Explore mythology and art with information about the classic stories of heroes and gods...from the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, to the legends of the Celts. Mythography presents resources and reference materials about mythology - including recommended books, and lexicons that explain Greek, Roman, and Celtic terms.

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Leto in Greek Mythology
In Greek mythology, Leto was a female Titan (or Titaness). She is most famous in myth for being the mother of the twin Olympians Apollo and Artemis. In relation to her role as mother, Leto is also notorious for playing the part of one of the many paramours of the passionate god Zeus. And it was her affair with the ruler of the Greek gods, in fact, that got the Titan Leto into a bit of trouble with the goddess Hera. So let us explore the story of Leto, and learn more about this compelling mythological figure.

According to the ancient poet Hesiod, Leto was the daughter of two prominent Titans - Koios (also spelled Coeus) and Phoebe. She was also the sister of Asteria. The Theogony of Hesiod features the following beautiful passage about Leto:

"Phoebe went to the much longed-for bed of Koios,
and she, a goddess loved by a god, conceived
and gave birth to dark-robed Leto, ever sweet,
gentle to men and to gods who never die,
sweet from the beginning, gentlest of all the Olympians."
(Hesiod, Theogony, 404-408)

One of the most interesting myths about Leto involves the story of how she came to give birth to her children Apollo and Artemis. Here is one version of this myth. As was previously mentioned, Leto engaged in a relationship with Zeus (the ruler of the Greek gods). However, Hera, the Queen of the Olympians, was furious that Zeus had gotten his mistress pregnant, so she devised a cunning plan to punish Leto. Hera threatened and persuaded every country and spot of land to refuse refuge to Leto when she was in labor, which essence meant that Leto could not give birth to her divine offspring. Furthermore, Hera then convinced Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, not to assist the pregnant Titan. So while the other goddesses attended to Leto, both Eileithyia and Hera remained - painfully - absent.

Meanwhile, one of Leto's problems was solved one when the floating island of Ortygia was discovered. Finally, after nine grueling days and nine agonizing nights of labor, the goddesses present bribed Eileithyia into helping Leto deliver her children. And so the glorious gods Apollo and Artemis were born. In recognition for its role in providing shelter for Leto, the floating island of Ortygia was fixed with columns into a permanent location, and called Delos - brilliant - in honor of the divine beings born there in some versions of the myth.

Leto was known by the name Latona in Roman mythology.

Do you have a specific question about Greek mythology? Then try the Mythography forum!

Hail, O blessed Leto, because you bore illustrious children, lord Apollo and arrow pouring Artemis...

- Homeric Hymn to Apollo

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.