Thursday 5 February 2015

The Quest for the Golden Fleece

               According to Greek legend, Aeson was the rightful king of Iolcos, but his half-brother Pelias usurped the throne. It was Pelias who sent Aeson's son Jason to look for the Golden Fleece. 
The Argonauts

Jason for quest for the Golden Fleece, assembled for his crew, a number of heroes, known as the Argonauts after their ship, the Argo, and set sail from Iolcos. Their mission was to reach Colchis in Aea at the eastern seaboard of the Black Sea and reclaim and bring back the Golden Fleece.

The island of Lemnos
                                                         The Argonauts first arrived to the island of Lemnos, situated off the Western coast of Asia Minor. The island was inhabited by a race of women who had killed their husbands. The women had neglected their worship of goddess Aphrodite, and as a punishment the goddess made the women so foul in stench that their husbands could not bear to be near them. The men then took concubines from the Thracian mainland opposite, and the spurned women, angry at Aphrodite, killed all the male inhabitants while they slept. The women of Lemnos lived for a while without men, with Hypsipyle as their queen.
The Argonauts and the women of Lemnos

When the Argonauts set their foot on the island, the women saw them as their potential lovers and lured them into their bed chambers.The Argonauts remained on Lemnos for several months and, during that time, had extensive relations with the women of Lemnos. Jason himself mated with their queen, Hypsipyle and swore eternal fidelity to her.
                               The Argonauts were finally convinced to leave the island and continue their journey, only when Hercules, who remained on board Argo, sent a message questioning them whether this was the way they wanted to gain glory for themselves.Jason sailed away and quickly forgot his vows made to Hypsipyle. For his bad actions Jason was placed in the 8th circle of Dante's Inferno.

                               After Lemnos the Argonauts landed southern shore of the Propontis, where the Doliones tribe inhabited, and ruled over by king Cyzicus. King Cyzicus treated Argonauts graciously, told them about the land beyond Bear Mountain, but forgot to mention what lived there. What lived in the land beyond Bear Mountain were the Gegeines which are a tribe of Earthborn giants with six arms and wore leather loincloths. While most of the crew went into the forest to search for supplies, the Gegeines saw that few Argonauts were guarding the ship and raided it. Heracles was among those guarding the ship at the time and managed to kill most them before Jason and the others returned. Once some of the other Gegeines were killed, Jason and the Argonauts set sail.
                          Sometime after their fight with the Gegeines, Argonauts sent some men to find food and water. Among these men was Hercules' servant Hylas who was gathering water while Heracles was out finding some wood to carve a new oar to replace the one that broke. 
Hylas and nymphs

The nymphs of the stream where Hylas was collecting were attracted to his good looks, and pulled him into the stream. Heracles returned to his Labors (Twelve labors of Hercules), but Hylas was lost forever. According to one version,  Hercules went to Colchis with the Argonauts, got the Golden Girdle of the Amazons and slew the Stymphalian Birds at that time.
                     The Argonauts  departed, a storm drove them back to the same spot that night. In the darkness, the Doliones took them for enemies and they started fighting each other. The Argonauts killed many of the Doliones, among them the king Cyzicus. Cyzicus' wife, Cleite, killed herself. The Argonauts realized their horrible mistake when dawn came and held a funeral for him.


                                   The  Argonauts  landed at Salmydessus in Thrace, ruled by  blind king Phineus. Phineus blinded by the gods for foretelling men the future or by Poseidon, for having revealed to the children of Phrixus, how they could sail from Colchis to Hellas.
The Argonauts and Harpies

 Zeus had sent the Harpies, winged female creatures, to steal the food put out for Phineas each day. Phineas was left withered and weak from the lack of food. 
Phineas and the Argonauts-Calais and Zetes

The Argonauts, Calais and Zetes succeeded in driving the Harpies away but did not kill them, at a request from the goddess of the rainbow, Iris, who promised that Phineas would not be bothered by the harpies again. As thanks, Phineas told the Argonauts how to pass the Symplegades  or The Clashing Rocks, and then they parted.

The Symplegades
                                 The only way to reach Colchis was to sail through the Symplegades (Clashing Rocks), huge rock cliffs that came together and crushed anything that traveled between them. Phineas told Jason to release a dove when they approached these islands, and if the dove made it through, to row with all their might. If the dove was crushed, he was doomed to fail. Jason released the dove as advised, which made it through, losing only a few tail feathers. 
The Argonauts sailing through Symplegades

Seeing this, they rowed strongly and made it through with minor damage at the extreme stern of the ship. From that time on, the clashing rocks were forever joined leaving free passage for others to pass.

The arrival in Colchis

The  Argonauts arrived in Colchis and Jason claimed the Gloden fleece as his own. It was owned by King Aeetes of Colchis. The fleece was given to him by Phrixus. Aeetes promised to give it to Jason only if he could perform three certain tasks. Presented with the tasks, Jason became discouraged and fell into depression. However, goddess Hera had persuaded goddess of love, Aphrodite to convince Eros to make Aeetes's daughter, the sorceress Medea, fall in love with Jason. Medea fell in love with Jason and promised to help him, but only on the condition that if he succeeded, he would take her with him and marry her, Jason agreed. 
Jason and the fire-breathing oxen

First, Jason had to plough a field with fire-breathing oxen that he had to yoke himself. Medea provided an ointment that protected him from the oxen's flames. Then, Jason had to sow the teeth of a dragon in the ploughed field. The teeth sprouted into an army of warriors. Medea had previously warned Jason of this and told him how to defeat this foe. Before they attacked him, he threw a rock into the crowd. Unable to discover where the rock had come from, the soldiers attacked and defeated one another. 
Jason kill the sleepless dragon with help of Medea

Finally, Aeetes made Jason fight and kill the sleepless dragon that guarded the fleece. Medea put the beast to sleep with her narcotic herbs. Jason then took the fleece and sailed away with Medea, as he had promised.

 The return journey back to Iolcus
                                            Medea distracted her father, who chased them as they fled, by killing her brother Apsyrtus and throwing pieces of his body into the sea. 
Medea with the Argonauts....killing Apsyrtus

Aeetes stopped to gather them. In another version, Medea lured Apsyrtus into a trap. Jason killed him, chopped off his fingers and toes, and buried the corpse. In any case, Jason and Medea escaped. During the fight, Atalanta, the only female member of the Argonauts, helping Jason in his quest for the fleece, was seriously wounded, but Medea healed her.

The Circe's island
                       Zeus, as punishment for the slaughter of Medea's own brother, sent a series of storms at the Argo and blew it off course. 
Circe, Medea aunt

So Medea and Jason stopped on her aunt Circe's island so that she could be cleansed after the murder of her brother, relieving her of blame for the deed. In some version Jason and Medea got married in the Circe island.

                 The Sirens lived on three small, rocky islands called Sirenum scopuli and sang beautiful songs that enticed sailors to come to them, which resulted in the crashing of their ship into the islands. Centaur Chiron had told Jason that without the aid of Orpheus, the Argonauts would never be able to pass the Sirens.
Orpheus playing misic
                         When Orpheus heard their voices, he drew his lyre and played music that was more beautiful and louder, drowning out the Sirens' bewitching songs.
Butes and Sirens

 Butes, one of the Argonauts, was the only one to not resist the charm of Sirens singing and swim off to them. But goddess Aphrodite saved Butes by transferring him to Lilybaeum in Sicily, where he became goddess lover.

                        When the Argonauts arrived at the island of Crete, guarded by the bronze man, Talos. According to some versions, Talos had been made by Hephaestus at the request of Zeus, to protect Europa from persons who would want to kidnap her. As the ship approached, Talos hurled huge stones at the ship, keeping it at bay. 

Talos had one vein, which went from his neck to his ankle, bound shut by only one bronze nail.  Medea by her magic powers threw him into a state of madness, or, in other version, under the pretense of making him immortal, she took the nail out of his vein and thus caused him to bleed to death. 

 Return with the Golden Fleece
                                                         At last, the Argonauts reach back to Icolcus.  Jason, celebrating his return with the Golden Fleece, noted that his father was too aged and infirm to participate in the celebrations. He had seen and been served by Medea's magical powers. He asked Medea to take some years from his life and add them to the life of his father. She did so, but at no such cost to Jason's life. Medea withdrew the blood from Aesons body and infused it with certain herbs; putting it back into his veins, returning vigor to him.  Pelias still refused to gave up his throne to Jason. 
Medea conspired Pelias daughters to kill him

So Medea conspired to have Pelias' own daughters kill him. She told them she could turn an old ram into a young ram by cutting up the old ram and boiling it in magic herbs. During her demonstration, a live, young ram jumped out of the pot. Excited, the girls cut their father into pieces and threw him into a pot. Having killed Pelias, Jason and Medea fled to Corinth.


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