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Golden Fleece

Golden Fleece

One of the best-known stories in Greek mythology concerns the hero Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. The fleece, which came from a magic ram, hung in a sacred grove of trees in the distant land of Colchis. Jason's adventure, however, was only one part of the story of the Golden Fleece, which began years earlier.

According to legend, King Athamas of Boeotia in Greece had two children by his wife Nephele: a son, Phrixus, and a daughter,


* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

Helle. After a time, Athamas grew tired of Nephele and took a new wife, Ino, with whom he had two sons. Jealous of Phrixus and Helle, Ino plotted against them. First, she cunningly had seeds destroyed so that crops would not grow, resulting in a famine. She then arranged to have blame for the famine placed on her stepchildren and convinced Athamas that he must sacrifice Phrixus to Zeus* to restore the kingdom's prosperity.

Fearful for her children's lives, Nephele sought help from the god Hermes*, and he sent a winged ram with a fleece of gold to carry Phrixus and Helle to safety. While flying over the water on the ram, Helle fell off and drowned. But Phrixus reached the land of Colchis and was welcomed by its ruler, King Aeëtes. Phrixus sacrificed the ram to Zeus and gave the Golden Fleece to the king, who placed it in an oak tree in a sacred grove. It was guarded by a dragon that never slept.

The story of the Golden Fleece resumes some time later when Jason and the Argonauts, a band of Greek heroes, set out in search of the fleece aboard a ship called the Argo. Jason undertook this quest in order to gain his rightful place as king of Iolcus in Thessaly. The country had been ruled for a number of years by his uncle Pelias.

After many adventures, Jason and the Argonauts finally reached Colchis. However, King Aeëtes refused to give up the Golden Fleece unless Jason could harness two fire-breathing bulls to a plow, plant dragons' teeth in the ground, and defeat the warriors that sprang up from the teeth. Aeëtes had a daughter, Medea, who was a sorceress. She fell in love with Jason and helped him accomplish these tasks. Medea also helped Jason steal the Golden Fleece by charming the serpent that guarded it and putting the creature to sleep. Jason, Medea, and the Argonauts then set sail for Iolcus with the fleece.

See also Animals in Mythology; Argonauts; Jason; Medea.

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"Golden Fleece." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Golden Fleece

Golden Fleece, in Greek mythology, the magic fleece of the winged ram that saved Phrixus and Helle, the children of Nephele and Athamas, from the jealousy of Ino, Athamas' second wife. The ram flew to Colchis, but Helle fell into the sea, which was thereafter known as the Hellespont. Phrixus arrived safely, sacrificed the ram, and hung its fleece in a wood guarded by a dragon. The ram became the constellation Aries. Phrixus married a daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis and begot Argus and three other sons. The quest of Jason and the Argonauts was for this fleece. The legend of the Golden Fleece may have some basis in reality. Ancient Colchis is the modern Georgian region of Mingrelia, and in neighboring Svanetia, inland in the Caucasus, miners have for centuries used sheepskins to collect gold grains and flakes from mountain streams.

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"Golden Fleece." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Golden Fleece." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/golden-fleece

Golden Fleece

Golden Fleece In Greek mythology, fleece of the ram that saved Helle and Phrixus from their stepmother Ino. On arrival in Colchis, Phrixus sacrificed the ram and hung the fleece in a wood guarded by a dragon. Jason and the Argonauts seized the fleece.

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"Golden Fleece." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/golden-fleece

Golden Fleece

Gold·en Fleece Greek Mythol. the fleece of a golden ram, guarded by an unsleeping dragon, that was sought and won by Jason with the help of Medea. ∎  a goal that is highly desirable but difficult to achieve.

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"Golden Fleece." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Golden Fleece." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/golden-fleece