Thursday, April 24, 2014

Artemis & Callisto

KALLISTO (or Callisto) was a daughter of the Arkadian King Lykaon and a hunting companion of the goddess Artemis. There were several contradictory versions of her story, but ancient writers all agreed on a number of facts:--that she was seduced by the god Zeus, transformed into a bear, bore a son named Arkas, was hunted down as a beast and placed amongst the stars as the constellation Ursa Major.

In the first version of the story Kallisto swore to preserve her virginity for as long as she remained in the company of the goddess. But after she was seduced by the god Zeus, she kept the fact hidden. Her condition was eventually revealed during the bath and Artemis, in her fury, transformed Kallisto into a bear. Hunters then caught and delivered her and her son Arkas to King Lykaon. Later, when the boy was grown, Kallisto inadvertently wandered into the sanctuary of Zeus Lykaios and Arkas, not knowing the bear's identity, would have killed her for the sacrilege had not Zeus immediately transferred the pair to the stars.

In a comedic version of the previous story, Zeus seduced Kallisto in the guise of the goddess Artemis. When her pregnancy was revealed in the bath, Kallisto blamed the goddess of the offence. She was naturally incensed by such an accusation and turned the girl into a bear.

In yet a third version, when Kallisto was seduced by the god Zeus, his jealous wife Hera angrily transformed her into a bear and persuaded the goddess Artemis to shoot her. Zeus sent Hermes to recover the child Arkas from her womb and delivered him into the care of the goddess Maia. Kallisto was again placed amongst the stars.

In a slight variation of the last, Zeus turned Kallisto into a bear when Hera came across them as they were consorting. The goddess was not fooled by the switch and persuaded Artemis to shoot her.

In the chronology of myth Kallisto lived in the time before the Great Deluge which, some say, was brought on by her father King Lykaon who had served Zeus a meal of human flesh. After the catastrophe, Arkas claimed his throne and ruled a new generation of Pelasgian tribesmen born of the oaks. His descendants ruled the kingdom right down to the time of the Trojan War.

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