Sunday, November 29, 2020

Phrixus and the origin of the golden fleece

 In Greek mythology Phrixus was the son of Athamas, king of Boeotia, and Nephele, a goddess of clouds  He had a twin sister named Helle.  The twins were hated by their stepmother, Ino, who plotted to get rid of them.  She roasted all of  Boeotia's crop seeds so they would not grow. The local farmers, frightened of famine, asked a nearby oracle for assistance. Ino bribed the men sent to the oracle to lie and tell the others that the oracle required the sacrifice of Phrixus and Helle. Before they were killed, though, Phrixus and Helle were rescued by a flying, or swimming, ram with golden wool sent by Nephele, their natural mother. Sadly, while crossing the strait between Europe and Asia, Helle fell off the ram and drowned (hence, the name Hellespont, sea of Helle).

Phrixus survived all the way to Colchis, where King Aeëtes, the son of the sun god Helios, took him in and treated him kindly, giving Phrixus his daughter, Chalciope, in marriage. In gratitude, Phrixus sacrificed the ram to Poseidon and gave the king the Golden Fleece of the ram, which Aeëtes hung in a tree in the holy grove of Ares in his kingdom, guarded by a dragon that never slept. Phrixus and Chalciope had four sons, who later joined forces with Jason and the Argonauts. 

Image: Terracotta plaque depicting Phrixos holding the horns of the ram, who carries him over the waves as fish cavort in the sea below, ca. 450 BCE, Greek, Melian, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, courtesy of the museum.

Fresco of Phrixus trying to save his twin sister Helle in a Roman wall painting from Pompeii now in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy, 1st century BCE - 1st century CE courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If you enjoyed this post, never miss out on future posts by following me by email!

No comments: