JASON - IÁSÔN- ΙΑΣΩΝ

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Iásôn - (Jason; Gr. Ἰάσων, ΙΑΣΩΝ.  Pronunciation: ee-AH-sohn)

Iásôn is one of the most interesting Heroes in the mythology of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos, Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion. He is the son of Alkimǽdi (Alcimede, Ἀλκιμέδη) or Polymídi (Polymêdê, Πολυμήδη) and Aisôn (Aeson, Αἴσων), the Thessalonian king of Iôlkós (Iolcus, Ιωλκός). The name Iásôn means "healer" from ιάσθαι "to heal".

The story of Iásôn, like many tales in Greek mythology, has several variants. Below you will find a simplified version of the most common myth, compiled primarily from Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου. It should be understood, however, that there are other versions of the tale where Mídeia (Medea, Μήδεια), for instance, does not kill her own children (see below). The story is symbolic; the Golden Fleece is a symbol of Divinity.


The Genealogy of Iásôn

Salmônéfs (Salmôneus, Σαλμωνεὺς) was the father of a daughter, Tyróh (Tyrô, Τυρώ), by Alkidíkî (Alcidicê, Ἀλκιδίκη). Later, he took a second wife, Sidiróh (SiderôΣιδηρώ). 

Tyróh married Krîthéfs (Krêtheus, Κρηθεὺς), the king of Iôlkós (Iôlcus, Ιωλκός), and by him bore the sons Aisôn (Aesôn, Αἴσων), Phǽrîs (Pherês, Φέρης), and Amytháôn (Ἀμυθάων). Aisôn was the eldest son and therefore heir to the throne. Tyróh loved the river God Ænipéfs (Enipeus, Ενιπεύς) but the deity did not respond to her advances. The God Poseidóhn (Poseidôn, Ποσειδῶν) desired Tyróh and disguised himself as Ænipéfs. By this union, Tyróh bore Poseidóhn twin sons, Pæliás (Pelias, Πελιάς) and Nîléfs (Nêleus, Νηλεὺς). Her father, Salmônéfs, did not believe that Tyróh was abducted by Poseidóhn. He put Tyróh into the care of his second wife Sidiróh who treated Tyróh badly.

Tyróh exposed the two boys in the forest but they were rescued and raised by a maid. When they became men, they rescued their mother Tyróh and pursued Sidiróh for revenge. Pæliás killed Sidiróh after she took sanctuary in the temple of Íra (Hera, Ήρα) while she (Sidiróh) was clinging to the altar of Íra. This was a sacrilege against Íra, who was now angry.

Pæliás was the son of Poseidóhn and Tyróh, but his half-brother, Aisôn, was also a son of Tyróh. This Aisôn was in line to inherit the throne of Iôlkós from his father Krîthéfs (Krêtheus, Κρηθεύς). Aisôn had a son, Diomídîs (Diomêdês, Διομήδης), whose name was later changed to Iásôn (Jason, Ἰάσων).

While Diomídîs (Iásôn) was still an infant, his father Aisôn was imprisoned by the power-hungry Pæliás who then seized the throne of Iôlkós. Pæliás drove his other two half-brothers into exile and assassinated all the descendants of Aisôn. Pæliás was tricked into thinking that Aisôn's son Diomídîs was stillborn. This was accomplished through the wits of Alkimídî (Alcimedê, Άλκιμέδη), the boy's mother, who surrounded the child with loudly weeping women. But Pæliás was not comfortable. He consulted an oracle who warned Pæliás of a man would who would visit him in the future wearing only one sandal.  

Alkimídî sent Diomídîs to the Kǽndavros (Centaur, ΚένταυροςKheirôn (Cheiron, Χείρων) for safekeeping and to be educated. Kheirôn taught Diomídîs many things including the use of herbs. Because of this, the boy's name was changed to Iásôn, "healer, doctor."


NOTE: We now begin to follow quite closely Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου. Regarding the references numbers, the first follow the system of R. Scott Smith, those immediately after this, following the semi-colon, use the system found in J. G. Frazer.

Pæliás, Iásôn, and the Heroic Quest (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.110; I.ix.16)

When he reached maturity, Iásôn went to the court of Pæliás to claim his throne. On his way there, he helped an old woman through the river Ánavros (Anaurus, Ἄναυρος) and lost one of his sandals in the river-bed. The old woman was Íra in disguise and she blessed the young man. Iásôn made his demand to the king. Pæliás agreed to surrender the throne under the condition that Iásôn acquire the Golden Fleece, the Khrysómallon Dǽras (Χρυσόμαλλον Δέρας), in the kingdom of Kolkhís (Colchis, Κολχίς) off the coast of the Black Sea, an impossible task. Iásôn agreed.

