Jason

In Greek mythology, Jason (in ancient Greek Ἰάσων / Iásôn, “the healer”) is the son of Son, king of Iolcos in Thessaly, and descendant of Eole. He is best known for his quest for the Golden Fleece with the Argonauts. He is one of the main Greek heroes and is particularly venerated in Athens.

He sees his father dispossessed of the throne by his uncle Pelias. Saved from Pelias’ homicidal views by his mother, who made him look like a stillborn at birth, he was exposed on Mount Pelion and taken in by the centaur Chiron who raised him. As an adult, he claimed the throne of Iolcos. Pelias promised to return it to him, on condition that he brought back the Golden Fleece from Colchis. After leading the Argonauts’ expedition, Jason reached King Etes, guardian of the Golden Fleece, who submitted him to various tests, including the young hero’s triumph thanks to the help of the king’s daughter, Medea, who had fallen in love with him. When Jason returns, he discovers that Pelias has got rid of Eson. Medea, now Jason’s wife, develops a scheme that pushes Pelias’ daughters to kill their own father. Exiled to Corinth, the couple lived happily ever after for ten years and had two sons. However, Jason eventually abandoned his wife and preferred Glauce, also known as Creuse, King Creon’s daughter. Medea killed the latter, put to death her own children, Mermeros and Pheres, then fled in a winged chariot, present from the Sun. Jason then returned to Iolcos and, with the help of Pelee and the Dioscuri, ascended the throne.

Jason
Jason tames bulls at the feet of brass

 

Myth of Jason

Jason is the son of Aeson, king of Iolcos. His mother’s name varies according to tradition: according to some, it is Polymede, daughter of Phylacos, according to others, Polmele, daughter of Autolycus, which would make Jason a cousin of Odysseus. Jason sees his father dispossessed of the throne by his half-brother, Pelias. Saved from Pelias’ homicidal views by his mother, he was raised by the centaur Chiron on Mount Pelion.

His was the king of Iolcos, in Thessaly had a half-brother, Pelias. They had the same mother, Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus. But Jason’s father was the mortal, Creteus, while Pelias’ father was the god of the sea Poseidon. Pelias, proud of his divine ancestry, dethroned Æson but did not drive him out of the kingdom.

Æson and his wife were particularly afraid for their son, the legitimate heir. So they made it look like he was dead by pretending to be celebrating his funeral. In fact, his mother secretly sent him to the mountains to learn. Pelias, his accomplished takeover, was not very reassured. The goddess Hera was angry with him because he did not give her the honors she thought she was entitled to. An oracle had warned him that he would die at the hands of a descendant of Aeolus who would come to see him with a barefoot. Now Pelias, like Æson and of course Jason, were all descended from Aeolus, their distant ancestor.

Jason’s childhood

Jason was raised by the centaur Chiron who taught him many arts. When he reached manhood, Jason was instructed of his royal ancestry and left Pelion, where he lived with the Centaur, to go to Iolcos to claim the throne to which he was rightfully entitled. His costume was strange: he was covered with panther skin, he held a spear in each hand. When he arrived at the ford of the Anauros River, he helped an old woman (who was only Hera in disguise) to cross by carrying her on her back. In the middle of the stream, he lost his left sandal and could not recover it.
On the day of his arrival Pelias, who was sacrificing to Poseidon, remembered the oracle when he saw him. When Jason came to claim the throne, Pelias promised to cede the kingdom, if he brought back the Golden Fleece from Colchis, which allowed him to remove this dangerous pretender to the throne.
In another version, it was Jason himself who suggested this idea blown by Hera. Pelias asked him what punishment he would impose on a man who conspired against the king. Jason replied that he would send him to get the golden fleece. His answer was double-edged because Pelias ordered him to go and get it. Some believe that Hera wanted to find a way to bring Medea from Colchis to kill Pelias.

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Jason killing the dragon
Salvator ROSA

 

The quest for the Golden Fleece

An oracle had predicted to Pelias, usurper of the throne of Iolcos, that he would be dethroned by a man who would present himself to him with a single sandal. As an adult, Jason will claim the throne of Iolcos. On the way, he helps an old woman cross a river. This woman is none other than the goddess Hera, in disguise; he loses a sandal in the crossing.

Pelias promised him the throne as long as he brought him the Golden Fleece, which was then in Colchis. With the help of Athena and Hera, Jason began to build a fabulous ship, the Argo (“the fast”). This one finished Jason embarks with fifty young heroic men, the Argonauts (this is the generation before the heroes of the Trojan War), who shared with him the teachings of the centaur Chiron. Among them are Heracles, Theseus and the twins Beaver and Pollux. Benoît de Sainte-Maure tells us that it was Pelias who asked a talented Greek builder named Argus to build a nave on this occasion, the first sailing nave named the Argo.

Starting from Iolcos, Jason landed in the lands of Laomedon, the king of Troy. The latter, fearing that Jason and his men would attack him, sent a messenger to chase them away immediately. Jason, reasonable but offended, cursed the king and the city by affirming that they would one day be punished for this inhospitality, then left (after Le Roman de Troie, by Benoît de Sainte-Maure).

 

The Symplegades

The Symplegades are rocks that constantly flicker, crushing the ships that try to pass between them. Jason is advised to let a dove pass in front of him: if she managed to pass, so could their boat. The dove passed by, leaving the feathers of its tail.

Étees did not want to get rid of the Golden Fleece, which guaranteed the prosperity of his kingdom. So he pretends to accept to leave the Golden Fleece to Jason if he succeeds in triumphing over superhuman trials. These trials are: plowing an arid ground by having coupled a bull with bronze hooves and spitting fire, sowing the teeth of the Cadmos dragon, from which warriors germinate, the Spartans who attack it. Fortunately, he was helped by the king’s daughter, the magician Medea, who fell in love with him. It provides him with a protective balm against burns and bull iron, as well as a stone to make the warriors kill each other. But the king, in bad faith, refused to give up the Golden Fleece. Jason and Medea decide to go and get it at night. Medea puts the dragon to sleep, keeps the Golden Fleece and flees with Jason. To delay her father who is in pursuit of them, she even goes so far as to kill her own brother, Apsyrtos, cut his body into pieces and lose them behind the boat: the king stops his pursuit to collect his son’s pieces and give them a burial.

Back in Iolcos, Jason finds that Pelias took advantage of his absence to kill his father and get rid of his family. Medea then developed a trick to avenge him: she rejuvenated a ram by boiling it in a cauldron with magic herbs. She thus convinced Pelias’ daughters to do the same with their father. But she gave them herbs without any power, and Pelias’ daughters caused the death of their father in spite of themselves. However, Acaste, his son, expressed to Jason and Medea the pain he felt, and they went into exile in Corinth out of regret for having killed the child’s father.
Exile in Corinth

For ten years, they led a happy life and raised their children, until the day Jason abandoned Medea and finally married a local princess, Creuse, daughter of King Creon. Medea takes revenge by killing Creuse and his family, as well as his own children.

 

 

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