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LETO was one of the female Titanes , a bride of Zeus, and the mother of the twin gods Apollon and Artemis. She was the goddess of motherhood and with her children, a protectress of the young. Her name and iconography suggest she was also a goddess of modesty and womanly demure. Like her sister Asteria she may also have been a goddess of the night, or alternatively of the light of day.
When Leto was pregant with the twins she was pursued relentlessly by the goddess Hera, who drove her from land to land preventing her from finding a place to rest and give birth. The floating island of Delos eventually provided her with refuge. Later when she was later travelling to Delphoi, the giant Tityos attempted to abduct her, but Apollon intervened and slew him with arrows.
In Greek vase painting Leto was usually depicted as a woman lifting her veil in a gesture of modesty. She was usually depicted accompanied by her two children. The exact meaning of her name is obscure, some commentators connect it with the word lethô, to move unseen, suggestive of modesty, others derive it from the Lycian word for woman, lada. Hercult is described on a separate page see Cult of Leto
[1.1] KOIOS & PHOIBE (Hesiod Theogony 404, Apollodorus 1.9, Diodorus Siculus 5.67.1, Hyginus Preface)
[1.2] KOIOS (Homeric Hymn III To Apollon 61, Pindar Processional Song on Delos, Sappho Frag 44A, Callimachus Hymn to Delos, Orphic Hymn 35, Ovid Metamorphoses 6.186, Hyginus Fabulae 140)
[1.3] PHOIBE (Aeschylus Eumenides 6 & 323)
[1.1] APOLLON, ARTEMIS (by Zeus) (Hesiod Theogony 918, Hesiod Works & Days 770, Homer Iliad 1.9 & 21.495, Homer Odyssey 6.100 & 11.318, Homeric Hymn 27 to Artemis, Pindar Nemean Ode 6 & 8, Pindar Processional Song on Delos, Aeschylus Eumenides 6 & 323, Orphic Hymn 35, Callimachus Hymn to Artemis & Hymn to Delos, Apollodorus 1.21 & 3.46, Pausanias 8.9.1 & 8.53.1. Hyginus Fabulae 9 & 140, et al)
LETO (Lêtô), in Latin LATONA, according to Hesiod (Theog. 406, 921), a daughter of the Titan Coeus and Phoebe, a sister of Asteria, and the mother of Apollo and Artemis by Zeus, to whom she was married before Hera. Homer, who likewise calls her the mother of Apollo and Artemis by Zeus (Il. i. 9, xiv. 327, xxi. 499, Od. xi. 318, 580), mentions her as the friend of the Trojans in the war with the Greeks, and in the story of' Niobe, who paid so dearly for her conduct towards Leto. (Il. v. 447, xx. 40, 72, xxiv. 607; comp. xxi. 502, Od. xi. 580, Hymn. in Apoll. 45, &c., 89, &c.) In later writers these elements of her story are variously worked out and embellished, for they do not describe her as the lawful wife of Zeus, but merely as a concubine, who was persecuted during her pregnancy by Hera. (Apollod. i. 4, § 1; Callim. Hymn. in Del. 61, &c.; Schol. ad Eurip. Phoen. 232, &c.; Hygin. Fab. 140.) All the world being afraid of receiving her on account of Hera, she wandered about till she came to the island of Delos, which was then a floating island, and bore the name Asteria (Callim. Hymn. in Dian. 35, 37, 191); but when Leto touched it, it suddenly stood still upon four pillars. (Pind. Fragm. 38; Strab. xi. p. 485.) According to Hyginus (Fab. 93,140), Delos was previously called Ortygia, while Stephanus Byzantinus (s. v. Korissos) mentions a tradition, according to which Artemis was not born in Delos, but at Corissus. Servius (ad Aen. iii. 72) relates the following legends: Zeus changed Leto into a quail (ortux), and in this state she arrived in the floating island, which was hence called Ortygia; or, Zeus was enamoured with Asteria, but she being metamorphosed, through her prayers, into a bird, flew across the sea; she was then changed into a rock, which, for a long time, lay under the surface of the sea; but, at the request of Leto, it rose and received Leto, who was pursued by Python. Leto then gave birth to Apollo, who slew Python. (Comp. Anton. Lib. 35; Ov. Met. vi. 370; Aristot. Hist. Anim. vi. 35; Athen. xv. 701; Apollon. Rhod. ii. 707; Iamblich. Vit. Pyth. 10; Strab. xiv. p. 639: in each of these passages we find the tradition modified in a particular way.) But notwithstanding the many discrepancies, especially in regard to the place where Leto gave birth to her children, most traditions agree in describing Delos as the place. (Callim. Hymn. in Apoll. init. 59, in Del. 206, 261; Aeschyl. Eum. 9; Herod. ii. 170.) After the birth of Apollo, his mother not being able to nurse him, Themis gave him nectar and ambrosia; and by his birth the island of Delos became sacred, so that henceforth it was not lawful for any human being to be born or to die on the island; and every pregnant woman was conveyed to the neighbouring island of Rheneia, in order not to pollute Delos. (Strab. x. p. 486.)
We shall pass over the various speculations of modern writers respecting the origin and nature of this divinity, and shall mention only the most probable, according to which Leto is "the obscure" or "concealed," not as a physical power, but as a divinity yet quiescent and invisible, from whom is issued the visible divinity with all his splendour and brilliancy. This view is supported by the account of her genealogy given by Hesiod; and her whole legend seems to indicate nothing else but the issuing from darkness to light, and a return from the latter to the former. Leto was generally worshipped only in conjunction with her children, as at Megara (Paus. i. 44. § 2), at Argos (ii. 21. § 10), at Amphigeneia (Strab. viii. p. 349), in Lycia (ibid. xiv. p. 665), near Lete in Macedonia (Steph. Byz. s. v. Lêtê), in a grove near Calynda in Caria (Strab. xiv. p. 651), and other places.
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
PARENTAGE OF LETO
Hesiod, Theogony 404 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Phoibe came to the desired embrace of [the Titan] Koios. Then the goddess through the love of the god conceived and brought forth dark-gowned Leto, always mild, kind to men and to the deathless gods, mild from the beginning, gentlest in all Olympos. Also she bare Asteria of happy name, whom Perses once led to his great house to be called his dear wife. And she conceived and bare Hekate."
Pindar, Processional Song on Delos (trans. Sandys) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Leto, the daughter of Koios."
Aeschylus, Eumenides 6 & 323 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Phoibe . . . gave it [the oracle of Delphoi] as a birthday gift to [her grandson] Phoibos [Apollon], who has his name from Phoibe . . . Loxias [Apollon] is the spokesman of Zeus, his father . . . Leto's son (Latous) [Apollon]."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 8 - 9 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The Titanes had children . . . The children of Koios and Phoibe were Asteria and Leto."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 67. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"To Koios and Phoibe was born Leto."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"From Polus [Koios] and Phoebe [were born] : Latone, Asterie."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 185 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"That Titanis Latona, whom Coeus sired, whoever he may be."
LETO & THE BIRTH OF APOLLON & ARTEMIS
Homer, Iliad 1. 9 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Zeus' son and Leto's, Apollon."
Homer, Iliad 14. 327 ff :
"[Zeus addresses Hera, recounting the greatest of his loves :] I loved . . . glorious Leto."
Homer, Odyssey 11. 318 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The god [Apollon] that Zeus begot and lovely-haired Leto bore."
Hesiod, Theogony 918 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"And Leto was joined in love with Zeus who holds the aegis, and bare Apollon and Artemis delighting in arrows, children lovely above all the sons of Heaven."
Hesiod, Works and Days 770 ff :
"To begin with, the first, the fourth, and the seventh [days of the month]--on which Leto bare Apollon with the blade of gold--each is a holy day."
Homeric Hymn 3 to Delian Apollon 2 - 148 (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
"As he [Apollon] goes through the house of Zeus, the gods tremble before him, and all spring up from their seats when he draws near, as he bends his bright bow. But Leto alone stays by the side of Zeus who delights in thunder; and then she unstrings his bow, and closes his quiver, and takes his archery from his strong shoulders in her hands and hangs them on a golden peg against a pollar of his father's house. Then she leads him to a seat and makes him sit: and the Father gives him nektar in a golden cup welcoming his dear son, while other gods make him sit down there, and queenly Leto rejoices because she bare a mighty son and an archer. Rejoice, blessed Leto, for you bare glorious children, the lord Apollon and Artemis who delights in arrows; her in Ortygia, and him in rocky Delos, as you rested against the great mass of the Kynthion hill hard by a palm-tree by the streams of Inopos.
Shall I sing how at the first Leto bare you [Apollon] to be the joy of men, as she rested against Mount Kynthos in that rocky isle, in sea-girt Delos--while on either hand a dark wave rolled on landwards driven by shrill winds--whence arising you rule over all mortal men? Among those who are in Krete, and in the township of Athens, and in the isle of Aigaina and Euboia, famous for ships, in Aigai and Peiresiai and Peparethos near the sea, in Threikios [Thracian] Athos and Pelion's towering heights and Threikios Samos and the shady hills of Ida, in Skyros and Phokaia and the high hill of Autokane and fair-lying Imbros and smouldering Lemnos and rich Lesbos, home of Makaros, the son of Aiolos, and Khios, brightest of all the isles that lie in the sea, and craggy Mimas and the heights of Korykos and gleaming Klaros and hte sheer hill of Aisagia and watered Samos and the steep heights of Mykale, in Miletos and Kos, the city of Meropian men, and steep Knidos and windy Karpathos, in Naxos and Paros and rocky Rhenaia--so far roamed Leto in travail with the god who shoots afar, to see if any land would be willing to make a dwelling for her son. But they greatly trembled and feared, and none, not even the richest of them, dared receive Phoibos, until queenly Leto set foot on Delos and uttered winged words and asked her : `Delos, if you would be willing to be the abode of my son Phoibos Apollon and make him a rich temple--; for no other will vouch you, as you will find: and I think you will be rich in oxen and sheep, nor bear vintage nor yet produce plants abundantly. But if you have the temple of far-shooting Apollon, all men will bring you hecatombs and gather here, and incessant savour of rich sacrifice will always arise, and you will feed those who dwell in you from the hand of stangers; for truly your own soil is not rich.'
So spake Leto. And Delos rejoiced and answered and said : `Leto, most glorious daughter of great Koios, joyfully would I receive your child the far-shooting lord; for it is all too true that I am ill-spoken of among men, whereas thus I should become very greatly honoured. But his saying I fear, and I will not hide it from you, Leto. They say that Apollon will be one that is very haughty and will greatly lord it among gods and men all over the fruitful earth. Therefore, I greatly fear in heart and spirit that as soon as he sees the light of the sun, he will scorn this island--for truly I have but a hard, rocky soil--and overturn me and thrust me down with his feet in the depths of the sea; then will the great ocean wash deep above my head for ever, and he will go to another land such as will please him, there to make his temple and wooded groves. So, many-footed creatures of the sea will make lairs in me and black seals their dwelling undisturbed, because I lack people. Yet if you will but dare to sware a great oath, goddess [thea], that here first he will build a glorious temple to be an oracle for men, then let him afterwards make temples and wooded groves amongst all men; for surely he will be greatly renowned.
So said Delos. And Leto sware the great oath of the gods : `Now hear this, Gaia (Earth) and wide Ouranos (Heaven) above, and dropping water of Styx, this is the strongest and most awful oath of the blessed gods, surely Phoibos shall have here his fragrant altar and precinct, and you he shall honour above all.'
Now when Leto had sworn and ended her oath, Delos was very glad at the birth of the far-shooting lord, But Leto was racked nine days and nine nights with pangs beyond wont. And there were with her all the chiefest of the goddesses, Dione and Rheia and Ikhnaia and Themis and loud-moaning Amphitrite and the other deathless goddesses save white-armed Hera, who sat in the halls of cloud-gathering Zeus. Only Eilithyia, goddess of sore travail, had not heard of Letos's trouble, for she sat on the top of Olympos beneath golden clouds by white-armed Hera's contriving, who kept her close through envy, because Leto with the lovely tresses was soon to bear a son faultless and strong.
But the goddesses sent out Iris from the well-set isle to bring Eilithyia, promising her a great necklace strung with golden threads, nine cubits long. And they bade Iris call her aside from white-armed Hera, lest she might afterwards turn her from coming with her words. When swift Iris, fleet of foot as the wind, had heard all this, she set to run; and quickly finishing all the distance she came to the home of the gods, sheer Olympos, and forthwith called Eileithyia out from the hall to the door and spoke winged words to her, telling her all as the goddesses who dwell on Olympos had bidden her. So she moved the heart of Eileithyia in her dear breast; and they went their way, like why wild-doves in their going.
And as soon as Eileithyia the goddess of sore travail set foot on Delos, the pains of birth seized Leto, and she longed to bring forth; so she cast her arms about a palm tree and kneeled on the soft meadow while the earth [of Delos] laughed for joy beneath. Then the child leaped forth to the light, and all the goddesses raised a cry. Straightway, great Phoibos, the goddesses washed you purely and cleanly with sweet water, and swathed you in a white garment of fine texture, new-woven, and fastened a golden band about you.
Now Leto did not give Apollon, bearer of the golden blade, her breast; but Themis duly poured nektar and ambrosia with her divine hands : and Leto was glad because she had borne a strong son and an archer. But as soon as you had tasted that divine heavenly food, O Phoibos, you could no longer then be held by golden cords nor confined with bands, but all their ends were undone. Forthwith Phoibos Apollon spoke out among the deathless goddesses : `The lyre and the curved bow shall ever be dear to me, and I will declare to men the unfailing will of Zeus.'
So said Phoibos, the long-haired god who shoots afar and began to walk upon the wide-pathed earth; and all the goddesses were amazed at him. Then with gold all Delos was laden, beholding the child of Zeus and Leto, for joy because the god chose her above the islands and shore to make his dwelling in her : and she loved him yet more in her heart blossomed as does a mountain-top with woodland flowers."
Homeric Hymn 3 to Delian Apollo 177 ff :
"Apollon, god of the silver bow, whom rich-haired Leto bare."
Homeric Hymn 3 to Pythian Apollo 183 ff :
"Leto's all-glorious son [Apollon]."
Homeric Hymn 27 to Artemis 14 ff :
"Neat-ankled Leto bare children [Apollon & Artemis] supreme among the immortals both in thought and in deed."
Theognis, Fragment 1. 5 (trans. Gerber, Vol. Greek Elegiac) (Greek elegy C6th B.C.) :
"Lord Phoibos [Apollon], when the august goddess Leto gave birth to you, fairest of the immortals, as she clasped the palm-tree with her slender arms beside the circular lake, all Delos was filled from end to end with an ambrosial aroma, the vast earth beamed, and the deep expanse of the white-capped sea rejoiced."
Pindar, Nemean Ode 6. 36 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"The children of Leto, goddess of the gold spindle."
Pindar, Processional Song on Delos (trans. Sandys) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Hail. O heaven-built isle [of Delos], most lovely scion of the children of bright-haired Leto, O daughter of the sea, thou unmoved marvel of the spacious earth, by mortal men called Delos, but by the blessed gods of Olympos known as the far-seen star (astra) of the dark-blue earth . . . For aforetime, that isle was tossed on the waves by all manner of whirling winds; but, when Leto, the daughter of Koios, in the frenzy of her imminent pangs of travail, set foot on her, then it was that four lofty pillars rose from the roots of earth, and on their capitals held up the rock with their adamantine bases. There it was that she gave birth to, and beheld, her blessed offspring."
Pindar, Dirges Fragment 139 :
"The children of Leto of the golden distaff."
Sappho, Fragment 44A (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric I) (C6th B.C.) :
"Golden-haired Phoibos, whom the daughter of Koios [Leto] bore, having lain with Kronos' son, god of the high clouds."
Bacchylides, Fragment 11 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (C5th B.C.) :
"Delos-born son of slim-waisted Leto."
Greek Lyric V Scholia, Fragment 886 (trans. Campbell) (B.C.) :
"In Delos Leto bore children once, gold-haired Phoibos, lord Apollon, and the deer-shooting huntress Artemis, who holds great power over women."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 21 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Of the daughters of Koios, Asteria in the form of a quail threw herself into the sea while fleeing a sexual union with Zeus. A polis was originally named Asteria after her : later on it became Delos. The other daughter Leto had relations with Zeus, for which she was hounded by Hera all over the earth. She finally reached Delos and gave birth to Artemis, who thereupon helped her deliver Apollon."
Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 22 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"I [Artemis] will visit when women vexed by the sharp pangs of childbirth call me to their aid--even in the hour when I was born the Moirai (Fates) ordained that I should be their helper, forasmuch as my mother suffered no pain either when she gave me birth or when she carried me in her womb, but without travail put me from her body."
Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 73 ff :
"But thou, Maiden [Artemis], even earlier, while yet but three years old, when Leto came bearing thee in her arms at the bidding of Hephaistos that he might give thee handsel [i.e. the gifts given on seeing a new born child for the first time] and Brontes [the Kyklops] set thee on his stout knees."
Callimachus, Hymn 4 to Delos 51 ff :
"But when thou [the island of Asteria or Delos] gavest thou soil to be the birthplace of Apollon, seafaring men gave thee this name in exchange, since no more didst thou float obsure (adelos) upon the water, but amid the waves of the Aigaion (Aegean) Sea didst plant the roots of thy feet.
And thou didst not tremble before the anger of Hera, who murmured terrible against all child-bearing women that bare children to Zeus, but especially against Leto, for that she only was to bear to Zeus a son dearer even than Ares. Wherefore also she herself kept watch within the sky, angered in her heart greatly and beyond telling, and she prevented Leto who was holden in the pangs of child-birth. And she had two look-outs to keep watch upon the earth. The space of the continents did bold Ares watch, sitting armed on the high top of Thrakian Haimos, and his horses were stalled by the seven-chambered cave of Boreas. And the other kept watch over the far-flung islands, even Thaumantia [Iris] seated on Mimas, whither she had sped. There they sat and threatened all the cities which Leto approached and prevented them from receiving her. Fled Arkadia, fled Auge's holy hill Parthenion, fled after her aged Pheneios, fled all the land of Pelops that lies beside the Isthmos, save only Aigialos and Argos. For on those ways she set not her feet, since Inakhos belonged unto Hera. Fled, too, Aonia [Boiotia] on the same course, and Dirke and Strophia, holding the hands of their sire, dark-pebbled Ismenos; far behind followed Asopos, heavy-kneed, for he was marred by a thunderbolt. And the earth-born nymphe Melia wheeled about thereat and ceased from the dance and her cheek paled as she panted for her coeval oak, when she saw the locks of Helikon tremble [i.e. the oaks of the tree-nymphai trembled in fear] . . .
And Apollon, yet in his mother's womb, was sore angered against them and he uttered against Thebe no ineffectual threat : `Thebe, wherefore wretched one, dost thou ask the doom that shall be thine anon? Force me not yet to prophesy against my will. Not yet is the tripod seat at Pytho my care . . . Nevertheless I will speak unto thee a word more clear than shall be spoken from the laurel branch. Flee on! Swiftly shall I overtake thee and wash my bow in blood. Thou hast in thy keeping the children of a slanderous woman [i.e. Niobe who insulted Leto and whose children were slain by Apollon and Artemis]. Not thou shalt be my dear nurse, nor Kithairon. Pure am I and may I be the care of them that are pure.'
So he spake. And Leto turned and went back. But when the Akhaian cities refused her as she came--Helike, the companion of Poseidon, and Bura, the steading of Dexamenos, the son of Oikeus--she turned her feet back to Thessalia. And Anauros fled and great Larisa and the cliffs of Kheiron; fled, too, Peneios, coiling through Tempe.
But thy heart, Hera, was even then still pitiless and thou wert not broken down nor didst have compassion, when she [Leto] stretched forth both her arms and spake in vain : `Ye Nymphai of Thessalides, offspring of a river [Peneios], tell your sire to hush his great stream. Entwine your hands about his beard and entreat him that the children of Zeus be born in his waters. Phtiotian Peneios, why dost thou now vie with the winds? O sire, thou dost not bestride a racing horse. Are they feet always thus swift, or are they swift only for me, and hast thou today been suddenly made to fly?' But he heard her not. `O burden mine, whither shall I carry thee? The hapless sinews of my feet are outworn. O Pelion, bridal chamber of Philyra, do thou stay, O stay, since on thy hills even the wild lionesses oftentimes lay down their travail of untimely birth.'
