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Pelias, in Greek mythology, a king of Iolcos in Thessaly who imposed on his half-nephew Jason the task of bearing off the Golden Fleece. According to Homer, Pelias and Neleus were twin sons of Tyro (daughter of Salmoneus, founder of Salmonia in Elis) by the sea god Poseidon, who came to her disguised as the river god Enipeus, whom she loved. The twins were exposed at birth but were found and raised by a horse herder. Later, Pelias seized the throne and exiled Neleus, who became king in Pylos.
Later legend relates that on Jason’s return with the fleece, his wife Medea, the enchantress, took revenge on Pelias by persuading his daughters, except for Alcestis, to cut up and boil their father in the mistaken belief that he would thereby recover his youth.
This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.
Jason and the Golden Fleece
Michael Wood discovers a story of heroism, treachery, love and tragedy that would make Hollywood proud.
Map showing the likely route of Jason’s legendary voyage
The Greek tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece has been told for 3,000 years. It’s a classic hero’s quest tale – a sort of ancient Greek mission impossible – in which the hero embarks on a sea voyage into an unknown land, with a great task to achieve. He is in search of a magical ram’s fleece, which he has to find in order to reclaim his father’s kingdom of Iolkos from the usurper King Pelias.
‘The Greeks have retold and reinterpreted it many times since, changing it as their knowledge of the physical world increased.’
The story is a set a generation before the time of the Trojan War, around 1300 BC, but the first known written mention of it comes six centuries later, in the age of Homer (800 BC). The tale came out of the region of Thessaly, in Greece, where early epic poetry developed. The Greeks have retold and reinterpreted it many times since, changing it as their knowledge of the physical world increased.
No one knows for sure where the earliest poets set the adventure, but by 700 BC the poet Eumelos set the tale of the Golden Fleece in the kingdom of Aia, a land that at the time was thought to be at the eastern edge of the world. At this point the Jason story becomes fixed as an expedition to the Black Sea. The most famous version, penned by Apollonius of Rhodes, who was head of the library at Alexandria, was composed in the third century BC, after the invasion of Asia by Alexander the Great.
Since the 1870s a series of excavations at Mycenae, Knossos, Troy and elsewhere has brought the Greek Heroic Age – the imaginary time when the great myths were set – to life. The archaeologists’ discoveries of Bronze Age (2300-700 BC) artefacts made it clear that the Greek myths and epic poems preserve the traditions of a Bronze Age society, and may refer to actual events of that time. The story could also perhaps represent an age of Greek colonisation around the shores of the Black Sea.
Village in Svaneti region of north west Georgia. Here people still pan for gold using the fleece of a sheep
According to the legend, Jason was deprived of his expectation of the throne of Iolkos (a real kingdom situated in the locale of present day Volos) by his uncle, King Pelias, who usurped the throne. Jason was taken from his parents, and was brought up on Mount Pelion, in Thessaly, by a centaur named Cheiron. Meantime his uncle lived in dread of an oracle’s prophecy, which said he should fear the ‘man with one shoe’.
‘His task would take him beyond the known world to acquire the fleece of a magical ram that once belonged to Zeus, the king of the gods.’
At the age of 20 Jason set off to return to Iolkos – on his journey losing a sandal in the river while helping Hera, Queen of the Gods, who was in disguise as an old woman. On arriving before King Pelias, Jason revealed who he was and made a claim to the kingdom. The king replied, ‘If I am to give you the kingdom, first you must bring me the Fleece of the Golden Ram’.
And this was the hero’s quest. His task would take him beyond the known world to acquire the fleece of a magical ram that once belonged to Zeus, the king of the gods. Jason’s ancestor Phrixus had flown east from Greece to the land of Cochlis (modern day Georgia) on the back of this ram. King Aietes, son of Helios the sun god, had then sacrificed the ram and hung its fleece in a sacred grove guarded by a dragon. An oracle foretold that Aietes would lose his kingdom if he lost the fleece, and it was from Aietes that Jason had to retrieve it.
