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Useful weblinks: The Caledonian Boar Hunt

Gods

  • Artemis appears in this story. You can find a bibliography for her on this site.

The Fates

  • Three sisters, called Clotho (spinner), Lachesis (allotter) and Atropos (unturnable). Although they are generally seen as three separate deities, some see them as representing the Triple Goddess; Virgin, Mother and Crone (this site looks at the Fates from many different points of view). This idea of a trinity, a three-in-one model, can be seen in this picture.
  • Here is a more traditional biography of the Fates.
  • Due to their different roles, presiding over life, death and prophecy, the Fates are depicted in many different ways:
  • The Fates appear in this clip of Disney’s Hercules as ugly and old.

Hunting

  • In Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book 15, Pythagoras gives a speech in which he criticises people for killing animals for food (and pleasure). He says that the only time it is acceptable to kill animals is if they are dangerous and threatening your life. This could be a fruitful discussion topic for students - some more ideas and stimulus materials below:
    • BBC Hunting: A general overview of hunting in the UK, including moral arguments for and against the practice. Which side of the argument do your students agree with and why?
    • Gov.uk Hunting: The (brief!) official laws on when, what and how to hunt in the UK.
    • This mosaic, from Macedonia in the 4th century BC, is an example of ancient Greeks hunting with dogs. These two wield a sword and an axe but spears and bows and arrows were also used.

Wild boar

  • Hunting wild boar was a popular sport in antiquity (check out the Calydonian Boar Hunt tale) but they still exist now and are sometimes cooked and eaten, especially in small-town festivals.
  • There is a short passage about wild boars on the BBC website.
  • Obelix, in the comic-book series Asterix, is a huge fan of eating wild boar: ‘Dinner!’ 

Youth vs Experience

  • It is interesting to note the attitude of Meleager (and the other youth) towards the older uncles joining the hunt. The younger men want to get started but Meleager thinks the uncles will slow them down. Here, being older is seen as a failing point. Often in the modern world this view holds true too, in that elderly people are often seen as being slow or as problems.
  • On the flip side, lots of elderly people are also portrayed as being incredibly wise and in ancient societies they were often looked up to as a source of wisdom and knowledge.
  • Check out this article by Karl Pillemer of Cornell University, which suggests that old people are experts on life and should be listened to more by younger generations.
  • A lot of quotes about elderly people emphasise their wisdom, knowledge and the importance of life-experience; for instance this quote about learning from older people or this one about listening to your elders.
  • However, there is still the idea that young people have more innovation and think about things in a different (and sometimes better!) way; see this quote by Steve Jobs.
  • Ask students what their views on older people are – do they listen to their parents and grandparents or think their advice is outdated?

Love at first sight

  • Meleager is struck by Atalanta’s appearance the first time he sees her and can’t concentrate on the hunt properly because he is so taken with her, even though he doesn’t know her. The concept of love at first sight has been around for a long time – some people believe in it, others mock it or assert that it is only due to physical attraction. Recently, scientific studies have focused on the phenomenon.
  • This article believes the love at first sight is possible but draws the distinction between ‘intense love’ and ‘profound love’ – the latter being of a much longer duration.
  • Marianne Kavanagh writes an account of her experience of love at first sight.
  • According to this article, first impressions really are very important and can lead to love at first meeting!
  • The online science channel ‘HowStuffWorks’ created this video about the science behind love at first sight.
  • The Wikipedia entry for ‘Love at first sight’ includes a look at the concept in antiquity and the middle ages as well as a long list of modern music and films that focus on the phenomenon, including Kylie Minogue’s hit, appropriately entitled Love At First Sight.
  • Here are some popular quotes about the experience:

The Role of Women

  • With the modern feminist movement, there are many debates about what the role of women in modern society is and what it ‘should’ be. How much freedom does Atalanta actually have? Although she partakes in male activities, the only man who really recognises her achievement is Meleager  - and even then, despite his praise, his main desire is to possess her through marriage.
  • This site gives a good bullet-point overview of the roles of women (and children and slaves) in Ancient Athens (Sparta was a bit different! Read an overview of life at Sparta).
  • For more on the role of women in Ancient Greece, click here.
  • The Cult of Artemis at Brauron is very interesting for this story since it has unmarried girls (very young girls, if these statues found at the site are any indication) act the part of wild bears, perhaps suggesting that girls are wild until they are ‘domesticated/tamed’ by marriage. This may explain why Atalanta is so wild, because she is still unmarried, yet the attitude of the uncles towards her and the surprise the men feel at her hunting also shows that even if unmarried women may have been seen as wild, they were still expected to stay at home and take part in specific female activities such as cooking and weaving. 
  • Atalanta wasn’t the only exception in myth to the accepted female model. Another famous female rivalling men was the warrior Camilla who appears in Virgil’s Aeneid.
  • Also mentioned in Virgil’s Aeneid, although in a much shorter passage, is Harpalyce. This girl, raised by her father in all manly exercises, lived a very different life from the generally accepted one for most women.
  • Perhaps the most famous exception to the ideal of the meek and controlled woman is the race of the Amazons. These formed an all-female society of warriors.  

Blood Bonds

  • Often it is assumed that because somebody is part of your family, you will love them unconditionally. However this isn’t always the case, as is clear from this myth where Meleager dislikes his uncles to begin with and ends up murdering them at the end!
  • Perhaps even more surprising is his mother’s – Althaea’s – reaction to her brothers’ murders. For a mother to kill her own son is somehow more shocking to us than for a nephew to kill his uncles. This is probably because of the idea that is often broadcast (i.e. by Agatha Christie) that the bond between a mother and her child is the strongest form of love.
  • The passage in Ovid’s Metamorphoses [Book VIII: 451-514] goes into more depth about the ‘logic’ behind Althaea’s decision and makes it clear the decision was far from easy for her. Interestingly, there is a story, told in Herodotus [Book III: 119], that a woman, when asked whether she would rather keep her husband, brother or son, replied her brother because she could get another husband or another child but (since her parents were dead) she could not replace her brother!
  • Antigone, who is the protagonist of the famous play by Sophocles of the same name (read a summary of the plot here), also loves her brothers so much that she risks her own life giving a proper burial to her brother Polynices! 

Popular Culture

Art

Multimedia

  • This Mythic Warriors’ episode features Atalanta although in this version she was raised by bears in the forest and cannot speak English (she does, however, possess the ability to speak to animals, including birds and even a flying squirrel!). It’s interesting how here the uncles are set up as being evil and greedy rather than just misogynistic (through their dislike of a woman beating them at hunting) and there is no reference to Meleager’s mother or his curse.
  • At the end of this episode, a reference is made to a footrace set up in order to choose a suitable husband for Atalanta – however, this Atalanta is usually accepted to be a different one from the woman who participated in the Calydonian Boar hunt.
  • The story about this Atalanta appears in book X of Ovid’s  Metamorphoses, as a tale told by Aphrodite to Adonis (see the Aphrodite and Adonis tale). You can read this side-story in translation here: lines 560-707.
  • For a very different view of Meleager, check out this Disney Hercules episode, in which the hero of Calydon is brutish and stupid! In a unique twist on the tale, Hercules champions the right to life of the wild boars; the message is clearly against hunting in general. It also touches on the Actaeon myth, with Phil being turned into a boar to be hunted by his fellow hunters – for more on this myth, click here