The Mythology Of Leto, Mother Of Apollo And Artemis, Explained

The names of Apollo (left), the ancient Greek god of the sun, and his twin sister Artemis (right), goddess of the moon and the hunt, are some of the most recognizable in Greek mythology (alongside those of Zeus, Hera, and Aphrodite). Apollo and Artemis were two of the most revered gods of their day, and they remain two of the most studied among classicists. But despite bearing the offspring of Zeus himself, the mother of Apollo and Artemis is notable by her limited appearances in classical Greek texts. Unsurprisingly, we know little of her nature as ancient Greeks understood her. The mythological character in question is Leto (center), a Titanides, or female Titan. As the daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe, she was different in nature from the Olympian gods and goddesses headed by Zeus, according to Britannica.

The story concerning Leto's love affair with Zeus, her hardships, and subsequent adoration among ancient Greeks mirrors those of many great Greek heroes, such as Odysseus. Here's why.

Leto's banishment and return to glory

Leto is believed to have been considered the goddess of modesty or demureness by ancient Greeks, who typically depicted her in ceramic artwork as a woman whose beauty is concealed from view by a veil. However, Zeus was able to see her beauty and took her as a wife before leaving her for Hera. As the Olympian wife of Zeus, Hera was susceptible to extreme jealousy, which extended even to those lovers he had before their marriage, according to Knowing that Leto was Zeus' former lover and pregnant by Zeus, Hera pursued the mother-to-be from Olympus, the home of the gods, and sent the dragon Python to chase her boat through the world to prevent her from ever landing and safely giving birth to Zeus' offspring.

Leto was eventually assisted by the other goddesses in landing at Delos, where she gave birth to Apollo and Artemis, whose incredible strength and battle abilities were clear instantly. Notably, Apollo killed the dragon Python when he was just 4 days old. The two children would continue to protect their mother from threats throughout their lives with their shared talent for archery, and Leto would eventually be welcomed back to Olympus alongside Apollo and Artemis.

Though a Titan rather than a God, thanks to her giving life to two of Zeus' most celebrated children, she was worshipped as the goddess of motherhood, according to the Theoi Project.