Why a fleece? Fleeces are connected with magic in many folk traditions. For the ancient Etruscans a gold coloured fleece was a prophecy of future prosperity for the clan. Recent discoveries about the Hittite Empire in Bronze Age Anatolia show celebrations where fleeces were hung to renew royal power. This can offer insight into Jason’s search for the fleece and Aietes’ reluctance to relinquish it. The fleece represented kinship and prosperity.
Black Sea colonisation
Ships in the old Turkish harbour at Lemnos, Greece. Legend has it that Lemnos was populated entirely with women
Jason’s ship, the Argo, began its journey with a crew of 50 (which swelled to 100, including Hercules, in subsequent retellings of the myth) – known as the ‘Argonauts’. The Greek claim that the Argo was the first ship ever built can not be true, but Jason’s journey was seen by the ancient Greeks as the first long-distance voyage ever undertaken.
Indeed, the voyage can be seen as a metaphor for the opening up of the Black Sea coast. Historically, once the Greeks learned to sail into the Black Sea they embarked on a period of colonisation lasting some 3,000 years – but the time they first arrived in the region is still controversial.
Lemnos, an island in the north-eastern Aegean was Jason’s first stop. This was a place inhabited by women who had murdered their husbands after being cursed by Aphrodite. Next the Argo sailed to Samothrace, where the Argonauts were initiated into the Kabeiroi, a cult of ‘great gods’ who were not Greek and who offered protection to seafarers. From Samothrace the adventurers passed the city of Troy by night, and entered the Sea of Marmara the next day.
‘The Jason tale is a founding myth for many towns along this shore.’
The Jason tale is a founding myth for many towns along this shore. It is, however, most likely that local accounts of events have arisen out of the story itself, rather than being based on historic facts that themselves became the basis of the myth.
It is along this stretch of coast that the Argonauts rescue a blind prophet, Phineus, by chasing away the Harpies – the ugly winged females Zeus had sent to torment Phineus. In return Phineus prophesies that Jason will be the first mariner to sail through the ‘clashing rocks’ that guard the entrance to the Black Sea. The myth arose when Greek sailors were first able to negotiate their way up the powerful currents of the Bosphorus to enter the Black Sea beyond. In time the sea was transformed in Greek eyes from Axeinos Pontus, the ‘hostile sea’ to Euxeinos Pontus, the ‘welcoming sea’.
City of Aia
A bull fight near Trabzon, Turkey. Bullfighting is still popular in regions of Turkey where the ancient Greeks founded colonies
The story continues with the Argonauts finally reaching the land of Colchis, and the first part of their quest is achieved. The heroes land and hold council, deciding
to walk up to the city of Aia. Along the way they see bodies wrapped in hides and hung in trees, a sight that travellers in Georgia recount right up to the 17th century.
The ancient Greeks speak of Aia as a real city on the River Phasis (the modern River Rhion). Archaeologists have yet to find it, although in 1876 gold treasure was found in this region at an ancient site near the town of Vani, and it was suggested that this might be the city of the Argonaut legend. Heinrich Schlieman, the excavator of Troy and Mycenae, proposed to dig here but was not given permission.
‘This suggests that some parts of the myth depict the culture of the historical Iron Age rather than the earlier Bronze Age of Jason.’
Then in 1947 excavations revealed that between 600 and 400 BC (the time the Jason legend took its final shape) Vani was indeed an important Colchin city. The city was not inhabited during the Heroic Age (when the Jason story is set), but it was the Colchin ‘capital’ at the time the Greek poets located the myth here. This suggests that some parts of the myth depict the culture of the historical Iron Age rather than the earlier Bronze Age of Jason.
The story continues
Site of Medea’s shrine, near Corinth
In the myth, once in Colchis Jason asks King Aietes to return the Golden Fleece. Aietes agrees to do so if Jason can perform a series of superhuman tasks. He has to yoke fire-breathing bulls, plough and sow a field with dragons’ teeth, and overcome phantom warriors. In the meantime Aphrodite (the goddess of love) makes Medea, daughter of King Aietes, fall in love with Jason. Medea offers to help Jason with his tasks if he marries her in return. He agrees, and is enabled to complete the tasks.
