Study Guide

Jason and the Golden Fleece Context

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Jason was one of the great heroes of ancient Greece, ranking right up there with Perseus, Theseus, and Heracles. The legend of his epic and dramatic life was massively popular. Kids sat around going, “Oooh Mom, tell us the story of Jason again.” And moms were like, “By Zeus, I'm sick of telling that story.” Then kids would get all nasally and whine, “BUT I REALLY WANT TO HEAR IT!” So, then frazzled moms would sigh and say, “Okay, fine, anything. Just please please be quiet.” Then kids would sip their chocolate goat's milk and smile as their mothers wearily rattled off the tale of Jason for like the jillionth time.

Even thousands of years later, we can see why folks got so darn hyped about the story of Jason. From his near murder as an infant, to his dangerous voyage to fetch the Golden Fleece, to his betrayal of his wife Medea, to Medea's horribly bloody revenge—this epic myth is packed with enough thrills and chills to keep anybody's butt on the edge of its seat. Back in the day, Jason's exhilarating exploits were a popular subject for just about every kind of artist you can think of: sculptures, painters, potters, balloon-artists. (Okay, maybe not balloon-artists, but you get the point.)

The legend of Jason was around for quite a while before anybody ever wrote it down. It was part of the oral tradition. That means it was told and re-told by tons of different people over a whole bunch of years. No one's even all that sure where it originated in the first place. Chances are, it didn't even begin with the Greeks, but nobody can prove it one way or another.

The most famous record of Jason's life is the epic poem The Argonautica, by a Greek named Apollodorus of Rhodes. There's also another version of The Argonautica by a Roman dude named Valerius Flaccus. (A plea from Shmoop: someone out there please name your first born child Valerius Flaccus.) Like anybody who's anybody, Jason also pops up in Ovid's Metamorphoses, and the tale of the wrath of his vengeful wife is told in the tragedy, Medea, by the late, great tragedian Euripides.

These days, the people are still lovin' on some Jason. The sex bomb and nautical champion hero made a cameo in the Hercules American cartoon series, and Jason Grace of Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series is named after him. Also, like a lot of other legends of ancient Greece, Jason and the Golden Fleece both show up in the God of War video game.

On top of all that, Jason's tale is the inspiration for the classic 1963 film, Jason and the Argonauts, as well as the 2000 TV movie version of the same name. There's not a new new version for Jason's exploits in the works that we know we know about, but with Hollywood pumping out hit movies like Immortals and Clash of the Titans 1 & 2, we're guessing Jason will soon make his triumphant return to the big screen. Real heroes just don't quit.

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