In myth son of Oeneus, king of the Aetolians of Calydon, and Althaea. He was the hero of the Calydonian boar‐hunt, the story of which is first found in Homer's Iliad, told by Phoenix during the Embassy to Achilles. Oeneus forgot to sacrifice to Artemis, and she, in anger, sent a wild boar to ravage the country. Meleager gathered huntsmen and hounds from many cities and killed the boar. The goddess then stirred up strife between Aetolians and Curetes over the head and hide of the boar, and a violent battle ensued. From this point on, Homer seems to develop the traditional story in order to create an example paralleling Achilles' situation, the better for Phoenix to persuade him back to battle. While Meleager fought, all went well for the Aetolians, but when he withdrew from battle (out of anger with his mother, who had cursed him for the ‘slaying of a brother’) the Curetes attacked their city more and more violently. Meleager was offered gifts and was entreated to return to battle by priests, his father, mother, and sisters; but he refused. Only when his wife entreated him did he go and fight, but then too late to receive the offered gifts.
Acc. to later legend, shortly after his birth the Moirai (see fate) had said that he would live until a brand then on the fire burned away. His mother extinguished the brand and kept it safe for many years until, after the boar‐hunt, Meleager killed her two brothers, either accidentally, or in anger when, after he had given the hide of the boar to Atalanta with whom he was in love, they took it away from her. At this Althaea threw the brand into the fire and Meleager died, whereupon she killed herself.
Subjects: Classical Studies.