Friday, July 01, 2005

About Atalanta

Atalanta was a huntress, wrestler, runner, and warrior whose main claim to fame, according to Ovid anyway, is her race for marriage--literally. A single Atalanta agreed she would marry whomever could beat her in a foot race. But if she won--which she did numerous times--she was allowed to kill the defeated. She was finally beat by Melanion when he, seeking the help of the goddess of love, Aphrodite, tricked Atalanta by throwing three gold apples in her path as she ran, distracting her and allowing him to finish ahead of her. This story does not help dispell the dumb jock stereotype that abounds in athletics, but sometimes we have to look at the big picture which is that Atalanta was thought to have rivalled men in her athletic ability. Controversy abounds over the role of Atalanta's athleticism. Was she tamed by Melanion when forced to marry? Did her athletic prowess take away from her ability to attract men? Or did her strong athleticism actually contribute to her sexual appeal?
What is so telling about the myth of Atalanta is that most of these issues, centuries upon centuries later still abound in the "real world" for most female athletes.
Of course we could always choose to support the Marlo Thomas version of the tale where Atalanta and her suitor finish in a tie and decide to "just be friends" before they take off on their respective journeys to discover new lands (but hopefully not colonize them though the story never gets that far!)
[much of the information about Atalanta I found in Allan Guttmann's Women's Sports: A History]

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