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Leto

by Ron Leadbetter
Leto

Leto, the daughter of the Titans Phoebe and Coeus. Known as the hidden one and bright one, her name came to be used for the moon Selene. Hera was jealous of Leto because Zeus, the husband of Hera, had fallen in love with her. From their union Leto bore the divine twins, Artemis and Apollo. Leto found this to be an arduous task, as Hera had refused Leto to give birth on either terra firma or on an island out at sea. The only place safe enough to give birth was Delos because Delos was a floating island. Therefore, Leto did not refute the wishes of Hera. In some versions, Leto was refused by other vicinities because they feared the great power of the god she would bear. To show her gratitude, Leto anchored Delos to the bottom of the Aegean with four columns, to aid its stability. A conflict of legends arises when in one version it says that Artemis was born one day before Apollo, and the birth took place on the island of Ortygia. Then the next day, Artemis helped Leto to cross to the island of Delos, and aided Leto with the delivery of Apollo.

Leto, being the mother of Artemis and Apollo, figured as the motive for the slaughter was Niobe's children was that Niobe had been bragging to Leto about bearing fourteen children (in some versions six or seven). Leto had only born two, and to make matters worse, Niobe then had the audacity to say, it must make her more significant than Leto. When the divine twins were told of this insult, they killed all Niobe's children with their deadly arrows. After which Niobe wept for her dead children so much that she turned into a pillar of stone. From one version of how Apollo slew the monster Python, it was said that while Leto was still pregnant with the divine twins, Python tried to molest her. As punishment, Apollo killed him and then took control of the oracle of Delphi.

Leto was worshiped throughout Greece, but principally in Lycia (Asia Minor). In Delos and Athens, there were temples dedicated to her, although in most regions she was worshiped in conjunction with her children, Artemis and Apollo. In Egypt there is the Temple of Leto (Wadjet) at Buto, which was described by Herodotus as being connected to an island which floated. On this island (Khemmis) stood a temple to Apollo, but Herodotus dismissed the claim that it floated as merely the legend of Delos brought to Egypt from Greek tradition. The Romans called Leto "Latona".


Article details:

  • Pronunciation:
    lee'-toh
  • Etymology:
    Hidden one
  • Image:

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