Jason, the famous leader of the Argonauts
Jason (Iason) was a Greek hero, most known for leading his Argonauts in a quest to obtain the golden fleece. As a boy, Jason was a victim of family quarrel in which his uncle Pelias killed his father Aeson and took the kingdom for himself. In fear of losing her son, Alcimede sent Jason into the wilderness where he was raised by a centaur called Chiron. When grown, Jason returned to his native city of Iolcos where he demanded back his kingdom. Pelias agreed on one condition though, which was to bring back the golden fleece. It was the quest thought to be impossible to accomplish but this did not stop Jason who had gathered fifty men to accompany him. Together, they were called the Argonauts. He later came back with the golden fleece and new wife Medea who also happened to be an enchantress. However, Jason's heart went elsewhere and jealous Medea killed his mistress and her own sons that she had with Jason. Then she fled to Athens. Jason also lost favours of the goddess Hera, once she had finished her plot which was to bring Medea to Iolcos to kill Pelias. Jason lived for the rest of his life in solitude beside his ship Argo. Old aged and tired of living, he asked Zeus to show mercy on him. And the sudden death came when a rotten piece of the Argo fell on his head. The ship was then raised to heavens and became a legend, as well as Jason.
Jason is often depicted as a fully grown man in a classic greek helm and armour, holding a sword or a spear in his hands. Sometimes, he is holding a golden fleece in his hand. He is also depicted in a company of the Argonauts on several occasions or on one of his quests, such as the returning to Greece, where they encountered a giant Talos.
Tragic family events and plot of Hera
His myth begins even before he was born. Jason was about to become a son of king Aeson and Alcimede. He was to live a royal life in a modern city of Volos in the land of Iolcos, but his uncle Pelias, a half brother of Aeson, had different plans. He had overthrown and killed Aeson, because of his ambitions to claim the throne. He also planned to kill all of his heirs to prevent anyone from claiming the kingdom back. However, Alcimede secretly gave birth to Jason and, in despair of getting killed, sent him away into wilderness. He was brought to Mount Pelion, to live with a centaur called Chiron. The centaur became his tutor and made it possible for Jason to grow up in a healthy young man. He taught him all about hunting, the arts of warfare, music and medicine. When Jason reached early twenties, he decided to come back to Volos to reclaim his kingdom. Meanwhile, Pelias, in fear of being overthrown, approached the Oracle of Delphi where he was prophesied to beware of a man with one sandal. And it just happened to be Jason who in his journey helped an old lady to cross the river Anauros. In the process, of crossing over the rapid flowing river, he lost one of his sandals. The old lady thanked him and Jason was back on track towards the city of Volos. But what he didn't know was that the old lady was Hera in disguise and, because of this unselfish deed, he gained her favor before approaching Pelias. It was all planned by the queen of the gods, as Hera plotted against Pelias who desecrated her temple by killing his own stepmother Sidero in it. When Jason finally came before Pelias, the king had seen the prophecy of a man with one sandal coming true and in fear decided to gave away his kingdom to this dangerous stranger, on one condition though. He had to bring back the golden fleece from a distant land of Colchis, a quest seemed impossible for anyone to accomplish.
Jason and the Argonauts
Although this impossible task was presented to Jason, he didn't give up. Quite contrary, he was determined to bring back the golden fleece from a distant land. He realised that he would need a fast and enduring boat for such a long journey. He consulted with Argos, one of the best shipwrights at that time. Even the gods intervened in building this ship, with Athena helping to fasten the process and Zeus providing timber from one of his finest oaks. Once ship was built, Jason invited the bravest and mightiest warriors from Greece. Most notable among the Argonauts were Heracles, Orpheus, the great musician, Atalanta, Ephemus, a hero with the ability to walk on water, Castor and Pollux, the twin brothers of Helen of Troy. Castor was a great horseman, while Pollux was the best boxer around. All of the Argonauts were tired of usual life and were eager for adventure, but had no idea that they were going to encounter the most difficult of challenges and that all of them won't be coming home.
