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Maia

by Daphne Elliott
"The Pleiades" was the name given to the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. Maia was the eldest of the daughters, and said to be the most beautiful. Being shy, she lived quietly and alone in a cave on Mount Cyllene, in Arcadia.

Zeus, however, discovered the beautiful young woman, and fell in love with her. He came to her cave at night, to make love to her away from the jealous eyes of his wife, Hera. As a result, Maia bore Zeus a son, Hermes.

When still an infant, Hermes stole some cattle from the god Apollo, and hid them in his mother's cave. When Apollo stormed into Maia's cave, she showed him the tiny baby to prove he could not have been the cattle thief. Apollo was not fooled, however, and angrily appealed to Zeus to punish Hermes. Zeus arbitrated by requiring Hermes to give back the cattle. During the feud, baby Hermes played the lyre, and Apollo was so enchanted by the music that he dropped the charges, and even gave some of the cattle to Hermes, as well as other gifts.

Some time later, Maia helped Zeus when Hera had caused the death of one of his other mistresses, Callisto, who had borne him a son, named Arcas. Zeus ordered Hermes to give Arcas to Maia to raise as her own, which she did. Arcas and Callisto were eventually placed in the sky, becoming the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (Big and Little Bear) to escape the wrath of the ever-jealous Hera.


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