The Ancient Library

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On this page: Argonauts (continued)



Hospitably received by him, and married to his daughter Chalciope, he had sacrificed the ram, and hung its fleece up in the grove of Ares, where it was guarded by a sleep­less dragon. The task of fetching it back was laid upon Jason by his uncle Pelias, son of Poseidon and Tyro, who had deprived his half-brother ^Eson of the sovereignty of lolcos in Thessaly. jEson, to protect his son from the plots of Pelias, had con­veyed him secretly to the centaur Chiron on Mount Pelion, who brought him up till he was twenty years of age. Then Jason came home, and without a shoe on his left foot, having lost it in wading through a mountain torrent, presented himself before Pelias, demanding his father's restoration to his sovereignty. The crafty Pelias, whom an oracle had warned against a one-shoed man, promised on his oath to do what he asked, if Jason would go instead of himself to fetch the golden fleece. This task the oracle had imposed upon himself, but he was too old to perform it. Another version of the story is, that Jason, after completing his education with Chiron, pre­ferred to live in the country; that he came, with one shoe on, to a sacrifice that Pelias was offering to Poseidon on the sea­shore ; that Pelias asked him what he would do if he were king and had been forewarned of his death at the hand of a subject; and that, upon Jason answering that he would make him fetch the golden fleece, Pelias gave him the commission. Hera had put that answer in Jason's mouth, because she regarded him with favour, and wished to punish Pelias for having slain Sidero in her temple. (See salmoneus.)

The vessel for the voyage, the fifty-oared Argo, is said to have been named after its builder Argos, a son of Phrixus, after his return to OrchfimSnus, the home of his fathers. The ship was built of the pines of Pelion under the direction of Athena, like Hera, a protectress of Jason, who inserted in the prow a piece of the speaking oak of Dodona. The heroes who at Jason's call took part in the expedition, fifty all told according to the number of the oars, were originally, in the version to which the Minyan family gave currency, Minyans of lolcos, Orchomenus, Pylos, and other places. Among them were Acastus the son of Pelias, a close friend of Jason, Admetus, Erglnus, Euphemus, Periclymenus, and Tiphys. But, as the story spread, all the Greek heroes that could have been living at the time were in-

cluded among the number of the Argonauts, e.g. Heracles, Castor and Polydeuces, Idas and Lynceus, Calais and Zetes the sons of Boreas, Peleus, Tydeus, Meleager, Amphia-raiis, Orpheus, Mopsus and Idmon the pro­phets of the expedition, and even the hunt­ress Atalante. Jason takes the command, and Tiphya manages the helm. Setting sail from Pfigasse the port of lolcos, the Argo­nauts make the Island of Lemnos, where only women dwell, and after some con­siderable stay there (see hypsipyle) go past Samothrace and through the Hellespont to the island of Cyzicus, where they are hos­pitably received by Cyzicus, the king of the Doliones, but attempting to proceed, are beaten back by a storm at night, and I being taken by their late friends for pirates, j are attacked, and have the ill-fortune to kill their young king. On the coast of Mysia they leave Heracles behind to look for Hylas (q.v.) who has been carried off by nymphs. On the Bithynian shore Polydeuces van­quishes the Bebrycian king Amycus (q.v.) in a boxing match. At Salmydessus in Thrace the blind seer Phlneus, whom Calais and Zetes had rid of the Harpies, his tor­mentors, instructs them with regard to the rest of their journey, and especially how to sail through the SympIegadSs, two floating rocks that clash together at the entrance to the Black Sea. By his advice Jason sends a dove before him, and as she has only her tail-feathers cut off by the colliding rocks, they venture on the feat of rowing the Argo through. By Hera's help, or, according to another account, that of Athena, they do what no man has done before; they pass through, the ship only losing her rudder. Skirting the southern shore of the Pontus, they meet with a friendly reception from Lycus, king of the Maryandlni, though here the seer Idmon is killed by a wild boar in hunting, and the helmsman Tiphys dies of a disease, whereupon Ancseus takes his place. Past the land of Amazons they come to the Island of Aretias, whence they scare away the Stymphalian birds (see heracles), and take on board the sons of Phrixus, who had been shipwrecked there on their way to Greece. At length they reach the mouth of the Phasis in the land of the Colchians. Upon Jason's demand, ^Eetes promises to give up the golden fleece, on condition that Jason catches two brazen-hoofed, fire-breath­ing bulls, yokes them to a brazen plough, and ploughs with them the field of Ares, sows the furrows with dragons' teeth, and overcomes the mail-clad men that are to

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