Jason was the son of Aeson, the king of Ioclos in Thessaly. Pelias, Aeson brother seized the throne of Ioclos. Aeson feared Pelias would harm his sons, so he faked Jasons death and sent him to be raised by Chiron, a wise Centaur, who had also tutored Hercules. After Jason had grown up, he returned to challenge his uncle for the throne.
Pelias had offended Hera by not paying respect to her. In addition Pelias had killed a woman while she was clinging to Hera’s altar. Hera decided to help Jason to take his revenge on Pelias.
Jason was determined to return to the capital city. During the journey, he met up with an old woman who asked him to help her across a river. He carried her on his shoulders through the river and lost one of his sandals in the process. He did not realize the old woman was Hera in disguise. He continued to the city, less one sandal, to confront Pelias. Pelias heard of the man with one sandal and went to meet him. An oracle had predicted that a man wearing one sandal would cause his death. Jason told Pelias who he was and that he planned to recapture his throne. The rules of hospitality did not allow Pelias to deal with Jason directly without angering the gods. Pelias decided to send Jason away on an impossible journey.
Pelias promised the throne to Jason if he could return with the Golden Fleece. Jason traveled to Delphi to consult the oracle about how to complete his quest. He assembled a famous crew of divine and mortal men to help him on the quest.
The crew included:
Admetus – cousin to Jason
Acastus – a son of Pelias and Jason’s cousin (he sailed with Jason against his fathers wishes)
Augeas – King of Elis
Castor – a horse expert
Echion – a son of Hermes
Erytus – a son of Hermes
Euphemus – son of Poseidon and was so fast he could race across water
Hercules – a son of Zeus
Idas – a son of Poseidon
Idmon – s prophet and a son of Apollo (Idmon joined crew even though he knew he would not return alive from the journey)
Periclymenus – a descendent of Poseidon and was able to change forms
Polydeuces – a son of Zeus and expert boxer
Neuplius – a descendent of Poseidon and expert seamen
Meleager – Prince of Calydon
Orpheus – a son of Apollo and a great musician
Tiphys – the pilot of the Argo
Telamon and Peleus
Zetes and Calais – twin sons of Boreas who could fly with wings
Jason built a ship called the Argo. Athena oversaw its construction, which included magical talking wood. The special wood predicted the future and allowed the ship to act as an advisor for the crew during the journey. The crew became known as the Argonauts, named after the ship.
Events on Jason’s Journey
- The crew encountered an island full of women who had been cursed by Aphrodite. She cursed them with bad body odor, which chased all their men away. Jason and most of the crew joined the women and slept in their beds. It was not till Hercules, who stayed with the ship, sent a message questioning their commitment to the quest did they leave the women.
- At Samothrace, they went through religious ceremonies to become initiates into the Samothracian Mysteries.
- They visited an island where a tribe known as the Dolione were ruled by a King Cyzicus. The king welcomed them and showed them to a mountain on the island. While on the mountain, the lightly guarded ship was attacked by six giants. Luckily, one of the men who stayed back was Hercules, who helped hold off the giants until the rest of the crew joined them to defeat the remaining giants.
- The next day, the Argo hit strong head winds and thick fog. They mistakenly turned the boat around and went back to the island. The islanders thought the Argonauts were pirates and attacked. The crew fought back. It was not till the next morning the crew discovered the mistake, but by then they had killed many Doliones, including King Cyzicus.
- The next stop was at Mysia, Hercules and Polyphemus left the crew to complete another quest.
- They were challenged to a boxing match at Bebryces by the King Amycus. Amycus was known to kill his opponents in boxing. Polydeuces, who was an expert boxer, challenged Amycus. Polydeuces won the match by killing Amycus, and the Argonauts had to fight their way back to their ship to leave the island.
