We’ve been writing for a while about one of the most famous myths of Ancient Greece, Jason and the Quest for the Golden Fleece. It’s a story filled with heroes, monsters, triumph and treachery, all while the main man, Jason, attempts to retrieve his rightful place as king of Iolcos.
So far Jason has gathered his infamous gang, which unabashedly enjoyed the man-free island of Lemnos and accidently killed the kind king of Cyzicus and many of his trusted men. One might not be cheering these fellows at the moment, but nevertheless, they continue on their crusade.
This time the group, named the Argonauts after their speedy boat, land in Thrace, at the court of Phineus of Salmydessus. Due to his keen ability of prophecy and his propensity to reveal too much, the poor King Phineus had incurred the disfavor of Zeus. The God of the Gods responded by blinding the foreseeing royal and placing him on an island in front of a buffet of food. But with his twisted ways, Zeus also sent Harpies, or mythological winged spirits, to steal Phineus’ food everyday.
When Jason chanced on the emaciated king, he took pity on him and killed the Harpies. As thanks for this good deed, Phineus revealed the next set of clues for Jason: the location of Colchis, where Jason would find the elusive Golden fleece, as well as how to pass the Symplegades, or The Clashing Rocks.
This passage was surrounded by huge cliffs which would crash together randomly, making the journey incredibly dangerous, if not impossible. However, it was the only way to get to Colchis.
Following Phineus’ advice, Jason released a dove upon arrival. He was informed that if the dove makes it, they should row with all their might. If their feathered friend dies, however, the Argonauts were doomed. Fortunately the brave bird only lost a few tail feathers and so Jason and his team proceeded with all their strength. They passed, with minor damage to the extreme stern of their ship. From that moment onwards, the clashing rocks stopped clashing.
Finally Jason arrived in Colchis, which is on the modern day Black Sea coast of Georgia. The Golden Fleece was so close… and yet still far away. The precious item was owned by the King of Colchis, King Aeetes. He promised to give Jason his quest’s goal, but only if he could perform three, seemingly impossible tasks. Jason was in despair, as it involved fire, mythical warriors and of course, a dragon.
But here the deities that be stepped in. Queen of the Gods, Hera, convinced Aphrodite and her son, Eros, to ensure that Jason had help, in the form of King Aeetes’ daughter, Medea. With cupid’s arrow, she fell in love with our hero and so was able to aid him in each of the potentially insurmountable tasks.
Jason’s first duty was to plow a field with the Khalkotauroi, or fire breathing oxen, which Jason himself had to yoke. Medea fulfilled her role nicely by providing Jason with an ointment that made him fireproof and so he was able to combat the oxen’s flames.
His second assignment required that he sow the teeth of a dragon into a field. This might seem easy enough, except that the teeth sprouted into an army of warriors or spartoi. Fortunately Medea already had insider knowledge – these spartoi were not particularly intelligent. And so she advised Jason to throw a rock into the group of fighters, who promptly attacked and killed each other, as they did not perceive from where the rock had come.
Finally, his last labour was in front of him. He had to combat a large, fierce, sleepless dragon which was charged with guarding the sacred golden fleece itself. Once again, Medea came to the rescue. She concocted a potion from distilled herbs which put the beast to rest, enabling Jason to thieve the fleece. The quest had been achieved!
However, they still needed to leave Colchis…
As they departed, Jason and Medea were chased down by her father, King Aeetes. It is here that Medea does the most extreme, seemingly horrendous, thing in her love and devotion for Jason. She butchers her own brother and spreads his remains into the sea… forcing her father to collect what’s left of his son and abandon the pursuit.
Jason and Medea had finally escaped with the Golden Fleece.