On the way to Colchis
On the way to Colchis, they first stopped at the island of Lemnos where they mated with native women who were cursed with awful smell by Aphrodite for not worshiping her. Therefore, the husbands coudln't stand their presence and casted them to this island. Living long in solitude, they more than welcomed the Argonauts. Jason himself had two sons with the queen Hypsipyle. After a few years, they decided to move on and resumed with their quest. From Lemnos, they travelled through Doliones where they stopped for replenishing provisions. King Cyzicus greeted the Argonauts warmly and had given them all the provisions they needed. However, he forgot to tell them about Gegenees, earth-born giant monsters with six arms, which ravaged the lands. On the way back to the ship, the Argonauts encountered these ferocious creatures and with the help of Heracles overcame them quite easily. This event disturbed the journey of the Argonauts who had to depart in the cover of darkness and were unfortunately driven back to Doliones, where King Cyzicus and his men thought they were marauders and attacked them. The same goes for Argonauts who were also unable to recognise their friends and fought back. In this battle many had died, even the king himself, before in dawn finally recognising each other and realising their mistake. Before the Argonauts finally departed, they had a funeral for the king together with the local men. Later on, they were sailing along the coast of Mysia, when Heracles realised that he had broken his oar. They stopped for Heracles who went with his best friend Hylas to the shore to make a new oar from timber. While Heracles was working, Hylas went for more water and was charmed by a sea-nymph. He followed her into the water and drowned. Brokenhearted Heracles, unable to find his best friend, refused to accompany the Argonauts and, therefore, the crew had no choice but to move on. Their next stop was at the land of king Amycus, where the king challenged to a fistfight anyone who passed by. The argonauts picked Pollux for a fight and the boxing champion managed to defeat and kill the king. When the king fell, the local tribe attacked the Argonauts, trying to avenge their king. However, they were driven back by Jason and his fellow Argonauts who again had to depart shortly after. When reaching Thrace, they encountered an old man who was just attacked by two Harpies during his meal. The Argonauts helped the man who then told them that his name was Phineus and was once a seer. But Zeus cursed him with taking away his vision for disclosing too many of his secrets. The god punished him further by sending two harpies to spoil his food, every time, when he was trying to eat. The Argonauts decided to put an end to Harpies and helped Phineus. As a token of gratitude, the old man told them how to safely pass through Symplegades which lie ahead on their journey. In order to cross the Symplegades, they must release a dove to see, if she has a safe passage between the two gigantic rocks. It also had to be the right timing because these two gigantic rocks were constantly clashing with each other. The Argonauts in the end managed to overcome these treacherous rocks with the help of Athena who intervened half way through, when the rocks started to closing in on each other and the Argo(ship). It appeared they had a safe sail to the island of Colchis when, at night, their navigator fell asleep and from the Argo fell into the water and drowned. As a result of this accident, they closed in on the island of Amazons, where they would certainly be attacked, but Zeus sent favourable winds that sent them to the island of Ares. Unfortunately, instead of escaping danger, they were blown right into it when they were suddenly attacked by the Stymphalian Birds. Pets of Ares were almost impossible to kill and had lethal bronze feathers. Fortunately, the Argonauts recalled the encounter of Heracles with these birds and with their swords started beating upon their shields to make a loud noise. They were able to scare the birds and successfully forced them to fly away.
Obtaining the Golden Fleece
When they finally approached Colchis, Hera asked Aphrodite to make sure that Medea, a daughter of Aeetes, would fall in love with Jason, because she was the key in this plot of Hera. Medea was a skilled sorceress and high-priestess of the temple of Hecate, a goddess of dark magic and witchcraft. When Jason approached king Aeetes and announced that he came for the golden fleece, the king wanted to kill him but realised that this would anger the gods and other Argonauts. Aeetes was forced to put Jason to the test by stating that he could have the fleece, if he was able to beat the fire-breathing bronze bulls and plough a field where he needed to sow the dragon’s teeth that were given to him by the king. From the teeth of a dragon, earth born warriors would rise that he would have to defeat afterwards. Jason had no choice but to agree, because it was the only way to get the golden fleece. Knowing that he won't be able to overcome this difficult task, he turned over to beloved Medea to help him with her sorcery. Thereafter, she got busy with preparing a magical formula. The goal, for Jason to be able to approach the fire-breathing bulls, was to apply this enchanted cream to his skin and protect him from the fire. She also told him how to defeat the dragon warriors, once he would sow the field with dragon's teeth. Soon, enpowered with sorcery and self-confidence, Jason applied the cream and approached the bulls without getting burned. He beat them and used the plough to sow the dragon's teeth. Once done that, the sown men arose from the ground. Jason, hidden behind a shield on a hill, sneakily threw a rock among the warriors to distract them. Not knowing who the culprit was, the dragon warriors attacked each other, destroying themselves. After completing the task, Jason came before Aeetes, pleading for the golden fleece. But the king was furious at the Jason's success and plotted to kill all the Argonauts. However, Medea, suspecting such a plot, informed Jason and agreed to help him steal the golden fleece, if he would take her with him. Jason, in love, concurred and also promised to marry her. During the night, Jason, Orpheus and Medea approached the sleepless dragon which guarded the golden fleece. Orpheus, a great musician he was, played his favourite soft tunes of lullaby which made the dragon to fall asleep. And with the sleeping potion of Medea, they were able to put the dragon into deep sleep. Knowing that the creature won't wake up, they un-nailed the golden fleece from the tree and rushed back to the Argo. The crew was prepared and they immedately set sail.
Journey back to Iolcos
In the morning, when the king realised what happened, he ordered all of his troops to go after the Argo. Among the troops was also Apsyrtus, a king's son and Medea's brother. When they were nearing the Argo, Medea used her sorcery to kill Apsyrtus, cut him to pieces and splashed them into water. This distracted the king who stopped to gather the pieces of his dead son and consequently, in despair, gave up the chase. However, the angry Aeetes prayed to Zeus to punish Medea and Jason for this unfair son's death. And Zeus answered the prayers by driving the Argo off course. The Argonauts soon approached the beautiful music of the sirens. They were charmed and rushed for the source. The sirens were mythical creatures which sat on rocks, seducing sailors with their irresistible songs. Unable to avoid the beauty of their songs, sailors would run their ships aground on the rocks and be killed. The Argonauts were about experience the same fate, if it wasn't for Orpheus who had once again saved them by playing a far more powerful song with his lyre. He was able to break the enchanting spell of the sirens. Once in the clear, they were pulling their vessels with full strength but were unaware of approaching another, far more dangerous trap. On one side, it was enormous whirlpool and on the other it was Scylla, a six-headed monster of enormous size. Getting too close to either of them would mean certain death for the Argonauts. However, this time they had help from the minor sea goddess Thetis, a mother of Achilles, who, with the orders from Hera, safely carried them just on the right path past Scylla and the deadly whirlpool. The Argo was guided by the goddess to the island of Drepane, a territory of the Phaeacians, where Jason and Medea got married. They were nearly home when they approached Crete. They wanted to make a landing to rest and recover a bit because they were exhausted from the long journey. However, when they closed in on the island they were attacked by Talos, a giant man made out of bronze. Medea saved the crew using her sorcery to crash a huge rock against Talos's ankle, smashing his vein and causing him to bleed to death.
Without many more dangerous encounters, Jason, Medea and the rest of the Argounauts, finally arrived back to Iolcos. Jason handed the golden fleece over to Pelias and demanded his kingdom back and to release his father, unaware that Pelias had killed him long ago. Once he realised the bitter truth, he plotted against Pelias and, therefore, asked Medea to use her sorcery to bring death upon him. Medea used Pelias daughters, by demonstrating them how to make their father young again. She had demonstrated the procedure by killing a ram, cutting it into pieces, throwing it into a boiling water and then bringing it back to life as a young sheep again. Believing it to be true, the daughters murdered their own father. Jason then finally got his hands on the crown and seized the throne. However, he had to depart soon because he was about to witness a rebellion, as the people of Iolcos didn't want to have a sorceress and enchantress for their queen. Not favoured by the gods anymore, as Hera had her own satisfaction by Medea killing Pelias which was her plot from the beginning, Jason was left on his own. And therefore, in order to resolve this situation peacefully, Jason passed the kingdom to his son Acastus while himself and Medea deserted to Corinth, where misfortune was brought upon them. Jason fell in love with a princess of Corinth and wanted to marry her. When Medea found out of this deception, she killed the princess and her own three sons, the children she had with Jason. After punishing her husband, she fled to Athens. Jason was heartbroken and lost his will to live. He spent the rest of his days beside his once glorious ship Argo. Tired of living as an old man, he asked Zeus to show mercy on him. A lashing snapped and a rotten piece of the Argo fell on Jason, ending his life and making him a legend.