THE son of Cretheus, Æson, bequeathed the kingdom of Thessaly to his brother Pelias, to keep for Jason, his son, whom he had sent to be taught by Chiron, the wise Centaur. Now when Jason was returning from Chiron he came to Anaurus, which is a river of Thessaly, and would have crossed it; but there was an old woman on the river bank, and she entreated of Jason that he would carry her over the river, for she feared herself, she said, to cross it. But the old woman was in truth the goddess Heré, who had taken upon herself the likeness of an old woman to try the young man’s heart. Jason therefore carried her over, but in crossing he lost one of his sandals, for it cleaved to the sand that was in the river; and so he came to the dwelling of King Pelias, where they were preparing a great sacrifice and feast to Poseidon and the other gods. Now there had come an oracle aforetime to Pelias, saying, “Beware of him who shall come to thee with one sandal only, for it is thy doom to die by his means.” Therefore, when Pelias saw Jason come in this plight, he was afraid; also he would fain keep the kingdom for himself. He dared not slay him; but he set him a task from which he might win great renown, hoping that he should never return therefrom; and the task was this: to fetch the fleece of gold from the land of the Colchians.
Now the story of the fleece is this: To Athamas, that was brother to Cretheus, were born two children of Nephele, his wife, and the names of these two were Phrixus and Helle. But Ino, whom Athamas had taken to wife when Nephele was dead, laid a plot against the children to cause them to be put to death, and the plot was this. She persuaded the women of the land to parch with fire the seed of the corn that their husbands sowed in the earth. And when the seed bare no increase, King Athamas sent to inquire of the oracle at Delphi what the cause might be. But Ino persuaded the messengers that they should bring back this message, as though it were the answer of the god, “Sacrifice the two children, Phrixus and Helle, if ye would be rid of this barrenness.” So Athamas, being persuaded, brought the children to the altar to sacrifice them; but the gods had pity on them, and sent a winged ram with a fleece of gold to carry them away. So the ram carried them away; but Helle fell from it and was drowned (for which cause the sea in those parts is called the Sea of Helle to this day), but Phrixus came safe to the land of the Colchians. There he sacrificed the ram as a thankoffering to Zeus, and afterwards married the daughter of the king of that land, and then died. And now Pelias would have Jason fetch the fleece of gold as belonging of right to his own house. To this Jason consented, and he sent messengers through the land of Greece to gather the heroes, that they might be his companions in this labor; and the heroes hearkened to his word.
First there came Orpheus, the great singer of Thrace, who could cause rocks to move from their places, and rivers to stay their course, and trees to follow him, so sweetly he sang; and Polyphemus, who in his youth had fought with the Lapithæ against the Centaurs, and though his limbs were burdened with many years, he bare a brave heart within him; and Admetus of Thessaly, for whom his wife Alcestis was willing to die; and the two sons of Æacus of Ægina, Telamon and Peleus, of whom Telamon dwelt in Salamis, and Peleus in Phthia, for they had fled from Ægina, having slain Phocus, their brother, unwittingly. But Theseus, the bravest of the sons of Attica, came not, being imprisoned with Pirithoüs in the dwellings of the dead. Also there came Tiphys, who was the most skilful of men to foresee when the waves would rise, and the winds blow, and to guide a ship by sun and stars; and Hercules, who was newly come to Argos from Arcadia, whence he had brought alive the great Erymanthian boar, and put him down in the market-place of Mycenæ; and the twin brethren, Castor, the tamer of horses, and Pollux, the mighty boxer; and Lynceus, who was keener of sight than all other men, so that he could see even the things below the earth. With these came also two brethren, sons of Boreas, Prince of Thrace, whom men call also the North Wind. Wings had these two upon their feet,—a wonder to see, black, shining with scales of gold,—and their hair streamed behind them on either side as they ran. These, and many more heroes whom it needs not name, did Jason gather together.
As for the ship Argo, the goddess Athene devised it, but the hands of Argus, the son of Arestor, builded it.
Great was the wonder among the people to see such a gathering of heroes. “Surely,” they said, “they will burn the house of Æætes with fire if he withhold from them the fleece.” But the women lifted up their hands and prayed for a safe return; also they wept one to another, no one more bitterly than Alcimedé, the mother of Jason, casting her arms about her son, and bewailing the day when Pelias had sent him on this errand, seeing that he was her only son, and she would be left desolate and alone. But Jason comforted her, saying that Athene would help him in his quest, and that Apollo had prophesied good things for him; only he bade her abide within the house, lest she should speak some word of ill omen at their departure.
When the heroes were gathered together at the ship, Jason stood up in the midst, and spake: “My friends, seeing that all things are now ready for the voyage, and that there is nothing to hinder us from sailing, the wind being favorable, let us choose for our leader him whom we judge to be the best among us, for our going and our returning concerneth us all.” Then the young men cast their eyes on Hercules, and cried out with one voice that he should be their leader. But the hero stretched forth his right hand from where he sat, and cried, “Not so; let no man seek to give me this honor, for I will not receive it. Let him that hath gathered us be also our leader.” So spake Hercules, and they all were obedient to his word, and chose Jason to be their leader. Then said Jason, “First let us make a feast and a sacrifice to Apollo. But while the slaves fetch the oxen, let us drag down the ship to the sea, and when we have put all her tackling into her, let us cast lots for the benches whereon we shall sit.” Then the heroes undergirded the ship with ropes, that she might be the stronger against the waves; and afterwards, standing on either side, pushed her with all their might; but Tiphys stood in the midst and gave the word, that they might do it with one heart and at one time. Quickly ran the Argo on the slips, and the heroes shouted as she ran. Then they fastened the oars in the rowlocks, and put a mast in the ship, and sails well woven. After this they divided the heroes among the benches, two heroes to a bench; and in the hindmost bench they set Hercules and Ancæus of Tegea, by choice and not by lot, considering the stature of the heroes, for there the ship was deepest. But for helmsman they chose Tiphys by common consent.
After this they built an altar of stones upon the shore. Then Jason prayed to Apollo, “O king, bring us again safe to Greece; so will we offer young bullocks on thy altars, both at Delphi and in Delos. And now let us raise our cable in peace, and give us favorable winds and a calm sea.” Then Hercules smote one of the oxen with his fist between the horns and felled him to the earth; and Ancæus slew the other, smiting him on the neck with an axe. And the young men cut them in pieces, and they covered the thighs with fat, and burned them in the fire. But when Idmon, the seer, saw the blue smoke, how it arose in circles above the flames, he cried, by the inspiration of Apollo, “Truly ye shall come hither again, and bring the fleece of gold with you; but as for me, I must die far from my home in the land of Asia. This, indeed, I knew before, yet am I with you to-day, that I may share the glory of this voyage.” And now the sun was setting, and the heroes sat in order on the shore, and drank the wine out of great cups, talking with each other as men are wont to talk at the banquet. But Jason sat apart, busy with many thoughts, which, when the hero Idas saw, he said, “What fearest thou, son of Æson? By this spear I swear—and in truth my spear helpeth me more than Zeus—thou shalt fail in nought if only Idas be with thee.” And as he spake he raised with both his hands a mighty bowl of wine, and drenched his lips and bearded cheeks. Then the heroes murmured against him; but Idmon, the seer, spake aloud, “These are evil words that thou speakest against thyself. Hath the wine so wrought with thee that thou revilest the gods? Remember the sons of Aloeus, how mighty they were; but when they spake against the gods, Apollo slew them with his darts.” Then Idas laughed aloud, and cried, “Thinkest thou, then, that the gods will slay me as Apollo slew the sons of Aloeus? Only take heed to thyself if thou shalt be found to have prophesied falsely concerning me.” But Jason stayed them, that they should not strive together any more.
