Meleager and the Calydonian boar

(Ovid, Metamorphoses VIII, 260 ff.)

Meleager is the son of King Oeneus of Calydon and his wife Althaea. He is a famous hunter and spear thrower and is invincible as long as the wooden block his parents carefully keep remains undamaged. At a harvest festival, Oeneus forgets to make an offering to the god Diana. Enraged, Diana summons a monstrous boar to ravage the fields in the kingdom of Calydon. With his kingdom in peril, Meleager calls upon the best hunters in Greece for help, including the beautiful Atalanta. During the hunt, Meleager falls in love with the huntress, who is his equal in every way.

Meleager kills the beast and offers it to his new love as a trophy. The envy this evokes sparks a new battle, but this time among the hunters.

When Meleager’s uncles are killed in battle, his mother Althaea seeks revenge on her son. She casts the wooden block into the fire and Meleager dies. The women who mourn his death are turned into guinea fowl.

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