1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Latona

LATONA (Lat. form of Gr. Λητώ, Leto), daughter of Coeus and Phoebe, mother of Apollo and Artemis. The chief seats of her legend are Delos and Delphi, and the generally accepted tradition is a union of the legends of these two places. Leto, pregnant by Zeus, seeks for a place of refuge to be delivered. After long wandering she reaches the barren isle of Delos, which, according to Pindar (Frag. 87, 88), was a wandering rock borne about by the waves till it was fixed to the bottom of the sea for the birth of Apollo and Artemis. In the oldest forms of the legend Hera is not mentioned; but afterwards the wanderings of Leto are ascribed to the jealousy of that goddess, enraged at her amour with Zeus. The foundation of Delphi follows immediately on the birth of the god; and on the sacred way between Tempe and Delphi the giant Tityus offers violence to Leto, and is immediately slain by the arrows of Apollo and Artemis (Odyssey, xi. 576-581; Apollodorus i. 4). Such are the main facts of the Leto legend in its common literary form, which is due especially to the two Homeric hymns to Apollo. But Leto is a real goddess, not a mere mythological figure. The honour paid to her in Delphi and Delos might be explained as part of the cult of her son Apollo; but temples to her existed in Argos, in Mantineia and in Xanthus in Lycia; her sacred grove was on the coast of Crete. In Lycia graves are frequently placed under her protection, and she is also known as a goddess of fertility and as κουροτρόφος. It is to be observed that she appears far more conspicuously in the Apolline myths than in those which grew round the great centres of Artemis worship, the reason being that the idea of Apollo and Artemis as twins is one of later growth on Greek soil. Lycia, one of the chief seats of the cult of Apollo, where most frequent traces are found of the worship of Leto as the great goddess, was probably the earlier home of her religion.

In Greek art Leto usually appears carrying her children in her arms, pursued by the dragon sent by the jealous Hera, which is slain by the infant Apollo; in vase paintings especially she is often represented with Apollo and Artemis. The statue of Leto in the Letoön at Argos was the work of Praxiteles.