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