Once upon a time, Hippomenes, the son of Megareus of Onchestus, participated in a race with Atalanta, the daughter of Schoeneus, on the condition that if he won, he would make Atalanta his bride, else he would lose his life.
Hippomenes prayed to goddess Venus for help, and an unenvious breeze wafted the prayer to her. At that time, Venus was at the Field Tamasus in Cyprus, where grew a golden apple tree. From this tree, Venus had plucked three golden apples and by chance, they were in her hands when she heard the supplication of Hippomenes. Thus, she decided to help him with the three golden apples. Invisible to all, Venus gave the three golden apples to Hippomenes, and informed him how to use them.
The trumpet sounded and the race began. Both of them ran so fast that their feet barely touched the ground, and it seemed as if they were flying. Then Hippomenes tossed a golden apple. Eager to pick up the rolling golden fruit, Atalanta strayed away from the course, and the crowd cheered as the daring youth got the lead.
However, the speedy maid caught up with him. Hippomenes again tossed another apple, again she turned to pick it up, and again the swift fair maid recovered lost time.
As the end approached, both were running near to each other. Praying to Venus, Hippomenes tossed the last apple with all his might, far away. Atalanta hesitated to pick up the third apple as the end was near, but Venus forced her to turn. Venus also made the apple heavy, so that Atalanta was hindered by both weight and loss of time. Atalanta picked up the heavy apple, fast recovered lost time and came almost parallel to Hippomenes, but Hippomenes reached the end first. The crowd erupted in ecstatic cheers and shouts. Hippomenes laughed in joy at winning the race and also winning a bride. The virgin Atalanta also laughed, as she lost the race but gained a loving husband. The joyous Hippomenes married the equally joyous Atalanta.
Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani