|The Voyage of Jason and the Argonauts |
Map Courtesy of Classical Mythology Online
Jason and the Argonauts were known to be the bravest and most adventurous group of men in all of ancient Greece.
Jason was the son of the rightful king of Iolcus, Aeson. However, his uncle Pelias (Aeson’s half brother) had taken the throne unlawfully when Jason was a newborn. Determined to keep their new baby safe, Jason’s mother and father sent him away to Mt. Pelion. There, he lived with Chiron the Centaur, who taught him about plants, hunting, and art. But Jason was determined to one day return to his home and did so after his 20th birthday.
Jason arrived in Iolcus looking like a brave warrior, dressed in a tiger skin and holding a spear in each hand, but he wore no sandal on his left foot. When his uncle Pelias saw him, he remembered that he had been warned by an oracle not to trust a man with one sandal. Jason bravely told Pelias that he was Aeson’s son and that he had returned to reclaim the throne from him.
Jason bravely demanded the throne from his uncle, and here, the myth has two different versions. As with much of ancient mythology, the stories change slightly from source to source, but the meaning, general idea and moral remain the same. One version says that Pelias pretended he would give up the throne if Jason went to Colchis and brought back the Golden Fleece. The other version says that the goddess Hera appeared to Jason and told him that he must set out on a great quest to find the Golden Fleece and return it to the kingdom of Hellenica. If he did, the people and the armies of Greece would see him as a true hero of the gods, and follow him to take back his throne.
The Golden Fleece was the fleece of a divine ram which had carried Phrixus from Orchomenos to Colchis a generation before. The fleece was given by Aeetes, king of Colchis, to Ares, and now hung from a tree that was guarded night and day by a dragon. The dragon would become only one of the many perils Jason and his crew would encounter. Regardless of which version of the story is given, the great journey that Jason needed to embark upon remained the same. He had to sail far beyond the realm of the Greeks into unknown dangers and great adventures.
|Jason coming out of the Dragon's |
mouth under Athena's watchful eye.
Courtesy of http://www.greece.org/poseidon/work/
Jason, determined to win back the throne, agreed to the challenge. Word went throughout Greece that Jason was looking for a crew with whom to sail and find the famous Golden Fleece. Although the journey was known to be very dangerous, the chance of possibly finding the mythical fleece was very exciting to the bravest heroes of Greece. Many well-known heroes were eager to take the risk. It is said that Jason held great games at the base of Mount Olympus in which all the heroes of Greece came to compete for a place on his ship.
Jason asked Argos for his help. Advised by the Goddess Athena, he built a ship with fifty oars called the Argo to take Jason and his selected crew to Colchis. As the story goes, the ship was built with wood from Mt. Pelion, where Jason was raised. Athena cut a beam for it from the oak at Dodona which belonged to her father, the great god Zeus. She gave the beam the power of speech and prophecy. Thanks to the help of the gods, the Argo was the strongest and fastest ship in all the land.
From the name of the ship, Argo, came the name of its crew, the Argonauts. Jason, along with 48 brave men and one brave woman, Atalanta of Calydon, embarked upon the great mission. Among those chosen were many famous mythological Grecians including sons of Greek gods: Acastus, son of King Pelias; Peleus the Myrmidon, the father of the great Achilles; Heracles, known now as Hercules, of Tiryns, the strongest man to ever live who later became a Greek god himself; Echion, son of Hermes; Idmon the Argive, Apollo's son; Periclymenus of Pylus, the son of Poseidon; and, Argos the Thespian, the builder of the ship. It is said that “Never before or since was so brave a ship's company gathered together.”
The Argonauts traveled together for years reaching lands farther than any Greek had before them, and in the process, experiencing great dangers--from rocks that crashed like symbols to singing sirens, from fierce storms, to an angry dragon. They also met many great figures along the way, including the god Triton. Jason even finds love with the beautiful but dreadful Medea. But despite the dangers, temptations, and uncertainties of their journey, as true heroes, they continued on their mission.