Myth Man's Greek Mythology


Voyage to Colchis: On the voyage to Colchis, in addition to numerous other adventures, Jason and his crew of Argonauts freed blind King Phineus from the curse of the Harpies. These Harpies were frightful flying creatures with hooked beaks and claws, also known as the Hounds of Zeus, who daily tormented Phineus.

Whenever he was about to dine the Harpies would swoop down from the sky and help themselves to the blind man's dinner, defiling the leftovers with their foul smell. One couldn't stand to be near the food after they were finished, let alone eat it! Poor Phineus was starving to death.

King Phineus was a seer and he promised to help the Argonauts if they rid him of the Harpies. The king's servants set a feast for Phineus and the Argonauts. Immediately the Harpies darted down from the sky and in a moment had devoured just about everything, leaving behind their stench. Yuck!

Swords in hand, Calais and Zetes arose and gave chase to Ocypete and Aellopus, which were the proper names of the Harpies. These Argonauts were the swift-flying sons of the North Wind, Boreas. In not time they caught up with the monsters and would have killed them had not Iris, Hera's messenger, intervened.

Promising that the Harpies would never again trouble Phineus, the goddess of the rainbow Iris beseeched the sons of Boreas to spare their lives.

"Forbear to kill the Hounds of Zeus,"
 she said, "and by the waters of the river Styx I swear an unbreakable oath that Phineus will no longer be troubled by the Harpies."

Cool. It's hard to say "no" to a rainbow...Calais and Zetes returned with the good news and the grateful Phineus instructed Jason on navigating the perilous waters, particularly the Symplegades, these terrifying rocks which had an annoying habit of clashing together whenever anything passed between them.

Whenever a vessel attempted to pass between the Symplegades the mist-shrouded rocks drove together, crushing her. But Phineus instructed Jason to first release a dove - if the bird made it through the Symplegades, then so would the Argo. If not, turn around and go home, it was hopeless.

Approaching the rocks Jason released the dove and the Argonauts were ecstatic to see it fly through and come out safely, with only its tail feathers harmlessly torn away near the end. Waiting for the rocks to say "ah", the Argonauts blasted through, with only the extreme end of the Argo's stern ornament shorn off as they snapped shut behind them.

The best part was, the Symplegades had gotten lockjaw. Evermore they remained open and never again imperiled sailors.

Getting the Fleece
: When they arrived at Colchis, King Aeetes wasn't about to hand over the Golden Fleece without a fight. He demanded that Jason accomplish a series of tasks to earn the Golden Fleece: he must yoke a team of fierce, fire-breathing bull oxen and plow a field with them; then he must sow the teeth of a dragon in the field, and deal with the warlike armored men who sprouted from these "seeds".

As if that wasn't enough, he must brave the sleepless dragon who guarded the Fleece. Jason accomplished all these tasks with the help of Medea, Aeetes' daughter, who had fallen in love with him.

You see, Athena and the goddess Hera, who had helped Jason and the Argonauts throughout the voyage, had asked the goddess of love Aphrodite to intervene. Aphrodite instructed her son, Eros, to let fly an arrow at the heart of beautiful Medea the moment she laid eyes on Jason. Sure enough, the mischievous Eros did what he does best and Medea fell madly in love with our hero Jason.

It's a good thing, too! Medea was a powerful witch and she gave Jason a charm which, when sprinkled on himself and his weapons, would make them invincible for a day. Jason subdued the bulls as they rushed him from their lair, breathing flames of fire from their nostrils. He harnessed them to the yoke and drove them over the field, casting the dragon's teeth into the furrows.

In no time a wild-looking and ferocious army of creeps had sprouted forth and as one they attacked Jason. He dispatched a bunch of them with his sword and then, remembering Medea's words, he flung a stone in their midst. Just like she had told Jason, his attackers turned on each other and within moments they all lay dead, as the Argonauts cheered and King Aetes gritted his teeth.

The King returned to his palace, determined that Jason would never have the Golden Fleece, but Hera was looking out for the Argonauts. She made Medea, her heart all aflutter for Jason, determined to leave with him. As the unsuspecting Argonauts celebrated Jason's victory and King Aetes conspired on ways to kill them, she raced to the ship and warned them of her father's deadly plans. Medea said that her father planned on burning the Argo and slaying its crew and she vowed to help Jason get the Golden Fleece, if only he would take her along with him, away from Colchis.

Grateful Jason promised to marry Medea and make her his queen. After all, she had saved his life on more than one occasion. She urged him to get the Fleece quickly and leave, before they were killed. In the dark of the night they reached the sacred grove where the Golden Fleece hung. The skilled witch Medea soothed the loathsome and hissing dragon with incantations and then gave Jason drops of a magic potion to sprinkle on its eyelids. With the dragon fast asleep, Jason stealthily unfastened the Fleece from the oak tree and with Medea hurried down to the waiting Argo.

