In Greek mythology, Meleager was a heroic figure from Calydon in Aetolia. His father was King Oeneus and his mother was Queen Althaea. He had a number of brothers and sisters, including Toxeus, Thyreus, Clymenus, and Gorge. According to some versions of his story, his father was actually Ares, the god of war, with whom his mother had a relationship. Meleager was married to a woman named Cleopatra, and he had a daughter named Polydora.
Important facts about Meleager:
- From city of Calydon
- Son of King Oeneus
- Member of the Argonauts
- Central figure in Calydonian boar hunt
When Meleager was seven days old, the Fates visited his mother to tell his future. Two of the sisters, Clotho and Lachesis, foretold that Meleager would be brave and accomplish heroic feats. However, the third sister, Atropos, foretold a darker destiny. She said Meleager’s life wouldn’t last longer than a brand currently burning in the fireplace. Upon hearing this, his mother immediately pulled the brand out of the fire, put out the flames, and hid it away in a chest. This meant that Meleager couldn’t be killed in battle.
When Jason went on his quest for the Golden Fleece, Meleager was one of the Argonauts that accompanied him. Meleager was known for being skilled with a javelin. In some versions of Jason’s story, Meleager kills King Aeetes by throwing a spear at him. Other versions don’t show Meleager playing such an important role.
The Calydon Boar Hunt
The most famous story involving Meleager as a central figure is about the Calydonian boar hunt. As king, Meleager’s father, Oeneus, was responsible for praying to the gods before the crops were planted. One year, the king offered prayers to Dionysus, the god of the grape harvest, but he neglected to pray to Artemis, who was the goddess of hunting. Artemis became angry at her exclusion and sent a giant boar to Calydon. The boar ruined the land and killed the oxen, making it impossible to plant crops.
Oeneus decreed that a hunt should take place to kill the boar, with whoever struck the final blow getting the boar’s skin as a prize. Meleager returned to Calydon along with several other Argonauts to participate in the hunt. Also taking part was the heroine Atalanta and Meleager’s uncles, Cometes and Prothous. After an extended battle with the boar, Meleager killed it with his javelin. Meleager had fallen in love with Atalanta, so he decided to give her the skin instead of taking it for himself.
Cometes and Prothous disapproved of his decision, believing that a woman was unworthy of such a prize. Meleager argued with his uncles and killed them over the dispute. When Althaea learned that her brothers were dead by her son’s hand, she became consumed by grief. This lead her to take the brand out of the chest and put it in the fireplace. When the brand was completely burned, Meleager died. In some versions of the myth, both Cleopatra and Althaea commit suicide following Meleager’s death.
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