Boardwalk Mythology: Hit TV Series Refers to Ancient Greece’s Althaea

Throughout its illustrious five-year run which – foolishly and sadly, in this writer’s (and fan’s) estimation – is coming to an end with years left in its prime, the critically-acclaimed HBO series Boardwalk Empire has had a smattering of Greek references over the years, beginning in Season 1, which featured Greek hoods shaken down in Prohibition Era Chicago by the far more powerful Johnny Torrio Gang, whose skullcracker-in-chief at the time was an up-and-coming Al Capone.
But in Season Five Episode 6, the antepenultimate one of the series, a little African-American girl – about seven years old – is seen in Harlem, circa 1931. Dr. Valentin Narcisse, a notorious but scholarly character, approaches her: “what’s your name?” he asks. “Althea,” she answers. “It’s pretty. Do you know what it means?” he asks again. She doesn’t. “It means healing – in Ancient Greek,” he instructs.
Well said, Doctor. Even though we root against you, we cannot deny that you are a man of immense knowledge.
According to the ancient mythographer Apollodorus, Althaea (pronounced al-THAY-ah) bore at least two children fathered by Ancient Greek gods: Meleager by Ares, and Deianereia by Dionysus. Some myths, however, state that Meleager’s father was the vintner, Oenus.
Althaea is best known for the role in Meleager’s death. When he was born, the Moires (Fates) predicted that Meleager would live as long as a brand (seal) bearing the family name was not consumed by fire. Immediately upon hearing that, Althaea hid the brand, so as to protect her son. Years later, however, Meleager was involved in the great Calydonian Boar hunt, also described by Homer. In the hunt, he included Atalanta, a successful huntress with whom he was in love. When she won the prize, Meleager’s brother Toxeus and uncle (Althaea’s brother) Plexippus were enraged that the prize went to a woman. An argument ensued, and Meleager killed the both.
Angered over this, Althaea, in turn, killed her son Meleager by retrieving the brand and placing it in a fire. Then, Althaea she took her own life.
Though Althaea ultimately murdered her own son, the “healing” aspect was when she originally hid the brand to spare his life.
Quite an intricate tale, more so even than Boardwalk Empire, which thousands of years later made the symbolic reference. But how was it symbolic? One of the final season’s overriding themes is healing, in a sense: more specifically, making things right. Many of the show’s characters – not least of which main character Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, played masterfully by Steve Buscemi – reflect on their past transgressions and, in some way, try to redeem themselves. Hence, little Althea enters the picture, as a symbol of healing.


NEW YORK – Greek-French vocalist George Perris has released a charming Christmas album, titled ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Top Stories


A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.


Rep. George Santos is Facing a Vote on His Expulsion from Congress as Lawmakers Weigh Accusations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. George Santos of New York is facing a critical vote to expel him from the House on Friday as lawmakers weigh whether his actions, fabrications and alleged lawbreaking warrant the chamber's most severe punishment.

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — After a record-breaking start as Tottenham manager, Ange Postecoglou is experiencing the other side to life in a job that has proved too much for some of the biggest names in soccer.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted on Friday to expel Republican Rep.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, an unwavering voice of moderate conservatism and the first woman to serve on the nation’s highest court, died Friday.

He wasn’t the first one to think about it but a humor columnist for POLITICO suggested - ironically, of course - that if Greeks want back the stolen Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum that they should just steal them back, old boy.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.