Callisto in Greek Mythology
Callisto (the name, incidentally, means "most beautiful") was a charming nymph and follower of Artemis
. In honor of the goddess, Callisto took a vow to remain forever a maiden. However, this vow was abruptly violated when Zeus
fell in love with the comely nymph. Clever Zeus assumed the form of either the god Apollo
, or, in some versions of the tale, appeared as Artemis herself, and in one of these guises seduced Callisto.
From this point, there are several different versions of the story. Some tales claim that it was Artemis who, in retribution for this transgression, changed Callisto into a bear. Other stories attribute the transformation to Hera (who was angry and jealous of yet another of Zeus's paramours) or even to Zeus himself (who had attempted to protect Callisto).
Regardless of the details, the result is the same - Callisto lived the rest of her life as a bear. The great Roman poet Ovid wrote that Callisto and Arcas, her son by Zeus, were together turned into the constellations known as the Great Bear and the Little Bear. And so together this pair shines from the night sky.
Callisto in Art History
Gallery | For pictures and information about Callisto in art, visit the Mythography gallery!
Who's Who in Classical Mythology
This book is a great source for information about Greek and Roman mythology! Organized alphabetically, this who's who features information about over 1200 of the most intriguing characters from Classical myth and legend.
The stories of Classical myth come to life in Bulfinch's book. This edition also features legends from other cultures.
Do you have a specific question about Greek, Roman, and Celtic mythology? Then try the Mythography forum!