‘Thus the classic triangle of hero, dark power and female helper is formed, to be repeated in stories all the way down to Hollywood. ‘
Thus the classic triangle of hero, dark power and female helper is formed, to be repeated in stories all the way down to Hollywood. And it seems possible that this theme was based on an even earlier myth. An excavation of the 1920s and 30s, at Boghaz Koy, in central Turkey, uncovered Indo-European tablets from a Hittite civilisation dating to the 14th century BC. One of these has an account on it of a story similar to that of Jason and Medea, and may reveal the prehistory of the myth.
It is not known at what date the Greeks borrowed it, but it very possibly happened in the ninth or eighth century BC. This was the time when many themes were taken from the east and incorporated into Greek poetry.
To continue the story. King Aietes organises a banquet, but confides to Medea that he will kill Jason and the Argonauts rather than surrender the Golden Fleece. Medea tells Jason, and helps him retrieve the Fleece. From here the Argonauts flee home, encountering further epic adventures. The ancient storytellers give several versions of the route Jason took back to Greece, reflecting changes in Greek ideas about the geography of the world.
On the final leg of their journey, the Argonauts are caught in a storm, and after they pray to Apollo an island appears to them. The inhabitants of modern-day Anafi, ‘the one which was revealed’, and which is said to be the island in question, continue to celebrate their part in the story to this day. They regularly hold a festival inside an ancient temple to Apollo, built on the spot where legend says Jason gave thanks to the god for his rescue.
Map showing the ancient Greek view of how Jason might have returned home
On his return to Iolkos Jason discovers that King Pelias has killed his father, and his mother has died of grief. Medea tricks Pelias by offering to rejuvenate him, and then kills him. Jason and Medea go into exile in Corinth, where Jason betrays Medea by marrying the king’s daughter. Medea takes revenge by killing her own children by Jason.
‘Pausanias, in his first-century guidebook to Greece, describes a shrine to the murdered children next to a temple to Hera, queen of gods, at Corinth.’
Pausanias, in his first-century guidebook to Greece, describes a shrine to the murdered children next to a temple to Hera, queen of gods, at Corinth. Centuries later, in the 1930s, a British excavation at Perachora uncovered an eighth-century BC temple to Hera, supposedly dedicated by Medea, near an oracle site with pilgrimage offerings left by women devotees over many centuries – perhaps there’s a historic basis to the myth?
In the end, Jason becomes a wanderer once more, and eventually returns to beached hull of the Argo. Here the beam of the ship (which was said to speak and was named Dodona) falls on him and kills him. His story has come full circle – as in all Greek myths, the hero’s destiny is in the hands of the gods.
We know the story of Jason, but not exactly when it was first told. By classical times the myth had spread across the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and it continues to fascinate us in our own day, informing archaeological investigations and bearing continued retellings – a testimony to the perennial appeal of the tale of the hero’s quest.
Find out more
Jason and the Golden Fleece (The Argonautica) by Richard Hunter (Oxford World’s Classics, 1998)
The Voyage of the Argo by David Slavitt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999)
Pindar’s Mythmaking: The Fourth Pythian Ode by Charles Segal (Princetown University Press, 1986)
Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, vol. 1 by T Gantz (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993)
Medea edited by JJ Clauss and S Johnson (Princeton University Press, 1997)
Ritual Myth and Drama in the Ancient Near East by T Gaster Thespis (Gordian Press, 1961)
Structure and History in Greek Mythology by W Burkert (University of California Press, 1983)
The Greeks in the Black Sea by Mariama Koromila (Aristide D Caratzas Publishing, 1991)
The Love of Jason and Medea
Jason and Medea, the two main characters in the myth, first met in Colchis, the city-state on the coast of the Black Sea.
Upon seeing Jason, and with a little persuasion from Aphrodite’s son, Cupid (Cupid shot an arrow into Medea’s heart) Medea, the daughter of King Aeetes of Colchis, was overcome with an insatiable passion for Jason. So overpowering it was that Medea ran to her private quarters to quell the flame in her heart. But to no avail. Jason, oblivious to the gods' meddling, took his leave to the ship for the night, with Medea in his thoughts to accompany him.