The Argóh and the Argonáftai (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.111; I.ix.16) 

Iásôn then gathered up many heroes, collectively called the Argonáftai (Argonauts, Ἀργοναῦται), including Iraklís (Heraklês, Ἡρακλῆς), Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς), Kástôr and Polydéfkîs (Castor and Pollux, Κάστωρ καὶ Πολυδεύκης), Pîléfs (Pêleus, Πηλεύς), Tælamóhn (Telamôn, Τελαμών), Philoktítîs (Philoctêtês, Φιλοκτήτης), Atalántî (Atalanta, Αταλάντη), Éfphîmos (Euphêmus, Εὔφημος), and the Boreads, Kálaïs (Calaïs, Κάλαϊς) and Zítîs (Zêtês, Ζήτης), who were the sons of Vorǽas (Boreas, Βορέας), the North Wind. They were to conduct their journey on a magnificent and magical ship: the Argóh (Argô, Ἀργώ). 

These heroes now embarked on a series of trials or labors:


1. The Isle of Límnos (
Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.114; I.ix.17) 

The Isle of Límnos (Lêmnos, Λήμνος) was inhabited by women who had offended the Goddess Aphrodítî (Aphroditê, Ἀφροδίτη). The Goddess made their husbands stink so badly that the wives lost interest in them. The women killed all the men except their king Thóas (Θώας) who was sent into exile. These women survived alone on the island with Ypsipýlî (Hypsipylê, Ὑψιπύλη), daughter of Thóas, as their queen. When the Argonáftai came to the island, they were met with lustful arms. Iásôn had two children by one of the women. All the men partook of the women, creating a new people called Minýæs (MinÿansΜινύες), with the exception of Iraklís who, disgusted, encouraged the men to leave. 


2. King Kýzikos (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.116; I.ix.18)

The Argóh arrived in the land of the Dolionís (Doliones, Δολιονίς), ruled by King Kýzikos (Cyzicus, Κύζικος), where they were treated well. When they left Dolionís, they became confused in their directions and returned in the dead of night. They were mistaken for enemies, and when attacked, they unwittingly killed many of the local people including the king.


3. Mysía and the Loss of Ýlas and Iraklís (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.117; I.ix.19)

When the men reached Mysía (Μυσία), they went out for supplies. Ýlas (Hylas, Ὕλας), servant and beloved of Iraklís, was pulled into a stream by nymphs who admired his beauty. In some accounts of the story, Iraklís stayed behind, searching for Ýlas, and did not return to the Argóh.


4. King Ámykos (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.119; I.ix.20)

The Argóh now arrived at the land of the Vǽvrykæs (Bebryces, Βέβρυκες) who were ruled by King Ámykos (Amycus, Ἄμυκος), a son of Poseidóhn. This man coerced anyone who came to his kingdom to box and, being very strong, killed them. But Polydéfkîs took the challenge and destroyed the king. The Argonáftai now fought their way back to the ship, killing many of the inhabitants. 


5. Phinéfs and the Árpiai (
Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.120; I.ix.21)

Phinéfs (Phineas or Phineus, Φινεύς), the king of Thrákî (Thrace, Θρᾴκη) had been given the gift of prophecy by Apóllôn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων), but he had offended the Gods by revealing secrets. He was given a choice: a long life but to be blind, or a short life retaining his sight. Phinéfs chose blindness. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of his troubles. Ílios (Helios, Ἥλιος), the Sun and God of Light, was offended at his choice and caused the Árpiai (Harpies, Ἅρπυιαι) to torment him. The Árpiai were giant birds with the heads of women. Every day they ate all his food and left just a meager portion for Phinéfs, and this they befouled. Phinéfs became emaciated. When the Argonáftai visited his kingdom, Iásôn took pity on him and killed the Árpiai. In exchange, Phinéfs revealed to them the secret of how to maneuver their ship through the Symplîgádæs (Symplêgadës, Συμπληγάδες), the pass with crashing rocks that destroyed ships. Phinéfs also gave them directions to Kolkhís.


6. Symplîgádæs (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.124; I.ix.22)

Phinéfs told Iásôn to release a dove as they approached the entrance to the Symplîgádæs, the crashing rocks. If the dove made it through, they should row with all their might. They followed his advice and succeeded through the pass.

Kolkhís and the Khrysómallon Dǽras (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.127; I.ix.23)

The Khrysómallon Dǽras (Χρυσόμαλλον Δέρας), the Golden Fleece, was nailed to a tree in Kolkhís (Κολχίς). King Aiítîs (Aeêtês, Αἰήτης) agreed to give Iásôn the Fleece if he performed three seemingly impossible tasks. But Iásohn was under the protection of Íra. The Goddess convinced Aphrodítî to send Ǽros (Eros, Ἔρως) to make Mídeia (Mêdea, Μήδεια) fall in love with Iásôn. Mídeia was a sorceress and daughter of the king. With her help, Iásôn succeeded in passing the following tests:


7. The Távri Khálkæi (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.129; I.ix.23)

 

Iásôn was required to yoke the Távri Khálkæi (Tauroi Chalceoi, Ταύροι Χάλκεοι), fire-breathing oxen, and plow a field. Mídeia gave him an ointment that protected him from the flames.

 

8. The Teeth of the Dragon (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.129; I.ix.23)

 

Iásôn was to sow the field with the teeth of a dragon. These teeth were like seeds which sprouted into fierce warriors. Mídeia had given Iásôn instructions to throw a rock into their throng. When he did so, the warriors became bewildered, not knowing where the stone came from, and fought each other to the death.

