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Jason and the Argonauts

The Archetypal Adventure

Jason and the Argonauts landing in Cholcis. 17th century painting, Château de Versailles, France.
Jason and the Argonauts landing in Cholcis. 17th century painting, Château de Versailles, France. Credit.

Part II: The Perilous Voyage to Colchis

The gods challenge the Argonauts with many trials

The Argonauts raised their sails and sang songs to Artemis, savior of ships. A stiff wind arose and pushed the Argo through the dashing seas. Fish, both great and small, surfaced off the bow to escort our heroes forth. Soon, their homeland disappeared beyond the horizon.

The Argo's sails strained for six days until the winds died with the setting sun and the crew was left to row to the island of Lemnos, an island inhabited only by jealous women who had ruthlessly slain not only their adulterous husbands, but all the men on the island. Only the queen, Hypsipyle, had spared her father and set him adrift on the ocean in a casket. It was with great fear that the women of Lemnos watched the Argo, for they thought it had come in retribution for their crimes. As the ship docked, the women met in council and devised a plan to invite the Argonauts into their homes with gifts of food and wine and love, so they would, once again, have strong men to plow the fields in times of peace and take up arms in times of war. Thus, our heroes stayed on Lemnos for a year and sired many children. When the Argonauts again took to their oars, Hypsipyle bid Jason, her lover, a tearful farewell and vowed that, should he return, her kingdom awaited his rule.

From Lemnos the Argonauts sailed to the island of the Mount of Bears where the hospitable King Cyzicus of the Doliones filled their ship's stores with wine and sheep. The next morning, while King Cyzicus showed Jason a safe passage through the seas, they were attacked by six-armed monsters. Fortunately, Hercules met them with bow in hand and felled them, one by one, like trees. Undeterred, the Argonauts boarded the Argo, loosened the moorings and set sail on the rising tide. However, when night fell the fickle winds pushed the unsuspecting crew backwards and they again cast ashore on the Mount of Bears. The Doliones, mistaking the Argonauts for enemies, attacked. That night many of Doliones' champions were slain, including King Cyzicus whose breast bones were shattered by Jason's spear. At dawn, when both sides realized their error they arranged an elaborate funeral and mourned their fallen comrades for three days and three nights.

The Argonaut's next stop was Mysia. While the Son of Zeus went in search of a tall and strong pine to replace the oar he had snapped during his lusty rowing, his companion, Hylas, was kidnapped as he was fetching water. For such was his beauty that a water-nymph fell in love with him and spirited him away. When Hercules returned and discovered that Hylas was missing, he hurled his tree aside, bellowed in anger and, like a mad bull, charged after his lover. At the same time, a favorable breeze stirred and Tiphys, skillful in foretelling the weather, urged the Argonauts to set sail. At dawn, it was with heavy hearts that Jason and the Argonauts realized that they had unwittingly left behind their bravest and strongest warrior. And, so it was fated that Hercules was to leave the Argo and perform the twelve labors set forth by Hera and to eventually become immortalized and join the ranks of gods on lofty Mount Olympus.

For a day and a night, the wind bore the ship onward to the land of the Bebrycians where King Amycus, who had slain many men, ruled that no man should leave without first meeting him in the boxing ring. So with great scorn and arrogance, King Amycus confronted the Argonauts and challenged the bravest among them to raise his hands in battle. Enraged, Polydeuces stepped forward to champion his brethren. They marked off a square in the sand and donned ox-hide boxing gloves. In contrast to each other, Amycus appeared as a monstrous son of the Earth while Polydeuces appeared as a bright star in heaven. The formidable foes let loose a fury of blows. Amycus taunted Polydeuces and rushed at him like a wave upon a ship, eager to dash the life out of him. However, Polydeuces said not a word, returning blow for blow, while searching for his opponent's weaknesses. A heavy din of thumping heads and clattering teeth arose, drowning out the crowd. Then Amycus rose to his full height and dealt a crushing blow. But Polydeuces side-stepped and with a quick movement boxed Amycus in the ear, breaking the bones within, and Amycus fell to the ground with the life poured out of him. At the death of their King, the Bebrycians rushed at Polydeuces. But in their path stood the Argonauts and a great battle ensued. Soon the Bebrycians were trampling over themselves as they fled home. However, the Bebrycians had many enemies and upon hearing of the King Amycus' death they were already laying waste to the Bebrycians' kingdom.

Part III: The Perilous Voyage to Colchis Continues.
Several Argonauts will perish in the dangers that lie ahead.

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© Scott Stoll 1999.