In mythology the Fates
predicted that Meleager, son of Oeneus
, king of Calydon, would live as long as a log
burning on the fire lasted. His mother, Althea
, therefore removed the log and carefully preserved it. When Meleager was a young man, his father neglected to make Diana
) an offering, and in her wrath she sent down a wild boar
- the Calydonian bear - to ravage his lands.
Meleager gathered a large band of heroes, huntsmen and hounds, and a great chase ensued. The fleet-footed huntress Atalanta joined the company and Meleager fell in love with her. She was the first to wound the boar, while Meleager drove in the fatal spear. He gave the boar's head to Atalanta as a trophy, but his mother's envious brothers tried to wrestle it from her and were killed by Meleager. Althea, remembering the prophecy, kindled a fire and flung on the log; Meleager died as it burned. Diana, placated by this tragedy, turned the women who mourned for him into birds and dispatched them into the sky.