Leto mother of Apollo and Artemis

leto-greek-mythologyAccording to Greek mythology, Leto was the daughter of the Titans Coius and Phoebe. Her sister was Asteria and Ortygia and together they pre-existed the god Zeus, that is, they belonged to the first generation of gods. Despite all this, Leto submitted to the god Zeus through their love affair, resulting in her receiving the very harsh curse of Hera.

When Hera learned of Zeus’ love affairs with Leto and since she could not harm her husband, she decided to exhaust all her severity on Leto by ordering that Leto not give birth in a place where the sun sees him. In vain Leto searched all over the earth, testing plains, mountains and seas to give birth to her children throughout Greece.

The Greek land refused to accept her as she feared the terrible revenge of Hera that she would impose on their territory. The only floating island that accepted her was Ortygia, which anyway was poor, barren and no animals lived on it, so she defied Hera’s threats since she had nothing to lose anyway. Another myth has Boreas, obeying the orders of Zeus, leading Leto to Poseidon, who created a dome of water over the island of Delos. Thus, a virgin place was “made” for Leto to give birth to the children

In addition to her curse, Hera also made another move which was decisive during the birth of Leto since she kept Eileithyia, the goddess of happy births, next to her on Olympus.
The labor pains lasted for nine whole days with Leto lying at the root of a palm tree, the only tree that existed on the island, writhing in pain and begging the goddess Hera to allow her to give birth to her children. Next to Leto, there were Athena, Demeter, Aphrodite and other smaller goddesses who could not do anything without Hera’s consent.

Wanting to persuade Hera, they decided to send the colorful Iris, the messenger of the gods, to Olympus to ask Hera to allow the birth, offering her a necklace of exquisite beauty of malama and amber, nine cubits long, which she had made in the workshop of the great craftsman of the gods, Hephaestus.

A gift that appeased Hera’s anger, sending Eileithyia to Delos. Finally, Leto, heavily exhausted from the unbearable pain of so many days, will kneel at the root of the palm tree and give birth to the goddess Artemis and immediately after the god Apollo. In fact, at the time of the birth of the god, holy swans flew over the island making seven circles, because it was the seventh day of the month.

Another myth has Leto transform into a she-wolf so she can escape Hera’s wrath and return to her home in the land of the Hyperboreans to give birth. This is how the epithet lycogenes given to the God Apollo, i.e. the one born of a wolf, is explained. This myth also claims that the wolves helped Leto when, after giving birth, she went to the land of Tremilida with the two newborns. Leto stopped at a spring to bathe her newborn children but the cowherds stopped her. The goddess, with the help of the wolves, transformed them into frogs and renamed the country Lycia in their honor.