The Trials and Tribulations of Jason



Map of Jason’s Travels


Jason, in Greek mythology, son of Aeson, a king in Greece. Aeson's throne had been taken away from him by his half brother Pelias, and Jason, the rightful heir to the throne, had been sent away as a child for his own protection. When Jason grew to manhood, however, he courageously returned to Greece to regain his kingdom. Pelias pretended to be willing to relinquish the crown, but said that the young man must first undertake the quest of the Golden Fleece, which was the rightful property of their family. Pelias did not believe that Jason could succeed in the quest, nor that he would come back alive, but the young man scoffed at the dangers ahead. Jason assembled a crew of heroic young men from all parts of Greece to sail with him on the ship Argo. After a voyage of incredible perils, the Argonauts reached Colchis, the country in which the Golden Fleece was held by King AeŽtes. AeŽtes agreed to give up the Golden Fleece if Jason would yoke two fire-breathing bulls with bronze feet, and sow the teeth of the dragon that Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, had long before slain. From the teeth would spring up a crop of armed men who would turn against Jason.

Jason successfully accomplished this task with the aid of Medea, the king's daughter. Unknown to Jason, the goddess Hera had intervened in his behalf by making Medea fall in love with him. Medea gave Jason a charm to sprinkle on his weapons that would make him invincible for the day of his ordeal and helped him steal the fleece that night by charming a sleepless dragon that guarded it. In return for her help, Jason promised to love Medea always and to marry her as soon as they were safely back in Greece. Carrying the fleece and accompanied by Medea, Jason and his crew managed to escape from AeŽtes.

On reaching Greece, the crew of heroes disbanded, and Jason with Medea took the Golden Fleece to Pelias. In Jason's absence Pelias had forced Jason's father to kill himself, and his mother had died of grief. To avenge their deaths, Jason called upon Medea to help him punish Pelias. Medea tricked Pelias's daughters into killing their father, and then she and Jason went to Corinth, where two sons were born to them. Instead of feeling grateful to Medea for all she had done, Jason treacherously married the daughter of the king of Corinth. In her grief and despair, Medea employed more sorcery to kill the young bride. Next, fearing that her young sons might be left alone for strangers to mistreat, she killed them. When the furious Jason determined to kill her, she escaped in a chariot drawn by dragons.



Argonauts, in Greek mythology, the band of heroes who sailed on the ship Argo to obtain the Golden Fleece. The leader of the expedition was Jason, son of Aeson, king of Iolcus in Thessaly. Aeson was deposed by his half brother Pelias, who then tried to prevent Jason from claiming the throne. To this end, he persuaded Jason to undertake the dangerous quest for the Golden Fleece, which was held by AeŽtes, king of Colchis, a region located at the eastern end of the Euxine (Black) Sea. Jason assembled 50 of the noblest young men of Greece to accompany him on the voyage. The group that was chosen included Hercules, Orpheus, Castor and Pollux, and Peleus.

The Argo sailed from Iolcus to the island of Lemnos, and on to the Euxine Sea by way of Mysia, an area east of the Aegean Sea, and Thrace. Early in the voyage the crew lost Hercules, who left the ship to search for Hylas, his friend and armor bearer. The Argonauts saved a Thracian king, Phineus, from starvation caused by the Harpies, flying creatures with heads of women, who were carrying off and befouling his food. In gratitude, Phineus told them how to pass through the Symplegades, the rocks that guarded the entrance to the Euxine Sea by clashing against each other when anything went between them. As Phineus had instructed them, the Argonauts released a dove that flew between the Symplegades. As the rocks clanged together and began to return to their positions, the Argo sailed swiftly through.

When the ship finally reached Colchis, AeŽtes refused to relinquish the fleece unless Jason could first yoke and plow a field with two fire-breathing, brass-hoofed bulls. He was then to sow a field with dragon teeth and vanquish the armed men that would spring up from them. Helped by AeŽtes' daughter, the sorceress Medea, who had fallen in love with him, Jason accomplished these tasks and carried off the fleece. Medea, fleeing with him, slew her brother, Apsyrtus, to delay the pursuit of her father. On the homeward voyage the Argo safely passed between the six-headed monster Scylla and the

whirlpool Charybdis. Sea nymphs, sent by the goddess Hera, saved the ship from destruction in a storm off the coast of Libya. From there the Argo sailed to Crete (KrŪti) and then home to Iolcus.


Golden Fleece

Golden Fleece, in Greek mythology, the fleece of the winged ram Chrysomallus. The ram was sent by the god Hermes to rescue Phrixus and Helle, the two children of the Greek king Athamas and his wife, Nephele. Athamas had grown indifferent to his wife and had taken Ino, the daughter of King Cadmus, for his second wife. Ino hated her stepchildren, especially Phrixus, because she wanted her own son to succeed to the throne. Realizing that her children were in grave danger because of the jealousy of their stepmother, Nephele prayed to the gods for help. Hermes sent her Chrysomallus, the winged ram, whose fleece was made of gold. The ram snatched the children up and bore them away on his back. Soaring into the air, he flew eastward, but as he was crossing the strait that divides Europe and Asia, Helle slipped from his back and fell into the water. The strait where she was drowned was named for her: the Sea of Helle, or the Hellespont. The ram safely landed Phrixus in Colchis, a country on the Black Sea that was ruled by King AeŽtes. There he was hospitably received and, in gratitude to the gods for saving his life, sacrificed Chrysomallus at the temple of the god Zeus. Phrixus then gave the precious Golden Fleece to AeŽtes, who placed it in a sacred grove under the watchful eye of a dragon that never slept.

Many years later, the Argonauts, led by Phrixus's cousin, the Greek hero Jason, recovered the Golden Fleece with the help of the daughter of King AeŽtes, the sorceress Medea who, out of love for Jason, put the dragon to sleep.