Greek Mythology

Althaea was the mother of Meleager. At Meleager's birth, the Fates threw a log of wood on to Althaea's hearth fire, saying that Meleager would live as long as the log remained unconsumed by the fire. Althaea promptly grabbed the log and locked it in a chest, determined to have her son live as long as possible.

All was well until the famous Calydonian Boar hunt. Meleager took part, and became quite enamored with Atalanta, the famed female huntress. Many of the other men felt that it was wrong for a woman to take part in the hunt, but Meleager insisted that Atalanta be allowed to participate. Atalanta ended up shooting the arrow that wounded the boar, allowing Meleager to then stab and kill the beast. Meleager, smitten, asked that the honors of the hunt go to Atalanta. Althaea's brothers (Meleager's uncles) told him that he had no right to decide who would receive the prize, at which point, Meleager killed them. When Althaea found out that her son had killed her brothers, she got the sacred log and threw it on to the fire. As the log burned, Meleager fell to the ground, and as the last ember went out, he died. Althaea, horrified by what she had done, hanged herself out of grief.

E2 Dictionary of Classical Mythology

Αλθαια

The daughter of Thestius, and the wife of Oeneus, King of Calydon, and mother of Deianeira and Meleager (Table 24 and Table 27). When her son Meleager was seven days old the Fates came to Althaea and predicted that he would die if the log which was burning on the hearth was burnt to ashes. Althaea immediately seized the log, put it out and hid it in a chest. According to their traditions this magic log was supposed to be an olive branch to which Althaea had given birth at the same time as her son.

It so happened that during the hunt on Calydon Meleager killed his uncles, Althaea's brothers. In her anger she threw on the fire the log on which her son's life depended. Meleager instantly died, and in her despair Althaea hanged herself.

A story was sometimed told that the two children of Althaea were not really the sons of Oeneus, but of two gods, Meleager being the son of Ares and Deianeira the daughter of Dionysus. The latter had fallen in love with Althaea and Oeneus, who had become aware of it, lent him his wife. In gratitude the god gave him a plan of a vineyard and showed him how to cultivate and use it.

{E2 DICTIONARY OF CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY}

Table of Sources:
- Apollod. Bibl. 1, 8, 2
- Bacchyl. 5, 93ff.
- Diod. Sic. 4, 34; 174; 239; 249
- Tzetzes on Lyc. Alex. 492
- Antoninus Liberalis Met. 2
- schol. on Hom. Il. 9, 567

Al*thae"a, Al*the"a (#), n. [althaea, Gr. .] Bot. (a)

A genus of plants of the Mallow family. It includes the officinal marsh mallow, and the garden hollyhocks.

(b)

An ornamental shrub (Hibiscus Syriacus) of the Mallow family.

 

© Webster 1913.

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