55. Zeus and Leto

Once upon a time, before Zeus married the white-armed Hera, he loved the long-haired Titanide Leto, the daughter of Titanes Koios and Phoibe. With time, the seed of Zeus began to grow in Leto’s womb.

When Hera came to know about it, she persecuted Leto and decreed that Leto shall give birth, where the sun never shone. Leto, wandered several places to give birth, but was refused. Python, the dragon offspring of Gaia, followed Leto to kill her, as he was fated to die at the hands of the son of Leto. But Zeus told the wind Boreas, to carry Leto away to Poseidon. In order to protect Leto and not violate Hera’s decree, Poseidon took Leto to the floating isle of Ortygia, and covered it with waves. Unable to find Leto, Python returned to Parnassus. Then, Poseidon removed the waves and Ortygia, later called as Delos, appeared on the surface. Some poets say that Leto, while wandering came to the floating isle of Delos, who took pity on Leto, as Leto roamed the earth, while Delos roamed the sea.

At Delos, to help Leto with the childbirth, the chief goddesses Dione, Rhea, Ikhnaia, Themis, Amphitrite, and others, were present. But the childbirth was delayed, as Hera had kept Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, remain unaware. Then the goddesses promised Iris, the godly messenger, a great necklace of golden threads and sent her, to fetch Eileithyia. Iris fetched Eileithyia, and as Eileithyia sat foot on Delos, severe birth pangs seized Leto. Holding a palm tree, Leto knelt on the soft grass to deliver, while beneath, the earth of Delos laughed in joy, to receive the godly children. Leto gave birth to the twins Phoebe and Phoebos. Phoebe, named after her grandmother, as soon as she was born, helped her mother to deliver Phoebos.

Presently, the twin gods set about, to punish all those who had refused shelter, to their pregnant mother. It is said a four-day old Phoebos, went to Mount Parnassus and killed the dragon Python, to avenge his mother.

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

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