Who was Callisto?

Callisto: The Bear-Mother

We turn our sights today to Callisto, a mythical gal who, like many of our favourites, was once a pal of Artemis.

Who was Callisto?

Callisto was the daughter of King Lycaon – yeah, that Lycaon, who later became her wolf-dad – and possibly the nymph Nonacris was her mother. Therefore she has all the genealogy we’d look for in one of Artemis’ huntress gals. She was an Arcadian princess.

So what did she and Artemis get up to?

There are a handful of stories about her but the main one has to do with Artemis’ wrath. The goddess usually kept a big crew around her, and it was pretty easy to get membership, as long as you followed two rules: no men, no sex. Or at least hetero sex. But I digress. Callisto was part of this band of merry ladies.

Did Callisto follow the rules?

Well, depending on the version of the story you read, she either tried to and was raped, or seduced Zeus of her own volition. Either way, she became pregnant. Only so long could she hide this fact from Artemis and the other ladies, since they did everything together – including bathing.

What did Artemis think of this? 

As you might imagine, she wasn’t a big fan. That might actually be putting it lightly. Artemis is so angry at this that she turns Callisto into a big old bear. She clearly didn’t care if Zeus had raped her or not.

What about the baby?

Well, hunters found the bear and the little human baby that she had, and brought them back to her dad, King Lycaon. The boy’s name was Arkas. He grew up fairly normal, apparently unaware that his mom was the bear that roamed around the region.

Did he ever find out?

One could say so. Callisto, being a bear, wandered into a sanctuary of Zeus. Arkas saw this happen and flipped out, going to kill the bear for the great offence.

He killed his mom?!

Nope! Zeus intervened at the last moment and stopped him…by transforming both Callisto and Arkas into stars. This is how we get the two bear constellations in the sky!

Interesting, right?! I love a good story about angry Artemis.

Check out some of the previous Classical Ladies posts here:



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