1. Son of Aristaeus and Autonoe, a daughter of Cadmus.
He was trained in the art of hunting by the centaur Cheiron, and was afterwards torn to pieces by his own 50 hounds on mount Cithaeron.
The names of these hounds are given by Ovid (Ov. Met. 3.206
, &c.) and Hyginus. (Fab.
181; comp. Stat. Theb. 2.203
The cause of this misfortune is differently stated: according to some accounts it was because he had seen Artemis while she was bathing in the vale of Gargaphia, on the discovery of which the goddess changed him into a stag, in which form he was torn to pieces by his own dogs. (Ov. Met. 3.155
, &c.; Hyg. Fab. 181
; Callim. h. in Pallad.
110.) Others relate that he provoked the anger of the goddess by his boasting that he excelled her in hunting, or by his using for a feast the game which was destined as a sacrifice to her. (Eur. Ba. 320
; Diod. 4.81
A third account stated that he was killed by his dogs at the command of Zeus, because he sued for the hand of Semele. (Acusilaus, apud Apollod.
3.4.4.) Pausanias (9.2.3
) saw near Orchomenos the rock on which Actaeon used to rest when he was fatigued by hunting, and from which he had seen Artemis in the bath; but he is of opinion that the whole story arose from the circumstance that Actaeon was destroyed by his dogs in a natural fit of madness. Palaephatus (s. v. Actaeon
) gives an absurd and trivial explanation of it.
According to the Orchomenian tradition the rock of Actaeon was haunted by his spectre, and the oracle of Delphi commanded the Orchomenians to bury the remains of the hero, which they might happen to find, and fix an iron image of him upon the rock.
This image still existed in the time of Pausanias (9.38.4
), and the Orchomenians offered annual sacrifices to Actaeon in that place.
The manner in which Actaeon and his mother were painted by Polygnotus in the Lesche of Delphi, is described by Pausanias. (10.30.2; comp. Muller, Orchom.
p. 348, &c.)