But most of all, Diomedes mastered the art of leadership. When the time was right, Cheiron revealed to Diomedes his true identity and instructed him that it was his birthright to claim back the Iolcan throne from his uncle Pelias. Jason, as Diomedes was now called, set out for Iolcus. So Pelias devised a plan so dangerous that he was certain Jason would never return alive - He told Jason that he would gladly surrender the kingdom to Jason but not until the Golden Fleece had been brought back to Greece from the land of Colchis.
What was this Golden Fleece? Well, many years earlier a king named Athamas had tired of his wife and taken a new one. Afraid that the new Queen meant harm for her two children, ex-Queen Nephele prayed for help. Hermes, the messenger god and all-around good deity, promptly delivered a magical flying ram, which had a fleece of gold. Hermes instructed Nephele to place her children, a boy named Phrixus and a girl called Helle, on the ram so that they could be carried to safety.
Sadly, Helle got careless while crossing the straits which separate Europe and Asia and fell into the waters below, drowning.
The waters henceforth were called the Hellespont in her honor. Phrixus was devastated by the loss of his sister but he arrived safely to Colchis, where he was hospitably received by King Aetes. Phrixus proceeded to sacrifice the ram to the King of the Olympians, Zeus, who had safely delivered him from harm, and he presented its golden fleece to King Aetes.
The king dedicated the fleece to the god of war Ares and placed it in a consecrated grove, under the care of a dragon that never slept. Jason sent heralds all across Greece, seeking brave volunteers who would join him in this great adventure. The master ship-builder Argo constructed a fifty-oared ship, the largest ever built at the time, and the great goddess Athena herself helped Argo choose the finest lumber from the trees of Mount Pelion.
When the ship was ready Athena named it the Argo, in honor of its builder, and named its crew the Argonauts, without argument the greatest collection of heroes ever assembled. They included the amazing Heracles Hercules , the incomparable poet Orpheus and the virgin huntress Atalanta, who had also taken part in the famous Calydonian Boar hunt.
Various sources cite different participants on the Quest, but this is the generally accepted list: The branch spoke with a human voice and it foretold the future. It was too cool. On the voyage to Colchis, in addition to numerous other adventures, Jason and his crew of Argonauts freed blind King Phineus from the curse of the Harpies. These Harpies were frightful flying creatures with hooked beaks and claws, also known as the Hounds of Zeus, who daily tormented Phineus. Poor Phineus was starving to death.
King Phineus was a seer and he promised to help the Argonauts if they rid him of the Harpies. Immediately the Harpies darted down from the sky and in a moment had devoured just about everything, leaving behind their stench. Swords in hand, Calais and Zetes arose and gave chase to Ocypete and Aellopus, which were the proper names of the Harpies. These Argonauts were the swift-flying sons of the North Wind, Boreas.
Promising that the Harpies would never again trouble Phineus, the goddess of the rainbow Iris beseeched the sons of Boreas to spare their lives. Calais and Zetes returned with the good news and the grateful Phineus instructed Jason on navigating the perilous waters, particularly the Symplegades, these terrifying rocks which had an annoying habit of clashing together whenever anything passed between them.
Whenever a vessel attempted to pass between the Symplegades the mist-shrouded rocks drove together, crushing her. But Phineus instructed Jason to first release a dove - if the bird made it through the Symplegades, then so would the Argo.
If not, turn around and go home, it was hopeless. Approaching the rocks Jason released the dove and the Argonauts were ecstatic to see it fly through and come out safely, with only its tail feathers harmlessly torn away near the end.
The best part was, the Symplegades had gotten lockjaw. Evermore they remained open and never again imperiled sailors. He demanded that Jason accomplish a series of tasks to earn the Golden Fleece: You see, Athena and the goddess Hera, who had helped Jason and the Argonauts throughout the voyage, had asked the goddess of love Aphrodite to intervene.
Aphrodite instructed her son, Eros, to let fly an arrow at the heart of beautiful Medea the moment she laid eyes on Jason. Sure enough, the mischievous Eros did what he does best and Medea fell madly in love with our hero Jason. Medea was a powerful witch and she gave Jason a charm which, when sprinkled on himself and his weapons, would make them invincible for a day. Jason subdued the bulls as they rushed him from their lair, breathing flames of fire from their nostrils.
In no time a wild-looking and ferocious army of creeps had sprouted forth and as one they attacked Jason. Just like she had told Jason, his attackers turned on each other and within moments they all lay dead, as the Argonauts cheered and King Aetes gritted his teeth. The King returned to his palace, determined that Jason would never have the Golden Fleece, but Hera was looking out for the Argonauts.
She made Medea, her heart all aflutter for Jason, determined to leave with him. There were three Gorgons and whoever looked at them was turned instantly to stone.
Polydected fully expected Perseus never to return alive. Not daring to see his mother, he sailed off to Greece to learn where the monsters were to be found. He then traveled to Dodona where the Selli lived and made their bread from acorns. They too did not know where the Gorgons lived. When and how Hermes and Athena came to his help was not known but he must have known despair before they did so. At last, however, as he wandered, he met a strange and beautiful person - none other than Hermes, the messenger god and the guide for the giver of good.
This radiant person told him that before he attacked Medusa, he must first be properly equipped, and that what he needed was in the possession of the nymphs of the North. These three women were all grey and withered as in extreme age. They had but one eye for the three, which they would take turns with, each removing it from her forehead after she had used it for a time and then handing it to another. Hermes unfolded the plan.
He would lead Perseus to them and when they arrived, he would remain hidden until one of them took their eye out of their forehead to pass it on.
At that moment, he would rush forward and seize the eye and refuse to give it back until they told him how to reach the nymphs of the North. This was a wonderful gift, but what use was a sword if the creature to be struck by it could turn it into stone before he was within striking distance? The goddess Athena stood beside Perseus and she took off her shield of polished bronze and gave it to him. She told him he would be able to see Medusa in it as in a mirror, and so avoid her deadly power.
And so he now was bound for the country of the Hyperboreans. No one had been able to reach the place of the Hyperboreans but since Hermes was with him, the road laid open to Perseus. There he found a host full of people always banqueting and holding joyful revelry, who welcomed him kindly.
They gave him three things: Now, Perseus was ready for the Gorgons and Hermes knew where they lived. Luckily they were asleep when Perseus found them. In the mirror of the shield, he saw the creature with great wings and bodies covered with golden scales and hair a mass of twisting snakes.
Athena and Hermes pointed out which one was Medusa because the other two were immortal. With a single sweep of the sword, he cut her neck and his eyes were fixed on the shield with never a glance at her, he swooped low enough to seize her head. He dropped it into the wallet, which closed around it. The other two Gorgons woke up horrified at the sight of their slain sister, they tried to pursue the slayer, but Perseus had on the cap of darkness and they could not see him.
After the slaughter of Medusa, Perseus, bearing with him the head of the Gorgon, flew far and wide, over land and sea. As night came on, he reached the western limit of the earth, where the sun goes down. Here he would gladly have rested till morning. It was the realm of King Atlas, whose bulk surpassed that of all other men. He was rich in flocks and herds and had no neighbour or rival to dispute his state. But his chief pride was in his gardens whose fruit was of gold, hanging from golden branches, half hid with golden leaves.
Perseus said to him, "I come as a guest. If you honour illustrious descent, I claim Jupiter for my father; if mighty deeds, I plead the conquest of the Gorgon. I seek rest and food. So he answered, "Begone! Atlas, with all his bulk, was changed into stone. His beard and hair became forests, his arms and shoulders cliffs, his head a summit, and his bones rocks.
Each part increased in bulk till be became a mountain, and such was the pleasure of the gods heaven with all its stars rests upon his shoulders. On his way back, he came to Ethiopia and found that a lovely woman was about to be devoured by a horrible sea serpent. Her name was Andromeda. When Perseus arrived, the maiden was on a rocky ledge by the sea, chained there to wait for the coming of the monster. Perseus found her and instantly fell in love with her.
He waited beside her and when the great snake came for its prey, he cut off its head. Perseus took Andromeda to her parents and asked for her hand in marriage, which they gladly gave him. When he returned to the island where he was raised, he found no one. They had taken refuge in the temple. The king was having a banquet at the palace, and Perseus seized the opportunity. He walked into the palace and took out the head of Medusa and all the guests and the King were turned into stone.
He made Dictys king of the island and he and his mother returned with Andromeda to Greece to reconcile with Acrisius. When they reached Argos, they discovered that Acrisius had been driven away. Perseus heard that the King of Larissa was holding a great athletic banquet and he journeyed to take part. In the discus-throwing competition when his turn came and he hurled the heavy missile, it swerved and fell among the spectators.
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