Leda (mythology)

Dimitris Stamatios | May 24, 2023


In Greek mythology Leda (Greek Λήδα) was an Aetolian princess who became a Spartan queen, and was also one of the females seduced by Zeus. Leda is one of the three Thespians, that is, daughters of Witness and Eurithemystheus. Her sisters were Altea and Hipermnestra.other versions say that Leda’s mother was Euritémide, or Deidamía (daughter of Perieres).even others say that her father was Glauco.

Tindarus, fleeing from the violence of Hippocoon, came to the court of Testius and Testius married him to Leda. But later, when Herakles killed Hippocoon and his sons, they returned and Tindareus inherited the kingdom; thus Tindareus and Leda became the kings of Sparta.It is said that when Leda was walking by the river Eurotas, the king of the gods, Zeus, transformed into a swan, appeared to her and, pretending to be pursued by an eagle, landed on her.

Hesiod tells us that Leda gave birth to three daughters of Tindarus, “Timandra, to cow-eyed Clytemnestra and to Philonoeus, who in figure competed with the immortals”, the latter was immortalized by Artemis, and after her sisters were born the Dioscuri – Castor and Polideucus – born by Zeus and raised in the palace of Sparta as his heroes par excellence.

Apollodorus adds that Leda lay in the same night with Zeus and Tindarus. Thus Leda had from Zeus Pollux and Helen, and from Tindarus she gave birth to Castor and Clytemestra. Some say that Helen was the daughter of Zeus and Nemesis, because the latter, to escape the siege of Zeus, had become a goose, but Zeus had possessed her transformed into a swan; as the fruit of this union she laid an egg, which a shepherd found in the forest and took it to Leda, who kept it in an ark. Others vary the legend of the egg and Nemesis and say that the latter had metamorphosed into different animals, or that this egg was placed between Leda’s thighs by the god Hermes, Euripides also says that Leda and her brothers were born from swan eggs, but does not specify more data about it.

The legend of Leda and the swan has given in art numerous works of many authors who have recreated the scene of the encounter: Leonardo da Vinci, Correggio, Tintoretto, Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Dalí with the painting Leda atomica, Gustav Klimt, among others.

Rubén Darío evokes Leda in some poems:

Coat of arms

The swan in the shadow looks like snow’.

The character is also present in the extensive composition whose title is also that of a collection of poems of which it is a part, the fourth published by the novelist and essayist Aldous Huxley in 1920: Leda. Chatto & Windus (now Random House), London. See also the Spanish translation of the collection of poems in Aldous Huxley: Poesía completa (Almería, 2008; pp. 170 – 227.

In the novel El rapto del cisne (The Swan Thieves, 2010), by Elizabeth Kostova (Umbriel Editores, 2010), the plot revolves around the painting Leda, by the painter Gilbert Thomas, a transcript of Alfred Sisley. Actually, the painting that illustrates the cover of the book is also called Leda, but it is by François-Édouard Picot (1786 – 1868).

Inspired by the myth of Leda, Charly García, composer of the Argentine duo Sui Generis, wrote the song Un hada, un cisne.


  1. Leda
  2. Leda (mythology)
  3. ^ Ovid. The Amores. Book II Elegy IV.
  4. ^ Apollod. 3.10.5; Paus. 3.13.8; Eur. IA 49
  5. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 14
  6. ^ Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 201
  7. a b c d Hesíodo: Catálogo de mujeres fr. 23a (citado en uno de los papiros de Oxirrinco).
  8. a b Apolodoro: Biblioteca mitológica I, 7, 10.
  9. «Tyndareus» (Ρωσικά)
  10. «Leda» (Ρωσικά)
  11. ^ a b c Igino, Fabulae, 14.
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