Then shedding tears, Peneios answered her : `Leto, Ananke (Necessity) is a great goddess. It is not I who refuse, O Lady, they travail; for I know of others who have washed the soilure of birth in me--but Hera hath largely threatened me. Behold what manner of watcher keeps vigil on the mountain top, who would lightly drag me forth from the depths. What shall I devise? Or is it a pleasant thing to thee that Peneios should perish? Let my destined day take its course. I will endure for thy sake, even if I must wander evermore with ebbing flood and thirsty, and alone be called of least honour among rivers. Here am I! What needeth more? Do thou but call upon Eileithyia.'
He spake and stayed his great stream. But Ares was about to lift the peaks of Pangaion from their base and hurl them in his eddying waters and hide his streams. And from on high he made a din as of thunder and smote his shield with the point of his spear, and it rang with a warlike noise. And the hills of Ossa trembled and the plain of Krannon, and the windswept skirts of Pindos, and all Thessalia danced for fear : such echoing din rang from his shield . . . But Peneios retired not back, but abode his ground, steadfast even as before, and stayed his swift-eddying streams, until the daughter of Koios [Leto] called to him : `Save thyself, farewell! Save thyself; do not for my sake suffer evil for this thy compassion; thy favour shall be rewarded.'
So she spake and after much toil came unto the Isles (Nesoi) of the sea. But they received her not when she came--not the Ekhinades with their smooth anchorage for ships, not Kerkyra which is of all other islands most hospitable, since Iris on lofty Mimas was wroth with them all and utterly prevented them. And at her rebuke they fled all together, every one that she came to, along the waters. Then she came unto primeval Kos, the isle of Merops, the holy retreat of the heroine Khalkiope, but the word of her son [i.e. Apollon in the womb] restrained her : `Bear me not, mother, here. I blame not the island nor have any grudge, since a bright isle it is and rich in pasture as any other. But there is due to her from the Moirai (Fates) another god . . . Greatly shalt thou praise in all the days to be him that prophesied while yet in his mother's womb. But mark thou, mother : there is to be seen in the water a tiny island, wandering over the seas. Her feet abide not in one place, but on the tide she swims even as stalks of asphodel, where the South Wind or the East Wind blows, withersoever the sea carried her. Thither do thous carry me. For she shall welcome thy coming.'
When he had spoken thus much, the other islands in the sea ran away. But thou, Asteria, lover of song, didst come down from Euboia to visit the round Kyklades--not long ago, but still behind thee trailed the sea-weed of Geraistos . . ((lacuna)) since they heart was kindled, seeing the unhappy lady in the grievous pangs of birth : `Hera, do to me what thou wilt. For I heed not they threats. Cross, cross over, Leto, unto me.'
So didst thou speak, and she gladly ceased from her grievous wandering and sat by the stream of Inopos, which the earth sends forth in deepest flood at the season when the Neilos (Nile) comes down in full torrent from the Aithiopian steep. And she loosed her girdle and leaned back her shoulders against the trunk of a palm-tree, oppressed by the grievous distress, and the sweat poured over her flesh like rain. And she spake in her weakness : `Why, child, dost thou weigh down thy mother? There, dear child, is thine island floating on the sea. Be born, be born, my child, and gently issue from the womb.'
O Spouse of Zeus, Lady of heavy anger, thou wert not to be for long without tidings thereof : so swift a messenger hastened to thee. And, still breathing heavily, she spake--and her speech was mingled with fear: 'Honoured Hera, of goddesses most excellent far . . . Leto is undoing her girdle within and island. All the others spurned her and received her not; but Asteria called her by name as she was passing by--Asteria that evil scum of the sea : thou knowest it thyself . . .'
And Hera was grievously angered and spake to her [Iris] : `So now, O shameful creatures of Zeus, may ye all wed in secret and bring forth in darkness, not even where the poor mill-women bring forth in difficult labour, but where the seals of the sea bring forth, amid the desolate rocks. But against Asteria am I no wise angered for this sin, nor can I do to her so unkindly as I should--for very wrongly has she done a favour to Leto. Howbeit I honour her exceedingly for that she did not desecrate my bed, but instead of Zeus preferred the sea.'
