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THE RACE OF ATALANTA
TALANTA was a young and beautiful girl who lived near the city
of Thebes. She asked an oracle to tell her fortune,
and was answered that she must never marry, for if she
did she would be most unhappy. She turned away from
the company of young men, and found her pleasure in
hunting. Life in the open air made her stronger and
still more beautiful, and she learned to run more
swiftly than any youth, or any other maiden, in her
Young men heard of her loveliness, and went to ask her
in marriage. "I do not wish to be married," she said,
"Whoever would have me for his wife must run a race
with me, but I warn you that every one who fails in
that race must die."
These were hard terms, but some were willing to take
the risk for the chance of gaining such a charming
wife. None could run like Atalanta, and several lost
their lives in the vain effort to win her.
A youth name Hippomenes was chosen to be judge of one
of the races. He consented to act, thinking at the
same time that any man was foolish to risk his life for
the sake of a woman.
 When he saw the girl, young, strong, swift, and lovely,
he changed his mind.
The race was run. Atalanta seemed to have wings.
Youth after youth was left behind. She had no pity on
any. Whoever failed must pay the dreadful price.
Hippomenes said, "Why do you boast of having beaten
such laggards as those? I myself will race with you,
and I know that I shall win."
Atalanta looked at him, and for the first time her
heart felt pity. She was sure that she could not be
beaten by any mortal, and she was sorry that such a
handsome young man would wish to put his life in
Orders were given to prepare for the race.
Hippomenes did not mean to be beaten, so he prayed to
Aphrodite. "O goddess!" he said, "thou hast impelled me to
undertake this race. Grant me thy help that I may win
Aphrodite was pleased, and willing to aid her
worshiper. She took three golden apples from the garden
of her temple at Cyprus, and gave them to Hippomenes.
"Use these as I tell you," she said. "They will win you
The race began. The two ran very close together, but
Hippomenes was a step ahead. He threw down one of
the golden apples, but the girl only glanced at it, and ran
as rapidly as ever.
He threw another apple. She seemed about to stoop
for it, but changed her mind and ran on. Then Hippomenes
threw his last apple, and the temptation proved
too strong for the maiden. She turned aside a little,
 bent down swiftly, and seized the apple, and in that
moment Hippomenes threw himself forward, and touched the
goal with two fingers.
Atalanta had lost, and Hippomenes became her
husband. They were very glad and happy together, but in
their joy they forgot to sacrifice to Aphrodite. She
aroused against them the anger of Cybele, who was
regarded by some nations as the great mother of all the
gods. That goddess changed them from human into
beastly forms. To Atalanta she gave the shape of a
lioness, to Hippomenes that of a lion. She yoked them
to her car, and in all paintings or statues of Cybele she
is shown as drawn by these unhappy lovers, for whom
the oracle was sadly fulfilled.