Atalanta, devotee of Artemis and defiant of men and marriage, was a popular figure in ancient literature and art. Although scholars have thoroughly investigated the literary evidence concerning Atalanta, the material record has received less scrutiny. This article explores the written and visual evidence, primarily vase painting, of three Atalanta myths: the Calydonian boar hunt, her wrestling match with Peleus, and Atalanta's footrace, in the context of rites of passage in ancient Greece. The three myths can be read as male and female rites of passage: the hunt, athletics, and a combination of prenuptial footrace and initiatory hunt. Atalanta plays both male and female initiatory roles in each myth: Atalanta is not only a girl facing marriage, but she is also a female hunter and female ephebe. She is the embodiment of ambiguity and liminality. Atalanta's status as outsider and as paradoxical female is sometimes expressed visually by her appearance as Amazon or maenad or a combination of the two. Her blending of gender roles in myth offers insight into Greek ideas of social roles, gender constructs, and male perceptions of femininity. Erotic aspects of the myths of the Calydonian boar hunt and the footrace, and possibly also her wrestling match with Peleus, emphasize Atalanta as the object of male desire. Atalanta challenges men in a man's world and therefore presents a threat, but she is erotically charged and subject to male influence and dominance.
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