Posts Tagged ‘Jason and the Argonauts’

The second Greek myth involving soldiers growing from the teeth of a dragon is part of a longer story cycle, that of Jason and the Argonauts. Jason was rightful heir to the kingdom of Iolcus who sought to take back the throne from his usurping uncle, King Pelias. Pelias demanded that Jason undertake a dangerous quest in order to prove his identity — bring back the fabled Golden Fleece from the distant kingdom of Colchis (a.k.a. Kalkis).

Jason may have known his uncle intended for him to die, because he assembled an all-star team of legendary heroes to go with him. Hercules, Orpheus, Atalanta, and many others embarked on the mighty ship Argo, which Jason had built with help from the goddesses Athena and Hera. It was like a precursor to the Justice League or Avengers!

Off they sailed into and out of many exciting adventures. At last they reached the Black Sea, where King Aetes ruled the land of Colchis. Aetes didn’t want to give up the Golden Fleece, even though Jason asked so nicely. He pretended to agree and gave Jason a task — to vanquish some fire-breathing bulls. Luckily for Jason, Aetes had a daughter. Medea was a priestess of the dark goddess Hecate and a powerful sorceress. She was also in love with Jason and gave him advice on how to deal with the bulls.

When that task had been completed, Aetes assigned another — to sow an army of warriors from dragon’s teeth. Allegedly the warriors would add to Colchis’s defense. Most likely, Aetes hoped the fierce Spartoi (“sown men”) would kill Jason and his band of heroes. Accounts I’ve seen don’t say whether these were the dragon teeth saved from the founding of Thebes, or teeth of another dragon. Whichever they were, the danger was clear.

But Jason wanted that Fleece! He plowed the field and sowed the dragon’s teeth. Up sprang the warriors, fully grown and armed for battle! Before they could attack, Jason tossed a rock into their midst. Each thought his neighbor had thrown the rock and instantly they fell upon each other. This time Jason did not stop the battle. Soon all the Spartoi lay dead.

By now Medea understood that her father meant for Jason to die. She led him and the Argonauts in secret to the hiding place of the Golden Fleece. Just one minor problem — the Fleece was guarded by yet another dragon! Medea, as a member of the Colchis royal family, was able to approach the dragon and give it a sleeping potion. Jason simply snuck by and stole the Fleece.

The Argonauts rushed back to their ship and set off for Iolcus with Aetes in hot pursuit, but Medea proved that she was just as ruthless as her dear old dad. She killed her own brother, Apsirtis, and hacked his body into pieces, which she threw overboard. Aetes stopped to collect the pieces for burial, and thus the Argonauts made their escape.

There’s more to the saga of Jason and Medea, who is surely one of the most striking and gruesome heroine/villainesses of all time. You can read a briefer version here. But that isn’t all the story on dragon’s teeth. Come back on Saturday for another look at the subject.

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