In the poems of Campbell will be found a translation of one of the choruses of the tragedy of Medea, where the poet Euripides has taken advantage of the occasion to pay a glowing tribute to Athens, his native city. It begins thus:
"Oh, haggard queen! To Athens dost thou guide Thy glowing chariot, steeped in kindred gore; Or seek to hide thy damned parricide Where Peace and Justice dwell for evermore?"
THE CALYDONIAN HUNT. MELEAGER AND ATALANTA
The search for the Golden Fleece was undertaken by Jason, aided by heroes from all Greece, or Hellas as it was then called. It was the first of their common undertakings which made the Greeks feel that they were in truth one nation, though split up into many small kingdoms. Another of their great gatherings was for the Calydonian Hunt, and another, the greatest and most famous of all, for the Trojan War.
The hero of the quest for the golden Fleece was Jason. With the other heroes of the Greeks, he was present at the Calydonian Hunt. But the chief hero was Meleager, the son of OEneus, king of Calydon, and Althea, his queen.
Althea, when her son was born, beheld the three Destinies, who, as they spun their fatal thread, foretold that the life of the child should last no longer than a brand then burning upon the hearth. Althea seized and quenched the brand, and carefully preserved it for years, while Meleager grew to boyhood, youth, and manhood. It chanced, then, that OEneus, as he offered sacrifices to the gods, omitted to pay due honors to Diana, and she, indignant at the neglect, sent a wild boar of enormous size to lay waste the files of Calydon. Its eyes shone with blood and fire, its bristles stood like threatening spears, its tusks were like those of Indian elephants. The growing corn was trampled, the vines and olive trees laid waste, the flocks and herds were driven in wild confusion by the slaughtering foe. All common aid seemed vain; but Meleager called on the heroes of Greece to join in a bold hunt for the ravenous monster. Theseus and his friend Pirithous, Jason, Peleus afterwards the father of Achilles, Telamon the father of Ajax, Nestor, then a youth, but who in his age bore arms with Achilles and Ajax in the Trojan war, these and many more joined in the enterprise. With them came Atalanta, the daughter of Iasius, king of Arcadia. A buckle of polished gold confined her vest, an ivory quiver hung on her left shoulder, and her left hand bore the bow. Her face blent feminine beauty with the best graces of martial youth. Meleager saw and loved.
But now already they were near the monster's lair. They stretched strong nets from tree to tree; they uncoupled their dogs, they tried to find the footprints of their quarry in the grass. From the wood was a descent to marshy ground. Here the boar, as he lay among the reeds, heard the shouts of his pursuers, and rushed forth against them. One and another is thrown down and slain. Jason throws his spear with a prayer to Diana for success; and the favoring goddess allows the weapon to touch, but not to wound, removing the steel point of the spear even in its flight. Nestor, assailed, seeks and finds safety in the branches of a tree. Telamon rushes on, but stumbling at a projecting root, falls prone. But an arrow from Atalanta at length for the first time tastes the monster's blood. It is a slight wound, but Meleager sees and joyfully proclaims it. Anceus, excited to envy by the praise given to a female, loudly proclaims his own valor, and defies alike the boar and the goddess who had sent it; but as he rushes on, the infuriated beast lays him low with a mortal wound. Theseus throws his lance, but it is turned aside by a projecting bough. The dart of Jason misses its object, and kills instead one of their own dogs. But Meleager, after one unsuccessful stroke, drives his spear into the monsters side, then rushes on and despatches him with repeated blows.
Then rose a shout from those around; they congratulated the conqueror, crowding to touch his hand. He, placing his foot upon the slain boar, turned to Atalanta and bestowed on her the head and the rough hide which were the trophies of his success. But at this, envy excited the rest to strife. Phlexippus and Toxeus, the uncles of Meleager and Althea's brothers, beyond the rest opposed the gift, and snatched from the maiden the trophy she had received. Meleager, kindling with rage at the wrong done to himself, and still more at the insult offered to her whom he loved, forgot the claims of kindred, and plunged his sword into the offenders' hearts.