), called by the Romans Latōna.
According to Hesiod, a daughter of the Titan Coeus and
Phoebé, a sister of Asteria. She was the mother of Apollo and Artemis by Zeus, to
whom she was married before Heré. Homer likewise calls her the mother of Apollo and
Artemis by Zeus; he mentions her in the story of Niobé, who paid so dearly for her
conduct towards Leto, and he also describes her as the friend of the Trojans in the war with
the Greeks. In later writers these elements of her story are variously embellished, for they
do not describe her as the lawful wife of Zeus, but merely as his mistress, who was persecuted
by Heré during her pregnancy. All the world being afraid of receiving Leto on
account of their dread of Heré, she wandered about till she came to Delos, which
was then a floating island, and bore the name of Asteria or Ortygia. When Leto arrived there,
Zeus fastened it by adamantine chains to the bottom of the sea, that it might be a secure
resting-place for his beloved, and here she gave birth to Apollo and Artemis. The tradition is
also related with various other modifications. Some said that Zeus changed Leto into a quail
), and that in this state she arrived in the floating
island, which was hence called Ortygia. Others related that Zeus was enamoured of Asteria, but
that she, being metamorphosed into a bird, flew across the sea; that she was then changed into
a rock, which, for a long time, lay under the surface of the sea; and that this rock arose
from the waters and received Leto when she was pursued by Python. Leto was generally
worshipped only in conjunction with her children. Delos was the chief seat of her worship, and
in the sanctuary devoted to her honour she was represented by a shapeless wooden image. See
It is probable that the name of Leto belongs to the same class of words as the Greek
and the lateo
, as typifying night.
Leto would therefore signify “the obscure” or
“concealed,” not as a physical power, but as a divinity yet quiescent and
invisible, from whom issued the visible divinity with all his splendour and brilliancy. This
view is supported by the account of her genealogy given by Hesiod. (See
Preller, Röm. Myth.
i. 190; Lang, Myth, Ritual
ii. 199.) From their mother Apollo is frequently Letoïus
, and Artemis (Diana), Letoïa,
, or Latoë.