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Ancient Greek Heroes: Jason

Ancient Greek mythology is notorious for their heroes, who fought everything from snake-headed Gorgons to elaborate creatures with unique powers. Jason was the son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcus and the leader of the Argonauts. He appears in other ancient Greek myths for his marriage to and betrayal of the sorceress Medea. In this article, you will learn about his family history and details of his birth.

In order for Jason to claim the throne, it is the order of King Pelias that he obtain the fleece so that he can take his rightful place. Pelias was the half-brother to Jason’s father, King Aeson, and he took over the Iolcan throne, which was an unlawful act.

An oracle warned that a descendant of Aeolus would seek revenge so Pelias killed all the prominent descendants of Aeolus he could locate, but spared the life of his half-brother. Pelias kept Aeson as a prisoner and forced him to renounce his inheritance. Aeseon married Alcimede, who gave birth to a son named Diomedes. Pelias made plans to kill the baby, but Alcimede called upon the women in her family to weep over the child in an attempt to make the king believe that she had given birth to a stillborn child. A burial was faked and the baby was smuggled to Mount Pelion, where he was renamed Jason and raised by the centaur Chiron.

When Jason turned 20 years old, an oracle ordered him to dress in disguise and make his way to the Iolcan court. Another oracle had warned Pelias of a man with one shoe. During his travels, Jason had lost a sandal while crossing the muddy Anavros River. When Jason reached the city, Pelias was watching over a sacrifice to Poseidon and spotted a youth in the crowd that had only one sandal. He saw that Jason was actually his cousin and he could not kill him because prominent kings of the Aeolian family were in attendance at the sacrifice.

The king asked Jason, “What would you do if an oracle announced that one of your fellow-citizens were destined to kill you?” Jason answered that he would send him to go and fetch the Golden Fleece , words that the goddess Hera had placed in his mouth. The goddess did not like Pelias because he was responsible for the death of her stepmother.

The Golden Fleece was a winged ram with golden hair that was located in Colchis. It hung from a tree in a grove that was guarded by a dragon that never fell asleep. Pelias swore before Zeus that he would give up his throne to Jason if he came back with the Golden Fleece. He knew that this was a nearly impossible task for the boy to complete. During the journey, Hera helped Jason along the way, including connecting him with the granddaughter of the sun god Helios , Medea.