Meleager

Meleager

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This article is about the mythological figure, for other uses see Meleager (disambiguation)
Meleager (disambiguation)
Meleager is the English transliteration of the Greek name Μελεαγρος. It may refer to:*Meleager, a figure of Greek mythology*Meleager , an officer of Alexander the Great *Meleager , a ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty, Meleager is the English transliteration of the Greek name Μελεαγρος. It may refer...

.


In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, Meleager was a hero venerated in his temenos
Temenos
Temenos is a piece of land cut off and assigned as an official domain, especially to kings and chiefs, or a piece of land marked off from common uses and dedicated to a god, a sanctuary, holy grove or holy precinct: The Pythian race-course is called a temenos, the sacred valley of the Nile is the ...

at Calydon
Calydon
Calydon was an ancient Greek city in Aetolia, situated on the west bank of the river Evenus. According to Greek mythology, the city took its name from its founder Calydon, son of Aetolus. Close to the city stood Mount Zygos, the slopes of which provided the setting for the hunt of the Calydonian...

 in Aetolia
Aetolia
Aetolia is a mountainous region of Greece on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth, forming the eastern part of the modern prefecture of Aetolia-Acarnania.-Geography:...

. He was already famed as the host of the Calydonian boar hunt
Calydonian Boar
The Calydonian Boar is one of the monsters of Greek mythology that had to be overcome by heroes of the Olympian age. Sent by Artemis to ravage the region of Calydon in Aetolia because its king failed to honor her in his rites to the gods, it was killed in the Calydonian Hunt, in which many male...

 in the epic tradition that was reworked by Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

.
Meleager was the son of Althaea and the vintner Oeneus
Oeneus
In Greek mythology, Oeneus, or Oineus was a Calydonian king, son of Porthaon and Euryte, husband of Althaea and father of Deianeira, Meleager, Toxeus, Clymenus, Periphas, Agelaus, Thyreus , Gorge, Eurymede, Mothone, Perimede and Melanippe...

 and, according to some accounts father of Parthenopeus
Parthenopeus
For the hero of mediaeval romance, see Partonopeus de BloisIn Greek mythology, Parthenopeus was one of the Seven Against Thebes and the son of Atalanta and Hippomenes, Meleager, or Ares, or perhaps the son of Talaus. Promachus was his son...

 and Polydora
Polydora
Polydora may refer to:*In Greek mythology:**Polydora, Danaid, mother of King Dryops of Oeta by Spercheus**Polydora, daughter of Peleus**Polydora, possible wife of Protesilaus**Polydora, one of the Oceanids**Polydora, one of the Amazons...

.

When Meleager was born, the Moirae
Moirae
The Moirae, Moerae or Moirai , in Greek mythology, were the white-robed incarnations of destiny . Their number became fixed at three...

 (the Fates) predicted he would only live until a brand, burning in the family hearth, was consumed by fire. Overhearing them, Althaea immediately doused and hid the brand. Meleager married Cleopatra
Cleopatra Alcyone
Cleopatra Alcyone was the daughter of Idas and Marpessa and the wife of Meleager; she died with grief when her husband was killed by Apollo. ...

, daughter of Idas
Idas
In Greek mythology, Idas was a son of Aphareus and Arene and brother of Lynceus. He and Lynceus loved Hilaeira and Phoebe and fought with their rival suitors, Castor and Polydeuces, killing the mortal brother Castor. He was also one of the Argonauts and a participant in the hunt for the Calydonian...

. However, in some versions, he had to defeat Atalanta in a footrace, in which he was aided by Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

.

Oeneus sent Meleager to gather up heroes from all over Greece to hunt the Calydonian Boar
Calydonian Boar
The Calydonian Boar is one of the monsters of Greek mythology that had to be overcome by heroes of the Olympian age. Sent by Artemis to ravage the region of Calydon in Aetolia because its king failed to honor her in his rites to the gods, it was killed in the Calydonian Hunt, in which many male...

 that had been terrorizing the area, rooting up the vines, Oeneus having omitted Artemis
Artemis
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

 at the festival. In addition to the heroes he required, he chose Atalanta
Atalanta
Atalanta is a character in Greek mythology.-Legend:Atalanta was the daughter of Iasus , a Boeotian or an Arcadian princess . She is often described as a goddess. Apollodorus is the only one who gives an account of Atalanta’s birth and upbringing...

, a fierce huntress, whom he loved. According to one account of the hunt, when Hylaeus and Rhaecus
Hylaeus and Rhaecus
In Greek mythology, Hylaeus and Rhaecus were two centaurs who tried to rape Atalanta. They were killed by Meleager....

, two centaur
Centaur
In Greek mythology, a centaur or hippocentaur is a member of a composite race of creatures, part human and part horse...

s, tried to rape Atalanta, Meleager killed them. Then, Atalanta wounded the boar and Meleager killed it. He awarded her the hide since she had drawn the first drop of blood.

Meleager's brother Toxeus
Toxeus
In Greek mythology, the name Toxeus refers to:*A son of Thestius, brother of Althaea, who participated in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar. He was angry that the prize of the boar's hide had been given to a woman by his nephew Meleager, who then killed him in the ensuing argument.*A son of Oineus...

, the "archer", and Plexippus
Plexippus
In Greek mythology, Plexippus is a name that refers to:* A son of Thestius, who, together with his brother Toxeus, participated in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar. He was angry that the prize of the boar's hide had been given to a woman by his nephew Meleager, who then killed him in the ensuing...

