LF310 -- Greek Mythology -- Fall
Jason, Medea, and the Argonauts
Chapter 22, Classical Mythology
Summary, from the companion site to Classical Mythology.
Commentary, from the companion site to Classical Mythology.
- Robert Graves, in his Greek
Myths, thinks the saga is a "marriage task myth linked to a semi-historical
legend of a Minyan sea expedition sent out from Iolcos by the Orchomenons."
- Some cities that claimed descent
from the Minyans were Orchomenos in Boeotia, Iolcos in Thessaly, and Miletus
in Ionia. Jason was descended from the ruling family of Iolcos. The Euxine
Sea, where the story takes place, was colonized by the Milesians. So the saga
makes geographical sense.
The Golden Fleece
- Athamas was king of variously
stated places: Thessaly, Boeotia, Thebes, Orchomenos. He was married first
to Nephele (cloud), and had two children, Phrixus and Helle.
- Nephele flew away and Athamas
married Ino, a daughter of Cadmus.
- Ino (the evil stepmother) tried
to convince Athams to sacrifice Phrixus.
- Phrixus was saved by Nephele and
Hermes. Phrixus and Helle flew, on a golden ram, across the Aegean. Helle
fell off over the straits between Europe and Asia, and gave her name to the
- The ram told Phrixus to fly to
Colchis, on the Eastern point of the Black or Euxine Sea.
- In Colchis, Phrixus was received
by the king, AeŽtes (son of Helius), whose sisters were Circe and PasiphaŽ.
Phrixus sacrificed the golden ram to Zeus and gave the fleece to AeŽtes. It
was guarded by a dragon, who never slept, in a grove of Ares.
- Phrixus married AeŽtes' daughter,
Chalciope. They had 4 sons: Argus, Melas, Phrontis, and Cytisorus.
Jason and Pelias
- Athamas had a brother, Cretheus,
who was king of Iolcus.
- When Cretheus died, his stepson
Pelias (son of Tyro and Poseidon) usurped the throne from Aeson, Cretheus'
son by Tyro. See p. 474 for the family tree.
- Aeson was the father of Jason,
who was sent away to be educated by Chiron.
- Jason returned after 20 years
to claim the throne, but Pelias had been warned to beware a man wearing one
sandal. On his way to Iolcos, Jason had crossed the river Anaurus with an
old woman (Hera in disguise) on his back and had lost his sandal.
- Hera remained champion of Jason
and enemy of Pelias, who had neglected to sacrifice to her.
- Pelias forced Jason to retrieve
the golden fleece if he wanted the throne of Iolcos.
At this point, the story is best
preserved in the Voyage of the Argo by Apollonius of Rhodes.
Jason and Medea in Greece
- Medea rejuvenated Jason's father
Aeson by cutting him up and boiling him with herbs.
- Medea promised the daughters of
Pelias she could do the same for him, and besides the example of Aeson, she
also rejuvenated a ram.
- The daughters of Pelias were convinced
to cut up their father and boil him in a cauldron. Medea did not add her magic
herbs, so Pelias died.
- After this murder, Jason and Medea
were forced to flee to Corinth. Medea had been linked with Corinth very early
in Greek myth -- the 8th century. In these versions the children of Medea
are killed, but not by her: either they die in the sanctuary of Hera or they
are killed by the Corinthians.
- The most powerful and best remembered
version from this point in the myth is Euripides' Medea.
- Jason divorced Medea to marry
- In revenge, Medea sent Glauce/Creusa
a poisoned robe and crown, which killed both Glauce and her father.
- Medea then killed her children
by Jason and escaped to Athens in a chariot drawn by flying dragons.
- Medea was received by Aegeus,
bore a son Medus, and tried to murder Theseus.
- Medea eventually went to Persia,
where Medus established the kingdom of Media; Medea returned to Colchis.
- In Apollonius, Medea is destined
to marry Achilles in the Underworld.