After this Orpheus took his harp and sang. He sang how the earth and heaven and sky, having had but one form before, were divided from each other; and how the stars are fixed in heaven; and of the moon and the courses of the sun. Also he sang how the mountains arose, and the rivers flowed; and how of old Chronos reigned in Olympus, ruling the Titan gods, while Zeus was yet a child, dwelling in the caves of Ida, before the Cyclopes had armed his hand with the thunderbolt. Then Orpheus ended his song; but the heroes sat awhile, after that he had ceased, with their heads bent forwards, so mighty was the spell upon them. After this they burnt the tongues of the beasts with fire, and poured wine upon them, and so lay down to sleep.
But when the morning shone on the top of Pelion, Tiphys first woke out of sleep, and roused the heroes, bidding them embark and prepare for rowing. But before they departed came Chiron down from the hills, and his wife with him, carrying in her arms the little Achilles, that Peleus, his father, might embrace him. And Chiron prayed aloud to the gods that the heroes might have a safe return.
Thus did the ship Argo depart upon her voyage. The heroes smote the sea with their oars in time to the music of Orpheus, and drave her on her course with a marvellous quickness. The tackling of the ship glistened like gold in the sun, and the waves were parted, foaming on either side of the prow, and their way was white behind them, plain to see as the path upon a meadow.
So soon as they were clear of the harbor’s winding ways—and well did Tiphys guide them, holding the polished tiller in his hands—they set up the great mast in its socket, fastening it by ropes on either side; and upon the mast they spread out the sail, setting it duly with pulleys and sheets. Then, with the wind blowing fair behind them, they sped forward; and Orpheus sang the while of Artemis; and the fishes followed, leaping out of the sea about the ship, even as sheep when they are fed to the full follow back the shepherd to the sheepfold as he goes before them, making sweet music on his oaten pipe. Past the rocks of Pelion they sped, and Sciathos and Magnessa; and when they came to the tomb of Dolops, they drave their ship to the shore and did sacrifice by the tomb. There they abode for two days, for the sea was stormy; but on the third day they launched their ship and hoisted the great sail. Whereupon to this day they call this place “The Launching of the Argo.” Then as they sailed they saw the valleys of Ossa and Olympus; all night the wind carried them on, and the next day there appeared Athos, the great mountain of Thrace; so great is it that its shadow falls on Myrina in Lemnos, though it be a half-day’s journey for a fleet ship.
Then they came to Lemnos. There, but a year before, had been wrought a dreadful deed; for the women had slain their husbands, aye, and every male throughout the land, lest the children, being grown to manhood, should avenge their fathers. Only Hypsipyle had spared the old man Thoas, her father, hiding him in a cave by the sea, that she might send him away alive. And now the women ploughed the fields, and donned the armor of men; nevertheless, they watched ever in fear lest the Thracians that dwelt on the shore over against them should come upon them. And now, when they saw the Argo and the band of heroes, they sallied forth from their city, duly armed, with Hypsipyle their Queen for their leader; for they thought that now indeed the Thracians were come. Speechless they were for fear, for all their brave show of war. But the heroes sent their herald to tell who they were, and whence they had come, and whither they went. For that day, therefore, they abode on the shore. But the Queen called the women to council; and when these were gathered together, she rose in the midst, and said: “Let us give gifts to these strangers, food and wine; but let them abide without the walls, for we have done a dreadful deed, and it is not well that they should know it. But if anyone have some better counsel, let her speak.” Then Polyxo, that was nurse to the Queen, stood forth. Very old she was; she halted upon her feet, she leant upon her staff; and four young maidens, with long yellow hair, held her up. Yet could she scarce lift up her head, so bowed she was with age; nevertheless, age had not tamed her tongue. Thus she spake: “It is well, as saith the Queen, to send gifts to these strangers. Yet, bethink you, my daughters, what will ye do in the time to come? How will it fare with you, if these Thracians come, or other enemies? When ye are old, how will ye live? Will the oxen yoke themselves to the plough, or the harvests come without toil? As for me, though hitherto the Fates have passed me by, I shall surely die this year or the next, and escape from the evil to come. But what will ye do, my daughters? Wherefore my counsel is that ye make these men the partners of all that ye have.” And the whole assembly gave their consent, and they sent Iphinoe as their herald to the heroes. And when these had heard the words of the daughter of Lemnos, the thing pleased them.
Then indeed had they dwelt in Lemnos to the end of their days, but Hercules called them apart and said: “Did ye come hither, my friends, to marry wives? Are there not maidens fair enough whom ye may wed at home? Will ye be content to plough and sow and reap in Lemnos? Think you that some god will put this fleece of gold into your hands while ye tarry here?” So did he rebuke them; but they answered him not again, nor dared so much as to lift their eyes from the ground. But the next day they climbed into their ship, and ranged themselves in order on the benches, and so departed. And after a while, the south wind blowing, they entered the Hellespont, and passing through it, came to the sea which men call the Propontis, and to a certain city of which Cyzicus was king, and now men call it by his name. Here were they entertained with all hospitality; for the King had been warned that if a ship of strangers should come, he should deal kindly with them, if haply he might so escape his fate. For his fate was this, that he should die by the hands of a stranger. Wherefore he gave them great store of flesh and wine. Now the next day some would climb the hill Dindymus, that they might behold the sea on which they should sail; and some rowed the Argo to a more convenient haven. But there were in an island hard by certain giants, of monstrous shape. Six hands had each of them,—two such as other men have, and four strangely growing from their sides. These sallied forth against the heroes, and would have blocked the mouth of the haven with rocks, as men block a wild beast in a cavern. But Hercules drew his bow against them, and slew many with arrows. And the heroes, when they saw what had befallen, left their journey and came to the help of their companions, and pursued the giants till they had destroyed them. But Queen Heré had reared these giants that they might do some harm to Hercules. After this the heroes set sail, and all that day they sped onward on their course; but at nightfall the wind blew contrary, and carried them back to the city of Cyzicus. Yet they knew not whither they were come; neither did any of the men of Cyzicus know the heroes for the darkness. Therefore they joined battle as though they had been enemies; and Jason smote King Cyzicus on the breast and slew him. Thus was his doom fulfilled. Many others also were slain; and the men of Cyzicus fled before the heroes, and shut themselves into their city. But when it was morning the heroes knew what they had done in their ignorance, and lamented. Also they set up a great tomb for the slain, and circled it thrice, clad in their armor, and celebrated funeral games in the meadow hard by. But Clite, that was the wife of Cyzicus, when she knew that her husband was dead, hanged herself; and the gods changed her tears into a fountain which is yet called Clite, after her name.
For twelve days the heroes tarried in this land, so stormy were the winds; but in the twelfth night a kingfisher flew with a shrill cry over the head of Jason as he slept; and Mopsus the seer knew what the kingfisher said, and cried, “Let us build an altar to Cybele, the mother of the gods, and do sacrifice to her. So shall we have an end of these stormy winds.”
