Jason (healer) In Greek mythology, a hero, son of King Aeson of Thessaly and Alcimede (mighty cunning) or Polymede; brother of Promachus. When Pelias seized Aeson’s throne, Jason was hidden and was brought up by the centaur Chiron.
Reaching manhood, Jason returned to Thessaly to claim the throne. He arrived wearing only one sandal, having lost the other while helping an old hag (the goddess Hera in disguise). Having been warned of his coming, Pelias said he would gladly give up the throne to Jason, provided he first capture the Golden Fleece of King Aeëtes at Colchis. Gathering men for the journey (which Pelias hoped would end in Jason’s death), the hero built the largest (and first) ship, called the Argo, and set sail.
The Argonauts reached Colchis, and Jason found the Golden Fleece fastened to a sacred oak guarded by a dragon who never slept. Athena and Aphrodite came to Jason’s aid by having Medea, King Aeëtes’ daughter, fall in love with him. She helped him capture the fleece by her skill in magic and sorcery. Medea then fled with Jason, taking her young brother Apsyrtus with her.
When they were pursued by Aeëtes, she cut up her brother and flung the pieces of his body into the sea, knowing her father would stop to retrieve them. They then arrived at Circe’s island (she was aunt to Medea), where they were purified of the murder by pig’s blood. When the Colchians caught up with Jason, he quickly married Medea, so they could not take her back to her father. Finally, they reached King Pelias and presented the Golden Fleece, which was hung in Zeus’s temple.
Pelias murdered Jason’s brother, and Medea, again using her witchcraft, killed Pelias by persuading his daughters that he would be restored to youth if they cut up his body and put it into a boiling caldron. Jason did not take the throne but gave it to Pelias’s son and returned to Corinth. After 10 years of marriage to Medea, he decided to marry Creusa, King Creon’s daughter. Seeking revenge for her betrayal, Medea presented Jason’s new bride with a beautiful garment that burned her to death when she put it on.
Medea then killed her own children, saying to Jason, in the words of Robinson Jeffers’s play Medea, “because I hated you more than I loved them.” She then fled in a chariot to Athens, where she married Aegeus, father of Theseus. Jason died when part of the beached Argo fell on him. The myth of Jason inspired Apollonius Rhodius’s epic Argonautica, Ovid’s Metamorphoses (book 7), Euripides’ Medea, and operas based on it.
Part of Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, Corneille’s play, Robinson Jeffers’s play, and William Morris’s narrative poem The Life and Death of Jason, as well as works by Robert Graves and Jean Anouilh, are based on the Euripides version of the myth.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante