The Calydonian Boar (Καλυδώνιος Κάπρος), a monsters in Greek mythology, killed in the Calydonian Hunt, a popular subject in classical art. King Oeneus of Calydon, an ancient city of west-central Greece north of the Gulf of Patras, held annual sacrifices to the gods. One year the king forgot to include Artemis in his offerings. Insulted, Artemis created the biggest, most ferocious boar imaginable, and unloosed it on Calydon. It rampaged throughout the countryside, forcing people to take refuge inside the city walls, where they began to starve.
Calydonian Boar Hunt , Frieze from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Oeneus sent messengers out to look for the best hunters in Greece, offering them the boar's pelt and tusks as a prize. Among those who responded were some of the Argonauts, Oeneus' own son Meleager, and the huntress Atalanta. Artemis had sent the young huntress because she knew her presence would be a source of division, and so it was: many of the men refused to hunt alongside a woman. Nonetheless it was Atalanta who first succeeded in wounding the boar, although Meleager finished it off, and offered the prize to Atalanta. This outraged the massed heroes, who proceeded to attack Atalanta and Meleager, and in the ensuing battle Meleager died. Thus Artemis achieved her revenge against King Oeneus.
During the hunt, Peleus accidentally killed Eurytion.
Sculpted neo attic sarcophagus representing the Calydonian boar hunt (with Atalanta and Meleager) in the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, inv. 1246. Second quarter of the 3rd c. AD. Photo taken by Marsyas 25 February 2006 (Source)
We have the unavoidable reference to Hercules and the Erymanthian boar. The feat of Admetus in yoking a lion and boar to his chariot is alluded to; there is also a poem by Archias describing a bronze effigy of the Calydonian boar, that monster large as a bull and with tusks like those of an elephant, which ravaged the land till Meleager and a chosen company of heroes and heroines put an end to it. The tusks and skin were at first preserved, like any other precious relic, in the shrine of Artemis at Tegea; then Augustus, who had a weakness for such curiosities, caused one of the teeth — the other was broken — to be transported into a temple of Bacchus at Rome. Pausanias tells us that its length was half a fathom. The hide, meanwhile, remained in the museum-shrine at Tegea, where that traveller saw it in a sadly decayed condition and deprived of all its bristles, as it may well have been after a thousand years or more. Now had this skin been a saintly relic deposited in some Roman Catholic church, it would have been kept up to date and periodically renewed — a system which is more spectacular but less conformable to reason, and which therefore furnishes a microscopic illustration of the difference between the religion of Hellas and that of Saint Peter. Norman Douglas, Birds and Beasts of the Greek Anthology
Some of the Hunters:
Apollodorus. Bibliotheke I, viii, 2-3; Ovid. Metamorphoses VIII,267-525.
Apollodorus, Library and Epitome 1.8.2
Althaea had also a son Meleager, by Oeneus, though they say that he was begotten by Ares. It is said that, when he was seven days old, the Fates came and declared that Meleager should die when the brand burning on the hearth was burnt out. On hearing that, Althaea snatched up the brand and deposited it in a chest. Meleager grew up to be an invulnerable and gallant man, but came by his end in the following way. In sacrificing the first fruits of the annual crops of the country to all the gods Oeneus forgot Artemis alone. But she in her wrath sent a boar of extraordinary size and strength, which prevented the land from being sown and destroyed the cattle and the people that fell in with it. To attack this boar Oeneus called together all the noblest men of Greece, and promised that to him who should kill the beast he would give the skin as a prize. Now the men who assembled to hunt the boar were these :-- Meleager, son of Oeneus; Dryas, son of Ares; these came from Calydon; Idas and Lynceus, sons of Aphareus, from Messene; Castor and Pollux, sons of Zeus and Leda, from Lacedaemon; Theseus, son of Aegeus, from Athens; Admetus, son of Pheres, from Pherae; Ancaeus and Cepheus, sons of Lycurgus, from Arcadia; Jason, son of Aeson, from Iolcus; Iphicles, son of Amphitryon, from Thebes; Pirithous, son of Ixion, from Larissa; Peleus, son of Aeacus, from Phthia; Telamon, son of Aeacus, from Salamis; Eurytion, son of Actor, from Phthia; Atalanta, daughter of Schoeneus, from Arcadia; Amphiaraus, son of Oicles, from Argos. With them came also the sons of Thestius. And when they were assembled, Oeneus entertained them for nine days; but on the tenth, when Cepheus and Ancaeus and some others disdained to go hunting with a woman, Meleager compelled them to follow the chase with her, for he desired to have a child also by Atalanta, though he had to wife Cleopatra, daughter of Idas and Marpessa. When they surrounded the boar, Hyleus and Ancaeus were killed by the brute, and Peleus struck down Eurytion undesignedly with a javelin. But Atalanta was the first to shoot the boar in the back with an arrow, and Amphiaraus was the next to shoot it in the eye; but Meleager killed it by a stab in the flank, and on receiving the skin gave it to Atalanta. Nevertheless the sons of Thestius, thinking scorn that a woman should get the prize in the face of men, took the skin from her, alleging that it belonged to them by right of birth if Meleager did not choose to take it. But Meleager in a rage slew the sons of Thestius and gave the skin to Atalanta. However, from grief at the slaughter of her brothers Althaea kindled the brand, and Meleager immediately expired.
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 out 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. After the death of Meleager, Althaea and Cleopatra hanged themselves, and the women who mourned the dead man were turned into birds.
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