Meleager was the son of King Oeneus of Calydon and Althaea. Seven days after his birth, the Fates appeared to foretell his future. Clotho and Lachesis predicted he would be noble and brave. Atropos warned him that he would die as soon as one of the sticks in the fireplace burned completely. Taking the hint, Althaea pulled the stick from the fire, put it out, and hid it in a safe place.
While still young, he came to be regarded as second only to Heracles in his abilities. He was the youngest of the Argonauts and according to some, he killed the Argonauts' chief enemy, King Aeetes of Colchis.
After he returned from this journey, he married Cleopatra and had a daughter, Polydora. His domestic tranquility was brought to an end when Artemis unleashed a fearsome boar in his homeland. He naturally took a leading role in killing the boar during what became known as the Calydonian Boar Hunt which lead to his death.
There are two versions of Meleager's death; both start with a quarrel with his uncles over the prized boar skin. To understand what happened, it is necessary to know that Althaea was married to Oeneus to help settle a blood feud that may have gone on for generations. While his uncles came to help with the boar, there still would have been a lot of tension among them, the Calydonians and Althaea's brothers.
In the first version the quarrel over the prize led to a new war between Curetes and Calydon. This put Meleager in a terrible position, as he had relatives in both sides. Without his leadership, Calydon was on the verge of losing. His wife appealed to him to save the city. However, while leading Calydon, he killed his uncles. As a result, his mother cursed him and possibly burned the last stick the Fates had spoken of. In any case, the Erinyes then killed him to revenge for his killing of blood relatives.
The more romantic version of his death starts with Meleager awarding the prize to Atlanta because she drew first blood. Awarding the prize to a woman angered the rest of the hunting party, but most remained silent. However, his uncles felt that their position entitled them to give orders to Meleager. A quarrel ensued between them and Meleager killed his uncles. Upon hearing of her brothers death by his hands, his mother burned the stick Fates had spoken of; as a result, Meleager died and Althaea then killed herself in remorse. Cleopatra then also committed suicide, driven by grief.
Written by: The Editors of GreekMythology.com. GreekMythology.com editors write, review and revise subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge based on their working experience or advanced studies.
For MLA style citation use: GreekMythology.com, The Editors of Website. "Meleager". GreekMythology.com Website, 25 Jan. 2015, https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Heroes/Meleager/meleager.html. Accessed 14 October 2021.