Argo Quest


Jason and the Quest for the Golden Fleece
Apollodoros, Bibliothéké (Library)

Brian Colless version (after the translation of J.G. Frazer)

Ouranos (Sky) was the first who ruled over the Kosmos.
Having wedded Gé (Earth) he begot first the (three) Hundred-handed ... having fifty heads each.
After these Gé bore him the (three) Kuklopes ... each having one eye on his forehead. But Ouranos bound these and cast them into Tartaros, a gloomy place in Hades, as far distant from the earth as the earth is distant from the sky.
Yet again he begot by Gé children named Titanes: Okeanos, Koios, Huperion, Kreios, Iapetos, and, youngest of all, Kronos,
Also daughters named Titanides: Tethys, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosuné, Phoibé, Dioné, Theia.
But Gé, grieving over the loss of the children cast into Tartaros, persuaded the Titanes to attack their father, giving an adamantine sickle to Kronos. All but Okeanos attacked him, and Kronos cut off the father’s venerables (ta adoia, genitalia) and tossed them into the sea. From the drops of flowing blood [which fell on the earth] were born (three) Erinues (Furies). [a ‘mutilated’ version of the separation of Mother Earth and Father Sky by their children?]

Prométheos moulded humans out of water and earth, and gave them fire, hidden in a stalk of fennel, unbeknown to Zeus.
[He applied a torch to the sun’s wheel; white core of giant fennel burns without damaging rind; fire transported in it]
When Zeus learned of it, he ordered Hephaistos to nail his body to Mount Caucasus, which is a Skuthian mountain. On it Prométheos was kept nailed and bound for many years. Every day an eagle swooped on him and devoured the lobes of his liver, which grew back throughout the night. That was the penalty that Prometheos paid for stealing fire, until Héraklés subsequently released him. . . .

Prométheos begot a child, Deukalioon. He reigned in the places around Phthia, and married Purrha, the daughter of Epimétheoos and Pandoora, the first woman fashioned by the gods.

When Zeus wished to destroy the people of the Bronze Age, Deukalioon, advised by Prométheos, constructed a chest [larnax, ‘ark’, Latin arca], and having stored provisions in it he embarked with Purrha. But Zeus poured heavy rain from heaven and flooded the greater part of Hellas (Greece), so that all humans were destroyed, except a few who fled to the neighbouring high mountains. . . . Then everything was overwhelmed. But Deukalioon, floating in the ark through the sea for nine days and as many nights, drifted to Parnassos, and there, when the rain stopped, he disembarked and sacrificed to Zeus for refuge. So Zeus sent Hermés to him, letting him choose what he wished, and he chose to produce humans. As Zeus said, he picked up stones and threw them over his head. The ones that Deukalioon threw became men, and the ones Purrha threw became women. Hence people (laoi, singular laos) were called so metaphorically, from laas, ‘a stone’.

But Deukalioon also produced children by Purrha. . . .

Iasoon (Jason) was the son of Aeson, son of Krétheos, and of Polumédé, daughter of Autolukos. He dwelt in Iolkos, where Pelias reigned as king, after Krétheos. When Pelias consulted the oracle concerning the kingdom, the god warned him to beware of the single-sandaled man. . . .

When he was offering a sacrifice at the sea to Poseidoon, he sent for Iasoon, among many others. Iasoon loved farming (georgia) in the countryside, but he hurried to the sacrifice, and crossing the river Anaros, he lost a sandal in the stream and came out single-sandaled. When Pelias saw him he thought of the oracle, and going up to Jason he asked what he would do, if he had the power, if he had received an oracle that he was to be murdered by one of the citizens. Iasoon replied (whether haphazardly or at the instigation of angry Héra, so that Médeia would bring woe on Pelias, who did not honour Héra) saying: I would command him to fetch the golden fleece.

So Pelias immediately bade him go in quest of the fleece. Now it was at Kolkhis in a grove ofArés, hanging on an oak and guarded by a sleepless dragon.

Iasoon called on Argos, son of Phrixos, for assistance. On the advice of Athena, Argos built a fifty-oared ship, named Argo after its builder.
[its crew, incl. Orpheus, Herakles, Atalanta (!), were called A,,,,,,,,,,,  ]

With Iasoon as admiral they put to sea and touched at Lemnos. It so happened that Lemnos was devoid of men, and ruled by a queen, Hupsipulé . . . because the Lemnian women had not honoured Aphrodité, and so she cast a foul smell on them. Their spouses took women captive from neighbouring Thraké, and bedded with them. Having thus been dishonoured the Lemnian women murdered their husbands and fathers. . . .

They [the Argonauts] had intercourse with the women, and Hupsipulé bedded with Iasoon and bore sons, Eunéos and Nebrophonos. . . .

At Mysia they left Herakles and Poluphémos behind, because Hulas, a minion of Herakles, had been sent to draw water and was ravished away by nymphs on account of his beauty. But Poluphémos heard him crying out, and gave chase with drawn sword, supposing that he had been carried off by robbers. While he was searching for Hulas with Herakles, the ship put out to sea. . . .

