The myth of Meleager, the son of Oeneus and Althaea, of which there are various versions, is linked to the episode of the Calydonian boar hunt, narrated in Book IX of Homer’s Iliad, in Bacchylides’ V Epinicians and Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
The myth tells how the Moirae or Parcae (the Fates) had forewarned his mother, when he was seven days old, that Meleager’s fate was inextricably linked to the log that was burning in the hearth. If it was burnt to ashes, the child would die. Althaea took fright and immediately put the log out, keeping it hidden in a chest for several years.
When he grew up and became a man, Meleager felt obliged to free his country, Calydon, of a terrible boar that was ravaging its fields, summoning various heroes, including the beautiful huntress Atalanta – the daughter of the king of Arcadia, who is not to be found in the Homeric narrative – with whom he was in love. Meleager had to overcome the resistance of some of the other heroes who refused to fight alongside a woman. He finally convinced them at great cost, and Atalanta was in fact the first to wound the boar, although Meleager enjoyed the glory of killing it. This earned him the right to the animal’s spoils, which he gave to Atalanta as a token of respect. His uncles immediately claimed that they should be the ones to have the remains, since they were his closest relatives, but Meleager ended up killing them. Angered by this murder, Althaea threw the magic log on the fire, immediately causing her son’s death. Later, realising what she had done in a moment of rage, she killed herself in remorse.