Leto, Goddess Mother of the moon and sun

Birth of Appolo

The birth of Artemis and Apollo.

Ancient Greek mother goddess worshipped between circa 800 BC, though most likely earlier, through to Christianisation around 400 AD. From the 4th century onwards Leto was identified as the local Lycian mother goddess during Hellenisation. Leto is called Latona by the Romans and Lato by the Dorian Greeks. The daughter of the Titans Coeus or Keos and Phoebe she was the mother by Zeus, perhaps his clandestine mistress, of the moon as Artemis and the sun as Apollo.

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Leto with twins Apollo and Artemis.

Artemis and Apollo were born on Delos as Leto escaped the powerful jealousy of Hera and to protect her offspring from the goddess. Hera had instructed all places not to allow Leto bear her children where the sun shone, or fear Hera’s reprisals. Leto is a local term for ‘lady’ and probably derived from an earlier Asiatic model.

Known cult centres were in Anatolian Lycia, where she was the principal goddess, at Phaistos in Crete, and the centre of an initiation myth. Her sanctuary was the Laotoon near Xanthos in the Lycian city state confederacy. Another sanctuary was found at Oenoanda in north Lycia. The people of Lycia adopted her and another sanctuary was at Delos. Leto was worshipped mainly in conjunction with, or as part of, her children.

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