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Argonauts

Updated on August 30, 2010

In Greek mythology the Argonauts were the heroic adventurers who sailed on the ship Argo to capture the Golden Fleece held by King Aeetes at Colchis. The Argonauts were led by Jason, a Greek prince whose kingdom had been usurped by his cousin Pelias. Pelias had promised to give up the throne to Jason if the young prince could bring back the magical ram's fleece.

The Argonauts included Orpheus, Castor, Pollux, and the sons of Boreas, the North Wind. Many harrowing adventures befell them, including an encounter with terrible flying creatures called Harpies. Another obstacle was the Symplegades, or Clashing Rocks, which crushed any passing ship.

After surviving these trials, the Argonauts faced new dangers at Colchis. Jason performed difficult tasks assigned by King Aeetes and then subdued the dragon guarding the Golden Fleece. The Argonauts were aided by Medea, the king's daughter, who fell in love with Jason. Her magic powers helped them capture the fleece and escape from Colchis.

On their way back to Greece, the Argonauts overcame further dangers, including the rock of Scylla and the whirlpool of Charybdis. Aided by the goddess Hera and by Medea, who had accompanied Jason, they finally reached home with the Golden Fleece.

The Argonauts' expedition was described by three of Greece's most illustrious poets, Apollonius, Pindar, and Euripides. Euripides' play Medea depicts the tragic fate of Medea and Jason after their return to Greece.

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