From Musia they went away to the land of the Bebrukes, ruled by King Amukos, son of Poseidoon and a Bithunian nymph. . . . As was his custom he challenged the best man of the crew to a fisticuffs match. Poludeukés (Pollux) agreed to box against him, and killed him with a blow on the elbow. . . .

Thence ... to Salmudéssos in Thraké, where Phineus dwelt, a seer (mantis) who had lost his eyesight. . . . The gods sent the Harpies against him, winged female creatures, who, when the table was set for Phineus flew down from the sky and snatched up most of the food, and what little they left stank so much that nobody could touch it.
(The Argonauts drove the Harpies away permanently.)

Now that he was free of the harpies, Phineas revealed to the Argonauts the course of their voyage, advising them about the Clashing Rocks in the sea, huge cliffs that were dashed together by the force of the winds, closing the passage. The mist that swept over them was thick, and their crashing was loud, and it was impossible for even the birds to pass between them. . . . As he had told them they let fly a dove from the prow, and as it flew the crash of the rocks nipped off the tip of her tail. So, waiting till the rocks had recoiled, with hard rowing and the help of Hera they passed through. . . . and thereafter the rocks stood completely still...
[The Argo had now passed through the Bosporos into the Black Sea]

Having passed by the Thermodon (river) and the Kaukasos (mountain range) they came to the river Phasis of Kolkhis. [their goal, at the eastern end of the Black sea]

Iasoon made his way to Aietés [the king] and told him of the charge laid on him by Pelias, calling on him to give the fleece to him. Aietés promised to give it to him if he would singlehandedly yoke the brazen-footed bulls ... which puffed fire from their mouths, ...  and also to sow the dragon’s teeth.

Medeia, daughter of Aietés and Eiduia daughter of Okeanos, became erotically passionate towards him, and being a witch ... she promised to help him to yoke the bulls and deliver the fleece to him, if he would swear to have her as his wife and take with him to Hellas (Greece).

When Jason swore to this, she gave him a drug (pharmakon) to anoint his shield, spear, and body. . . .

When he came to the temple grove, although the two bulls charged at him with much fire he yoked them.

And when he sowed the dragon’s teeth, armed men rose up out of the ground, and when he saw several together he threw stones at them unseen, and when they took to fighting one another he moved in and slew them.

But although the bulls had been yoked, Aietés did not give him the fleece; he wanted to burn the Argo and kill the crew.

But Médeia took Iasoon by night to the fleece, and having lulled the guardian dragon to sleep with her drugs, she took possession of the fleece. With Iasoon and her brother Apsurtos she came to the Argo. . . .

Aietés set off in pursuit of the ship; but when Médeia saw him coming closer she murdered her brother, cutting him limb from limb and throwing the pieces into the deep. As he gathered up the limbs Aietés fell behind, and eventually turned back to bury the rescued pieces of his child. . . .

Zeus sent a furious storm on them and drove them off course, because he was angry over the murder of Apsurtos.
[For penance and purification they were sent along the east coast of Italy, up the Po river to the Celtic lands and the Alps, down the Rhone river to the sea, along  the west coast of Italy to Aiaia]

At Aiaia they supplicated Kirké and were purified.
[We meet her in the Odyssey, where she turns men into pigs. Here she waves a sucking-pig over the Argonauts; its throat was then cut; their hands were sprinkled with its blood]

As they sailed past the Sirens (Seirénes), Orpheus restrained the Argonauts by singing a counter-melody.

Then they encountered Kharubdis and Skulla. [whirlpools] ....

Finally they came to Iolkos, having completed the whole voyage in four months.

Now Pelias, despairing of the return of the Argonauts wished to kill Aisoon; but he asked to be permitted to take his own life, and he died by offering a sacrifice and drinking freely of the bull’s blood.

And Iasoon’s mother cursed Pelias and hanged herself, leaving behind an infant son Promakhos, whom Pelias killed.

On his return, Iasoon handed over the fleece, but although he wanted to avenge his wrongs he bided his time.

Médeia went to the palace of Pelias and persuaded his daughters to make mincemeat of their father and boil him, promising to make him young again by means of her drugs. To gain their confidence she cut up a ram and made it into a lamb by boiling it. So they believed her . . . .

Iasoon and Médeia were expelled from Iolkos, so they went to Korinthos and lived there happily for ten years, until King Kreoon of Korinthos betrothed his daughter Glauké to Iasoon. He married her and divorced Médeia, who invoked the gods by whom he had sworn, and after reproaching him for his ingratitude, she sent the bride a robe steeped in poison. When Glauké put it on, she was consumed by fierce fire, as also her father when he went to her rescue.

Medeia then killed Mermeros and Pherés, the children she had borne to Iasoon. 
Having taken from the Sun (Hélios) a car drawn by winged dragons, she fled to Athens.

There she married Aigeus and with him produced a son named Médos.

After plotting against Théseus, she was driven into exile from Athens, with her son. . . .

Médeia came to Kolkhis incognito, and finding that Aiétés had been deposed by his brother Perses, she slew Perses and restored the kingdom to her father.