This therefore they did; and the next morning they departed. Quickly they sped, so that not even the chariot of Poseidon could have outstripped them. But towards the evening the wind blew more strongly, and the waves arose. Then indeed did Hercules, as he toiled with all his might in rowing, break his oar in the middle. One half he held in his hands and fell therewith, but the other half the sea carried with it. But when they were come to the land the people of Mysia entertained them with hospitality. And the next day Hercules went into the woods, seeking a pine-tree for an oar. And when he had found one that had but few branches or leaves upon it, but was tall and straight as a poplar, he laid his bow and his arrows and his lion-skin also on the ground, and first he smote the pine-tree with his club and loosened it, and then put his hands about the stem, and tare it by the roots from the earth, and so went back to the ship bearing it on his shoulders.
But in the meanwhile the youth Hylas had gone forth with his pitcher to fetch water from a spring; for he was page to Hercules, and would have all things ready for him against his coming back. Now all the Nymphs of the land, whether they dwelt in the water or on the hills, were wont to assemble at this fountain. And one of these saw the youth, how fair he was, for the moon was at her full and shone upon him as he went, and she loved him in her heart. And when the youth dipped his pitcher into the spring to fill it, she threw her arms about his neck and drew him down, and he fell into the fountain, but called aloud on Hercules as he fell. Now one of the heroes heard the cry of the youth, and hastened to the place, but found nothing. But as he returned from out of the wood, for he feared lest some wild beast or enemy should assail him, he met Hercules, and spake, saying, “These are sad tidings that I bring thee. For Hylas is gone to the spring and hath not returned, and either some beast hath slain him, or robbers have carried him away.” So all that night Hercules wandered through the wood seeking for the youth, even as a bull which some gad-fly stings rusheth over the fields nor resteth anywhere. So Hercules hastened hither and thither, seeking for the youth, and calling him by his name, but found him not.
When it was now day, Tiphys, the helmsman, bade them depart, for that the wind favored them. But after a while they found that they had left the best of their company behind them unwittingly; and then arose great strife and contention among them. Then spake Telamon in his wrath: “Truly this is well, that we have left our bravest behind us! Thine is this counsel, O Jason, that thy glory might not be shadowed by his glory in the land of Greece, if so be that the gods shall bring us back.” And he would have leapt on Tiphys, the helmsman, only the two sons of Boreas held him back; for which deed they suffered afterwards, seeing that Hercules slew them both as they returned from the funeral games of Pelias, because they had hindered the heroes from seeking for him. But in the midst of their anger there appeared to them the sea-god Glaucus. From the midst of the waves he lifted his shaggy head and breast, and laid hold of the ship, and spake: “Why do ye seek to take Hercules to the land of the Colchians against the will of Zeus? For it is his doom that he should fulfil his previous toils for Eurystheus, and afterwards be numbered with the gods. And as for Polyphemus, it is his fate to build a city in the land of the Mysians. Neither mourn ye for Hylas, seeing that the Nymph of the fountain hath taken him for her husband.” And when the god had so spoken he sank again into the sea, and was hidden from their sight. Then said Telamon to Jason, clasping him by the hand, “Pardon me, son of Æson, if I have wronged thee, and be not wroth for my hasty words. For indeed a great sorrow drave me to speak, and now let us be friends as before.” To him answered Jason, “Thy words indeed were harsh when thou saidst that I had betrayed my friend, yet I bear no anger for them. For thy wrath was not for cattle or gold, but for a man whom thou lovest. And, indeed, I would have thee contend with me yet again for a like cause, if such should arise.” So Telamon and Jason were made friends. And all that day and all that night the wind blew strong; but in the morning there was a calm; yet the heroes plied their oars, and at sunset they drave their ship on to the shore.
Now the land whereunto they were come was the land of the Bebryces, whose King was one Amycus, the son of Poseidon. No man was more arrogant than he, for he made it a law that no stranger should depart from the land before he had made trial of him in boxing; and thus had he slain many. And coming down to the ship, when he had inquired of them the cause of their journey, he spake, saying, “Hearken to me, ye wanderers of the sea; no man cometh to the land of the Bebryces but he must stand up against me in a fight of boxers. Choose me out, therefore, the best of your company, and set him to fight with me here; and if not, I will compel you.” But the heroes were very wroth when they heard these words, and Pollux more than all. Wherefore he stood forth before his fellows, and said, “Talk not to us of compulsion. We will follow this custom of thine. Lo, I will meet thee myself.” Then Amycus glared at him, even as a lion upon the hill glares at the man that wounded him at the first, caring not for the others that gird him about. Then Pollux laid aside his mantle, which one of the daughters of Lemnos had given him; and Amycus also stripped off his cloak, and put aside the great shepherd’s crook made of a wild olive tree, that he bare. Very diverse were they to behold, for the King was like to Typhœus, or one of the giants, the sons of Earth; but Pollux was like a star of Heaven, so fair he was. And he tried his hands, whether they were supple as of old, or haply were grown stiff with toiling at the oar. But Amycus stood still, looking upon Pollux as thirsting for his blood. Then Lycoreus, the King’s companion, threw down at Pollux’s feet two pair of gauntlets covered with blood, and stiff, and marvellously hard. And Amycus said, “Take which thou wilt, stranger, that thou blame me not hereafter, and fit them to thine hands. So haply shalt thou learn that I can fell an ox or wound a man’s cheek to bleeding.” But Pollux answered him nothing, but smiled and took the gauntlets that lay nearest. Then came Castor and Talaus, and bound the gauntlets upon him, and bade him be of good courage. But Aretus and Orniptus bound them for King Amycus, and knew not that they should never bind them for him any more. Then the two stood up against each other. And Amycus came on as a wave of the sea comes upon a ship; which yet, by the skilful handling of the pilot, escapes from its might. Then did the King follow hard after Pollux, suffering him not to rest; but he, so skilful was he, escaped ever without a wound, for he knew wherein lay the strength of the King, and wherein also he failed. So the two strove together, and the sounds of their strokes was as the sound of shipwrights that build a ship. And after awhile they rested, wiping the sweat from their faces. Then they joined battle again, as bulls that fight for the mastery. But at the last Amycus, rising as one that fells an ox, smote with all his might. But Pollux leapt from under the blow, turning his head aside; yet did the King’s arm graze his shoulder. Then he reached forward with his knee by the knee of the King, and smote him with all his might under the ear; and the giant fell to the earth with a groan, and all the heroes set up a shout when they saw it.
But the Bebryces were wroth to see that their King was slain, and they set themselves with their clubs and hunting-spears against Pollux; but the heroes drew their swords and stood by him. Then the battle waxed fierce, and many of the Bebryces were slain, and of the heroes certain were wounded; but at the last Ancæus and the two sons of Æacus and Jason rushed upon the enemy and scattered them. After this they feasted on the shore; and the next day they put into their ships so much of the spoil of the land as they would, and so departed; and on the morrow they came to the land of Phineus, the son of Agenor. Now Phineus, being skilled in divination beyond all other men, revealed to men all that Zeus prepared to do; for which reason the god smote him with old age and with blindness, and also sent the plague of the Harpies upon him, which, coming down suddenly upon him as he sat at the banquet, snatched away the meat from the table. And if they left somewhat, it stank so foully that a man might not touch it.