The Pursuit
King Aeetes started off in pursuit of the Argonauts but could not overtake them. Medea's brother, Apsyrtus, had also joined her aboard the Argo and during the flight from Colchis Medea killed or took part in the murder of her brother. It is sometimes said that Medea cut her brother limb from limb and threw the pieces into the sea and that, gathering Apsyrtus' limbs, Aeetes fell behind in the pursuit. But some say that it was Jason who cut Apsyrtus into pieces to slow down their pursuers, or even that he was, with Medea's help, treacherously killed by Jason on an island in the mouth of the river Ister (now known as the Danube). As is the case in most of mythology, various sources cite different versions.

According to some, King Styrus of Albania, who had come to Colchis to marry Medea at the time when the Argonauts arrived in the country, joined Aeetes, but he drowned during the pursuit.

Because of the death of his son King Aeetes gave up the chase and returned to Colchis, but he sent many others to search for the Argonauts, threatening that, if they did not bring the Golden Fleece and his daughter back to him, they should suffer the punishment due to her...and he planned on punishing her plenty!

In the meanwhile, because of the horrendous acts which they had committed, the Argonauts were driven off course by fierce storms that Zeus sent. The Argo's oracular branch then spoke and said that they should seek purification with Circe, a witch living on the island called Aeaea. The witch Circe, who purified the Argonauts for the murder of Apsyrtus, is sometimes said to be the daughter of the sun god Helios. But some say that she was the daughter of Aeetes by Hecate. Circe was the one who later would trap Odysseus and his men, turning them into swine. But that's another story...

When the Argonauts had been purified by Circe they sailed past the Sirens, who tried to attract the crew with their seductive song. Orpheus, by chanting a counter melody restrained all of them except for  Butes, who was unable to resist their enchanting song and swam off to the Sirens. However he was saved by Aphrodite, who carried him away and settled him in Lilybaeum (the island of Sicily).

During the escape the Argonauts received help from the the goddess Thetis and her Nereids, who were fifty sea-nymphs, in order to avoid the danger of Scylla and Charybdis, sea monsters guarding each side of the passage between Sicily and Italy.

Scylla is one of the sea-monsters which was on one side of the Strait of Messina, between Italy and Sicily, the other being Charybdis. Scylla had the face and upper body of a woman, but from the flanks she had six heads and twelve feet of dogs. Not a pretty sight.

Charybdis was a sea-monster, who three times a day drew up the water of the sea and then spouted it again, thus forming a whirlpool. She lay in wait on one side of the narrow Strait of Messina, and on the other side was Scylla. The two sides were so close to each other that one could even shoot an arrow across. So sailors, on trying to avoid Charybdis became the victims of Scylla.

Before they returned to Iolcus the Argonauts landed at Crete, where Medea killed the giant bronze creature called Talos, who guarded the island and threw huge rocks at any approaching ship.

Four months after the start of the voyage, the Argo returned home.

But when they reached Iolcus Jason found out that his parents and brother Promachus had been killed - Mean King Pelias had seen to that! Jason surrendered the Golden Fleece as per the agreement and dedicated the mighty Argo to Poseidon. He then conspired with Medea as to how to punish King Pelias for the murder of his kin.

To avenge her new husband's family Medea caused King Pelias' daughters to cut him into pieces and put them into a boiling pot, thinking that this "magic" would restore their father's youth. They were dead wrong! The daughters were hysterical once they realized that they had murdered their own father. Too late.

With Pelias dead, Acastus, the king's son and one of the Argonauts, became king, and having buried his father, or what was left of him, he expelled Jason and Medea from Iolcus. They settled in Corinth, had two sons and lived happily for ten years. But Jason eventually grew restless, dumped Medea, the "foreign witch" as everybody called her, and took on a younger wife called Glauce, who was the daughter of the King of Corinth.

Bad move. Medea, who had done so much out of her love for Jason, including betraying her father, murdering her brother and causing the death of King Pelias, grew most bitter and sought revenge. So with the help of poisonous drugs she made a golden crown and bade her sons give it as a gift to their stepmother Glauce. Once worn, the crown burned its wearer. When this was done the evil woman killed her own sons and fled to Athens.

Some say that the young princess Glauce accepted the gift, and was burned to death along with Jason and Creon, her father. But others say that Jason survived, yet, unable to endure the loss of both wife and children, killed himself. Still others say that Medea cursed him a foul death: that the wreckage of the Argo would fall upon Jason and kill him...and that's what happened.





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