|Oeneus, Atalanta, Meleager and a son of Thestius (?). Engraved Etruscan mirror, bronze, 4th–3rd century BC., Louvre|
Homer, The Iliad, Book 9, lines 529-548
Atalanta (?) and the Kalydonian boar, Aitolian League triobol
photo: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.
"A wild hunter... "Orestheus," "man of the mountains,"... a son of Deukalion, the first man, comes to Aitolia in search of a kingdom. His she-dog gives birth to a stick. He buries the stick, probably because it is an abortion. It soon turns out to be the first vine, a gift of the celestial dog, the dog of Orion, who may be recognized in the wild hunter. After the event Orestheus names his son "Phytios," "planter." His son in turn was named "oineus," after oine, "vine."" Carl Kerényi, Dionysos: Archetypal image of indestructible life, Princeton, 1976, p.76.These stories, in combination, pass into the Celtic cultures in several places:
"Recently, a fragment of Greek text from Noricum was translated into German (G. Dobesch, Zu Virunum als Namen der Stadt auf dem Magdalensberg und zu einer Sage der kontinentalen Kelten, Carinthia 187, 1997, 107-128). It is the only contemporary telling of a Celtic foundation myth. An Otherwordly boar is wreaking havoc in the land, and although many try to slay the boar, they all fail. Finally, a stranger comes, and he "brings back the boar on his shoulders". The people all hailed him "one man" in their language, and the Noricum city of Virunum came to be named as such." John Hooker, The meaning of the boar, Chris Rudd List 69, May, 2003.
|The Calydonian Boar Hunt, Peter Paul Rubens, Getty Museum|
"Wrapped in a flowing red cape, the warrior Meleager thrusts his spear into the shoulder of a massive boar. The ferocious creature--seemingly undaunted by a pair of hounds latched onto its bristled hide--has turned to confront head-on its human adversary. Meleager's blow will prove to be fatal to the boar, but the beast has proven itself as a fearsome foe. Beneath its imposing hooves lie the disemboweled carcass of a hound and the prostrate corpse of the hunter, Ancaeus." Excerpt from Getty caption for the painting.
another Anceus was killed by a boar ravaging a vineyard at Samos. It is not so much a specialty of wild boars to ravage vineyards but the boar represents the dark time of the year (and was also so recognized by the Celts). Unseasonable weather can destroy the crop. Meleagros (the name comes from the Greek for "honey" and for "field"), is "the loving protector of the fields". The Romans called him Meleager.
|British "Corieltauvi Hosidius type" silver unit|
photo: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.
On the British Celtic coin, the spear in the boars back intersects a solar symbol and this represents the division of the year into two halves. The boar is killed by the solar hero, who in turn, must then be killed by the boar so that that the seasons can cycle year after year.
"Then Grainne felt sure of the death of Diarmuid, and she uttered a long exceedingly piteous cry, so that it was heard in the distant parts of the stronghold; and her women and the rest of her people came to her, and asked her what had thrown her into that excessive grief. Grainne told them how Diarmuid bad perished by the wild boar of Benn Gulban, by means of the hunt that Finn mac Cumaill had made. “And truly my very heart is grieved,” said Grainne, “that I am not myself able to fight with Finn, for were I so I would not have suffered him to leave this place in safety.” Having heard of the death of Diarmuid, they too uttered three loud, fearful, vehement cries together with Grainne, so that those loud shouts were heard in the clouds of heaven, and in the wastes of the firmament; and then Grainne bade the five hundred that she had for household to go to Benn Gulban, and to bring her the body of Diarmuid.". The Pursuit of Diarmud and Grainne, from the Irish Fenian Cycle.It is not sufficient to extrapolate, backwards, from later Celtic legends to explain pre-Roman Celtic motifs: so much of any story is of its time and place and we can soon become lost if we try to track the wrong elements. Only by bracketing the element with what came before and what came later can we see the exact patterns of the various syncretisms. All cultures are unified because all humans have the same mental structures. Any national expression is virtually irrelevant.Cultures reside only in the heads of individuals.
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