One year at harvest time, King Oeneus of Calydon went about making the usual offerings of fruit and vegetables to the gods and goddesses. Unfortunately, he forgot Artemis while making his offerings, and when the Greek gods got mad, they got REALLY mad. Artemis decided to deal with the situation by unleashing a vicious boar on the land of Calydon. The boar destroyed everything in its path: land, livestock, and any people who tried to kill it. King Oeneus, desperate to get rid of the beast, called upon the strongest and best hunters from across Greece to take part in a massive hunt.
Oeneus did indeed gather an impressive array of hunters: Meleager (Oeneus's son), Hercules, Jason, Acastos, Theseus, Pirithous, Peleus, and Atalanta (the lone woman) were among those who participated. Many of the men objected strongly to a woman's presence at the hunt, but Meleager, who had become rather smitten with Atalanta, argued in her favor. Eventually, the other hunters backed down, and the hunt began.
Many of the hunters weren't entirely prepared for the ferocity of the boar - "Its eyes shone with blood and fire, its bristles stood like threatening spears, its tusks were like those of Indian elephants" (Bulfinch, The Age of Fable). Some of the men found themselves climbing trees to escape the boar's sharp tusks; others, such as Anceus, weren't quite as lucky. Atalanta finally managed to wound the boar, and then Meleager rushed in to kill it. Meleager, perhaps seeking Atalanta's affections, insisted that the prize of the boar's hide be given to her. When Meleager's two uncles objected, he stabbed and killed them.
Meleager's mother, Althaea, heard that her son had killed her brothers. When Meleager was born, the Fates gave Althaea a log, and told her that Meleager would die when the log had been burned down to ash. She had locked the log in chest; however, her anger at her son now led her to grab the log and throw it on to her hearth fire. The log slowly burned, and when the fire went out, Meleager died. Only then did Althaea realize what she had done, and, horrified, she killed herself.