Mythology Part 2, Chapter 3: The Quest for the Golden Fleece
The first hero to go on a great journey was Jason, a generation before the Iliad. It was thought to be very dangerous to travel outside Greece. All the heroes who went with him ended up suffering greatly. Athamas, a king, got sick of his first wife and gave her up for a woman named Ino. Nephele, the first wife, was afraid that Ino would kill her son. The king permitted this but Hermes rescued the child Phrixus with a golden ram. Phrixus sacrificed the ram to Zeus and gave the pelt to King Aeetes. Phrixus' uncle lost his kingdom to a man named Pelias. His nephew, Jason, wanted to regain the kingdom from Pelias. Pelias was afraid that a kinsman was going to kill him so he was very startled when Jason arrived in a leopard skin. He told him that he could have the kingdom if he retrieved the Golden Fleece. He called for heroes to join him. He was joined by Orpheus, Hercules, and Castor and Pollux. They sailed in the argo. They stopped on an island where all the women had killed their husbands. Hercules left the expedition when his cup-bearer was taken by a nymph. They fought beasts called Harpies. They sat at the table of a prophet whom Apollo had gifted with the power of foresight. The harpies descended upon them and tried to take their food. They killed many of them, but Iris stopped the attack. The argonauts had to past through rocks that smashed together. They sent a dove through first and it went through, losing only its tail feathers. They rowed hard and made it. From here they went to the land of the Amazons but had no battle. They passed Prometheus in the distance and arrived in Colchis. Hera asked Aphrodite to make the journey less dangerous and she had Cupid make the king's daughter, Medea, fall in love with Jason.
The heroes made their way to the city disguised in fog. Medea saw Jason and went mad with love. She hid in her bedchamber. Jason asked Aeetes for the fleece in exchange for any service they could perform, and the king became upset. He told them that they should yoke two of his fire-breathing bulls and sow dragon's teeth into the ground. From this seed, fully armed men would sprout and they would have to fight them. The king said "'I have done all this myself and I will give the fleece to no man less brave than I.'" Part 2, Chapter 3, pg. 170.
Medea was upset because she knew that the king meant for Jason to die. One of Aeetes' grandsons told Jason to go to Medea and she gave him a magic ointment that would make him and his weapons invincible for one day. The soldiers would turn against each other if they faced him.
The next day he did everything as instructed and all the warriors fell. The king planned treachery, but Medea warned them and lulled the serpent that guarded the fleece to sleep. They stole the fleece and rowed off. Aeetes sent Medea's brother after them but somehow she killed him and made it so that Jason could escape. Another account says that the brother was in the ship with them, and Medea cut him up and threw him in the ocean so her father would slow down and pick up the pieces. The Argo slipped through Scylla and Charybdis, guarded by nymphs. They neared Crete, but did not land at Medea's warning.
The band departed in Greece and Jason took the fleece to Pelias with Medea. Pelias had made Jason's father kill himself. Medea tricked Pelias' daughters into killing their father by cutting up an old goat and making it come out of a cauldron as a young goat. They did this to their father and he died. Another story says that Medea brought Jason's father back to life. Medea and Jason went to Corinth and had children. After a while, Jason was engaged to the princess of Corinth. Medea brooded over Jason's betrayal, after she had done so much for him. He tried to convince her that the marriage was better for her children. Medea rejected all his claims; he said that it was Aphrodite's fault that she did so much for him, not his. Medea got angry and poisoned the princess. Then she killed her own children so that no one else could kill them. She departed on a chariot drawn by dragons and Jason cursed her, rather than himself.