Sunday, November 07, 2004


7 Nov 04 Medea

Medea with the dark hair, shrewd mind and piercing eyes is the epitome of witchiness. She set the model, which all stepmothers are forced to follow, becoming the ancestor of Baba Yaga and other venerable old hags that populate folklore.

Medea was the daughter of Aeetes, King of Colchis who owned the Golden Fleece. The Golden Fleece was protected by a dragon which never slept in a sacred grove of Ares near the end of the world. In Thessaly, on the other side of the world, lived a King Aeson who conceded his crown to his brother Pelias for the duration of his son's minority. Upon reaching his majority, Jason would be the rightful heir over the land. Pelias outwardly agreed to the conditions and accordingly took the reins of government in his own hands. When Jason came of age, Pelias seemed willing to transfer the authority to the younger man, but on condition that he go to Colchis and bring back the Golden Fleece as proof of his princely heritage.

Like any young man, Jason was enthusiastic about the quest, sniffing the sea air for adventure. He put out a bull summoning the brave youth of his generation to join him on the adventure. They sailed together in a ship dedicated to the goddess Hera. Joining him were famous heroes including Herakles, Theseus, Nestor and Orpheus (obviously their tour guide for the Underworld should they end up there and entertainment section should they get bored on the way. Maybe they intended to send him overboard to the Sirens, who knows?)

Once in Colchis, Theseus probably advised Jason on the manner of seducing the king's daughter to acquire the Golden Fleece, having already gained experience in Crete in killing the Minotaur through the services of Ariadne. In this case, perhaps Orpheus was to play soothing music in moonlight while Jason lip-synched maudlin poetry. Once in Colchis, Jason made known their mission to the King Aeetes regarding the Fleece. "Very well, " Aeetes replied, " only if he could yoke two brass-shod, fire-breathing bulls to a plough and then sow the dragon's teeth. This only seems to be an outrageous demand, but he had Herakles on hand who much experience in clearing the Stygian stalls and wrestling lions. Moreover, the advice from Theseus proved timely, as Medea fell for his handsome looks and assisted in the theft.

Anxious to prove himself an all-round hero, Jason put on a fine show in bull-taming on the appointed day, and excelled in the dragonteeth sowing event. In so doing, he not only gained the Fleece, but stole Medea's heart. However, the stout men of Colchis were affronted by his boldness and the athletic exhibition soon turned into a melee in which each man fought for himself. Still there was the problem of lulling the sleepless dragon to sleep which guarded the Fleece. However, with a little magic from Medea, his eyes closed quickly as the men snatched the Fleece from the tree and headed back to the ship for a quick sail homewards. Adventures are always better to talk about after they have ended.

Back in Thessaly once more, the town turned out to celebrate the capture of the Golden Fleece. Only one thing troubled Jason. his father was not there. Too enfeebled by age, he cuold not dance in the streets. Medea seeing Jason's consternation intervened. A devotee of Hecate, she knew secret incantation to make the ancient young again. There are different versions how she did this. Some say she cut him up and tossed in a cooking pot, while others are more begnign and said she made a special brew of all the unspeakable things with a bit of herblore, slit his throat, drained his blood and gave him the first complete transfusion. Whichever the case, he was killed and then rejuvenated to a younger age. While others recount that she slaughtered Pelias the Ursurper in a particularly brutal way, establishing the precedent for Eddie Gein and Albert Fish.

Medea boiling a Lamb
image is from the Harvard Library

Having saved Jason's life and assisted in the poaching of the Fleece, Medea was no longer needed. Jason's mind now turned to more legitimate ladies and took interest in Creusa, Princess of Corinth. By now, Medea had two children of her own, so Jason had been somewhat occupied other than ruling his own country. Jealous and embittered by his perfidy, Medea sent the bride a beautiful gift, a poisoned robe, so that when Creusa took it in her hands, her skin would be burnt off like napalm. Beautiful to see, but deadly to touch, Creusa suffered a horrific death, thus we say to this day—curiosity killed the pussycat. To further avenge herself, Medea committed infanticide, fleeing the country in her dragon chariot, leaving Jason with a heir and in despair.

The Absolute Medea-Maria Callas

pic: Callas Medea poster
a cool 3000

recording with the Callas

Classical Myths; Medea
a collection of myths

Carlos Parada: Medea
very beautiful page, hyperlinked text

Internet Classics: Medea By Euripides
Written 431 B.C.E
Translated by E. P. Coleridge

TextKit: Medea
E P Coleridge translation in pdf free download 31 pp

Medea by James Hunter
a biographical account of Medea

Temple U Classics Dept
has several links, Zeus and Pandora

Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable: Medea

Crime Library
serial killers


6 Jan 2003 Transformation Myths and Reality


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