Leto bore Apollo and Artemis, delighting in arrows,
Both of lovely shape like none of the heavenly gods,
As she joined in love to the Aegis-bearing ruler.
Zeus, chief among the Gods residing at Mount Olympus, has long been notorious for his roving eye, attracting the extreme ire and jealousy of his consort Hera, who often reacted violently against Zeus, any unfortunate female (whether mortal, Titanides, Goddess, or any other entity) who happened to catch his eye and any offspring that may result from such an ill advised union. Perhaps the most famous, but by no means the only, example of Hera's jealousy was the life of Heracles (better known by his Roman moniker Hercules), who underwent Herculean, no pun intended, trials and tribulations and suffered great tragedies from his birth up until his death due to Hera's machinations.
Bronze statue of the mighty Heracles, or Hercules, best known of all the Greek heroes, who suffered greatly at the hand of Hera.
Leto was a Titanides (female Titan, or pre-Olympian God in Greek mythology, part of the generation preceding the more famous Gods of Mount Olympus led by Zeus) who was worshiped as a Goddess of modesty, motherhood, and protector of the young. She was also supposedly very beautiful, frequently a curse in Greek mythology for catching the attention of Zeus and the consequent ire of Hera. Sure enough, she soon found herself pregnant with twins and being pursued relentlessly by the jealous Hera.
Bust of Hera, Goddess of Marriage whose jealousy and wrath towards the unfortunate victims of Zeus' affections is a major theme in Greek mythology.
When Hera learnt of the pregnancy of Leto, she immediately reacted by forbidding any place on Earth from providing shelter to the expecting mother, forcing her to wander the Earth for shelter to no avail. As if that was not enough, she went one step further by preventing Eileithyia, Goddess of childbirth, from assisting Leto in labor. As a desperate and heavily pregnant Leto roamed the Mediterranean seeking refuge, only to be spurned, until she came upon a small island in the Cyclades, off the coast of Greece in the Aegean sea. The island was nondescript, little more than a floating rock without as much as a fixed position in the sea yet it accepted her presence. When Leto settled on it however, it's position was miraculously fixed in the center of the group of islands called the Cyclades. Yet, her troubles were far from over. On the island of Delos, Leto suffered the pains of labor for nine days as the Goddesses Rhea, Themis, and Amphitrite looked on helplessly, no respite coming from Eileithyia, who was still detained by Hera. Finally, the Goddesses bribed Iris, messenger of the Gods, to bring Eileithyia to Delos and assist an exhausted Leto, who threw herself around a palm tree and gave birth to Artemis, Goddess of the hunt, who then assisted the birth of her brother Apollo.
Bust of Artemis, Goddess of the hunt and older twin of Apollo. Artemis was the Goddess of the moon, wild animals, the hunt, vegetation, chastity and childbirth.
Artemis' assistance in the birth of Apollo immediately gave her the status of a Goddess of childbirth and midwifery on par with Eileithyia, but this was merely the start of her divine career. Artemis became one of the most prominent and widely worshiped of the pantheon, with her cults widespread throughout the Greek world, and her temple at Ephesus counted among the seven wonders of the ancient world. Owing to her life as a huntress and her vow of celibacy, she was also worshiped for her power over wild animals, vegetation, and as a protector and patron of maidens. But despite being so venerated, Artemis was by no means more prominent than her younger brother Apollo, who was just as widely venerated.
Bust of Apollo, twin brother of Artemis and the archetypal Greek God, known for his youthful good looks.
Apollo loomed large over the Greek world and was just as versatile and complex of a God as his sister, worshiped as God of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the sun and light, and poetry. Shortly after their birth, the twins began to exact revenge on the persecutors of their mother, with Apollo slaying the oracular monster Python and becoming a God of prophecy in his stead. The symbolic relationship between the twins was complex, as they were both similar and opposites in different respects. Artemis preferred to spend her time in the wild, among nymphs and wild animals, whereas her brother Apollo represented the pinnacle of urban Greek culture, as a God of music, prophecy, and poetry and as a giver of laws. However, both Gods were closely associated with archery, being skilled hunters and had supernatural quivers, capable of unleashing terrible pestilence upon humanity.
Why get one when you can have both? The twin Gods Artemis and Apollo.
Both Olympians had a huge impact on the Greeks, playing important roles in the Trojan war, and continually shaping Greek, and later Roman, culture. Human imagination has constantly been piqued by the twins, and they continue to feature prominently in modern art and culture. Apollo, for example, has been the subject of poets such as Percy Shelley and musicians such as Stravinsky and even the Canadian prog rock band Rush. Meanwhile, the ambitious ongoing United States led program to establish a permanent presence on the moon has been named after its patron Goddess in recognition of her role as an explorer and Goddess of the moon. The sheer versatility of the twins, coupled with their active involvement in human affairs and, of course, the massive influence on Greek mythology on the world, make them the perfect presence in any living room.