Jason: A Different Type of Greek Hero
There are many heroes, foes, and gods in Greek mythology. Some of the most recognized names are Zeus and Hera. Of course, there is also Hades, the god in charge of the underworld. Perhaps one of the most famous figures in Greek mythology is Hercules (or Heracles as he was known by Greeks), but there are more tales to be told such as Jason’s.
Jason’s story is one with many twists and turns, and it spans over decades. One could say his story starts at birth, but the truth is that Jason’s journey was actually part of Hera’s plan to seek revenge against his uncle.
Who is Jason’s Uncle?
Jason’s uncle was not one to be trifled with. His name was Pelias, and he is the reason why Jason did not grow up as royalty. His father was the lawful king of Iolcus, but Pelias wanted the throne and usurped it from his brother.
Pelias was so evil that he did not bat an eye when he threw his brother into prison. Jason’s fate was not looking too good since all this was happening while he was still an infant. Pelias was going to have him murdered to preserve the throne for himself.
Jason’s mother decided to fake her son’s death to save his life during the overthrow of the king. Pelias believed Jason’s mother and did not search for the infant who was being wrapped in a bundle and abandoned in the wilderness. Jason was placed in a cave, and it turned out to be the home of Chiron the Centaur.
Chiron, a Father Figure
Centaurs like Chiron were regarded as wild beasts who mostly got drunk and were quick to anger; in short, they were quite uncivilized, but Chiron was not like that. Chiron was regarded as a kind and civilized centaur. He was an intelligent creature who understood medicine, nature, astrology, combat, and the art of healing among other things.
Chiron was known as a nurturer and tutor, especially to young heroes. It was not hard for Chiron to become attached to Jason who became one of the many heroes who trained under him. Other heroes who trained with Chiron included Ajax, Theseus, and Achilles, just to name a few.
Jason learned a lot from Chiron that he would later use to fulfill Hera’s revenge against his Uncle.
Why was Hera so Angry With Jason’s Uncle?
One trait that many of the gods in Greek mythology had in common was pettiness. Hera, the Queen of all the heavens, hated King Pelias because he chose to honor all the gods when he took the throne but omitted her. She considered this an insult worth his death, but this had to be done carefully. This hatred provoked her to focus her attention on Jason.
She needed a true hero to exact her revenge on King Pelias. To do that, she had to guide Jason’s fate. For example, Hera was behind Jason ending up with Chiron where he received a proper hero’s training.
Jason grew up, and Hera made sure that he had the heart of a true hero before bestowing all of her divine aid to him. Jason did leave Chiron’s care and set off to reclaim his throne. At this point, Hera decided to test the young hero. On his way to his kingdom, Jason came across an old woman who asked for help crossing the stream. It was up to him to continue his course and pay her no mind or help the old lady.
The heart of the hero shined because he did not worry about his quest when he saw that this old woman needed his help. Jason carried her on his back and crossed the stream with her. Not long after this, he began to feel like he would not be able to complete the task because the old woman was heavier than he imagined.
The old woman was actually Hera in disguise. Now, some wrote that she revealed herself to Jason while others wrote that she never revealed herself to her savior. Still, he had passed her test, and Hera vowed to help Jason and his endeavors from then on.
It should be noted that Jason lost his sandal during the stream crossing, which may sound insignificant, but an oracle spoke to King Pelias and warned him that a stranger with a single sandal would be dangerous to him.
Jason continued on his journey but now with the full support of the Queen of Olympus, even if he was not aware of this.
Jason’s Quest to Reclaim his Throne
Jason finally arrived to Iolcus, the land that was rightfully his, and found his uncle Pelias still in control while his father still imprisoned. King Pelias was quick to notice that he was missing a sandal and cunningly invited him to dine with him. Jason let his guard down and simply talked to the king. Of course, Jason was an honest man and informed the king of his intentions. He was there to reclaim his throne, and that was it.
King Pelias asked if he was truly sure that he could lead a kingdom having no experience. Jason said he was sure that he could handle whatever situation was presented to him. The king asked him about the kinds of dilemmas that rulers of kingdoms find themselves in. One thing that King Pelias asked his nephew was how he would get rid of a person who was giving him trouble without killing him.
Jason was eager to give a good answer to prove himself a worthy successor. He suggested that the person be sent on a quest to obtain the Golden Fleece. This was a quest that many heroes failed to complete. Jason’s suggestion paved his own future because it was something that King Pelias decided to do. He knew that the chances of succeeding were slim, and he knew that he would likely not return.
Pelias told his nephew that this was to be his quest. A quest that would make him a hero amongst men and king amongst his people. Jason thought it through and agreed to the mission.