She spake: and with music the swans, the gods' own minstrels, left Maionian Paktolos and circled seven times round Delos, and sang over the bed of child-birth, the Mousai's birds, most musical of all birds that fly. Hence that child in after days strung the lyre with just so many strings--seven strings, since seven times the swans sang over the pangs of birth. No eight time sang they: ere that the child leapt forth and the Nymphai Deliades (of Delos), offspring of an ancient river, sang with far-sounding voice the holy chant of Eileithyia. And straightway the brazen sky echoed back the far-reaching chant and Hera grudged it not, because Zeus had taken away her anger. In that hour, O Delos, all thy foundations became of gold: with gold thy round lake flowed all day, and golden foliage thy natal olive-tree put forth and with gold flowed coiled Inopos in deep flood.
And thou thyself [Delos] didst take up the child from the golden earth and lay him in thy lap and thou [the baby Apollon] . . . and the child drew the sweet breast."
Strabo, Geography 10. 5. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"From olden times, beginning with the times of the heroes, Delos has been revered because of its gods, for the myth is told that there Leto was delivered of her travail by the birth of Apollon and Artemis : `for aforetime,' says Pindaros, `it was tossed by the billows, by the blasts of all manner of winds, but when [Leto] the daughter of Koios in the frenzied pangs of childbirth set foot upon it, then did four pillars, resting on adamant, rise perpendicular from the roots of the earth, and on their capitals sustain the rock. And there she gave birth to, and beheld, her blessed offspring.'"
Strabo, Geography 14. 1. 20 :
"On the same coast [i.e. near Ephesos in Asia Minor], slightly above the sea, is also Ortygia, which is a magnificent grove of all kinds of trees, of the cypress most of all. It is traversed by the Kenchrios River, where Leto is said to have bathed herself after her travail. For here is the mythical scene of the birth, and of the nurse Ortygia, and of the holy place where the birth took place, and of the olive tree near by, where the goddess is said first to have taken a rest after she was relieved from her travail. Above the grove lies Mount Solmissos, where, it is said, the Kouretes stationed themselves, and with the din of their arms frightened Hera out of her wits when she was jealously spying on Leto, and when they helped Leto to conceal from Hera the birth of her children."
Strabo, Geography 10. 5. 3 :
"Aratos [Greek poet C3rd B.C.] also points out the poverty of the island of [Gyaros] in his Katalepton : `O Leto, shortly thou wilt pass by me [i.e. in her search for a place to give birth to Apollon], who am like either iron Pholegandros or worthless Gyaros.'"
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 18. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[At Athens] is a temple of Eileithyia, who they say came from the Hyperboreans to Delos and helped Leto in her labour; and from Delos the name spread to other peoples."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 1 :
"At Zoster [in Attika] is an altar . . . to Apollon, to Artemis and to Leto. The story is that Leto did not give birth to her children here, but loosened her girdle with a view to her delivery, and place received its name from this incident."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 53. 1 :
"Apollon and Artemis, they say, throughout every land visited with punishment all the men of that time who, when Leto was with child and in the course of her wanderings, took no heed of her when she came to their land."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 11. 21 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Xanthos' stream, [in Lykia] the stream revealed to men by Leto, bride of Thunderer Zeus, when Lykia's stony plain was by her hands uptorn mid agonies of travail-throes wherein she brought to light mid bitter pangs those babes of birth divine."
Aelian, On Animals 4. 4 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
"Wolves are not easily delivered of their young, only after twelve days and twelve nights, for the people of Delos maintain that this was the length of time that it took Leto to travel from the Hyperboreoi to Delos."
Aelian, Historical Miscellany 5. 4 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Note the Delian tradition that the trees which flourish on Delos are the olive and the palm. When Leto took hold of them she immediately gave birth, which she had not been able to do before."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 53 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Though Jove [Zeus] loved Asterie, daughter of Titan, she scorned him. Therefore she was transformed in to the bird ortyks, which we call a quail, and he cast her into the sea. From her an island sprang up, which was named Ortygia. This was floating. Later Latona [Leto] was borne there at Jove's command by the wind Aquilo [Boreas], at the time when the Python was pursuing her, and there, clinging to an olive, she gave birth to Apollo and Diana [Artemis]. This island later was called Delos." [N.B. Boreas probably transported Leto to Delos from Hyperborea.]
(continued in next post)