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Jason and the Argonauts: A Retelling in Prose of Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautica

178 pages2 hours


I would like to see my retellings of classic literature used in schools, so I give permission to the country of Finland (and all other countries) to buy one copy of this eBook and give copies to all students forever. I also give permission to the state of Texas (and all other states) to buy one copy of this eBook and give copies to all students forever. I also give permission to all teachers to buy one copy of this eBook and give copies to all students forever.

Teachers need not actually teach my retellings. Teachers are welcome to give students copies of my eBook as background material. For example, if they are teaching Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey,” teachers are welcome to give students copies of my “Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’: A Retelling in Prose” and tell students, “Here’s another ancient epic you may want to read in your spare time.”

The heroes of the Trojan War — Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, Agamemnon, etc. — are well known. However, the generation before the heroes of the Trojan War also had its heroes. Many of these heroes voyaged on the ship Argo with Jason in his quest to acquire the Golden Fleece. Some of the Argonauts — the sailors of the ship named the Argo — were the fathers of some of the Trojan War heroes: Peleus was the father of Achilles, Telamon was the father of Great Ajax, Oileus was the father of Little Ajax, and Menoetius was the father of Patroclus. In addition, the Argonauts included the twins Polydeuces and Castor, the brothers of Helen of Troy.

The Golden Fleece

The ram with the Golden Fleece rescued a child: Phrixus, the son of Athamas and Nephele in southeastern Greece. Athamas had married Nephele, and she bore him two children: a son named Phrixus and a daughter named Helle. But Athamas ceased to love Nephele, and he married Ino. Nephele left. Ino was a cruel stepmother to Phrixus and Helle, and she plotted against them and wanted them to die. Nephele returned to rescue her children. She sent them a winged ram whose fleece was made of gold. Phrixus and Helle climbed on top of the ram, which flew them over the sea. Unfortunately, Helle fell off the ram into the sea, which thereafter was called the Hellespont in honor of her. The ram carried Phrixus from Greece to Colchis on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. Phrixus lived there in the palace of King Aeetes, and he sacrificed the ram to the sea-god Poseidon. He skinned the ram and hung its Golden Fleece on a tree where a huge snake guarded it. This is the Golden Fleece that Jason and the heroes who sailed with him sought.

Jason’s Early Years

Jason’s father was named Aeson, and his mother was named Alcimede. Aeson was the rightful ruler of Thessaly, but Pelias, his half-brother, overthrew him and assumed the throne, which was in Iolcus, for himself. Pelias wanted to kill all of Aeson’s children, but Alcimede was able to save Jason’s life when he was born. She tricked Pelias into thinking that Jason was stillborn by having the women who served her pretend to mourn Jason. She sent Jason to the wise Centaur Chiron to raise to adulthood.

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