Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THIS IS A TALE of ancient Greek mythology and latter day British ingenuity, with a soupçon of French style. It’s told in Parts 1 and 2, today and tomorrow.

A Virgin Huntress. The Atalanta of Greek mythology was a human, not a goddess. What’s more, her father had wanted a son, so when she was born the scoundrel abandoned her in the forest. Atalanta was raised by a she-bear.

You might guess this would have put Atalanta off men and off hunting. And you’d be partially correct, as she became renowned as a swift-footed virgin huntress. No doubt her swiftness of foot contributed to her hunting and her virginity.

The “Barberini Atalanta,” formerly in the Barberini Palace, now in the Vatican. It is either Greek original, 1st century B.C., or Roman copy, 2nd century A.D.

The Calydonian Boar Hunt. There was this wild boar destroying crops and creating other mayhem. Meleager, the leader of the boar hunt, had the hots for Atalanta and included her in the hunt, much to the disdain of the other hunters.

You know how guys are.

Atalanta shows them up by scoring first blood. Meleager finishes off the beast, and following accepted practice, awards Atalanta with the boar’s head. This causes all sorts of trouble with the Meleager kin, and he dies in murder and marauding that make the Calydonian boar hunt look like a Porky Pig tale.

Meleager, assisted by Cupid, presents Atalanta with the head of the Calydonian Boar. Oil on panel, studio of Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1635.

Atalanta remains the swift-footed huntress and still a virgin. Is it any wonder?

The Golden Apples. Then Atalanta’s father (remember that scumbum?) gets on her case about still being single. She cuts a deal: offering to marry anyone capable of outrunning her, with the clever caveat that she spears any guy she overtakes.

Along comes Hippomenes (I think his other name Milanion is less er… unattractive). He challenges Atalanta to a race, but first chats up Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Aphrodite is ticked off with Atalanta’s anti-marriage shtick, and she gives Hippomenes three magical golden apples.

Atalanta and Hippomenes, 1618–1619, by Guido Reni.

Whenever Atalanta gets close to overtaking, Hippomenes drops an apple and he wins the race.

Pause here to ponder the apple as a metaphor of a god/God tempting the weaker sex. But also remember the gender of the guys making all this up.

A Lion Misunderstanding. As described in, “Atalanta and her husband, overcome with passion, made love in a shrine of the goddess Cybele (or of Zeus), for which they were turned into lions.”

The joke is on the gods. According to Wikipedia, “The belief at the time was that lions could not mate with their own species, only with leopards; thus Atalanta and Hippomenes would never be able to remain with each other.”

We now have a more enlightened view on the mating habits of P. leo.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we will see the name applied to a British classic car, a particular Bugatti, and a latter day spiritual resurrection.

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

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