When Phineus heard that the heroes were come, he was glad, and came forth to meet them. Very feeble was he with old age and hunger; and when he saw them he said, “Welcome, ye heroes! Right glad I am to see you, for I know by the inspiration of Apollo that there shall come to this land the two sons of Boreas, who shall deliver me from this plague that I endure.” And he told them what things he suffered from the Harpies. Then Zetes laid hold of the old man’s hand, and said, “We pity thee, son of Agenor, and will help thee if it may be; but first thou must swear that we shall not anger the gods thereby; for, as thou knowest, these evils have come upon thee because thou hast revealed their will to men too plainly.” And the old man swore that the thing was pleasing to the gods. Then they prepared a banquet for him, and as soon as the old man had reached his hand to the food, of a sudden the Harpies flew down, as lightning cometh out of the clouds, and carried off the meat. But the two sons of Boreas followed hard after them, and Zeus gave them strength; otherwise of a truth they had not caught them, for the winds themselves were not more fleet. And when they had caught them they would have slain them, only Iris, the messenger of Zeus, came down and said, “Slay not the Harpies, that are the hounds of Zeus. I will swear to you that they shall not come any more to the dwelling of Phineus, the son of Agenor.” So they stayed from slaying them. After this Phineus and the heroes feasted together, and the King said, “I will expound to you things to come, yet so much only as the gods will have me tell; for they will not that men should know all things, but that they should yet need counsel and help. When ye have departed from this land ye shall see certain rocks, between the which ye must needs pass. Do ye therefore first send a dove before you, and if she pass through safely then may ye also follow. And row with all your might, for your hands rather than your prayers shall deliver you. But if the dove perish, then do ye go back, for it is not the will of the gods that ye should go further. After this ye shall see many places, as Helica, and the river of Halys, and the land of the Chalybes, the workers of iron, and at the last shall come to the river of Phasis, whereby ye shall see the town of Æætes and the grove of Æa, where the fleece of gold hangeth even on the top of a beech tree, and the dragon, a terrible monster to behold, watcheth it with eyes that turn every way.” Then were the heroes much dismayed; but when Jason would have questioned him further, he said, “Seek ye for the help of Aphrodite, for the victory will be of her. And now ask me no more.” And when he had ended his words, the two sons of Boreas came back, panting from their course, and told what things they had done. And the next morning many were gathered together to hear from him of things to come, among whom was a certain Parœbius, whom the King had delivered from great trouble; for the man’s father had cut down an oak upon the mountains, not heeding the prayers of the Nymph that dwelt therein that he should spare it, for which reason the Nymph sent all manner of evil upon him and his children after him. Nor did they know the cause till Phineus expounded it to them.
After this they departed, and forgot not to take with them a dove, which Euphemus held bound to his hand by a cord; and Athene helped them on their way. And when they came to the rocks whereof Phineus had spoken, Euphemus let fly the dove, and it passed through, yet did the rocks, clashing together, touch the last feather of her tail. Then Tiphys shouted to them that they should row with all their might, for the rocks had parted again; but as they rowed a great terror came upon them, for they saw destruction hanging over them; and a great wave, like to a mountain, rose up against them. And when they saw it they turned their heads away, thinking it must overwhelm them; but Tiphys turned the helm, and the wave passed under the keel, lifting up the Argo to the top of the rocks. Then said Euphemus, “Row ye with all your might.” And the heroes rowed till the stout oars were bent as bows. Athene, also, with one hand kept the ship from the rocks, and with the other drave it forward; and the rocks clashed together behind it, nor were divided any more; for it was the will of the gods that this should be so when the ship should pass through safely. But the heroes breathed again, being delivered from death. And Tiphys cried, “Fear not, son of Æson, for surely Athene hath delivered us, and now all things will be easy to thee, and thou wilt accomplish the command of the King.” But Jason spoke, “Nay, my friend. Would that I had died before I took this task in hand, for there are perils by sea and perils by land, and I have no rest day or night. For myself I fear not, but for these, my companions, lest I should not take them back in safety.” This he said, for he would try the temper of the heroes; and when they cried out that they feared not, he was glad at heart.
So the heroes passed on their way till they came to the land of the Mariandyni, of whom one Lycus was king. Here his doom came upon Idmon, the seer, that he should perish; for though he was a prophet, yet his prophecy availed him not against fate. Now there chanced to be in the marsh a great boar, that lay wallowing in the mud. Great white tusks had he, and even the Nymphs feared him. And as Idmon walked by the river side, the boar rushed on him of a sudden out of the reeds, and smote him on the thigh with his tusk, making a great wound. The hero fell not, indeed, but shouted aloud; and his companions ran thither at his voice. And first Peleus cast his javelin at the beast, but missed his aim; and afterwards Idas smote him, and he gnashed his teeth upon the spear. Then the heroes carried back their companion to the ship, but he died even as they carried him. Then they abode in that place for three days, and on the fourth they made a great funeral for him; and Lycus and his people came also to do honor to the dead man. But while they mourned for him it befell that Tiphys, the pilot, died also; for he could not endure his great sorrow for his companion. So they buried Tiphys also; and for each they built a great tomb, to be a memorial to them who should come after.
Sore dismayed were the heroes that their helmsman was dead, and they sat a long time in silence, and neither ate nor drank. Then Heré put courage into the heart of Ancæus, and he spake to Peleus, saying, “Is it well, son of Æacus, to abide here in the land of strangers? Here am I that know more of seamanship than of war, and others also as skilful; nor should we suffer loss if we set one of them at the helm.” Then spake Peleus in the midst of the heroes, “Why waste we time in sorrow, my friends? There are skilful helmsmen; many are in this company, of whom let us choose us out the best.” But Jason answered, “If there be such, why sit they here with the rest lamenting? I fear me much that we shall neither see the city of Æætes nor yet the land of Greece.” But Ancæus stood forth, saying that he would be their helmsman; so also did Euphemus and other two; but the heroes chose Ancæus.
So on the morning of the twelfth day they set sail, and a strong west wind blew from behind and carried them quickly over the sea. But when they came to the tomb of Sthenelus they beheld a marvellous sight. Now this Sthenelus was companion to Hercules in battling with the Amazons, and had been wounded with an arrow, and so died. And he besought Persephone, that is Queen of the dead, that he might look upon the heroes; and when she consented, he stood upon the top of his tomb equipped as one that went forth to battle, with a fair four-crested helmet on his head. Much did the heroes marvel to behold him. But Mopsus, the seer, bade them tarry and make offerings to the dead. Wherefore they landed and built an altar, and offered sacrifices, and Orpheus also dedicated his harp for a gift. After this they departed, and sailed by the river of Parthenius, which is by interpretation the Virgin River; so men call it, because Artemis the Virgin, the daughter of Latona, is wont to bathe therein when she is weary with hunting. Also they passed the river of Thermodon, and tarried not, for such was the will of Zeus, that they might not join battle with the Amazons who dwelt in these parts, a fierce race and delighting in war. Surely not without much bloodshed and damage to both such battle had been. The next day they came to the land of the Chalybes. These care not to plough the land with oxen, or to plant seed or to reap harvests; nor have they flocks or herds; but they dig iron out of the earth, and change it with other men for food. Never doth morning come, but it seeth them at their toil, where they labor without ceasing in the midst of reek and smoke. But after the Chalybes they came to the Mossyni, a strange folk that are contrary to other men, doing abroad what others do at home, and at home what others do abroad. Their king also sitteth all day on his throne, and judgeth his people; nor, indeed, is he to be envied for all his royal state, seeing that if he err at all in his judgment the people shut him in prison till he die of hunger. Next they came to the island of Aretias, wherefrom as they sailed in the twilight there came a great bird flying over them, and shooting a sharp-pointed feather from its wing. And the feather struck Oïleus on his left shoulder and wounded him, so that he dropped the oar from his hand. After this came other like birds also; and though the heroes shot at them with arrows and slew certain of them, yet could they not drive them away. Then said Amphidamas to his companions: “We are come to the island of Aretias, and I judge that we shall not prevail over these birds with our arrows. For Hercules prevailed not thus over the birds of the Lake Stymphalus, as I saw with my own eyes. Do ye, therefore, as I bid you. Put ye on your helmets, and let some of you row with the oars, and let the rest so order their spears and their shields that they may be a covering to the ship. Shout also with all your might; and when ye shall be come nigh unto the island, beat upon your shields, and make all the noise that ye may.” And the heroes did so, and covered the ship, even as a house is covered from the rain by its roof; and they shouted and beat upon their shields; nor did they suffer further damage from the birds.
