Humanities › History & Culture Calydonian Boar Hunt Share Flipboard Email Print Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons. History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Mythology & Religion Figures & Events Ancient Languages Greece Egypt Asia Rome American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated November 01, 2019 The Calydonian Boar Hunt is a story from Greek mythology chronologically following the voyage the Argonaut heroes took to capture the Golden Fleece for Jason. A group of heroic hunters chased after a boar sent by the irate goddess Artemis to ravage the Calydonian countryside. This is the most famous of the Greek hunts in art and literature. Representations of the Calydonian Boar Hunt The earliest literary representation of the Calydonian boar hunt comes from Book IX (9.529-99) of the Iliad. This version doesn't mention Atalanta. The boar hunt is clearly shown in artwork, architecture, and sarcophagi. Artistic depictions run from the 6th century B.C. through the Roman period. Principal Characters in the Calydonian Boar Hunt Meleager: Hunt organizer and killer of the boarOineus (Oeneus): King of Calydon, in Aetolia, who failed to sacrifice to Artemis (hubris)Calydonian Boar: the fierce animal who ravaged the countryside as Artemis sent him to do.Artemis: virgin goddess of the hunt who sent the boar and may have trained Atalanta.Atalanta: Female, Amazon-type, a devotee of Artemis, who draws first blood.Althaea (Althaia): daughter of Thestius, wife of Oineus and mother of Meleager who causes her son's death when he kills her brothers.Uncles: Meleager kills at least one of his uncles and is then killed himself. Apollodorus 1.8 on Heroes of the Calydonian Boar Hunt Meleager, son of Oeneus, from CalydonDryas, son of Ares, from CalydonIdas and Lynceus, sons of Aphareus, from MesseneCastor and Pollux, sons of Zeus and Leda, from LacedaemonTheseus, son of Aegeus, from AthensAdmetus, son of Pheres, from PheraeAncaeus and Cepheus, sons of Lycurgus, from ArcadiaJason, son of Aeson, from IolcusIphicles, son of Amphitryon, from ThebesPirithous, son of Ixion, from LarissaPeleus, son of Aeacus, from PhthiaTelamon, son of Aeacus, from SalamisEurytion, son of Actor, from PhthiaAtalanta, daughter of Schoeneus, from ArcadiaAmphiaraus, son of Oicles, from ArgosSons of Thestius. Basic Story of the Calydonian Boar Hunt King Oineus neglects to sacrifice annual first fruits to Artemis (only). To punish his hubris she sends a boar to ravage Calydon. Oineus' son Meleager organizes a band of heroes to hunt the boar. Included in the band are his uncles and, in some versions, Atalanta. When the boar is killed, Meleager and his uncles fight over the trophy. Meleager wants it to go to Atalanta for drawing first blood. Meleager kills his uncle(s). Either a fight ensues between Meleager's father's people and his mother's, or his mother knowingly and deliberately burns a firebrand that magically ends Meleager's life. Homer and Meleager In the ninth book of the Iliad, Phoenix tries to persuade Achilles to fight. In the process, he tells the story of Meleager in a version sans Atalanta. In the Odyssey, Odysseus is recognized by an odd scar caused by a boar tusk. In Judith M. Barringer ties the two hunts together. She says they are both rites of passage with maternal uncles serving as witnesses. Odysseus, of course, survives his hunt, but Meleager isn't so fortunate, although he survives the boar. Death of Meleager Although Atalanta draws first blood, Meleager kills the boar. The hide, head, and tusks should be his, but he is enamored of Atalanta and offers her the prize on the controversial claim of first blood. A hunt is a heroic event reserved for the aristocrats. It was hard enough to get them to participate in Atalanta's company, let alone give her the principle honor, and so the uncles grow angry. Even if Meleager doesn't want the prize, it is his family's to have. His uncles will take it. Meleager, the young leader of the group, has made up his mind. He slays an uncle or two. Back at the palace, Althaea hears of the death of her brother(s) at the hands of her son. In revenge, she takes out a brand the Moirae (fates) had told her would mark the death of Meleager when it was burned completely. She sticks the wood in the hearth fire until it is consumed. Her son Meleager dies simultaneously. That's one version, but there is another that is easier to stomach. Apollodorus on Version 2 of the Death of Meleager But some say that Meleager did not die in that way, but that when the sons of Thestius claimed the skin on the ground that Iphiclus had been the first to hit the boar, war broke out between the Curetes and the Calydonians; and when Meleager had sallied out134 and slain some of the sons of Thestius, Althaea cursed him, and he in a rage remained at home; however, when the enemy approached the walls, and the citizens supplicated him to come to the rescue, he yielded reluctantly to his wife and sallied forth, and having killed the rest of the sons of Thestius, he himself fell fighting.