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This article is about the Greek mythological hero Jason. For other Jasons, see Jason (disambiguation).
Topics in Greek mythology

Jason (Greek: Ιάσων, Etruscan: Easun) is a hero of Greek mythology who led the Argonauts in the search of the Golden Fleece. His father was Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcus.


[edit] The early years

Pelias (Aeson's half-brother) was power-hungry, and he wished to gain dominion over all of Thessaly. Pelias was the product of a union between their shared mother Tyro ("high born Tyro") daughter of Salmoneus, and the sea god Poseidon. In a bitter feud, he overthrew Aeson (the rightful king), killing all the descendants of Aeson that he could. He spared his half-brother for unknown reasons. Alcimede (wife of Aeson) already had an infant son named Jason who she saved from being killed by Pelias, by having women cluster around the newborn and cry like he was still-born. Alcimede sent her son to the centaur (half man, half horse) Chiron for education, for fear that Pelias would kill him - she claimed that he had been born lifeless (circumstances unclear). Pelias, still paranoid that he would one day be overthrown, consulted an oracle which warned him to beware of a man coming forth from the people with only one sandal.

Many years later, Pelias was holding games in honour of the sea god and his alleged father, Poseidon, when Jason arrived in Iolcus and lost one of his sandals in the river Anauros ("wintry Anauros"), while helping an old woman (Goddess Hera in disguise) cross. She blessed him for she knew, as goddesses do, what Pelias had up his sleeve. When Jason entered Iolcus (modern-day city of Volos), he was announced as a man wearing one sandal. Paranoid, Pelias asked him what he (Jason) would do if confronted with the man who would be his downfall. Jason responded that he would send that man after the Golden Fleece. Pelias took that advice and sent Jason to retrieve the Golden Fleece as he thought it an impossible mission for this young lad that stood before him (Jason was supposed to have been in his late teens or early twenties at the time).

[edit] The quest for the Golden Fleece

Image:Jason Pelias Louvre K127.jpg
Jason bringing Pelias the Golden Fleece, Apulian red-figure calyx krater, ca. 340 BC–330 BC, Louvre

Jason assembled a great group of heroes and a huge ship called the Argo. Together, the heroes were known as the Argonauts. They included the Boreads, Heracles, Philoctetes, Peleus, Telamon, Orpheus, Castor and Pollux, Atalanta and Euphemus.

[edit] The Isle of Lemnos

The isle of Lemnos is situated off the Western coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). The island was inhabited by a race of women, who had killed their husbands. The women had neglected their worship of Aphrodite, and as a punishment the goddess made the women so foul in stench that their husbands couldn't bear to be near them. The men then took concubines from the Thracian mainland opposite, and the spurned women, naturally angry, killed every male inhabitant. The king, Thoas, was saved by Hypsipyle, his daughter, who put him out to sea sealed in a chest from which he was later rescued. The women of Lemnos lived for a while without men, with Hypsipyle as their queen.

The Argonauts stopped off on the isle, and the women welcomed them with open arms. Jason fathered twins with the queen, and many other Argonauts fathered children with the other women, thereby reintroducing a male population to the island (the offspring were male). Heracles pressured them to leave as he was disgusted by the antics of the Argonauts. He hadn't taken part, which is truly unusual considering the numerous affairs he had with other women. The Argonauts resumed their hunt for the Golden Fleece after spending a considerable amount of time on the island.

[edit] Kyzicos

After Lemnos the Argonauts landed among the Doliones, whose king Kyzicos treats them graciously. Argonauts depart, lose their bearings and land again at the same spot at night. In the darkness the Doliones take them for enemies and they start fighting each other. The Argonauts kill many of the Doliones, among them the king Kyzicos. Kyzicos' wife kills herself. The Argonauts realize their horrible mistake when dawn comes.

[edit] Mysia

When the Argonauts reached Mysia, they sent some men to find food and water. Among these men were Heracles' servant, Hylas. The nymphs of the stream where Hylas was collecting were taken by his good looks, and pulled him into the stream. When his friend did not return, Heracles went frantically into the woods to find him and Jason in revenge for the other Argonauts favoring Heracles over Jason to be the Hero were forced by Jason to leave Heracles behind.[citation needed] Heracles returned to his Labors, but Hylas was lost forever. Others say that Heracles went to Colchis with the Argonauts and he got the Golden Girdle of the Amazons and slayed the Stymphalian Birds at that time.