Now it chanced in these days that the sons of Phrixus sailed from the land of King Æætes to the city of Orchomenus, that they might get for themselves the possessions of their father. And coming near to this same island of Aretias, a mighty wind from the north brake their ship; and the men, being four in number, laid hold of a beam, and so were driven about by the waves, being in great28 peril of death, till, at the last, they were cast upon the shore of the island. Therefore, when the Argo came near, one of them spake to the heroes, saying, “We entreat you, whosoever ye be, to help us, seeing that the waves have broken our ship. Give us, I pray you, some clothing and a morsel of food.” Then said Jason, “Tell us who you are, and whence ye are come, and whither ye go.” Then the man made answer, “Doubtless ye have heard how Phrixus came to the city of King Æætes on a ram with the fleece of gold, and how the fleece hangeth to this day on a tree near to the city; how the King gave to this Phrixus his daughter Chalciope in marriage; and we are the children of these two. And our father being newly dead, we sailed to Orchomenus that we might get for ourselves the possessions of Athamas, our grandfather; for so Phrixus, our father, commanded us.”
The heroes were right glad of this meeting, and Jason made answer, “Ye are my kinsmen, for Cretheus and Athamas were brothers, and I am grandson to Cretheus; and I sail with these my comrades to the city of King Æætes. But of these things we will talk hereafter. But now we will give you what ye need.” So he gave them clothing, and afterwards they did sacrifice in the Temple of Ares that was hard by, and there feasted together. And after the feast Jason spake, saying, “It is manifest that Zeus hath a care both for you and for us; for us he hath brought safely through many perils to this place, and you he suffered not to perish in the sea. Ye shall sail hereafter in this ship whithersoever ye will; but now do ye help us in our quest, for we are come from the land of Greece seeking the fleece of gold, and we would gladly have you for our guides.”
But the men were sore dismayed to hear these words, knowing what manner of man King Æætes was. And he who had spoken at the first made answer, “O my friends, ye shall have such help as we can give you. But know that Æætes is fierce and savage beyond all other men, and that your voyage is perilous. Men say that he is of the race of the Sun, and he is mighty in battle as Ares himself. Nor will it be an easy thing to carry away the fleece, for a dragon watcheth it continually, and this dragon cannot be slain, and it sleepeth not.” Then many of the heroes, when they heard these words, grew pale. But Peleus spake out boldly: “Fear not, my friend; we lack not strength to meet King Æætes in battle, if need be, for we are well used to war, and are, for the most part, of the race of the gods. Wherefore, if the King yield us not the fleece peaceably, I judge that his Colchians shall not help him.”
After this the heroes slept. And the next day they departed, and sailing with a favorable wind, came near to the further end of the Euxine Sea; thence they could see the mountains of Caucasus, whereto the Titan Prometheus is bound. And indeed in the evening they beheld the great vulture which feedeth on his liver flying above their ship; and after a while they heard the Titan groaning with the bitterness of his pain, and then again the vulture returning by the same way when his feast was ended. That night, by skilful guidance of the sons of Phrixus, they came to the river of Phasis, and straightway they lowered the sails and the yardarms, and afterwards the mast, and so entered the river. And on their left hand was the mountain of Caucasus and the city of Æætes, and on the right the oak grove wherein the dragon watched continually the fleece of gold. And Jason poured a libation of wine from a cup of gold into the river, praying to the gods of the land and to the spirits of the dead heroes that they should help them in their quest. And when their prayers were ended they fastened the ship with anchors under cover of a wood that was hard by, and so slept.
But while the heroes lay hidden among the reeds of the river, Heré and Athene sought a chamber where they might hold counsel apart from the other gods. And Heré first spake, saying, “Come now, daughter of Zeus, consider by what craft or device we may bring it to pass that the heroes may carry back the fleece of gold to the land of Greece.” Then Athene made answer, “That which thou askest, O Heré, I had already in my thoughts; but though I have weighed many counsels, yet have I not found one that would serve this purpose.” Then said Heré, “Come, let us go to Aphrodite, and when we have found her let us persuade her to command her son, if only he will hearken to her words, that he smite the daughter of King Æætes with an arrow, that she may love Prince Jason, for she is skilful in magic and drugs.” This counsel pleased Athene mightily, and she said, “I know not anything of these matters, nor can I say what may work love in a maiden’s heart. Yet thy counsel pleaseth me; only when we are come to Aphrodite do thou speak for us both.”
So the two departed, and came to the palace of Aphrodite, which her husband, the halting god, had wrought for her when he first took her to wife, and they stood in the porch. Now Hephæstes was gone to his workshop, and the goddess sat alone over against the door; and she was combing her hair with a comb of gold, and weaving her tresses. But when she saw the two she rose from her seat, and gave them welcome, and spake, saying, “What is your errand, that ye are come now after these many years?”
To her Heré made answer, “We are in trouble, O Queen, for Jason and they that are with him are come to the river of Phasis, seeking the fleece of gold; and I fear for him. Yet would I serve him with all my strength, on whatever errand he might go, for he hath always honored me with sacrifices; and besides he did me good service at the river of Anaurus. For the mountains were white with snow, and the streams came down from the heights, and the river was swollen. And Jason came from his hunting, and when he saw me he had pity on me, for I had made myself like to an old woman, and he carried me over the river.”
Then said Aphrodite, “It were ill done of me were I to deny such help as these weak hands can give.”
And Heré spake again, “We want no help of hands, be they weak or strong. Only bid thy son smite with his arrows the daughter of King Æætes, for surely if she be willing to help him he will easily carry away the fleece of gold, and so come safe to Iolcos.”
But Aphrodite made answer, “Surely he will hearken to you rather than to me. For to you, shameless though he be, he must needs pay some reverence; but me he heedeth not at all. I had well-nigh broken in my wrath his arrows and his bows.”
And when the goddesses laughed, she spake again, saying, “Yea, I know that others laugh at my sorrows. But if ye are urgent for this thing, I will persuade him, and I doubt not but that he will hearken to me.”
