The Wager of Atalanta and the Golden Apples

Nowadays, one of the world's multi-billion dollar industries is gambling. Establishments such as casinos and cardrooms can feature a very wide range of games that people may enjoy. These games include poker, craps, roulette, and machines meant for gambling, like the slot machine. When a person gambles, something with material value -normally, this is money- is wagered on a certain event's outcome. Normally, when a person does so, they intend to win something that has a bigger value than what they had staked. Gambling is an activity that has been -and continues to be- a part of the human experience. There are a lot of references to gambling in many of the world's ancient legends and myths.

In ancient Greek mythology, we can see it in many different stories. One is in the tale of Atalanta. Atalanta is known in the literary world as one of the greatest huntresses and female warriors in the world. She was a skilled fighter, and an incredibly fast runner. She was so fast, in fact, that no one could outrun her. The part of Atalanta's story that people are most familiar with is the part where she got married.

Atalanta was once the consort of a fellow warrior and prince, Meleager, who eventually died. After Meleager's death, Atalanta's father wanted to have her married, but she felt that doing so would dishonor her first lover's memory. To avoid getting married, she offered her father an enormous wager: she would bet herself. She would only willingly submit to getting married if the man she was to marry would beat her at a foot race. To discourage potential suitors from taking her up on the challenge -which was already considerable- they would themselves also have to put something at stake: people who wanted to win her hand in marriage would have to stake their lives. If they lost against her, they would be killed, and many men died because of this, because Atalanta was as beautiful as she was formidable.

A warrior named Melanion -in some versions of the story, he is known as Hippomenes- decided to try his hand at beating her, and Atalanta had taken a shine to him. She did not want him to die when she beat him, so she tried to get him to give up his doomed bet. However, Melanion had a betting strategy of his own that evened out the odds in his favor. Aphrodite, goddess of love, gave him three golden apples, which he used to distract Atalanta and slow her down during the race. It took all of the speed and power he had at his disposal, but Melanion was able to defeat Atalanta and win her hand in marriage. A lot of the stories in ancient Greek mythology involve gambling, and it is interesting that most of the characters in these stories cheat or find some way to tip the odds in their favor, and Melanion was no exception.

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