[edit] Phineus and the Harpies

Soon Jason reached the court of Phineus of Salmydessus in Thrace. Phineus had been given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, but was later blinded for revealing to men the deliberations of the gods. Also, Zeus sent Harpies, creatures with the body of a bird and the head of a woman, to prevent Phineus from eating any more than what was necessary to live. Jason took pity on the emaciated king, and killed the Harpies when they returned (In other versions two of the Argonauts chase them away.). In return for this favor, Phineus revealed to Jason the location of Colchis and how to cross the Symplegades, or The Clashing Islands, and then they parted.

[edit] The Symplegades

The only way to reach Colchis was to sail through the Symplegades (Clashing Islands), huge rock cliffs that came together and crushed anything that travels between them. Phineus 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. Seeing this, they rowed hard and made it through with minor damage at the extreme stern of the ship. Since the Argo, the first ship to pass through the Symplegades, the cliffs stand still.

[edit] The Arrival in Colchis

Image:Moreau - Jason et Médée.jpg
Jason, a highly personal, dreamlike reinterpretation by the Symbolist Gustave Moreau, 1865

Jason arrived in Colchis (modern Black Sea coast of Georgia) to claim the fleece as his own. King Aeetes of Colchis promised to give it to him only if he could perform certain tasks. Presented with the tasks, Jason became discouraged and fell into depression. However, Hera had persuaded Aphrodite to convince her son Eros to strike Aeetes's daughter, Medea, with love for Jason. As a result, Medea aided Jason in his tasks. First, Jason had to plow 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 sowed the teeth of a dragon into a 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 decipher where the rock had come from, the soldiers attacked each other and defeated each other. Although Jason had completed these tasks, Aeetes's was not willing to give up the fleece. He began to plan the destruction of the Argonauts. Medea, aware of her father's plans, brought Jason to the fleece that night before the king could act. When they approached the sleepless dragon that guarded the fleece, Medea used her magic to put the dragon to sleep. (Alternate versions tell of how Jason led the herd of sheep that had the golden wool to make the fleece. He was advised by Medea to lead the herd through a patch of thorned plants. The wool would then be trapped in the thorns so Jason could collect it.) Jason then took the fleece and sailed away with Medea, who had fallen in love with him and helped him win the fleece. Medea distracted her father as they fled by killing her brother Apsyrtus and throwing pieces of his body into the sea, which Aeetes had to stop for and gather. In the fight, Atalanta was seriously wounded but healed by Medea.

[edit] The Return Journey

On the way back to Iolcus, Medea prophesised to Euphemus, the Argo's helmsman, that one day he would rule Libya. This came true through Battus, a descendant of Euphemus. Zeus, as punishment for the slaughter of Medea's own brother, sent a series of storms at the Argo and blew it off course. The "Argo" then spoke and said that they should seek purification with Circe, a witch living on the island called Aeaea. After being cleansed, they continued their journey home.

[edit] Sirens

Chiron had told Jason that without the aid of Orpheus, the Argonauts would never be able to pass the Sirens — the same Sirens encountered by Odysseus in Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. 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. When Orpheus heard their voices, he drew his lyre and played his music more beautifully than they, drowning out their music.

[edit] Talos

The Argo then came to the island of Crete, guarded by the bronze man, Talos. As the ship approached, Talos hurled huge stones at the ship, keeping it at bay. Talos had one blood vessel which went from his neck to his ankle, bound shut by only one bronze nail. Medea cast a spell on Talos to calm him; she removed the bronze nail and Talos bled to death. The Argo was then able to sail on.

[edit] Jason returns

Medea, using her sorcery, claimed to Pelias' daughters that she could make their father younger by chopping him up into pieces and boiling the pieces in a cauldron of water and magical herbs. She demonstrated this remarkable feat with a sheep, which leapt out of the cauldron as a lamb. The girls, rather naively, sliced and diced their father and put him in the cauldron. Medea did not add the magical herbs, and Pelias was dead.

