120. Hippomenes falls in love with Atalanta

Once upon a time, the fair maid Atalanta, the daughter of Schoeneus, was extremely beautiful and extremely swift-footed. Many suitors approached her. She consulted an oracle to know her fate after marriage. The oracle replied that marriage would harm her, but she would not avoid her harm, and while living she would lose herself.

Scared by the words of the oracle, she decided not to marry and repulsed every suitor. Nevertheless, the power of her beauty attracted throngs of suitors. Hence, she set a condition that the suitors must race with her, and if a suitor won then he could marry her, otherwise he would be put to death. Even the prospect of death did not frighten the suitors, and they came for the race.

Hippomenes, the son of Megareus of Onchestus, and a descendant of Neptune, had come to the race as a stranger, wondering why so many youths risked dying only to seek a wife. But when he saw Atalanta’s amazingly beautiful face and her perfect form, which was suitably disrobed for running, the flames of love leapt in his heart. He understood the value of the prize, which was indeed worth dying for, not once, but over and over again.

Reasoning that gods helped those who showed courage, he thought of taking part in the race and while he was still thinking, the race started. Atalanta flew past him, swiftly as a Scythian arrow. It seemed that her feet were borne on wings, and the breeze threw back the flying streamers fixed on her speedy ankles. The colorful ribbons tied neatly at her knees fluttered rapidly, the wind flung her hair over her snowy shoulders, and her Venus-like perfect form acquired a pink flush. Spellbound, Hippomenes gazed in wonder, as Atalanta reached her goal, leaving all the suitors far behind. The festal wreath was crowned on Atalanta’s proud head, and the suitors suffered death.

After seeing the beautiful Atalanta, the love-crazed heart of Hippomenes, burned all the more, to win her.

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

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121. Atalanta falls in love with Hippomenes

Once upon a time, Hippomenes, the son of Megareus of Onchestus, witnessed a race, wherein the suitors of the swift-footed maid Atalanta, the daughter of Schoeneus, were defeated by her and according to the stipulated conditions of the race, were put to death.

Without any fright of the deathly result, Hippomenes boldly stood up in the midst of the crowd. Fixing his strong gaze upon Atalanta, he told her that there was no glory in defeating weaklings. However, it would be glorious if she vanquished him, for he was the descendant of Neptune, and was also known as the great Hippomenes, since he had never disgraced his famous descent.

While Hippomenes was speaking, the gaze of Atalanta softened, for although his beauty was not comparable to hers, yet, she was moved by his youthfulness, courage, and fearlessness. She thought perhaps some god jealous of youth, must have prompted him to challenge her and thus, take his life away. Seeing that he was madly in love with her, she almost thought of wishing his victory. But she knew that he would be beaten and would die, simply because he wanted to live with her. If fate had not denied her marriage, then she would have willingly shared her bed with him, and no one else. Vacillating between the desire to conquer him and the desire to be conquered by him, the unbalanced heart of the innocent virgin Atalanta, fell in love with Hippomenes.

She told Hippomenes to choose a long life by going away, for a match with her was deadly. She told him not to risk his youth for her beauty, since surely there would be numerous fair maids, who would gladly seek his love. Hippomenes did not budge and Atalanta accepted to race with him. Hippomenes as a suppliant, earnestly supplicated in an anxious voice to Venus, the goddess of Love, to be near him, to help with his daring and graciously smile on the love, which she had inspired in his heart.

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

122. Hippomenes weds Atalanta

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.

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

123. Hippomenes and Atalanta become lions

Once upon a time, the goddess Venus had helped Hippomenes, the son of Megareus, by giving him three golden apples, due to which Hippomenes won a race against the fleet-footed virgin Atalanta, the daughter of Schoeneus, and Hippomenes married Atalanta.

But the ungrateful Hippomenes forgot the help of Venus. Neither did he offer any prayer of thanks to Venus, nor did he offer sweet frankincense at her altar. Such unthankful conduct made Venus furious and being thus slighted, she thought of making an example of them, so that she may not be neglected by any one in future.

When Hippomenes and Atalanta were traveling in a forest, they came across an ancient temple, which glorious Echion had long ago constructed, in due payment for a vow to Rhea, the mother of the gods. Weary from their traveling and needing rest, when they saw the old temple concealed in the forest, they gladly relaxed in the sacred place. At that moment, Venus caused the heart of Hippomenes to be seized with an irresistible passion. Atalanta responded to his passion, and the lovers looked around for a place, to calm their burning passion.

Very near to the temple, there was a pumice covered place that resembled like a cave. The past had hallowed the place with religious veneration, and within the shadows of that cave-like place, a priest had installed several wooden idols of ancient gods. Hippomenes and Atalanta, inflamed with passion, entered this holy place and defiled it.

The images of the ancient gods turned their eyes away. Cybele, the tower-crowned mother goddess, was furious and initially, thought of plunging the guilt-ridden pair under the waves of river Styx, but this punishment seemed light compared to the weight of their crime. Hence, she changed their forms to fierce lions, who roamed the woods as a suitable bridal-place for their vicious natures, and who could only be harnessed by Cybele.