Jason needed a ship for the expedition and also had to gather heroes to accompany him. There were many heroes who thought that the journey was worthy, even though the king did not. One of the heroes who signed up to voyage with Jason was none other than Heracles (or Hercules).
Hera asked Athena, the goddess of crafts, to make sure that Jason’s ship was worthy of such a voyage, and Athena decided to help.
The entire group of heroes were called the Argonauts, and they set sail as soon as the ship was completed. The crew went through quite a number of strange adventures on their way to Colchis, which is the mythical region where the Golden Fleece was located. For one, they landed on the island of Lemnos where they found that only women lived as they killed all the men. This happened after Aphrodite cursed the women for not worshiping her correctly. The Argonauts stayed for the night but quickly left the island.
The Argonauts arrived at a land called Doliones. The people of this land were kind to them and welcomed them with open arms. It was there where the crew wanted to gather supplies to continue their voyage, but the only region where they would find supplies belonged to a race of giants called Gegeines. Of course, the crew had to battle these giants to gather enough supplies. Thankfully, Heracles was able to deal with most of these giants, and the crew helped as well.
Jason set sail shortly after their battle but made a mistake that caused them to go back to Doliones. This was a regrettable mistake because the good people of this land, confused by the night, thought Jason and his crew were enemies. They attacked the crew and many of them perished. The Argonauts stayed for their funeral before continuing.
Jason finally made it to Thrace where he met King Phineus. This king was plagued by a curse bestowed upon him by Zeus. The curse involved the Harpies, which were bird-like creatures with the heads of women that prevented the king from eating whenever it was time to eat. The Harpies would defecate on his food, and the king just could not eat after that. Jason and his crew helped the king deal with his problem, and the king was so grateful that he helped them on their expedition.
The king told them where Colchis was and also shared a secret about the Symplegades, which were stones that crushed any ship that tried to cross. He told them to devise a diversion that would cause the rocks to crash while they made their way through, which worked. The ship made it through this obstacle with nothing more than some repairable damage.
The mythical land of Colchis is finally reached, and Jason finds King Aeetes. He is the owner of the Golden Fleece and finds that he will not let go of this treasure as easily as he might have hoped. Still, Aeetes is not an unreasonable king and decides to give Jason an opportunity to earn the right to claim the Golden Fleece.
Jason is to perform three tasks for the king. Hera is able to see trouble and formulates a plan to help Jason. She knows that the king’s tasks are not meant to be easy; in fact, he assumes that Jason will perish trying to complete them. Hera asked Aphrodite to intervene on her behalf by making Medea, the king’s daughter, fall madly in love with Jason. It should be noted that Medea is not one to be trifled with. She, besides being the king’s beloved daughter, is also an incredibly skilled sorceress.
Medea’s love for Jason guides her to help him on all his tasks. The first was to plow the field using the Khalkotauroi. These are large oxen with razor sharp hooves that could kill a man swiftly. If that was not enough, the oxen were quite wild and breathed fire.
Medea made an ointment for Jason that would protect him from the oxen’s hooves and their fire. This is how Jason was able to complete his first task, but his tasks were not done yet. He was asked to sow seeds after completing his first task, but what he did not know was that these seeds were dragon teeth. Each seed grew into stone warriors who were bent on killing Jason. No doubt that Jason was to meet his demise at their hand, but Medea offered a little advice. She told Jason to throw stones discreetly at the soldiers and he did. The soldiers were confused as to who struck them, so they began to fight amongst each other. In the end, these soldiers killed each other, leaving Jason unharmed.
Jason’s last task was to overcome a dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece. This brawny, young hero was ready to charge ahead with his sword, but Medea offered something a little less tiresome. He was smart enough to stop and listen to Medea, who offered him a sleeping potion. Jason made the dragon fall asleep, and taking the Golden Fleece was a piece of cake.
The young hero returned to Iolcus after a long and treacherous journey where he found his father dying. Medea made a potion to help him regain his health for a few more years. Jason was able to reclaim his throne as a triumphant hero. Still, there is no doubt that Jason was a different type of hero because he overcame his obstacles with the help of Medea and Hera.
A Few Facts About Jason
- Was abandoned at birth
- Father was imprisoned by his brother, Pelias
- Pelias dethroned Jason’s father
- Trained with Chiro the Centeur
- Favored by Hera, Queen of Olympus
- Was part of the Argonauts, along with Heracles (Hercules)
- Tasked with the retrieval of the Golden Fleece
- Tamed fire-breathing onex called Khalkotauroi
- Tricked stone warriors into killing each other
- Retrieved the Golden Fleece by putting a dragon to sleep
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