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The Golden Fleece

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Edith Hamilton's Mythology: The Golden Fleece

The Golden Fleece is about...

The Quest for the Golden Fleece

                Edith Hamilton has made a huge impact on mythology today. The Quest for the Golden Fleece is just the title of a long poem, by the third century poet Apollonius of Rhodes. Athamus, a king, gets tired of his first wife, Nephele, and marries a second, Princess Ino. Ino wants Nephel’s son, Phrixus, out of the way so her own son can inherit the throne. Hermes sends a flying golden ram to rescue Phrixus and his sister, Helle, who falls off the ram and dies. Phrixus safely reaches the land of Colchis, where he sacrifices the ram to Zeus and gives its skin (The Golden Fleece) to Colchis’s king, Aetes.

                Meanwhile, a man named Pelias has seized the throne of Phrixus’s uncle, a Greek king. Phrixus the deposed king’s son grows up and returns to reclaim the throne. Jason loses a sandal on his way to Pelias’s kingdom. Pelias is afraid when he sees Jason approach, he has been told that he will be overthrown by a stranger wearing only one sandal. The evil Pelias pretends to accept but says that the gods have told him that the Golden Fleece must be retrieved for the kingdom first. What Pelias has told him was a complete lie, and he believes anyone sent on a dangerous journey will never come back. Jason, however, glad to accept  the challenge. Jason gathers a remarkable group of heroes to help him, including Hercules, Theseus, Pelias, and Orpheus. They called themselves the Argonuats. They faced many challenges on the way to Cholis . First they met the fierce women of Lemnos, who have killed all of their men but to their surprise they were very kind. Hercules leaves the crew, and the Argonauts meet, Phineus. Once the Argonauts arrive in Colchis more trials await. Aetes pretends to want to give Jason the fleece but first demands that he complete two tasks that are designed to kill him. Meanwhile, Aphrodite sends Cupid top make Aetes’s daughter, a witch named Medea, fall in love with Jason and help him through the tasks. The first challenge is to tie two fierce magical bulls with hooves of bronze and breath of fire, and Medea gives Jason and ointment that makes him invincible.  The second task is to use the bulls to plow a field and sow it with dragons teeth, which causes armed men to spring up from the earth and attack Jason. Medea tells him that if he throws a rock in the middle of the armed men, they will attack each other, not him. After Jason’s success Aetes plots to kill the Argonauts at night, but Medea again interferes, warning Jason and telling him to steal the fleece by putting its guardian serpent to sleep. Medea joins the Argonauts and flees back to Greece. On the way home, she commits the ultimate act of love for Jason: to help evade the ships pursuers and she kills her own brother, Apsyrtus.

                On the way home, the Argonauts pass more challenges. Upon returning, Jason finds that Pelias has killed his father and that his mother has died of sadness. Jason and Medea plot revenge and she convinces Pelias’s daughters that they will restore Pelias to youth if they kill him, chop him up, and put pieces into their magic pot. After this they slice Pelias to bits, and Medea leaves the city, taking her magic pot with her after restoring Jason’s father to life.

The story ends with Medea and Jason end up having two children, but Jason leaves out of personal ambition to marry the daughter of the king of Corinth, who banishes Medea and her children. Medea seeks terrible revenge, sending her two sons with a beautiful magic robe as a gift for Jason’s new bride. When the girl accepts the robe, it bursts into flames. Medea then kills the two sons she had with Jason and flies away on a magic chariot. 

Character Pictures (Flash)

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By: Ernie Patenia and Niyah Richardson