If You Want To Be A Mythological Greek Hero, You're Going To Have To Fight A Pig
If you want to make it in this city, kid, you’re going to have to do something to stand out. And that means fighting at least one pig. Zeus won’t even look at you if you haven’t fought a pig. Mount Olympus is one big state fair, and if you want to get noticed, you’d better start greasing up.
Heracles and the Erymanthian Boar
“As a fourth labour [Eurystheus] ordered [Heracles] to bring him the Erymanthian boar alive; now that animal ravaged Psophis, sallying from a mountain which they call Erymanthus. So passing through Pholoe he was entertained by the centaur Pholus, a son of Silenus by a Melian nymph…
So when Hercules returned to Pholoe, he beheld Pholus dead; and he buried him and proceeded to the boar hunt. And when he had chased the boar with shouts from a certain thicket, he drove the exhausted animal into deep snow, trapped it, and brought it to Mycenae.”
Adonis, unnamed boar
“[Aphrodite] warns you, Adonis, to beware and fear [boars]. If her fears for you were only heeded! ‘Oh be brave,’ she says, ‘against those timid animals which fly from you; but courage is not safe against the bold. Dear boy, do not be rash, do not attack the wild beasts which are armed by nature, lest your glory may cost me great sorrow. Neither youth nor beauty nor the deeds which have moved Venus have effect on lions, bristling boars, and on the eyes and tempers of wild beasts. Boars have the force of lightning in their curved tusks, and the rage of tawny lions is unlimited. I fear and hate them all…’
Indeed she warned him.—Harnessing her swans, she traveled swiftly through the yielding air; but his rash courage would not heed advice. By chance his dogs, which followed a sure track, aroused a wild boar from his hiding place; and, as he rushed out from his forest lair, Adonis pierced him with a glancing stroke. Infuriate, the fierce boar's curved snout first struck the spear-shaft from his bleeding side; and, while the trembling youth was seeking where to find a safe retreat, the savage beast raced after him, until at last he sank his deadly tusk deep in Adonis' groin; and stretched him dying on the yellow sand.”
Theseus, Crommyonian Sow
SOCRATES: “Indeed it is obvious, Nicias, that you at least do not believe that even the Crommyonian sow (the fierce monster slain by Theseus in the region between Corinth and Megara) could have been courageous. I say this not in jest, but because I conceive it is necessary for him who states this theory to refuse courage to any wild beast, or else to admit that a beast like a lion or a leopard or even a boar is so wise as to know what only a few men know because it is so hard to perceive. Why, he who subscribes to your account of courage must needs agree that a lion, a stag, a bull, and a monkey have all an equal share of courage in their nature.”
Atalanta and Meleager, Calydonian Boar
“In sacrificing the first fruits of the annual crops of the country to all the gods Oeneus forgot Artemis alone. But she in her wrath sent a boar of extraordinary size and strength, which prevented the land from being sown and destroyed the cattle and the people that fell in with it.
To attack this boar Oeneus called together all the noblest men of Greece, and promised that to him who should kill the beast he would give the skin as a prize…And when they were assembled, Oeneus entertained them for nine days; but on the tenth, when Cepheus and Ancaeus and some others disdained to go hunting with a woman, Meleager compelled them to follow the chase with her, for he desired to have a child also by Atalanta, though he had to wife Cleopatra, daughter of Idas and Marpessa.
When they surrounded the boar, Hyleus and Ancaeus were killed by the brute, and Peleus struck down Eurytion undesignedly with a javelin. But Atalanta was the first to shoot the boar in the back with an arrow, and Amphiaraus was the next to shoot it in the eye; but Meleager killed it by a stab in the flank, and on receiving the skin gave it to Atalanta.
Honorable Mention, Clazomenae
“Every painter and every sculptor who devotes himself and has been trained to the practice of his art figures the Sphinx as winged. And I have heard that on Clazomenae there was a sow with wings, and it ravaged the territory of Clazomenae. And Artemon records this in his Annals of Clazomenae. That is why there is a spot named and celebrated as “The Place of the Winged Sow,” and it is famous. But if anyone regards this as a myth, let him do so; for my part I am not sorry to have mentioned what has been related and what has not escaped my notice touching an animal.”
Honorable Mention, The Odyssey trans. Samuel Butler
“[Circe] set me on a richly decorated seat inlaid with silver, there was a footstool also under my feet, and she mixed a mess in a golden goblet for me to drink; but she drugged it, for she meant me mischief. When she had given it me, and I had drunk it without its charming me, she struck me with her wand. ‘There now,’ she cried, ‘be off to the pigstye, and make your lair with the rest of them.’
But I rushed at her with my sword drawn as though I would kill her, whereon she fell with a loud scream, clasped my knees, and spoke piteously, saying, ‘Who and whence are you? from what place and people have you come? How can it be that my drugs have no power to charm you? Never yet was any man able to stand so much as a taste of the herb I gave you; you must be spell-proof; surely you can be none other than the bold hero Ulysses, who Mercury always said would come here some day with his ship while on his way home from Troy; so be it then; sheathe your sword and let us go to bed, that we may make friends and learn to trust each other.’
And I answered, ‘Circe, how can you expect me to be friendly with you when you have just been turning all my men into pigs? And now that you have got me here myself, you mean me mischief when you ask me to go to bed with you, and will unman me and make me fit for nothing. I shall certainly not consent to go to bed with you unless you will first take your solemn oath to plot no further harm against me.’” [Emphasis added.]
This is better than Lysistrata! A sex strike to end the Peloponnesian War pales in comparison to a sex strike to stop a single witch from trying to turn you into a pig.
“So I says to her, Circe, how can you expect me to be friendly with you when you have just been turning all my men into pigs? We are not having sex until you promise to stop.”
Did it work?
You tell me: “So she swore at once as I had told her, and when she had completed her oath then I went to bed with her.”