Key words£ºJason, golden fleece, Medea  
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Genre£ºmyth Topic£ºbravery, faithless Words:920
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Jason could only have his throne back
when the golden fleece was restored to the country.

Jason and the golden fleece

Author£ºUnknown Source£º
Nation£ºGreece Date£º2008-8-21

(Jason bringing Pelias the Golden Fleece,
Apulian red-figure calyx krater, ca. 340 BC¨C330 BC, Louvre)


This story starts a long time ago in the country called Thessaly. A king lived with his two beautiful children: Phrixus and Helle. The children's wicked stepmother didn't like them and plotted against them. Their special friend-the Messenger of the gods, Hermes tried to protect them.

In that part of the world they had had no rain for a very long time. The children's stepmother made a plan, she asked the King to send to the Oracle at Delphi for advice. He did so, but she intercepted the messengers on the way back and told them what to say. The messengers told the King that in order for the rains to return an offering must be made to the gods: Phrixus and Helle must be sacrificed. The king was very upset but said that it must be done.

The King led his children to the altar but just before they got there the golden ram which was a gift from Hermes flew to them, told them to get on his back and flew away with them. He was trying to get them to safety in a land far away. He flew and flew with the children on his back. The children got very tired and the ram told them to hang on. Phrixus held on but his sister was overcome with tiredness and fell asleep, loosing the wool and falling into the sea at a place which is still called Hellespont today.

Eventually they landed near the Black sea with only Phrixus alive to tell the story. The poor ram died as soon as he landed. The people of Colchis were so proud of what the ram had done they stripped the golden fleece off it and hung that in a tree with a dragon to protect it. There it stayed for many years until a boy called Jason went to fetch it back home.

Jason was a boy who should have been King but his Uncle took his throne. Jason was sent away for his own protection.

As he grew into a man he decided to go back and face his uncle. Jason started the journey and when he got to the river he found an old woman on the bank. She asked him for help and he gladly carried her across.

When he set the woman down on the other side he found that she was the goddess Hera who was testing Jason. She decided that from this time onwards the gods would protect him.

The uncle was a very cunning man and said that Jason could only have his throne back when the golden fleece was restored to the country. He was sure that he was sending Jason to his death.

People heard of Jason's task and many young men went to join him. He called this group of men the Argonauts and the ship which they had built the Argo. The men set sail.

Shortly they put into an island to get supplies. They found an old blind king, Phineus living in fear of dreadful harpies who ate all of his food and terrorised him. The Argonauts prepared a surprise for the harpies. A banquet was prepared and when the harpies came to pinch all of the food the Argonauts met them with a hail of arrows. They were killed and Phineus was saved from the misery.

To repay their kindness he told Jason the secret of the clashing rocks. He told them to let a white dove go just before they tried to pass between the rocks, if the rocks let the bird through then they would let the ship through. If not then they would all perish.

As they approached the crashing rocks the men got frightened and pleaded with Jason to turn back. Jason told them to have faith in the old king and reminded them about the dove. They let the dove go and watched as it flew towards the crashing rocks. The rocks crashed together and the men looked away. Suddenly there was a shout and the men looked up. The rocks had opened and let the dove through. Hastily the ship pushed through and they got safely to the other side.

When Jason finally arrives in Colchis he asks King Aietes to return the golden fleece to him as it belonged to his ancestor. Reluctant, the king suggests yet another series of challenges to Jason. He must yoke fire-breathing bulls, plough and sow a field with dragons' teeth and then overcome the warriors who will rise from the furrows. Aietes is confident the tasks are impossible but unbeknownst to the king, his daughter Medea has taken a liking to Jason. She offers to assist Jason if he will marry her. He agrees. Medea is a powerful sorceress and Jason is successful.

Jason and Medea return to Greece where Jason claims his father's throne, but their success is short-lived. Uncomfortable with Medea's magic, the locals drive Medea and Jason out of Iolkos. They go into exile in Corinth where the king offers Jason his daughter in marriage. He agrees and so violates his vow to the gods to be true only to Medea. Furious, Medea kills the woman, kills Medea and Jason's children and then ascends to Mount Olympus where she eventually marries Achilles. Jason goes back to Iolkos where his boat the Argo is on display. One day, while he sits next to the boat weeping, the decaying beam of his ship the Argo falls off and hits him on the head, killing him outright.



(Jason steals the golden fleece with Medea's help, 
Illuminated woodcut from a copy of the Argonauticon of C.Valerius Flaccus.
Printed in Paris by J. Bade, 1519)



1. Why must Phrixus and Helle flee?

2. Why did Jason quest the golden fleece?

3. How did Jason pass through the the crashing rocks?

4. Can you give your opinion of Medea?


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