101. Atalanta kills the Centaurs

Once upon a time, Iasos, son of King Lykourgos of Arkadia, married Klymene, daughter of Minyas. They were blessed with a female child, but Iasos wanted a male child. Hence, Iasos instructed his servant to expose the child. The servant left the child on Mount Parthenion, but fate was kind to the child. A she-bear, being dispossessed of her cubs by hunters, came with bulging breasts weighed down with milk, and she suckled the child. Meanwhile, the hunters who had taken the cubs away from the she-bear, were following her every movement. As the she-bear left, they stole away the child, named her as Atalanta and reared her in the mountains, as a skilled huntress.

Atalanta grew up to be more beautiful than any woman from the Peloponnesos. Her finely exercised body exuded a virgin beauty that was splendorous and radiant. She had natural golden hair, which surrounded a splendid face of exquisite features. Her face was reddened due to constant exposure to the sun, and it seemed as if she was blushing. Her gaze was masculine and fiery, partly due to her being suckled by the she-bear and partly, because of her love for hunting. Swift in running, she darted like a flash of lightning. She followed the example of goddess Artemis, swore to remain a virgin, was always armed, lived in a cave, slept on the skins of animals she hunted, ate their meat, and drank refreshing water from the mountain springs.

Two Centaurs, Hylaios and Rhoikos, desired to ravish Atalanta. At midnight, they climbed the mountain with flaming pine torches showing the way. Before they could approach her cave, Atalanta saw the Centaurs and grasped their evil intentions. An arrow flew from her bow and it pierced the very heart of the leading Centaur. The other Centaur, seeking to avenge his slain friend, advanced agitatedly. Another arrow whizzed from Atalanta’s bow, and unfailingly as ever, it found its mark. Like the first, the second Centaur also died an equally bloody death.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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