Medea, still in her room torn between her thoughts, sat weeping, telling herself she felt shame, not wanting to anger her father. However, Cupid's arrow was on the mark, and no mortal can resist the god’s power. Not wanting any harm to come to her lover, Medea gifted Jason a magic ointment. This ointment made the applicant invincible for a day.
Jason and Medea met on that same night(Jason from the Argo and Medea from the castle) Hera, seeing this, shone the heavens onto Jason, a beam of light from Olympus — every mortal would marvel at whoever is in its light. Medea and Jason’s eyes met, a dark mist clouded Medea’s eyes as time seem to freeze for a moment, such was the emotion that flow through her. When the two broke sight, Jason spoke first, asking Medea to be kind to him, mindful of the power she wielded however, Medea could not bring herself to speak, she reached for the ointment and handed it to Jason.
Medea finally broke her silence and told Jason how to use the potion she told him to sprinkle it onto himself and his weapon, making him and the weapon invincible for the day. The potion will come in handy at the castle. “I must see my way back to the place now”, she told Jason, “I will remember you forever”, he replied with a passion, “never by night and never by day will I forget you.”
“If you come to Greece, you shall be worshipped by all the mortals that call Greece home — for what you have done for us, and nothing but death will come between us”. As the pair parted ways, their eyes fixing on one another, longing for the day they could hold each other, such was their love for one another.
What was the Golden Fleece and where was it located?
In Greek mythology, the Golden Fleece is the fleece of the gold-haired winged ram. The fleece is a symbol of authority and kingship. In this play, Portia, the incredibly wealthy heiress of Belmont, is the Golden Fleece, according to Bassanio, her lover.
Secondly, what is the Golden Fleece in Greek mythology? In Greek mythology, the Golden Fleece is the fleece of the gold-haired winged ram. It is in the story of Jason and his group of Argonauts. They set out on a quest ordered by King Pelias to get the fleece so that Jason can rightfully claim the throne of Iolcus in Thessaly.
Keeping this in consideration, what was the origin of the Golden Fleece?
Hermes had sent a golden ram to save a young prince, Phrixus, from being sacrificed at the altar. Later, Phrixus sacrificed the ram to Zeus and gave the Golden Fleece to King AEetes. The cousin agreed to give it back if Jason could bring him the Golden Fleece.
What powers does the Golden Fleece have?
The Golden Fleece in Greek mythology, is a magical artifact with powerful healing abilities. In the original Greek myths, the original Jason collected the fleece on his journey. It currently resides at Camp Half-Blood on Thalia's Tree, to help strengthen the magical borders after the events of The Sea of Monsters.
The Golden Fleece belonged to the Golden Ram sent by Hermes to save Nephele's children. The ram carried the children across the sky to Asia, and on the way, the girl slips off and drowns. The boy arrived safely in the country of Colchis, where he sacrifices the ram and gave it to the King.
Back in Greece King Pelias had stolen the crown from his brother. An oracle told him that he will die at the hands a man wearing only one sandal.
In 1289, B.C. Ώ] Many years later Jason, the king's nephew, come to claim his rightful place as king. Pelias told Jason that he would give up the throne if Jason would go out and retrieve the golden fleece. He was contacted by Hera who offered to help the young hero.
