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Chapter 10

THE GOLDEN FLEECE

This myth is, perhaps, one of the most popular of ancient Greece. The GoldenFleece originated in the following manner; King Athamas of Thessaly had two children by his first wife, Nephele. But he fell in love with beautiful princess Io, living his first wife, Nephele. Nephele felt fearful for her two children, Helle and Prixus, so she prayed to the Gods fo help. THe Gods sent Hermes with s Golden Ram, which carried the children from Thessaly over the seas. Unfortunately, Helle fell off the Ram

over a strait which connected Asia and Europe,m and which is today called the "Hellespont", in her honor. Phrixius continued on, ending the journey in Colchis, a kingdom at the far eastern end of the Black Sea, ruled by King Aeetes. In return for the King's hospitality, Phrixus sacrificed the Golden Ram, skinning it, and given this "Golden Fleece" to the King. The fame of this Fleece spread throughout the civilized world.

A few years later, in Thessely, one of Athamas' children, Jason, became involved in a struggle with his uncle, Pelias. to be the ruler. Pelias agreed that he wopuld give the kingship to Jason, if he were succesful in bringing back the Golden Fleece to Thessaly. Pelias then incurred that wrath of the Goddess, Hera, by not sacrificing to her. Therefore, Hera decided to help Jason defeat Pelias, in whatever manner she could, in his quest.

Armed with this challenge, Jason commisioned Argus, a noted shipbuilder, to construct the Argo. One of its main beams was made from one of the sacred oaks of Zeus at Dodona. The crew was composed of many of the famous Greek warriors and sailors of the day; Theseus, Orpheus, Polydeuces, Castor, Heracles, Peleus, Zetes, and Calias, amongst others. They then set out to capture the Fleece.

Heading toward the Black Sea, the Argonauts came upon the Isle of Lesbos. This Island was composed purely of females, who had murdered their husbands because they had taken Thracian concubines. Aphrodite had been the cause of this mass murder. She had becpome angry at the Lemnos women, because the had refuse to sacrifice to her. The goddess punish the women by causing them to have a very foul odor, which caused their husbands to not to want to lay with them, and to obtain Thracian women. The wives, therefore, murdered all the males on the island.

The Lemnos women are glad to have males on the island, once again, when the Argonauts, urging them to continue the journey. They sailed onto the kingdom ruled by King Cyzicus, where they helped him vanquish giants that had been plaguing his land . When they took to the seas again, the Argonauts encountered a fierce storm, which blew them, unbeknownst, back to the land of King Cyzicus. He and his subjects did not recognize the argonauts in the stormy, foggy weather, so they did battle, with King Cyzisus being killed.

When the weather cleared, the Argonauts were horrified that they had killed their former host. But they proceed onto their journey. The next put into port in Cis, where Heracles searched for wood, along with his page, Hylas, to make another oar. Nyphs in the fountain fell in love with Hylas, pulling him into the water.

Heracles searched in vain for his good friend, and the "Argo" set sail without them, being anxious to continue their journey.

Their next stop was the land of the Bebryces, led by King Amycus. He insisted that all visitors provide a boxer for him to fight. The Argonauts selected Polydeuces, since he ws known for his prowess in this sport. After a long, bloody match, Polydeuces emerged the victor, slaying Amycus with a blow behind his ear which shattered his skull.

Continuing on, the Argonauts came upon the blind prophet, Phineas, who was condemend by Zeus to a life of old age and blindness, due to his unerring accuracy of his predictions. In addition, Phineas was plagued by the Harpies, frightful flying creatures with hooked beaks and claws. The harpies would swoop down on Phineus, every time he attempted to eat, snatching his food and bfouling his plate.

The Argonauts Calais and Zetes, sons of Boreas, chased the Harpies away, and, in appreciation, Phineus helped guide the Argonauts through their next obstacle, the "Symplegades", or the "Clashing Rocks". He advised the argonauts to avoid being crused by these rocks, by first setting loose a white dove, and to follow the dove, if this animal made its way through successfully. This was accomplished, with the aid of the goddess Athena, enlisted by Hera to push the ship through the rocks.

Next, the Argo sailed past the land of the Mossynoeci, a people who had their own idea of right and wrong. What is normally done in private is done by the Mossynoeci in public, so that public sex is a common occurrencew, not causing any embarssment whatsoever.

Another day of rowing brought the Argonauts to the Isle of Ares, where they were attatcked by the war gods' birds, who possessed metallic, pointed feathers, which they used as weapons. But, like Heracles in his battle with the Stymphalian Birds, the Argonauts created loud noises with their sheilds, chasing the birds away.

Cruising onward, the Argonauts met the four sons of Phrixus, who had left colchis, to return to their fathers original home of Thessaly. The sons warned the Argonauts of the fruitlessness of trying to deal peaceably with King Aeetes, in trying to obtain the Fleece. But the Argonauts convinced the brothers of their conviction, and they joined the expedition.

After passing Pormetheus in the Caucasus, while an eagle fed on his liver, the Argonauts finally came to their destination, Colchis. As expected, King Aeetes did not want to give up the Fleece. Therefore, he proposed a set of contests, which he felt, were impossible to achieve. He said, if the Argonauts were successful in doing these deeds, they could carry off the Golden Fleece, without resistence from him.

The first of these contests involved yoking of the fire-breathing bulls, and plowing of a field. The second was the sowing of dragons teeth, which would grow to be hostile, fighting soldiers, whom Jason would have to then vanquish.

Once again, Hera aided Jason and the Argonauts. She asked for the aid of Eros, to have the kings' daughter, Medea, fall in love with Jason. Eros shot a golden-tipped arrow into Medeas's heart, so that she immediatealy fell in love with Jason, and determined to aid Jason in his contests. She gave to Jason a balm, which he applied all over his body, making his skin invulnerable to fire and metal.

With the aid of the balm, Jason easily yoked the fire-breathing bulls, plowed the fields, and defeated the soldiers, who sprung up from the teeth of the dragon.

King Aeetes, surprised and angry at the success of Jason, reneged on his promise to turn over the Fleece. Therefore, Medea goaded Jason to go fetch the Fleece that very night, as King Aeetes and his subjects slept.

The Fleece was guarded by the "Sleepless Dragon", but Jason and Medea were easily able to subdue the monster with the aid of a potion of Medea, and were able to successfully carry off the Golden Fleece immediately setting sail for Thessaly.

King Aeetes, soon becoming aware of the theft of the Fleece in the morning, gave pursuit in his ships. But Medea, in order to delay the pursuit of Aeetes, did, perhaps one of the most despicable acts in all of Greek Mythology. She tied down her brother, Apsyrtus, and hacked to pieces. At intervals, she would throw a piece of her brother overboard the ship, causing the ship of King Aeetes to slow down to pick up that piece of body. In this manner, the Argo successfully escaped.

Upon reaching Thessaly, Jason and Medea discovered that Jason's father, Aeson, had been killed by King Pelias. Jason influenced Medea to try to resurrect Aeson, which, after a long series of ceremonies, she did accomplish. But Pelias refused to give up the throne, as he had promised, in exchange for the Fleece. Medea then plotted an ingenious manner of revenge.

She proposed to the daughters of Pelias that she could rejunvenate their father, and make him younger, to be able to rule and be with them longer. After all, she reasoned with them, had she not been successful resurrecting Aeson, Jason's father?

After initial hesitation, the daughters agreed. Medea instructed them to hack their father to pieces, before putting the body parts into a magical stew, which they did. Then Medea disappeared!

That left the daughters are the murderers of their father, and now Jason was able to ruld Thessaly.