Who was Jason?
The myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece (also known as Jason and the Argonauts) describes how Jason and his comrades embarked on a sea voyage into an unknown land called Colchis, in search of a magical ram’s fleece.
The story is a set a generation before the time of the Trojan War, around 1300 BC, but the first known written mention of it comes in the age of Homer (around 800 BC). This myth came out of the region of Thessaly, in central Greece, where early epic poetry developed. The Greeks have retold and reinterpreted the myth of Jason and the Argonauts many times since changing it as their knowledge of the physical world increased.
According to this myth, Jason was deprived of his expectation of the throne of Iolkos (a real kingdom situated in the locale of present-day Volos, central Greece) by his uncle, King Pelias, who stole the throne from him. Jason was taken from his parents and was brought up on Mount Pelion, in Thessaly, by a centaur named Cheiron. During this time his uncle King Pelias lived in dread of an oracle’s prophecy, which said he should fear the “man with one shoe”.
Jason set off to return to Iolkos when he turned 20 years old. During his journey, he lost a sandal in a river while helping Hera, who was disguised as an old woman. When Jason arrived before King Pelias he revealed who he was and made a claim to the kingdom. The king then asked him to bring him the Fleece of the Golden Ram before he gives the kingdom back to Jason – assuming that this would be an impossible task for Jason.
King Pelias’ task would take Jason beyond the known world to acquire the fleece of a magical ram that once belonged to Zeus. Jason’s ancestor Phrixus had flown east from Greece to the land of Cochlis (modern-day Georgia) on the back of this ram. The King of Colchis Aietes, had sacrificed the ram and hung its fleece in a sacred grove guarded by a dragon. An oracle had foretold that Aietes would lose his kingdom if he lost the fleece, and it was from Aietes that Jason had to retrieve it.