She sent him to Argus a brilliant ship builder who constructed the Argos the fastest ship in the land. He recruited the best warriors from across Greece forming the Argonauts sets off and overcomes many obstacles and adventures on the way to Colchis. ΐ]
The first place they landed on the journey was the Isle of Fear. It is here they battled a Griffin and Medusa. Who they appear to slay with an arrow stealing her golden apples. Α]
Whilst on their journey, they were attacked by a Hydra. Hercules cut off it's head and pours a sealant on its neck, preventing it from regenerating. Eurytus praised Hercules that he always was the smartest one of them. Β]
On the journey there the Argonauts landed on the island of Mysia. Where Hylas went to collect water and was seduced by some water Nymphs. The beautiful creatures drag the boy into their pond and he's never seen again. Hercules searched for days, but the Argonauts were forced to leave their friend on the island to hunt for his missing friend. Ώ]
Finally, with the help of Hera, he reaches King Etes. Hera arranged for Cupid to make King Etes's daughter, Medea, fall in love with Jason. Jason asked Etes for the fleece, but Etes says Jason must plow a field of dragon's teeth, which will spring up into a crop of armed men who must be cut down as they advance and attack. Jason agreed, though he believed the task will result in his death. Thanks to Cupid's bow, however, Medea gave Jason a magical potion that gives give him invincibility for one day. She also tells him to throw a rock into the middle of the army because it will lead the armed men to kill each other. The next day, Jason proved victorious. The treacherous king will not give him the fleece, however. He plans to kill Jason. Γ]
Medea helped him again by leading him to the Golden Fleece, where Orpheus used his musical ability to charm the beast guarding it, they then fled on the Argos. They had to visit by Circe, to absolve her of her sins. Sersi absolved Medea of the act of playing a part in her father's death, but upon hearing the full circumstances, she sent them on their way. Γ]
On their return, the Argonauts encountered the giant Talos near Crete, and Hera was able to help Jason one last time by showing him the way to defeat it. Γ]
Later, Jason marries another woman, and Medea becomes so angry that she kills both the bride and her own two sons fathered by Jason. Β]
The young king of peaceful Iolcus, an isle of tranquil villages and rolling farmlands, Jason expected to live a quiet life of service to his people. His sole desire was to marry his childhood friend and beloved fiancé, the Princess Alceme. But on the day of their wedding, an assassin's arrow cut through the clear morning sky and pierced her through the heart.
Unwilling to accept this terrible fate, Jason sets out on an epic journey to find and recover the legendary Golden Fleece, a powerful artifact lost for centuries. Along the way, he gathers to his side a crew of the greatest heroes and legends of the Greek world. In his path are fantastic monsters, impossible challenges, and the sinister forces of Hecate, the mysterious titan whose plots seem to confront him at every turn.
Like his fathers before him, Jason trained as a weaponmaster, able to wield sword, spear, or mace with equally deadly skill and finesse. At his side, the Iolcan Aspis, shield of his kingdom, is a powerful weapon in its own right, deflecting enemy attacks and smashing foes with concussive force.
Whether shattering shields with his mace, impaling a distant foe with hurled spear, or decapitating his enemies with a single slash, Jason's lethal expertise makes him a powerful warrior in any situation.
His Character Story
In Rise of the Argonauts the tale plays out slightly different than the modern day tale. Jason is the King of Iolcus and is betrothed to the beautiful Alcmene. Alcmene is killed by an assassin on their wedding day. Jason seals her body in the marital temple and vows not only to avenge her, but to restore her to life.
Overcome with grief you/(Jason) vow to do anything to restore her. You hear of the Legendary Golden Fleece, on the lost Isle Of Colchis, which is said to bring the dead back to life. In order to reunite with your beloved you must now prepare for the greatest voyage of all.
The Golden Fleece is a magical artifact known to carry the power of resurrection, and it is his intent to restore his beloved Alcmene that drives him on his quest to obtain the Fleece. Setting out upon the newly crafted Argo, Jason recruits the Argonauts Achilles, Hercules/Heracles, Atalanta, and Pan.
Basis: The Greek Mythology
Jason was the son of the lawful king of Iolcus, but his uncle Pelias had usurped the throne. Pelias lived in constant fear of losing what he had taken so unjustly. He kept Jason's father a prisoner and would certainly have murdered Jason at birth, but Jason's mother deceived Pelias by mourning as if Jason had died.
Meanwhile, the infant was bundled off to the wilderness cave of Chiron the Centaur. Chiron tutored Jason in the lore of plants, the hunt and the civilized arts. When he had come of age, Jason set out like a proper hero to claim his rightful throne.
King Pelias of Iolcos sent Jason on a seemingly impossible quest to bring the Golden Fleece back from distant Colchis. For the quest, Jason assembled a crew of heroes from all over Greece Argos built for the heroes the largest ship ever constructed, the Argo. Resulting in his becoming known as the leader of the Argonauts and the husband of Medea.
