Study Guide

Jason: Birth and Early Adventures Context

Context

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, "O.K. 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 billionth time.

We can see why folks got so excited about the story of Jason. From his near murder as an infant to his dangerous voyage in search of 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 on the edge of their seats. Back in the day, Jason's exciting exploits were a popular subject for pretty much every kind of artist you can think of: sculptures, painters, potters, candlestick makers. (O.K. maybe not candlestick makers, but you get the point.)

The legend of Jason was around a long time before anybody ever wrote it down. It was part of the oral tradition, where 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. 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 Apollodorus of Rhodes. There's also another version of The Argonautica by a 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 Euripides.

These days, people are still lovin' on some Jason. The hero made a cameo in the Hercules 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 that, Jason's tale is the inspiration for the classic 1963 film, Jason and the Argonauts, and 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 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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