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

124. Orpheus and Eurydice

Once upon a time, Orpheus, son of King Oeagrus of Thrace and the Muse Calliope, married the nymph Eurydice. Hymen attended the wedding but gave no good omens and swiftly left. The foreboding signs were less terrible than the event, which took place after the wedding. The happy bride Eurydice, along with joyful Naiads, was wandering on the grass, when a slithering serpent pierced her delicate ankle with its poisonous fang. Eurydice died.

Orpheus mourned and he decided to implore Pluto, the ruler of the dark underworld, to allow his dear Eurydice to come back to the upper world. Hence, he passed through the Taenarian gate, crossed the murky River Styx, wandered amidst glimmering phantoms, until he found Pluto seated on his throne along with Persephone.

Striking his sweet lyre, Orpheus mournfully sang his sorrowful song, which touched all present including Pluto and Persephone. They allowed Eurydice to ascend with Orpheus, but on one condition that while going up, if Orpheus ever turned his eyes to look at Eurydice, then Eurydice would again fall back to Hades.

Silently, Orpheus ascended a steep and dark path, trusting that his beloved Eurydice was behind him. After a long arduous climb, when he was just about to reach the surface of the earth, he became fearful of losing her and anxious for a glance, he turned his eyes to look at Eurydice, who instantly slipped away. The despairing Orpheus extended his arms to rescue her, but the falling Eurydice uttered, “Farewell” and died a second time.

By this double death of his beloved wife, Orpheus became senseless. Then he again descended and begged the ferryman, to help him cross the Styx, but he was refused. For seven days, in utter grief, Orpheus remained nourished only by his sorrowful tears, until at last, he wandered back to Thrace. Several women loved Orpheus but he shunned them all, as he still loved only Eurydice.

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

125. Orpheus is slaughtered

Once upon a time, Orpheus, the son of Calliope and King Oeagrus of Thrace, shunned all women after the unfortunate death of his beloved wife Eurydice. He remained content with his sweet lyre, and his songs swayed the leafy trees, calmed savage beasts, and moved unfeeling rocks. But the women of Thrace were angry with the bard, for he scorned their love.

While Orpheus was tuning love songs to his melodious harp, the Ciconian matrons, with loosed tangled hair and concealing their raving breasts under wild skins, saw him from the top of a hill. One of them recognized him as the poet who had refused their love. She threw a spear, but while in flight, the spear trailed a garland of leaves, and failed to come near him. Another hurled a stone, but its force diminished in the air by the power of his music, and fell lightly at his feet, as if seeking pardon for the audacity.

In wild fury, the crazed women, while hurling stones at Orpheus, ran down the mountain shouting Bacchanalian yells, blaring horns, clapping hands, playing loud tambourines, and jarring boxwood pipes. They created a hideous, noisy, discordant commotion that drowned the true harmonies, emanating from Orpheus’ sweet lyre. The hurled stones, failing to hear the music of Orpheus, found their mark and were stained crimson, with the Thracian bard’s blood. Like savage dogs rushing on a wounded stag, the frantic women flocked around Orpheus, and began to throw clods, tree branches, and flint stones.

Nearby, the peasants working in the fields, saw the troop of hysterical women and in fear, fled away leaving their oxen, spades, and rakes. The frenzied women tore the oxen to pieces, picked up the deserted implements and attacked the harmless poet, who with outstretched hands pleaded their mercy. But with unholy hate, they tore him apart. Orpheus’ life-breath came out of the very same lips, which had once moved rocks and tamed violent animals.

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

126. Bacchus punishes Orpheus’ murderers

Once upon a time, the Ciconian women, in Bacchic frenzy, had torn to pieces the famous bard Orpheus, the son of the muse Calliope and King Oeagrus of Thrace, because he had shunned their love.

The birds, stones, animals, and woods, who had followed the poet’s inspiring songs, mourned his death. The trees discarded their leaves, as if tearing their hair in grief. In sadness, the rivers cried and their tears swelled up their waters. With unkempt hair, the lamenting dryads and naiads, wore dark color garments. The torn limbs of Orpheus were scattered in unknown places. Hebros, the river-god of the river Hebros in Ciconia, in eastern Thrace, received the head and the harp of the slain Orpheus.

While floating down the river, Orpheus’ beloved harp mourned immeasurably. Although without any life, yet the tongue voiced a bemoaning sound and sorrowfully, the banks of the river replied. The stream carried the lifeless head to a foreign sandy shore of Lesbos, at Methymna, where a furious serpent opened wide its fatal jaws, but Phoebus appeared and hardened the jaws to stiff stone.

Bacchus grieved for the loss of his beloved poet of hallowed rites, and would not allow the wickedness of the murderers, to remain without punishment. With twisted roots, he bound the feet of all those evil women, who had attacked Orpheus and had torn him apart. Their toes grew long with sharp points, which he thrust in the firm earth. Like a bird, who is entangled in a trap hid by a sly fowler, knows that it is trapped only when it is too late, then frantically beats its wings, and the fluttering only makes the noose more tight with every struggling attempt, likewise, as each cruel woman attempted flight by struggling, the roots went deeper and held them more tightly. Wood grew up and covered them until they became rigid oak trees.

Meanwhile, the shade of Orpheus had descended under the earth, met Eurydice and folded her in his loving arms.

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