Pantheon Records Version
On the voyage to Colchis, in addition to other adventures, Jason and his crew of Argonauts became the first humans to pass through the Symplegades (the Clashing Rocks). They also freed Phineus from the curse of the Harpies.
When they arrived at Colchis, King Aeetes demanded that Jason accomplish a series of tasks to get the Golden Fleece: he must yoke a team of fierce, fire-breathing oxen and plow a field with them then he must sow the teeth of a dragon in the field, and deal with the warlike armored men who sprouted from these "seeds." Finally, he must brave the sleepless dragon who guarded the Fleece.
Jason accomplished all these tasks with the help of Medea, Aeetes' daughter, who had fallen in love with him. After obtaining the Golden Fleece, Jason and Medea fled from Colchis, pursued by King Aeetes' men.
On their voyage back to Iolcos, they encountered the perils of Scylla and Charybdis and the isle of the Sirens as well as Talos the bronze guardian of Crete. In Iolcos, Medea contrived the murder of King Pelias, after which she and Jason fled to Corinth.
In Corinth, after many years of marriage, Jason finally deserted Medea to marry King Creon's daughter. Medea wreaked a terrible vengeance, killing the bride and Creon, and even murdering her own children. She then escaped, leaving Jason to mourn his losses. Jason was killed years later when he was struck on the head by a timber from the Argo.
Jason and the Golden Fleece The Golden Fleece
The Golden Fleece is a symbol of everything that Jason wants in the world. More than anything else, Jason longs to be a king, and he's been told that if he brings it back to Iolcus that he will be given his rightful throne. But why, we wonder, did the makers of this myth decide that it's specifically a Golden Fleece that Jason has to bring back? It's a fleece made of gold. That's kind of weird, right? Why not basket-ball shoe made of silver? Or a dump-truck made of bubble-gum? We're guessing there might be some deeper elements of symbolism to think about.
The significance of the gold is a no-brainer. Gold makes anything better, or at least we think so, as we know from the tale of King Midas. But the fleece part? That still seems kinda wack. It may be as simple as the fact that the fleece's origins are the golden ram that saved Phrixus from sacrifice. Or it may have be a symbol of masculinity, as rams boast big ol' horns that translate easily into a multitude of many interpretations. There may just be an allusion to another myth, that of Cupid and Psyche. In this myth, Aphrodite forces the girl Psyche to fetch golden wool from across a river.
A much grimmer take on the meaning of the fleece is simply that it's a totally arbitrary goal. A golden fleece is pretty much useless and as far as Pelias, Jason, or any of the other Argonauts are concerned, there's no point in going after it expect to have something to quest after. This spells out a dark lesson about the nature of ambition: we rarely pursue things for their own sake, when what we truly desire is fame and the fate of our rivals.
Adapted from Aunt Charlotte&rsquos Stories of Greek History by Charlotte M. Yonge, $ccpd$
Pelias, the usurping king of Iolcus, was walking through the marketplace when he saw a handsome young man with hair flowing on his shoulders, two spears in his hand, and only one sandal. He was very much afraid, for it had been foretold to Pelias by an oracle that he would be murdered by a man with one foot bare. And this youth was really Jason, the son of his brother Aeson, from whom he had taken the kingdom of Iolcus. Fearing that Pelias would kill the child, Aeson had sent him away to the cave of the Centaur Chiron, by whom Jason had been raised and had now come to seek his fortune. He had lost his shoe in the mud while kindly carrying an old woman across a river, not knowing that she was really the goddess Juno, who had come down in that form to test the kindness of men, and who was thus made his friend forever. Pelias sent for the young stranger the next day and asked him what he would do if he knew a man standing in front of him was destined to kill him. &ldquoI would send him to bring me the Golden Fleece,&rdquo said Jason. &ldquoThen go and get it,&rdquo said Pelias.
Jason then began building a ship which he called Argo, and announced the intended expedition throughout Greece, thus gathering together all the most famous heroes then living, most of whom had, like him, been brought up by the great Centaur Chiron. Hercules was one of them, and another was Theseus, the great hero of the Ionian city of Athens, whose strength was almost equal to that of Hercules.
