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Jason, the Leader of the Argonauts



Jason and the Argonauts and the labor of the Golden Fleece

Jason was the son of Polymeda, an aunt of Odysseus, and Aeson, an exiled king of Thessaly, who was unjustly deposed from the throne by his half-brother Pelion.




Jason's Early Life

After his birth, his parents pretended that Jason had died in childbirth, and secretly handed the child over to the wise Centaur Chiron, to protect him from enemies. Jason grew up well cared for in the mountains of Pelion and trained his body and mind to perfection under the guidance of the gentle centaur.

At the age of twenty, Jason, with the help of the goddess Hera, decided to return to his father's kingdom in Iolcus to reclaim his family's throne. On his way, Jason encountered a helpless old woman and offered to carry her across a river; the old woman was in fact none other than Hera in disguise, who wanted to test Jason's kind soul. While crossing the river, Jason lost his sandal and therefore arrived in Iolcus with only one sandal.

When Pelias saw Jason, he became very afraid, for he had once been warned by a prophecy that he would lose his life at the hands of "one sandal man." To protect himself, Pelias set Jason an impossible task: he was to bring back the Golden Fleece from the forest of the gods of Ares in Colchis. To accomplish this, Jason had to cross the Black Sea between Colchis and Thessaly and, once there, take the Golden Fleece away from its fierce guardian dragon.



Jason and the Golden Fleece

The voyage would be long and the mission arduous and of great difficulty, so Jason had to find a strong ship and brave shipmates. Goddess Athena, assisting the goddess Hera, ordered a fast ship with fifty oars from the shipbuilder Argos; Athena herself watched Argos' work. The spectacular ship was named after its builder, "Argo".

The comrades who were chosen for the voyage took the name "Argonauts". They were all volunteers and were exceptionally strong and brave warriors. Among them were the strong Heracles, Theseus,the king of Athens as well as the musician and poet Orpheus.

As the ship of Argo sailed along, Jason and the Argonauts had many adventures, but because they were always open and cooperative, they obtained much valuable information for their course and were able to overcome any obstacle they encountered along the way.

When they reached Colchis, they met Aetes, the king of Colchis. The king at first pretended to be friendly, though he did not really want to give up Golden Fleece. Therefore, he gave Jason an impossible task: he was to plow the field with two fire-breathing bulls and then sow it with the teeth of a dragon, while armed men would grow like plants.

The feat seemed impossible, but Jason was not alone. Medea, the daughter of Aetes, who possessed magical powers, had fallen in love with Jason and helped the hero through by giving him a magic stone to throw at the armed men. In this way, Jason was able to successfully carry out Aetes' mission.

But then Aetes took back his word, and set his army in motion to attack the Argo by night. Medea, knowing of her father's plan, quickly brought Jason to the grove where the Golden Fleece hung. She sang the dragon to sleep with a lullaby and Jason quickly grabbed the Golden Fleece and ran back to the ship. Jason and the Argonauts rowed away and Medea followed them. Later, Medea became Jason's wife.



The Death of Jason

When the ship of Argo returned to Thessaly, Jason found Pelias still unwilling to give up his land. So Medea put Pelias to sleep with a spell and convinced his daughters that their father had died. To return to life, they were advised to cut him into pieces and cook him - and they did.

Without knowing it, they killed their father all by themselves.

Jason and Medea lived happily together for 10 years when Jason fell in love with Glauce, a princess of Corinth. When Medea learned of her husband's affair, she killed all her children and then fled Thessaly. Jason grew old in solitude and eventually killed himself by falling from the stern of the Argo.






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