JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
The Early Years
Jason was the son of the lawful king of Iolcus, but his uncle Pelias had usurped the throne. Pelias lived in constant fear of losing what he had taken so unjustly. He kept Jason's father a prisoner and would certainly have murdered Jason at birth. But Jason's mother deceived Pelias by mourning as if Jason had died. Meanwhile the infant was bundled off to the wilderness cave of Chiron the Centaur. Chiron tutored Jason in the lore of plants, the hunt and the civilized arts. When he had come of age, Jason set out like a proper hero to claim his rightful throne. The First Test
Unknowingly, Jason was to play his part in a plan hatched on lofty Mount Olympus. Hera, wife of almighty Zeus himself, nursed a rage against King Pelias. For Jason's uncle, the usurper king, had honored all the gods but Hera. Rashly had he begrudged the Queen of Heaven her due. Hera's plan was fraught with danger; it would require a true hero. To test Jason's mettle, she contrived it that he came to a raging torrent on his way to Iolcus. And on the bank was a withered old woman. Would Jason go about his business impatiently, or would he give way to her request to be ferried across the stream? The Oracle's Warning
Jason did not think twice. Taking the crone on his back, he set off into the current. And halfway across he began to stagger under her unexpected weight. For the old woman was none other than Hera in disguise. Some say that she revealed herself to Jason on the far shore; others claim that he never learned of the divine service he'd performed. Jason had lost a sandal in the swift-moving stream, and this would prove significant. For an oracle had warned King Pelias, "Beware a stranger who wears but a single sandal." When Jason arrived in Iolcus, he asserted his claim to the throne. But his uncle Pelias had no intention of giving it up, particularly to a one-shoed stranger. The Challenge
Under the guise of hospitality, he invited Jason to a banquet. And during the course of the meal, he engaged him in conversation. "You say you've got what it takes to rule a kingdom," said Pelias. "May I take it that you're fit to deal with any thorny problems that arise? For example, how would you go about getting rid of someone who was giving you difficulties?" Jason considered for a moment, eager to show a kingly knack for problem solving. "Send him after the Golden Fleece?" he suggested. "Not a bad idea," responded Pelias. "It's just the sort of quest that any hero worth his salt would leap at. Why, if he succeeded he'd be remembered down through the ages. Tell you what, why don't you go?" The Argonauts
And so it came to pass that word went out the length and breadth of Greece that Jason was looking for shipmates to embark upon a perilous but glamorous adventure. And in spite of the miniscule chances of anyone surviving to lay eyes upon the Fleece let alone get past the guarding dragon and return with the prize, large numbers of heroes were ready to run the risk. These were known as the Argonauts, after their ship, the Argo. Among them were Hercules (or Heracles, to give him his proper Greek name) and the heroine Atalanta. Jason had the vessel constructed by the worthy shipwright Argus, who in a fit of vanity named her more or less after himself. The Adventure Begins
Argus had divine sponsorship in his task, Hera having enlisted the aid of her fellow goddess Athena. This patroness of crafts secured a prow for the vessel from timber hewn at the sacred grove of Zeus at Dodona. This prow had the magical property of speaking - and prophesying - in a human voice. And so one bright autumn morning the Argo set out to sea, her benches crewed by lusty ranks of heroic rowers. And true to Pelias's fondest aspirations, it wasn't long before big troubles assailed the company. After stopping for better than a fortnight on an island populated exclusively by women, they put in at Salmydessus.
The king welcomed them...
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