Зображення сторінки

Youth's bright goddess, with a blush at meeting,
Gives the nectar to her lord.” 1

Here we take leave for a time of the descendants of Inachus. We shall revert to them in the stories of Minos of Crete ($ 149) and of the house of Labdacus ($ 158).

1 Schiller's Ideal and Life. Translated by S. G. Bulfinch, brother of Thomas Bulfinch,




i § 144. The Descendants of Deucalion. — Athamas, brother of Sisyphus, was descended from Æolus, whose father, Hellen, was the son of Deucalion of Thessaly. Athamas had, by his wife Nephele, two children, Phryxus and Helle. After a time, growing indifferent to his wife, Athamas put her away, and took Ino, the daughter of Cadmus. The unfortunate sequel of this second marriage we have already seen.

Nephele, apprehending danger to her children from the influence of their step-mother, took measures to put them out of her reach. Mercury gave her a ram with a golden fleece, on which she set the two children. Vaulting into the air, the animal took his course to the East; but when he was crossing the strait that divides Europe and Asia, the girl Helle fell from his back into the sea, which from her was afterward called the Hellespont - now the Dardanelles. The ram safely landed the boy Phryxus in Colchis, where he was hospitably received by Æetes, the king of that country. Phryxus sacrificed the ram to Jupiter, but the fleece he gave to Æetes, who placed it in a consecrated grove, under the care of a sleepless dragon.?

§ 145. The Quest of the Golden Fleece. — Another realm in Thessaly, near to that of Athamas, was ruled over by his nephew Æson. Æson, although he had a son Jason, surrendered the crown to a half-brother, Pelias,' on condition that he should hold it only during the minority of the lad. This young Jason was, by the way, a second cousin of Bellerophon and of the Atalanta who ran against Hippomenes, and a first cousin of Admetus, the husband of Alcestis.' When, however, Jason, being grown up, came to demand the crown, his uncle Pelias with wily intent, suggested to him the glorious quest of the golden fleece. Jason, pleased with the thought, forthwith made preparations for the expedition. At that time the only species of navigation known to the Greeks consisted of small boats or canoes hollowed out from trunks of trees; when, accordingly, Jason employed Argus to build a vessel capable of containing fifty men, it was considered a gigantic undertaking. The vessel was named Argo, probably after its builder. Jason soon found himself at the head of a bold band of comrades, many of whom afterward were renowned among the heroes and demigods of Greece.

1 129.

2 Apollod. 1. 9. 1; Apollon. Rhod. 1:927. 3 Ovid, Metam. 6: 667; 7: 143. The Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes. 4 See § 109.

From every region of Egea's shore
The brave assembled; those illustrious twins
Castor and Pollux; Orpheus, tunelul bard;
Zetes and Calais, as the wind in speed;
Strong Hercules and many a chief renowned.
On deep lolcos' sandy shore they thronged,
Gleaming in armor, ardent of exploits, -
And soon, the laurel cord and the huge stone
Uplifting to the deck, unmoored the bark;
Whose keel of wondrous length the skilful hand
Of Argus fashioned for the proud attempt;
And in the extended keel a lofty mast
Upraised, and sails full swelling; to the chiefs
Unwonted objects. Now first, now they learned
Their bolder steerage over ocean wave,
Led by the golden stars, as Chiron's art
Had marked the sphere celestial.2

Theseus, Meleager, Peleus, and Nestor were also among these Argonauts, or sailors of the Argo. The ship with her crew of heroes left the shores of Thessaly, and touching at the island of Lemnos, thence crossed to Mysia and thence to Thrace. Here

1 See genealogical table, $ 97, Commentary.
? Dyer The Fleece,

they found the sage Phineus, who instructed the Argonauts how they might pass the Symplegades, or Clashing Islands, at the entrance of the Euxine Sea. When they reached these islands, they, accordingly, let go a dove, which took her way between the rocks, and passed in safety, only losing some feathers of her tail. Jason and his men, seizing the favorable moment of the rebound, plied their oars with vigor, and passed safe through, though the islands closed behind them, and actually grazed the stern of the vessel. They then rowed along the shore till they arrived at the eastern end of the sea, and so landed in the kingdom of Colchis.


Jason made known his message to the Colchian king, Æetes, who consented to give up the golden fleece on certain conditions : namely, that Jason should yoke to the plough two fire-breathing bulls with brazen feet; and that he, then, should sow the teeth of the dragon that Cadmus had slain. Jason, although it was well known that a crop of armed men would spring up from the teeth, destined to turn their weapons against their producer, accepted the conditions; and a time was set for the undertaking. The hero, however, wisely spent the interval in wooing Medea, the daughter of Æetes; and with such success that they plighted troth before the altar of Hecate. The princess then furnished her hero with a charm which should aid him in the contest to come.

Accordingly, when the momentous day was arrived, Jason, with calmness, encountered the fire-breathing monsters, and speedily

yoked them to the plough. The Colchians stood in amazement; the Greeks shouted for joy. Next, the hero proceeded to sow the dragon's teeth and plough them in. Up sprang, according to prediction, the crop of armed men, brandished aloft their weapons, and rushed upon Jason. The Greeks trembled for their hero. Medea herself grew pale with fear. The hero, himself, for a time, with sword and shield, kept his assailants at bay; but he surely would have been overwhelmed by the numbers had he not resorted to a charm which Medea had taught him : seizing a stone, he threw it in the midst of his foes. Immediately they turned their arms against one another, and soon there was not one of the dragon's brood alive.

It remained only to lull to sleep the dragon that guarded the fleece. This was done by scattering over him a few drops of a preparation, which, again, Medea had supplied. Jason then seized the fleece, and with his friends and his sweetheart accompanying, hastened to the vessel. It is said that, in order to delay the pursuit of her father Æetes, Medea tore to pieces her young brother Absyrtus, and strewed fragments of him along the line of their flight. The ruse succeeded. The Argonauts arrived safe in Thessaly. Jason delivered the fleece to Pelias, and dedicated the Argo to Neptune.

$ 146. Medea and Æson.' — Medea's career as a sorceress was, by no means, completed. At Jason's request, she undertook next to restore his aged father Æson to the vigor of youth. To the full moon she addressed her incantations, to the stars, to Hecate, to Tellus, the goddess of the earth. In a chariot borne aloft by dragons, she traversed the fields of air to regions where flourished potent plants, which only she knew how to select. Nine nights she employed in her search, and during that period shunned all intercourse with mortals.

Next she erected two altars, the one to Hecate, the other to Hebe, and sacrificed a black sheep, — pouring libations of milk and wine. She implored Pluto and his stolen bride to spare the

1 Ovid, Metam. 7: 143-293.

« НазадПродовжити »