 

9. The Dragon and the Golden Fleece (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.131; I.ix.23)

 

The Fleece was guarded by a dragon. Mídeia gave Iásôn a potion which caused the dragon to sleep, enabling him to acquire the Fleece.

Now that Iásôn had succeeded in performing these tasks, King Aiítis declined to keep his end of the bargain. Iásôn, Mídeia, and the Argonáftai fled with the king at their heels. To slow her father down, she and Iásôn killed Mídeia's brother Ápsyrtos (Apsyrtus, Ἄψυρτος) and cut him to pieces, throwing them into the ocean, forcing the father to collect them thus slowing him sufficiently for their escape.

 

10. The Storms of Zefs (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.133; I.ix.24)

For killing Mídeia's brother, Zefs (Ζεύς) sent terrible storms which blew the Argóh off course. The magic ship Argóh then spoke and told them that they should to go to Kírkî (Circê, Κίρκη) for purification, which they did, enabling them to sail on.


11. The Seirínæs (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.135; I.ix.25)

In order to avoid being bewitched by the entrapping songs of the Seirínæs (Sirens, Σειρῆνες), seductive bird-women, Orphéfs sang louder and more beautifully than they, entrancing the heroes' attention away from certain doom.

 

12. Tálôs (Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.140; I.ix.26)

Tálôs (Talôs; Τάλως) was an impossibly strong man, made of bronze, who protected Evróhpî (Eurôpa, Εὐρώπη) in Krítî (CrêtêΚρήτη) from pirates and invaders. When the Argonáftai approached, Tálôs continually hurled rocks at the Argóh. Mídeia calmed the brazen giant and removed a metal peg in his leg causing him to bleed to death.

 

THE RETURN TO IÔLKÓS

After undergoing these many trials, Iásôn returned to Iôlkós.


The Death of Pæliás (
Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.143; I.ix.27)

Mídeia took an old lamb and chopped it to pieces in front of the daughters of Pæliás. She took these pieces and put them in a cauldron of magical herbs. The aged lamb emerged, but now in one piece and very much alive, yet more youthful than before. Mídeia now convinced the daughters that by doing the same to their father, he could regain his youth. When they followed her advice, Mídeia neglected to put in the potion, killing Pæliás. When Ákastos (Acastus, Ἄκαστος), the son of Pæliás, heard of it, he drove Mídeia and Iásôn from the country and assumed the throne of his father. Mídeia and Iásôn fled to the city of Kórinthos (Corinth, Κόρινθος). Later, Iásôn and the Dióskouri (Dioskouri, Διόσκουροι) sacked Iôlkós, and later still, Thæssalós (Thessalus, Θεσσαλός), the son of Iásôn, became the king of Iôlkós.



The Estrangement of Mídeia (
Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου I.145; I.ix.28)

Iásôn had made a vow to remain faithful to Mídeia, but he now broke this vow for a political alliance, a marriage to Krǽousa (Creusa, Κρέουσα), the daughter of Krǽôn (Creon, Κρέων), king of Kórinthos. Having discovered this betrayal, Mídeia concocted a deception, giving a beautiful dress to Krǽousa as a wedding present. The dress stuck to Krǽousa's body and burst into flames, killing her and her father, who tried to save her life. To further take revenge against Iásôn, Mídeia killed the two sons which she bore to him and fled from Kórinthos to the city of Athínai (Athens, Ἀθῆναι) on a flying chariot given to her by Ílios, her grandfather. 

Apollódôros mentions another tradition in which Mídeia left her infant children as suppliants on the altar of Íra, but that the inhabitants of Kórinthos removed and killed them. Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορική Διοδώρου Σικελιώτου 5.54 tells a different but similar story, that Mídeia, rather than giving the wedding dress, set fire to the palace of Kórinthos, a deed which killed King Krǽohn, Krǽousa, and her own children. As can be seen from these examples, there are various versions of the story, and it should be noted that the earliest accounts do not mention the murder of the children by Mídeia at all.

 

The Death of Iásôn

According to one version of his story, Iásôn lost favor with the Goddess Íra because of his infidelity to Mídeia. He died an unhappy man, falling asleep under the rotting Argóh, which collapsed on top of him. But this version of his demise has but one source from antiquity (Schol. on the Argument of Eurip. Med.), at least as far as this author is aware. For whatever reason, this miserable conclusion to the tale was retold and popularized in the much more recent epic poem by William Morris, The Life and Death of Jason (1867), yet it is not found in our major sources for the story of Iásôn, these being Ἀργοναυτικά Ἀπολλωνίου Ῥοδίου, the Ὀρφέως Ἀργοναυτικά, the ancient play Μήδεια Εὐριπίδου, nor is it found in the compilation of mythology which we have been using as our primary source, Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου. According to Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορική Διοδώρου Σικελιώτου 4.55, Iásôn, being unable to endure the loss of his wife and children, took his own life, but there are yet other sources which state that he was reconciled to Mídeia (Tacit. Ann. vi. 34; Justin, xlii. 2.), giving his story a rather happy ending.




The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.



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The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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