Study Guide

Jason and the Golden Fleece Setting

Setting

Many Lands

This is the story of a long journey that takes its heroes through many different lands. Some of the places include: the island of Lemnos, where the women are in the market for some menfolk; the land of King Cyzicus, who dies in a violent incident of mistaken identity; the island of Circe, the witch who cleanses Jason and Medea; the island of Crete, where Medea kills Talos the bronze man. The many episodes of Jason's quest are defined by each new setting to which he and the Argonauts travel. In turn, each setting seems to be defined by its eccentric inhabitants.

Stories like The Argonautica belong to a family whose name is almost as fun to say as it is to write about. Picaresques are tales that involve a hero venturing through a whirligig tour of episodes and locations. Some notable favorites include The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Gulliver's Travels and Pinocchio. They keep the reader guessing what zany new thing is coming next.

Colchis/Georgia

The main goal of Jason's quest is to reach Colchis, the land of the Golden Fleece. Colchis was an actual historical kingdom with a very long history. The boundaries of ancient Colchis are today contained within the borders of Georgia. This is, of course, not to be confused with the U.S. State, Georgia (the land of the golden peaches). Georgia is a country on the western shore of the Black Sea. (Check it out here.)

Georgia is situated at a real crossroads of the world. To east is continental Europe and the Mediterranean, to the north is Russia, to the west is Asia, and to the south is the Middle East. In ancient times as well as today, this land contains a blend of many different cultures, which would have made it seem all the more exotic to the ancient Greeks.

Heroic Age

The myths of Jason all take place a super long time ago (pre-Trojan War, in fact). Even to the old guys who first wrote down Jason's story, he was a legendary hero from the distant past. Sometimes the era that Jason and his fellow heroes lived in is called the Heroic Age. Back in these days, the heroes were the sons of gods, and the world was crammed with villains and nasty beasts that really needed slaying.

Remember that even to ancient Greeks, Jason was an ancient figure. It's pretty likely that the fact that heroes in the stories lived so long ago added to the highly fantastical and exaggerated nature of the tales. If a rumor gets passed around school long enough, it gets totally blown out of proportion, right? Well, it's the same way with myths. Someone tells another person about a cool thing somebody did, then after a thousand years of people retelling the story, it gets totally off the hook.

Oh Take Me Back!

Hesiod, who was spitting verse around the same time as Homer, outlined the Ages of Man in his major poem Works And Days. In this poem, he whines about having to live in the wretched, boring age in which he was born, wishing he'd been around for the golden, silver and heroic ages. Nostalgia for a time that ended well before out birth is not new: the brooding artistes of early 20th-century France you admire so much wished they had been around for an older age, and so on ad infinitum.

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