Calydonian Boar Hunt

Calydonian Boar Hunt : In Greek mythology, the Calydonian boar was sent by Artemis to ravage the territory of King Oeneus of Calydon because Oeneus had offended Artemis by not offering proper sacrifice. Meleager, the son of Oeneus, was sent to kill the boar. Heralds were sent all over Greece summoning sport- and adventure-loving heroes to aid in the task. Castor and Polydeuces came from Sparta, and Idas and Lynceus came from Messene.

Theseus of Athens, his friend Peirithous, and Jason and his cousin Admetus came. Peleus, the father of Achilles, and Telamon, the father of Ajax, also responded to the summons. From the royal family of Arcadia came Ancaeus and Atalanta. Atalanta was the only woman in the hunt. These heroes and others were entertained for nine days by King Oeneus before the hunt began. It was his son Meleager who finally killed the wild boar after it had been first wounded by Atalanta.

The prize—the boar’s skin—became the object of a quarrel after Meleager had given it to Atalanta. A battle ensued in which, according to some accounts, Meleager was the victor. In a later myth, Meleager died after the hunt because of the anger of his mother, Althaea. When Meleager was born, the two Fates predicted he would be a brave warrior but that he would die when a stick, in a fire burning at the time of his birth, was consumed. Althaea, Meleager’s mother, hid the stick, but when Meleager killed her brothers in the battle over the boar’s skin, she took the stick and had it burned. Meleager then died agonizingly in the fighting when the Curetes attacked the Calydonians after the boar had been killed. After his death he was changed into a guinea fowl by Artemis.

The myth is told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (books 8, 10), William Morris’s Earthly Paradise, and Swinburne’s poetic drama Atalanta in Calydon. A late Roman sarcophagus in the Capitoline Museum, Rome, portrays the hunt. Meleager stands in the center of the piece thrusting his spear into the boar. To his right is Atalanta with her bow. Poussin based his painting on Ovid’s account.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante