the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis. And, unlike Leda, she was no mortal.
Leto was the daughter of the Titans, Croseus and Phoebe. Leto, herself, is regarded as the goddess of motherhood and a divine source of protection of young children. She was no Olympian god, mind you.
But Leto suffered for her children, and – of course – because of Zeus’s affection for her. And the suspect causing her pain…Hera, naturally.
When labor pains started knocking, Leto couldn’t give birth, thanks to Hera’s cunning. Hera cursed (or persuaded inhabitants) her, so no solid land or island on Earth would offer Leto a spot to give birth to her babies
The persuasion came in the form that people were scared to incur Hera’s wrath themselves, so they shooed Leto onward.
Finally, Zeus helped out.
In some versions, he plucks an island from out of the sea. In others, he has the Northern wind god, Boreas, carry Leto to the rocky, uninhabited island. Sometimes the island is inhabited and sometimes the people living there don’t care for Hera and allow Leto to give birth in peace (like childbirth is peaceful…). And in other versions, the island is floating.
All versions agree, that island is Delos.
Leto gave birth to Artemis first without any pain, but she labored with Apollo for many days. And because Hera whisked away the goddess of childbirth, leaving an infant Artemis to help with the birth (she’s divine; let it go).
Even after she gave birth, Hera continued pestering Leto and the young Artemis and Apollo.
Leto’s tiny protectors:
When a giant tried to abduct and rape Leto, Apollo rescued his mother by slaying the giant with his arrows. Apollo also went on to slay a giant serpent that threatened Leto.
But the incident I’m entranced by is the feud between Niobe and Leto and her divine offspring.
Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus, the idiot son of Zeus who killed and cut his son Pelops up to serve to the gods as a spiteful trick. (That one landed him in an eternity of punishment).
Anyways, Niobe had fourteen children, seven boys and seven girls. Far more than Leto’s twins, and she boasted about it (a little too loudly). Maybe she thought it funny she was “more” fertile than the Titan goddess of motherhood. Who knows why she said what she did…
Apollo and Artemis hunted and killed the fourteen – Apollo supposedly killing off the boys, and Artemis murdering the girls.
In one variant, one of the girls survives – how is not explained, but maybe she was the last one left and Artemis pitied her.
Anguished at what she wrought, Niobe transformed (either by her own grief, or with the aid of Zeus) into a pillar of stone. “The rock became known as the Weeping Rock, as it was believed that the rainwater that fell through the pores of the limestone resembled the tears of Niobe.” (source)
And now we’ve come fully circle with Leto…not really caring about her. Yeah, Hera did her wrong – but she be doling out severe punishments, too.
MORAL: Karma bites. It kicks, spits, cuts, and punches. It hurts, so watch out, Leto. Watch out…
The sources that helped me with my post:
Informative sites, up there! All of them: check them out whenever you can. 🙂