- In Salmydessus, they came upon a King Phineus. He was being punished by Zeus for reveling too much of the future to humans in his prophesies. Zeus sent Harpies to harass Phineus. They stole his food and caused him to live in filth. Wanting to help Phineus, the crew of the Argo set a trap for the Harpies. When they came to harass Phineus, Zetes and Calais, the winged twins, flew after them and caught them. Just then, a message from Zeus arrived. He offered to stop punishing Phineus in exchange for the release of the Harpies. The deal was made.
Phineus was so grateful for their help that he told Jason and his crew how to navigate thought the dangerous rocks that protected Salmydessus. The rocks would close on ships that sailed between them. A dove was sent through the crashing rocks, and then the Argo followed. The spell on the rocks had been broken and the rocks no longer smashed boasts that sailed between them.
- Near an island sacred to Ares, the ship was attacked by a flock of birds with arrow-like feathers. Half of the crew held up shields while the rest rowed. They confused and chased the bird away by making noise with their swords and shields.
- They came at last to the keeper of the Golden Fleece, King Aeetes. Aeetes was the son of Helius, the sun god. Athena got Eros to shoot a magic arrow at Medea, the daughter of Aeetes. This caused her to fall in love with Jason. Aeetes challenged Jason to a test of strength. The challenge was to force a pair of fire breathing dragons to plant a field with dragon teeth that according to legend, fighting men would spring forth from. The final part of the challenge was to defeat the men who sprang from the seed. Medea, who was also a sorceress, gave Jason a drug which made him immune to the flames of the dragons. Jason was able to harness the dragons and plant the dragon teeth in the field. When the men popped out of the ground from the dragons teeth, Jason threw a large stone into the middle of the field, confusing the men. In their confusion, they began attacking each other, and Jason was able to finish them all off before nightfall. Medea led them to the fleece, and they stole it away.
- King Aeetes then sent his navy after the Argos, but Medea lured her brother into a trap, and the Argonauts were able to escape.
- Zeus ordered the crew of the Argo to Circe to purify themselves from the betrayal of Medea's brother.
- The Argo passed by an island of sirens that lured sailors to their destruction with songs. They survived because Orpheus played his own music to drown out the sirens’ music.
- Thetis, a sea goddess, then took the helm and steered the ship though a narrow straight and past a dangerous whirlpool.
- Nereids made the Argo skim the water to avoid currents which would have taken the ship into the wandering rocks.
- They had almost reached the coast of Greece when a strong wind blew them across to Libya. The boat was pushed far inland by large waves. The crew had to carry the boat across a desert for nine days to get back to water. They were unable to find a way back to the Mediterranean, so they offered a bronze tripod to the gods. Triton accepted the gift and led the ship to back to the sea.
-At Crete, with the help of Medea, the crew defeated some giants and were able to land and get needed supplies.
- The Argonauts finally retuned home only to find that Jason’s family had been all killed or had committed suicide while they were away.
After the Return Home:
-Jason figured that King Pelias would go back on his word to give up his throne to him. Jason then agreed with Medea to trick Pelias. Medea dressed up as an old woman and claimed that she could make Pelias young again. She went into a tent and came out as the young woman she truly was. For further proof of her rejuvenating powers, she cut up an old ram and put it in a cauldron. Then she lifted a young lamb out of the cauldron. With these demonstrations she was able to convince Pelias and his daughters to do the same. The daughters cut Pelias up and put him in the cauldron; but he never came back out.
- Acastus, who went on the journey against his fathers wishes, took the throne and expelled Medea and Jason after learning the method they used to kill his father.
- Jason and Medea stayed in Corinth for ten years. They had several children during this time.
- Jason decided to divorce Medea and marry Glauce, a princess of Corinth. Medea sent a robe as a gift to Glauce. The robe went up in flames as soon as Glauce put it on, and it burned her and the entire household. Medea then killed her children and took their bodies so Jason could not give them a proper burial.
-Medea fled to Athens and married King Aegeus. After trying to kill Theseus, Medea was exiled to Asia.
-Jason died from a beam falling on his head when he visited the wreckage of the Argo in Corinth.
Jason and the Golden Fleece, Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen
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