Pelias' son, Acastus, drove Jason and Medea into exile for the murder, and the couple settled in Corinth. There Jason married Creusa (sometimes referred to as Glauce), a daughter of the King of Corinth, to strengthen his political ties. Medea, angry at Jason for breaking his vow that he would be hers forever, got her revenge by presenting Creusa a cursed dress, as a wedding gift, that stuck to her body and burned her to death as soon as she put it on. Creusa's father, Creon, burnt to death with his daughter as he tried to save her. Medea killed the children that she bore to Jason, fearing that they would be murdered, or enslaved as a result of their mother's actions, and fled to Athens.

Later Jason and Peleus (father of the hero Achilles) would attack and defeat Acastus, reclaiming the throne of Iolcus for himself once more. Jason's son, Thessalus, then became king (the parentage of Thessalus is uncertain - i.e. who was his mother, since Medea killed her children? - Although there were mentions of twin boys he'd had on Lemnos).

Because he broke his vow to love Medea forever, Jason lost his favour with Hera and he died a lonely and unhappy man with no friends. He was asleep under the stern of the Argo, which was rotten, and it fell on him, killing him instantly. It was said that the manner of his death was due to the gods cursing him for breaking his promise to Medea.

[edit] Argonauts in Classical Literature

Though some of the episodes of Jason's story draw on ancient material, the definitive telling, on which this account relies, is that of Apollonius of Rhodes in his epic poem Argonautica, written in Alexandria in the late 3rd century BC.

Another Argonautica was written by Gaius Valerius Flaccus in late 1st century AD, eight books in length. The poem ends abruptly with the request of Medea to accompany Jason on his homeward voyage. It is unclear if part of the epic poem has been lost, or if it was ever finished.

The story of Medea's revenge on Jason is told with devastating effect by Euripides in his tragedy Medea.

The mythical geography of the voyage of the Argonauts has been speculatively explicated by the historian of science and the cartography of Antiquity, Livio Catullo Stecchini, in a suggestive essay, The Voyage of the Argo, that draws upon fragments of the mythic sources Apollonius employed in constructing his poem.

In the Divine Comedy, Dante sees Jason in the eighth circle of Hell among the seducers.

Jason is mentioned in some of the few extant fragments of the Achillea in a retelling of the story of Jason's encounter with Talos.

[edit] Jason on film

  • Two movies titled Jason and the Argonauts have been produced: Jason and the Argonauts (1963), directed by Don Chaffey, and Jason and the Argonauts (2000), a Hallmark presentation TV movie.
  • In the new kid's show, Class of the Titans, one of the main characters is a descendant of Jason, and the characters have run-ins with Medea and Talos.
  • Jason was also portrayed by Jeffrey Thomas (with Chris Conrad as young Jason) in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
  • Lookingglass Theater Company in Chicago produced Argonautika, a play about Jason and the Argonauts. The play was written and directed by Mary Zimmerman. It opened October 18th, 2006 and will be closing sometime in December 2006. The cast is:
    • Ryan Artzburger (Jason & Others)
    • Victoria Caciopoli (Andromache & Others)
    • David Catlin (Boxer & Others)
    • Lawrence DiStasi (Castor or Pollux & Others)
    • Glen Fleshler (Hercules & Others)
    • Allen Gilmore (Pelias & Others)
    • Tony Hernandez (Castor or Pollux & Others)
    • Dan Kenney(Melleager & Others)
    • Atley Loughridge (Medea)
    • Marianne Mayberry (Athena & Others)
    • Jesse Perez (Mopsos & Others)
    • Jarrett Sleeper (Hylus & Others)
    • Lisa Tejero (Hera & Others)
    • Angela Walsh (Aphrodite & Others)

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

Powell, B. The Voyage of the Argo. In Classical Myth. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Prentice Hall. 2001. pp. 477-489.bg:Язон ca:Jasó cs:Iásón da:Jason de:Iason es:Jasón eo:Jazono fr:Jason it:Giasone (mitologia) he:יאסון (מיתולוגיה) ka:იასონი la:Iason lb:Iason lt:Jasonas hu:Iaszón nl:Jason (mythologie) ja:イアソン pl:Jazon (mitologia) pt:Jasão ro:Iason ru:Ясон sr:Јасон fi:Iason sv:Jason tl:Jason uk:Ясон zh:伊阿宋


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