Another Argonaut must be mentioned, and that is the musician Orpheus. He was the son of the muse Calliope and was looked on as the first of the many outstanding singers of Greece, who taught the noblest and best lessons. His music, when he played on the lyre, was so sweet, that all the animals, both fierce and gentle, came around to hear it and not only these, but even the trees and rocks gathered round, fascinated by the sweetness.
All these and more, to the number of fifty, joined Jason in his crew, and they were called &ldquothe Argonauts&rdquo. The Argo, the ship which carried them, had fifty oars, and the front of the ship was made with a piece of wood from the great oak of Dodona, which could speak for the oracles. When all was ready, Jason stood on the deck and poured wine from a golden cup, praying out loud to Jupiter, to the Winds, the Days, the Nights, and to Fate to grant them a favorable journey. Old Chiron the Centaur came down from his hills to cheer them on and pray for their return and as the oars kept measured time, Orpheus struck his lyre in tune with their splash in the blue waters.
They made a stop in Mysia, where a youth named Hylas went ashore to bring back some fresh water but was caught by the nymphs of the stream and taken captive. Hercules, hearing his cry, went in search of him, and, as neither returned, the Argo sailed without them. No more was heard of Hylas, but Hercules went back to the city of Argos.
They next visited Phineus, a wise old blind king, who was being harassed by nasty birds with women&rsquos faces called Harpies. These monsters always came down when he was going to eat, ate the food, and spoiled what they did not eat. The Argonauts having among them two winged sons of Boreas (the north wind), hunted these horrible creatures far out into the Mediterranean. Phineus thanked them for helping him and then told them that they would have to pass between some floating rocks called the Symplegades, which were always surrounded in mist, were often driven together by the wind, and crushed whatever was between. He told them to let go of a dove and let it fly, and if it went through safely, they should follow. They did so, and the dove came out at the other side, but with her tail feathers clipped off as the rocks met. However, on went the Argo, each hero rowing for his life, and Juno and Athena helping them and, after all, they were but just in time, and lost the decorations on the back of their ship!
The Success of the Argonauts
When Jason arrived at Colchis, he sent for King Æetes, and asked him for the Golden Fleece. Æetes replied that he might have it, provided he could control the two copper-footed bulls with flaming breath, which had been a present from Vulcan, and with them plow a piece of land, and sow it with the dragon&rsquos teeth. Athena had given Æetes half the teeth of the dragon of Thebes, which had been killed by Cadmus.
The task seemed beyond Jason&rsquos reach, until Medea, daughter of Æetes and a priestess of the goddess Hecate, goddess of magic, promised to help him, on condition that he would marry her and take her to Greece. When Jason agreed to promise to do so, Medea gave him a magic lotion to rub on himself and his shield and spear. For a whole day afterward, neither sword nor fire would hurt him, and he would thus be able to master the bulls. So he found the bulls he secured them to the plow, and then he sowed the teeth, which came up, like those sown by Cadmus, as armed men, who began to attack him, but as Medea had advised him, he threw a stone among them, and they began to fight with one another, so that he could easily kill the few who refused to fight each other.
Still, Æetes refused to give him the fleece and was about to set fire to the Argo and kill the crew, but Medea warned Jason in time and led him to the spot where the fleece was nailed to a tree. Orpheus lulled the guardian dragon to sleep with his lyre while Jason took down the fleece, and Medea joined them, carrying in her arms her little brother whom she had stolen from his bed with a cruel purpose, for when her father found out what was going on and started running toward them, she cut the poor child into pieces, and tossed his limbs into the stream of the Phasis, so that, while her father tried to collect them, the Argo had time to sail away.
The Argo did not return by the same route but went to the north and came to the isle of the goddess Circe, who happened to be Medea&rsquos aunt, who purified Jason and Medea from the blood of the poor boy. Then they came to the island of the Sirens, creatures that looked like beautiful girls who stood on the shore singing so sweetly that no sailor could resist the charm, but the moment any man reached the shore, they strangled him and sucked his blood. Warned by Medea, Orpheus played and sang so magnificently as to drown out the sound of the Sirens&rsquo fatal song, and the Argo came out into the Mediterranean somewhere near Trinacria, the three-cornered island now called Sicily, where they had to pass between two lofty cliffs. In a cave under one of these lived a monster called Scylla, with twelve limbs and six long necks, with a dog&rsquos head on each, ready to capture a man out of every ship that passed, but it was safer to keep on her side than to go to the other cliff, for there a water-witch named Charybdis who lived in a whirlpool, and was sure to suck the whole ship in, and swallow it up. However, Achilles&rsquo mother Thetis and her sister Nereids came and guided the Argo safely through.
As they passed the island of Crete, a giant robot named Talos, who was created by Hephaestus by request of Zeus to protect Europa, began throwing boulders at the ship. Every day he circled the island, guarding it, and had one vein, which went from his neck to his ankle, bound shut by only one bronze nail. Medea hypnotized him from the Argo, deceiving him into believing that he could become immortal by removing the nail. When he dislodged the nail, the ichor ran out of him like molten lead,&rdquo exsanguinating and killing him. Jason and the Argonauts could then safely continue their journey home.
When the crew returned to Iolcus, they had only been gone for four months, and Jason gave the fleece to his uncle Pelias and dedicated the Argo to Neptune. He found his father Aeson had grown very old, but Medea decided to restore him to youth. She went forth by moonlight, gathered a number of herbs, and then, putting them in a witches&rsquo brewing pot, she cut old Aeson into pieces, threw them in, and boiled them all night. In the morning Aeson appeared as a lively black-haired young man, no older than his son. Pelias&rsquo daughters came and begged her to teach them the same spell. She pretended to do so, but she did not tell them the correct herbs, and thus the poor girls only killed their father, and did not bring him to life again. The son of Pelias drove the treacherous Medea and her husband from Iolcus, and they went to Corinth, where they lived ten years, until Jason grew tired of Medea, and divorced her in order to marry Creusa, the king&rsquos daughter.
In her rage, Medea sent the bride the fatal gift of a poisoned robe, then she killed her own children, and flew away in a chariot drawn by winged snakes, to the east where she became the mother of a son named Medus, from whom the nation of Medes originated. As for Jason, he had fallen asleep at noon one hot day under the shade of the Argo, where it was drawn up on the sand by Neptune&rsquos temple, when a bit of wood broke off from the top edge, fell on his head, and killed him.
Answer the following questions according to the story.
- What is the relationship between Pelias and Aeson? What is Pelias trying to do to Aeson?
- Why is Pelias scared of Jason?
- What does Pelias send Jason to do?
- What is so special about the ship Argo?
- Who are the people who Jason had come with him onto the Argo?
- What happened to Hylas and Hercules?
- What happened to Phineus, and who is he?
- When Jason finally reaches Colchis, what does King Æetes tell Jason to do?
- Who agrees to help Jason, and what is the catch?
- How does (the person in 9) help Jason?
- What cruel thing does Medea do to her brother, and why?
- Who is Circe?
- Who are the sirens, and who helps &ldquodefeat&rdquo them, and how?
- Who (or what) is Talos?
- What does Medea do to Aeson?
- What did Medea do when Pelias&rsquo daughters wanted to learn how to do what she did in 14, and what was the result?
- What happens to Jason at the end of the story?
Critical Thinking Questions
Answer the following questions. Compare your answers with a partner.
- What kinds of things does Medea do? What do you think of her?
- Explain the kind of relationship that Jason and Medea have. Is it a good one?
- At the end of the story, what can we assume happened to Aeson?
- Jason&rsquos ending is somewhat different from most heroes&rsquo stories. What is different and why do you think it is different?
- At the beginning of the story, Pelias was afraid of Jason because he had heard that he would be killed by a man with one shoe on. Did Pelias&rsquo fate come true?
Vocabulary from the Story
Answer the following questions. Compare your answers with a partner.
- What do sirens look like according to the story?
- What do sirens look like according to a Google Images search?
- What are 2 different meanings of sirens, and how are they related to the Greek creature?
- Why do you think Starbucks chose a siren for their logo?