 (Althaea's brother) grew enraged that the prize was given to a woman. Meleager killed them in the following argument. He also killed Iphicles
Iphicles
In Greek mythology, Iphicles is the name of three different people:*The half-brother of Heracles, being the son of Alcmene and her human husband Amphitryon, whereas Heracles was her son by Zeus. Iphicles was the father of Heracles' charioteer Iolaus by Automedusa, daughter of Alcathous...

 and Eurypylus
Eurypylus
In Greek mythology, Eurypylus was the name of several different people.-Son of Thestius:One Eurypylus was a son of Thestius. He participated in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar, during which he insulted Atalanta and was killed by Meleager.-Son of Euaemon:Another Eurypylus was a Thessalian king,...

 for insulting Atalanta. When Althaea found out that Meleager had killed her brother and one of her sons, Althaea placed the brand that she had stolen from the Fates (the one that the Fates predicted, once engulfed with fire, would kill Meleager) upon the fire, thus fulfilling the prophecy and killing Meleager. The women who mourned his death were turned into guineafowl
White-breasted Guineafowl
The White-breasted Guineafowl, Agelastes meleagrides is a medium-sized, up to 45cm long, terrestrial bird of the guineafowl family. It has a black plumage with a small, bare red head, white breast, long black tail, greenish brown bill and greyish feet...

 (Meleagrides).


Meleager is also mentioned as one of the Argonauts
Argonauts
The Argonauts ) were a band of heroes in Greek mythology who, in the years before the Trojan War, accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, the Argo, which was named after its builder, Argus. "Argonauts", therefore, literally means...

. In Hades
Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

, his is the only shade that does not flee Heracles
Heracles
Heracles ,born Alcaeus or Alcides , was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson of Perseus...

, who has come after Cerberus
Cerberus
Cerberus , or Kerberos, in Greek and Roman mythology, is a multi-headed hound which guards the gates of the Underworld, to prevent those who have crossed the river Styx from ever escaping...

. In Bacchylides
Bacchylides
Bacchylides was an Ancient Greek lyric poet. Later Greeks included him in the canonical list of nine lyric poets which included his uncle Simonides. The elegance and polished style of his lyrics have been a commonplace of Bacchylidean scholarship since at least Longinus...

' Ode V, Meleager is still in his shining armor, so formidable, in Bacchylides' account, that Heracles reaches for his bow to defend himself. Heracles is moved to tears by Meleager's account; Meleager has left his sister Deianira
Deianira
Deïanira or Dejanira is a figure in Greek mythology, best-known for being Heracles' third wife and, in the late Classical story, unwittingly killing him with the Shirt of Nessus...

 unwedded in his father's house, and entreats Heracles to take her as bride; here Bacchylides
Bacchylides
Bacchylides was an Ancient Greek lyric poet. Later Greeks included him in the canonical list of nine lyric poets which included his uncle Simonides. The elegance and polished style of his lyrics have been a commonplace of Bacchylidean scholarship since at least Longinus...

 breaks off his account of the meeting, without noting that in this way Heracles in the Underworld chooses a disastrous wife.

With his wife Kleopatra, daughter of Idas and Marpessa
Marpessa
In Greek mythology, Marpessa was an Aetolian princess, and a granddaughter of Ares. She was kidnapped by Idas but loved by Apollo as well. Zeus made her choose between them. According to another myth, she was the daughter of Evenus and Alcippe. She married Idas after he kidnapped her with a winged...

, he had a daughter, Polydora, who became the bride of Protesilaus
Protesilaus
In Greek mythology, Protesilaus , was a hero in the Iliad who was venerated at cult sites in Thessaly and Thrace. Protesilaus was the son of Iphicles, a "lord of many sheep"; as grandson of the eponymous Phylacos, he was the leader of the Phylaceans...

, who left her bed on their wedding-night to join the expedition to Troy.

Among the Romans, the heroes assembled by Meleager for the Calydonian hunt provided a theme of multiple nudes in striking action, to be portrayed frieze-like on sarcophagi
Sarcophagus
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

.

Meleager's story has similarities with the Scandinavian Norna-Gests þáttr
Norna-Gests þáttr
Norna-Gests þáttr or the Story of Norna-Gest is a legendary saga about the Norse hero Norna-Gest.-Summary:Norna-Gest was the son of a Danish man named Thord of Thinghusbit, who once dwelt on the estate of Grøning in Denmark. When he was born, three Norns arrived and had foretold the child's...

.

Ancient sources



  • Bacchylides
    Bacchylides
    Bacchylides was an Ancient Greek lyric poet. Later Greeks included him in the canonical list of nine lyric poets which included his uncle Simonides. The elegance and polished style of his lyrics have been a commonplace of Bacchylidean scholarship since at least Longinus...

     Fr 5.93
  • Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica I, 190-201.
  • Apollodorus
    Apollodorus
    Apollodorus of Athens son of Asclepiades, was a Greek scholar and grammarian. He was a pupil of Diogenes of Babylon, Panaetius the Stoic, and the grammarian Aristarchus of Samothrace...

    , Bibliotheke I, viii, 1-3.
  • Ovid
    Ovid
    Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

    , Metamorphoses
    Metamorphoses (poem)
    Metamorphoses is a Latin narrative poem in fifteen books by the Roman poet Ovid describing the history of the world from its creation to the deification of Julius Caesar within a loose mythico-historical framework. Completed in AD 8, it is recognized as a masterpiece of Golden Age Latin literature...

    VIII, 269-525.