Argonauts

Greek - The crew of the ship Argo who sailed with Jason to recover. The Golden Fleece. Jason had undertaken to bring back to Iolcus the ghost of Phrixus and the fleece of the golden ram on which he had fled from Iolcus to escape death. Assembling a crew from all parts of Greece, Jason set sail for Colchis where the fleece was hanging on a tree guarded by a serpent that never slept. At Lemnos, the crew fathered many sons of the women who had earlier killed every man on the island except King Thoas. Jason slept with Hypsipyle, the daughter who had helped Thoas to escape, fathering twin sons, Euneus and Thoas (Nebrophonus). Later in the voyage they landed on Arcton, Bear Island, where they were entertained by the king. A group of six-armed giants, the Gegeneis, attacked the ship but Heracles, who had been left on guard, killed them all. After leaving the island, the ship was driven back by adverse winds and they landed at night on Arcton where they were mistaken for pirates. The king, Cyzicus, was killed in the ensuing battle. When they stopped at Mysia, Hylas, who was acting as armour-bearer to Heracles, went ashore to find water. When he failed to reappear, Heracles and Polyphemus searched but failed to find him - he had been carried off by water nymphs to their underwater grotto. The searchers had not returned when Argo was ready to sail and they were left behind in Mysia. Heracles then resumed his Labours, which he had interrupted to join the expedition. At Bebrycos King Amycus, a boxer who challenged (and beat) all comers, challenged the crew. Polydeuces, an Olympic champion boxer, accepted the challenge and killed Amycus after a tremendous fight. At Salmydessus, they found the King Phineus harried by the Harpies and the winged brothers Calais and Zetes drove them off. Escaping the clashing rocks of the Symplegades they landed at Mariandyne where Idmon was killed by a boar and Tiphys became ill and died. Great Ancaeus took over the role as navigator. They recruited Autolycus, Deleon and Phlogius at Sinope and were attacked by bronze birds - those of the Stymphalian birds that had escaped in the sixth Labour of Hercules - when Oileus was wounded. Later they picked up four castaways, Argeus, Cytisorus, Melanion and Phrontis, sons of Phrixus and Chalciope. At Colchis, Jason asked Aetes to hand over the fleece, which he agreed to do if Jason could yoke his firebreathing bulls, plough the Field of Ares and sow the serpents' teeth remaining from those sown by Cadmus at Thebes. At the behest of Aphrodite, Eros caused Medea to fall in love with Jason and she provided him with a lotion that protected him from the scorching breath of the bulls so that he was able to carry out the appointed task. When the armed men sprang from the soil, he provoked them to fight amongst themselves until none survived. Aetes reneged on his undertaking and threatened to kill the Argonauts so Medea led Jason and a few of his men to the place where the fleece was guarded by the immortal dragon which she lulled to sleep while Jason took the fleece. They all ran back to the Argo, escaping the ships of the Colchian fleet with just a few wounded and one, Iphitus, killed. At the entrance to the Danube the Colchian ships overtook Argo. What happened next is the subject of different accounts. In one version Medea killed her half-brother, Apsyrtus, flinging pieces of his body overboard to delay the pursuers, who stopped to collect the pieces for burial. In another, Apsyrtus was in one of the following ships and agreed to a truce with Jason whereby Medea temporarily should be put in charge of a priestess and the king of the Brygians would decide whether she and the fleece should stay with Jason or be returned to Colchis. Medea, however, led Apsyrtus to believe that Jason had abducted her and induced him to come ashore, where Jason killed him from ambush. Without their leader the Colchian ships were easily routed and the Argonauts escaped, passing safely between the monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis. Jason and Medea were purified of the murder of Apsyrtus by Circe the sorceress and then married. On the final leg of their return journey the Argo was forced by a strong wind to the shores of Libya where a huge wave carried the ship miles inland, leaving it high and dry in the desert. They managed to drag the ship to Lake Tritonis but could find no outlet to the sea. Two of the crew died during this period; Canthus was killed by the shepherd Caphaurus when he tried to steal some of his flock and Mopsus died from a snake bite. In the end, Triton himself dragged the ship overland to the Mediterranean and they sailed for Crete where the bronze guardian, Talos, attacked them with rocks. Medea quietened him with a sleeping draught and then pulled out the pin from his ankle, allowing the vital fluid to drain from his single vein, so killing him. An alternative story says that she prayed to Hades who caused Talos to graze his ankle on a rock, with the same fatal result. Arriving back at Iolcus, Jason found that his parents, Aeson and Alcimede, had killed themselves to escape death at the hands of Pelias who had then killed their infant son, Promachus. To avenge these deaths, Medea deceived the daughters of Pelias into believing that she had divine powers and then ordered them to kill and dismember their father. Alcestis refused but Evadne and Amphinome complied. A torch signal from the roof brought the Argonauts from hiding and they took Iolcus unopposed. Jason handed the throne to Acastus, son of Pelias, who had been one of the Argonauts and he promptly banished Evadne and Amphinome to Arcadia. Others say that Jason was banished by the Iolcans who were appalled at the killing of Pelias. From Iolcus, Jason sailed to Orchomenus, where he placed the Golden Fleece in the temple of Zeus, and then on to Corinth where he finally beached the Argo. Here Medea successfully claimed the throne of Corinth, which rightfully belonged to her father, and, with Jason as her king, ruled for ten years. When he found out that she had poisoned the previous ruler, Corinthus, he set about getting a divorce so that he could marry Glauce, in some stories Creusa, daughter of King Creon of Thebes. Medea stopped that by killing with fire not only Glauce and her father but all the guests except Jason, although some say that he too died in the flames. By putting aside Medea, Jason had broken a promise, made in the name of the gods, never to desert her and he was thereafter an outcast. Late in life, sitting by the remains of Argo, he was killed when the prow or, in some accounts the stern-post, fell on him. In another version, Jason took his own life. On occassion, referred to as Argonauts, Jason, Jason, Diomedes, Iason, Ieson, Diomedes, 'healer', Minyae, Minyae or Minyans.

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