So the three went together to the halls of Olympus. And they found Eros playing at dice with Ganymede, that was the cupbearer of Zeus; and he laughed aloud, for he had won at his playing, but the other was angry, having lost. And when Aphrodite saw him, she said, “Hast thou defrauded him, after thy wont, that thou laughest? But come, do now what I shall tell thee, and thou shalt have a fair plaything of Zeus that his nurse Adrastea made for him, a ball with two bands of gold about it; and none can see the seams of it; and when thou throwest it it will glitter like a star. And the thing is this: that thou make the maiden daughter of King Æætes to love Jason; and this thou must do without delay, or it profiteth nothing.”
Then cried Eros, “Give me the ball straightway.” But she caught him in her arms and kissed him, and said, “I will not deceive thee, only do my bidding.” Then he took up his bow and passed his quiver on his back, and went his way to the land of Colchis.
Meanwhile Jason spoke to the heroes, “Hearken now, and I will unfold my counsel. I will go to the hall of Æætes, and the sons of Phrixus with me, and two heroes besides; and first I will make trial of him, whether he will yield the fleece of gold willingly, for it would be ill to seek to take it by force till we have seen what words can do.” To this the heroes agreed; wherefore Jason departed, taking with him the sons of Phrixus, and Telamon and Augeas; and as they went Heré threw a mist about them till they had passed through the city, but when they came to the palace of the King, then was the mist scattered; and they stood in the porch marvelling at the things which they saw, even the mighty gates, and the walls set with pillars, and the cornice of brass above them. Round about the threshold grew great vines, and under the vines four fountains that ceased not to flow, whereof one was of milk, and one of wine, and one of sweet-smelling olive-oil, and of water the fourth; and the water was hot in the wintertide, and as cold as ice in the summer. In the midst stood the hall, with chambers on either side, two chambers being loftier than the rest, in one whereof dwelt the King and his wife, and in the other Absyrtus his son, whom the Colchians also called Phaeton, because he excelled all his equals of age. Now two of the chambers were of the King’s daughters, Chalciope and Medea; and it chanced that Medea was now going to the chamber of her sister. Meanwhile came Eros unseen through the air, and stood behind a pillar in the porch, and bent his bow, fitting to it an arrow, the sharpest of all his quiver. And he came lightly into the hall, following close upon Jason, and drew his bow with both his hands, and shot the arrow at Medea, and smote her under the heart. And when he had so done he laughed, and departed from the palace. Then the servants prepared a meal for the sons of Phrixus and for Jason. And when they had bathed they sat down, and ate, and drank, and were merry.
Jason and the sons of Phrixus having eaten well, the King inquired of his grandsons, saying, “What brings you back? Did some misfortune overtake you on your journey? Surely it was not of my bidding that ye went; for I knew how perilous was the way, having seen it from the chariot of the Sun, my father, when he took Circé, my sister, to the land of Hesperia. But tell me now what befell you, and who are these your companions?” Then Argus made answer, “Our ship was broken and we scarcely were saved; and as for these men, they gave us food and raiment, treating us kindly when they heard thy name and the name of Phrixus our father; and they are come for the fleece of gold, for they say that the wrath of Zeus may not be turned away from the land of Greece till this be brought back. Never was such ship as theirs, for Athene built it; neither can storm break it, and it is swift alike with sails or with oars; and for a crew it hath all the heroes of the land of Greece. But their chief thinketh not to take the fleece by force, but will make thee due return, subduing under thee thy enemies, the Sauromatæ. And if thou wouldst hear his name, know that it is Jason, grandson to King Cretheus, whose brother was Athamas, father to Phrixus, and they that are with him are Augeas and Telamon.”
But the King was very wroth when he heard these words, and cried, “Get you out of my sight! Ye are not come for the fleece, but to spy out the land, that ye may possess my kingdom. Surely, had ye not eaten at my table, I had cut out your tongues and lopped your hands.”
Then Telamon was minded to give the King a fierce answer, but Jason held him back, and spake softly, “’Tis not as thou thinkest, O King; we do not desire thy kingdom, but are coming at the bidding of the gods. Also for what we seek we will make thee due recompense, subduing under thee the Sauromatæ, or whomsoever thou wilt.”
Then the King doubted awhile whether he should not fall on them straightway with the sword, but afterwards spake again, “If ye be in truth of the race of the gods, I will give you the fleece, for I grudge nothing to brave men. But first I must make trial of your strength. There feed in the plain of Ares two bulls, having hoofs of brass and breathing fire from their nostrils. With these I plough the field of Ares, four acres and more; and, having ploughed it, I sow it with seed—not, indeed, with the seed of corn, but with the teeth of a serpent; and when these have sprung up into armed men, I slay the men and so finish my harvest. In the morning I yoke the bulls, and in the evening I rest from my reaping. And if ye will do this, ye shall have the fleece of gold; but if not, ye shall not have it.”
Then the heroes stood for a while, with their eyes cast upon the ground, speechless, for they knew not what they should say. But afterwards Jason spake, “I will do this thing, even if I die for it.” And the King answered, “If ye hold back from the ploughing or the reaping it shall be the worse for you.” Then Jason and his companions departed from the palace; and Medea looked upon Jason, as he went, from behind her veil, and loved him. And when he was gone she thought to herself of his face, and of the garments wherewith he was clothed, and of the words which he had spoken. But when the heroes were now without the city, Argus spake to Jason saying, “There is a maiden, the priestess of Hecate, that is skilled in all manner of witchcraft; and, if she be willing to help you, ye need not fear this task. Only I doubt me much whether I shall prevail with her. Nevertheless, if thou art willing, I will speak with my mother, who is her sister, of the matter.” And Jason said, “Speak to thy mother, if thou wilt; but, if we must trust in women, there is little hope of our return.” Then they went back to the ship to the rest of the heroes, and told to them the words of the King. And for a while they sat speechless and sad, for the thing seemed greater than they could do. But then rose up Peleus, and cried, “If thou wilt give thyself to this task, son of Æson, it is well; but if not, and if there be none other of this company that will adventure upon it, yet will I not shrink from it, for a man can but die.” And Telamon and the sons of Tyndarus, and Meleager the son of Œneus, said that they would follow him. Then said Argus, “This can ye do, my friends, if there be no other way. But hearken to me: abide ye yet in your ship, for there is a maiden in the palace of the King whom Hecate hath taught to use all the drugs that are in the earth, so that she can quench fire, and stay winds, and turn the stars from their courses. Maybe my mother will persuade her that she help you. If this counsel please you, I will go to her straightway.”
And as he spake, the birds gave a favorable sign, for a dove that fled from a hawk fell into the bosom of Jason; and the hawk fell upon the hinder part of the ship. And when Mopsus saw it he prophesied saying, “Ye must make your supplication to the maiden. Nor do I doubt that she will hearken to you; for did not Phrixus prophesy that our help should be in Aphrodite? And did ye not see how the dove that is her bird hath escaped from death?” And all the heroes gave heed to his words; but Idas was very wroth, and cried with a terrible voice, “Will ye look at doves and hawks, and turn back from battle? Out on you, that ye think to cheat maidens with words, rather than to trust in your spears!” But Jason said, “We will send Argus as he hath said. Only we will not lie hidden here, as if we were afraid, but will go forth.” So the heroes brought forth the ship.
Meanwhile, King Æætes held a council of the Colchians, to whom he said, “So soon as the oxen have killed, as surely they will kill, the man who shall seek to yoke them, then will I burn these fellows with their ship. For, verily, I had not received Phrixus with hospitality, but for the commands of Zeus; but as for these robbers, they shall not go unpunished.”
But while he yet spake, Argus went to the palace to his mother Chalciope, and besought her that she should persuade her sister Medea to help the heroes. And this the woman had herself thought to do; only she feared the anger of her father. And as they talked, it befell that Medea dreamed a dream, for she had fallen asleep for weariness. And in her dream she yoked the bulls right easily; but her father would not fulfil his promise, saying that he had given this task not to maidens but to men; and hereupon there arose great strife; but she took part with the strangers, and her parents cried shame upon her. After this she awoke, and leapt in great fear from her bed, saying to herself, “I fear me much lest this coming of the heroes should be the beginning of great sorrows. As for this Jason, let him wed a maiden of his own race; but I will keep my unmarried state, and abide in my father’s house; yet, if my sister need help for her sons, I will not stand aloof.” Then she made as if she would seek her sister, standing barefoot on the threshold of her chamber, yet went not, for shame. Thrice she essayed to go, and thrice she returned, for love drove her on, as shame kept her back; but one of her maidens spied her, and told the thing to her sister Chalciope. And Chalciope came to her and took her by the hand, saying, “Why weepest thou, Medea? Dost thou fear the wrath of thy father? As for me, would that I had perished before I saw this day!” And after long silence Medea made answer, speaking craftily, for love so taught her to speak, “My sister, I am troubled for thy sons, lest thy father slay them with these strangers; for, verily, I have seen terrible dreams in my sleep.” So she spake, for she would have her sister pray to her for help for her sons. And when Chalciope heard these words she cried aloud, “O my sister, I beseech thee by the gods, and by thy father and mother, that thou help us in our strait. For, verily, if thou help us not, I will haunt thee as a Fury.” Then the two lifted up their voices together and wept. But at the last Chalciope said, “Wilt thou not, for my children’s sake, give help to this stranger? Verily, my son Argus is come to beg this thing of me, and he is even now in my chamber.” When Medea heard these words she was glad at heart, and said, “My sister, I will surely help thy sons, for they are as brothers to me, and thou as my mother. Wherefore, so soon as it is dark, I will carry to the temple of Hecate such drugs as shall tame these oxen.” Then Chalciope went to her chamber, and told the tidings to her son that Medea would help them; but Medea sat alone and lamented over herself, because she was minded to betray her father to do service to a stranger. Nor did she sleep when night came and all the world was at rest, doubting whether she should do this thing or no, and crying, “Would that Artemis had slain me with her arrows before this stranger came to the land!” And she rose from her bed, and looked into the chest wherein her drugs were stored, some being good and some evil. And now she was minded to take from it some deadly thing that she might end herewith her troubles, but there came upon her a great horror at death, for she thought of all the joys that the living possess, but the dead lose forever; and also, when she regarded her face in the glass, she seemed to herself fairer to look upon than before.
But in the morning she arose and adorned herself, and put a white veil about her head. Then she bade her maidens—twelve she had of like age with herself—to yoke the mules to her chariot, that she might go to the temple of Hecate. And while they yoked them, she took from the chest the medicine that is called the Medicine of Prometheus, wherewith if a man anoint himself, water shall not hurt him, nor fire burn. This cometh, men say, from a certain flower which grew from the blood of Prometheus when it dropped from the vulture’s beak, and the flower is of the color saffron, having a root like to flesh that is newly cut, but the juice of the root is black. Then she climbed into the chariot, and a maiden stood on either side, but she took the reins and the whip, and drove the horses through the city, and the other maidens ran behind, laying their hands on the chariot; and the people made way before them as they went.
And when they were come to the temple, Medea said to her maidens, “Argus and his brethren have besought me to help this stranger in his task, and I made as if I hearkened to their words. But the thing that I am minded to do is this: I will give him some medicine indeed, but it shall not be that which he needs, and we will divide his gifts between us. And now he cometh to have speech with me; do ye, therefore, depart, and leave us alone.” And the counsel pleased the maidens well.
Now when Jason went his way to the temple, Argus and Mopsus, the soothsayer, were with him; and as they went Mopsus heard the speech of a raven that said, “Verily the prophet is a fool; if he knew what all men know, will a maid speak kind words to a youth if his companions be with us?” And Mopsus laughed when he heard it, and spake to Jason saying, “Go now to the temple of Hecate, and Aphrodite will help thee, but go alone; and I and Argus will abide where we are.” So Jason went forward, and Medea saw him as he came, very beautiful and bright to behold, even as the star Sirius, when it riseth from the sea. But when she saw him her eyes were darkened with fear, and her cheeks burned with a blush, and her knees40 failed under her. But when Jason saw how she was troubled, he spake softly to her: “Fear me not, lady, for I am not of those who speak the thing that is false; but listen to my words, and give me this medicine that shall strengthen me for my work, as thou hast promised to Chalciope, thy sister. Verily thou shalt not miss thy reward. For thou shalt be famous in the land of Greece; and all the heroes shall tell of thee, and their wives and mothers, who now sit lamenting upon the shore for those who are far away. Did not Ariadne help King Theseus, and the gods loved her for her kindness, making her a star in the heavens? So shalt thou be loved of the gods, if thou wilt save this famous company of heroes. And, indeed, thou seemest to be both wise and of a kindly heart.”
And when the maiden heard these words, she took the medicine from her bosom and gave it to Jason, who took it with great gladness of heart. Then spake Medea: “Hear, now, O Prince, what thou must do, so soon as my father shall give thee the serpent’s teeth to sow. Wait till it be midnight; but have no companion with thee. Then dig a trench that shall be round of form; and build in it a pile of wood, and slay on it a ewe sheep, and pour over the sheep a libation of honey to Queen Hecate. After this, depart from the place, and turn not at any sound, or the barking of dogs. But in the morning thou shalt anoint thyself with the medicine; and it shall give thee the strength of the gods. Anoint also thy spear and thy shield. So the spears of the giants shall not harm thee, nor the fire that the bulls shall breathe. But remember that this strength endureth for the day only; wherefore slack not thy hand, but finish thy work. And I will tell thee another thing that shall be for thy help.So soon as the giants shall begin to spring up from the furrows wherein thou shalt have sown the teeth, throw secretly among them a great stone; and it shall come to pass that they will fall upon each other and perish by their own hands. So wilt thou carry away the fleece of gold to the land of Greece, departing when it shall please thee to go.” And when she had spoken these words she wept, thinking how he would depart and leave her. Then she spake again: “When thou art come to thy home, remember, I pray thee, Medea, even as I shall remember thee; and tell me whither thou art minded to go.”
Then Jason made answer, “Surely, lady, I shall not cease to think of thee if only I return safe to my native country. And if thou wouldst fain hear what manner of land it is, know that it is girded about with the hills and feedeth many sheep. The name of him that founded the kingdom is Deucalion, and the name of the city is Iolcos.” And Medea said, “I would that where thou shalt be there could come some tidings of thee by bird of the air or the like; or that the winds could carry me thither, that I may know for a certainty that thou hast not forgotten me.” Then Jason said, “O lady, if thou wilt come to that land, surely all shall honor thee, and thou shalt be my wife, neither shall anything but death only divide us twain.” And when the maiden heard these words she stood divided between fear and love. But Jason said, “Surely now the sun is setting, and it is time to go back, lest some stranger come upon us.” So Medea went back to the city, and Jason to the heroes, to whom he showed the medicine that the maiden had given him. And they all rejoiced, save Idas only, who sat apart in great anger.
