Jason

Jason  (´son ).—The famous leader of the Argonauts; was the son of Æson, king of Thessaly, who reigned at Iolcus. The principal part of his history is given under “Argonautæ.” During his absence, while on the Argonautic expedition, his uncle Pelias had slain his father. In order to avenge this deed Medea, the wife of Jason, persuaded the daughters of Pelias to cut their father to pieces and boil him, in the belief that he would thus be restored to youth and vigor. Medea, who was well versed in magic arts, had previously changed a ram into a lamb by similar treatment. In this way, then, Pelias perished miserably, and his son Acastus expelled Jason and Medea from Iolcus. They then went to Corinth, where they lived happily for several years, until Jason deserted her in favor of Creusa, the daughter of Creon, king of Corinth. Medea took fearful vengeance. She sent Creusa a poisoned garment, which burned her to death when she put it on; the palace also took fire, and her father, Creon, perished in the flames. Medea then killed her children, and fled to Athens in a chariot drawn by winged dragons.

The legend of the golden fleece which gave rise to the famous quest of Jason is first illustrated by scenes representing Helle or Phrixos in flight on the ram, or the former grouped with her mother Nephele and her brother Phrixos, who accompanied her on her flight. The pursuit of Phrixos and the ram by Ino is also represented. Lastly, there is a vase which may represent the setting out of Jason.

In the earlier history of the Argonautic expedition the most interesting subject found on the vases is the story of Phineus, who had been blinded for impiety by Boreas, and was subsequently deprived of his food by the Harpies until he was delivered by the sons of Boreas, Zetes, and Kalais. Another event is the chastisement of Amykos by Kastor and Polydeukes, and a fine vase of “Polygnotan” style in the Louvre represents a group of Argonauts apparently without any special signification. In all these scenes Kastor and Polydeukes and the Boreades are present together with Jason. There is also a scene which has been interpreted as belonging to the Argonautika: Herakles is represented sacrificing to a statue of Chryse on the island of Lemnos.

Then we have the arrival of Jason and his companions in Kolchis, and the subsequent feats performed by the hero—his slaying the dragon (in one version he enters into its mouth), his contest with the bull, and finally the capture of the fleece, which he is also represented as bringing to Pelias on his return. The only important event relating to the homeward journey is the death of Talos.

Among the events of his later life are the boiling of the ram by Medeia, and the subsequent destruction of the aged Pelias; the renewal of Jason's own youth; the death of his wife Glauke by Medeia's agency; and the latter's slaughter of her children, with her pursuit by Jason.Medeia also appears in another connection at Theseus' leave-taking of his father Aigeus, and among the Athenian tribal heroes on the vase by Meidias. Though not necessarily connected with Jason, the funeral games held after the death of Pelias must also find mention here. Scenes therefrom are represented on more than one vase—such as the chariot-race conducted by Kastor and others in the presence of three judges (Pheres, Akastos, and Argeos), and the wrestling of Peleus and Hippalkimos. On another Zetes is victorious over Kalais in the foot-race.