The next day Jason sent Telamon and another to fetch from the King the serpent’s teeth; and the King gave them gladly, for he thought that if Jason should yoke the oxen, yet he should not overcome the giants in battle. And when the heroes slept, Jason went alone and did as Medea had commanded him. And when he had finished the sacrifice he departed; and Queen Hecate came, and there was a great shaking of the earth and a barking of dogs. But Jason looked not behind him, but departed to the heroes.
On the morrow King Æætes armed him for the battle, giving him a breastplate which Ares had given to him, and a helmet of gold with four crests, and a shield of bull’s hide, many folds thick, and a spear such as none of the others but Hercules only could have borne. And Jason anointed them with the medicine; which when he had done, all the heroes made trial of the arms, but did them no damage; and when Idas smote with his sword on the butt of the spear, it bounded back as from an anvil. After this he anointed himself with the medicine, and it was as if his strength had been multiplied tenfold. Afterwards he took to himself a helmet and a sword, and so went forth to his labor. And there lay ready to his hand a brazen yoke of the bulls, and a great plough of iron. Then he fixed his spear in the earth, and laid down his helmet, but he himself went on with his shield. But when the bulls saw him, they ran forth from their stalls, and all the heroes trembled to behold them; but Jason stood firm, holding his shield before him. And the bulls drave their horns against the shield, but harmed him not. And though they breathed fire from their nostrils, for all this the medicine of Medea kept him safe. Then he took hold of the right-hand bull by the horns, and dragged it down to the yoke, and, kicking its hoof from under it, so brought it to the ground; and in like manner dealt with the other. And the King marvelled at his strength. Then the heroes helped him with the fastening of the bulls to the plough, for so much was permitted to him. Then he put his shield upon his shoulders and took the serpent’s teeth, a helmet full, and drave the bulls before him, which went with a horrible bellowing; and as he made the furrow he threw the teeth into it. Now when the day was a third part spent he had finished the ploughing; and he loosed the bulls and went back to the ship, for as yet there had sprung nothing from the furrows. And he took of the water of the river in his helmet and drank, and while he drank the giants sprang up from the furrows.
Then Jason remembered the words of Medea, and took from the earth a great round stone—of such bigness it was that four youths could not lift it—and cast it into the midst of the giants. And straightway they fell upon each other with great rage, and Jason sat behind his shield and watched. But when they had been now fighting among themselves for a long while, and many were wounded and many dead, Jason drew his sword and ran among them till he had slain them all. So he finished his work that day; but the King and his people returned, sad at heart, to the city.
All that night the King sat with his nobles, meditating harm against Jason and the heroes; for he knew that the thing had been done by craft, and also that his daughter was concerned in the matter. And Medea also sat grievously troubled in her chamber, fearing the wrath of her father; and ofttime she thought that she had best kill herself with poison. But at last Heré put it into her heart that she should flee, taking the sons of Phrixus for companions. Then she arose from her bed, and took the medicines that she had from their chest, and hid them in her bosom.
And she kissed her bed and the posts of her chamber doors and the walls. Also she cut off a long lock of her hair, to be a memorial of her to her mother. And when she had done this, she cried with a lamentable voice, “Farewell, my mother, and thou, Chalciope, my sister! Would that this stranger had perished before he came to the land of the Colchians!” Then she went out from the house, the great gates opening before her of their own accord, for she had anointed them with a mighty drug; and, being come into the street, she ran very swiftly, holding her robe over her head, till she saw the light of the fires where the heroes sat feasting all the night in the joy of the victory that Jason had won. Then she came near, and, lifting up her voice, cried to the youngest of the sons of Phrixus, whose name was Phrontis. And Phrontis heard her, and knew the voice that it was the voice of Medea, and told the thing to Jason. Then Jason bade the heroes be silent; and they listened. Thrice she cried, and thrice did Phrontis answer her. And the heroes loosed the ship and rowed it across the river; but ere ever it came to the other shore, Jason and the sons of Phrixus leapt from the deck on to the land.
And when Medea saw the brothers, she ran to them, and caught them by the knees, and cried to them, “Save me now from King Æætes! yea, and save yourselves also, for all things are now known to him. Let us fly hence in the ship, before he come upon us with a great army. But first I will give the fleece into your hands, having laid to sleep the dragon that guardeth it. But do thou, Prince Jason, do as thou didst promise, calling the gods to witness.” And Jason was glad when he saw her, and took her by the hand, and lifted her up, and spake kindly to her, saying, “Dearest of women, now may Zeus and Heré his wife, that is the goddess of marriage, be my witnesses that I will take thee to wife as soon as we shall have returned to the land of Greece.” Then he bade the heroes row the ship to the sacred grove, for he was minded to take away the fleece that very night, before the King should know of the matter. Then the heroes rowed; and the Argo passed quickly over the waves till they came to the grove. Then Medea and Jason went forth from the ship, and followed the path, seeking for the great bush whereon the fleece was hung. And in no long space they found it; for it was like a cloud which the shining of the sun makes bright when he riseth in the East. But before the tree there lay a great serpent, with eyes that slept not night nor day. Horribly did it hiss as they came. But Medea cried aloud to Sleep, that is mightiest among the servants of the gods, that he should help her. Also she called to the Queen of Night, that their undertaking might prosper in their hands. And now the great serpent, being wrought upon by her charms, began to unloose his folds; yet his head was lifted up against them, and his dreadful jaws were opened. Therefore Medea took a bough that she had newly cut from a juniper tree, and put a mighty medicine upon it, and dropped the drops of the medicine into his mouth, singing her charms all the while. Then sleep came upon the beast, and he dropped his head upon the ground. When Jason saw this, he snatched the fleece of gold from the tree, for Medea had bidden him do it and delay not; but she stood the while and put the medicine on the head of the beast, fearing lest perchance he should awake. After this they both departed from the grove; and Jason carried the fleece with great gladness of heart. A mighty fleece it was, hanging down from his shoulders even to his feet. And as he went the day dawned. And when he was come near to the ship the heroes marvelled to behold him, for the fleece was very bright to look upon. But when they would have touched it, Jason hindered them, and covered it with a covering which he had prepared for it.
Then Jason said to his companions, “Come now, my friends; we have accomplished this thing for the which we came to this land. Let us think, therefore, of our return. As to this maiden, I will take her to be my wife in the land of Greece. But do you remember that she has saved all our lives this day. Row, therefore, with all your might, the half of you; and let half hold forth your shields to be a defence against the spears of our enemies, if they should come upon us. For as ye shall quit yourselves this day, so shall it be whether or no we see again our native country and our homes.” Then he cut with his sword the cable of the ship; bidding the maiden sit by the helmsman Ancæus. Then the heroes rowed with all their might, and were far away before the King had knowledge of their going.
Many things they suffered in their journey, and many lands they visited, for the gods suffered them not to return by the way by which they went, and some of them perished; but at the last they brought back the ship Argo to the land of Greece, and the Fleece of Gold for which Pelias had sent them. And when they were returned, Prince Jason took Medea to be his wife.