December 08, 2022

#08-261: When Jason Met Medea

Jason and Medea by John William Waterhouse (1907); she is concocting
a potion to enable Jason to complete his tasks. (Wikipedia)

Note: Greek playwrights like Euripides were drawing on a much larger body of traditional literature. While Medea's cruelty is infamous, there's more to her story than that. Let's find out!

Get Ready: What are the limits to what a person would do for love? Should one to harm or even kill others in the name of love?

We met Medea in Lesson #08-081, in a Greek play about her written by Euripides. But like other Greek playwrights, Euripides was writing about a snippet of a much longer myth. He told us how in a jealous rage, Medea killed her husband Jason's lover and the two children Medea and Jason had together.

But how did Jason and Medea meet?

You may have heard how Jason and the Argonauts seek the Golden Fleece. During his sojourn in Colchis, Medea's home country, the love goddess Aphrodite casts a spell on Medea and causes her to fall hopelessly in love with Jason.

Medea is a witch, and promises to use her skills to help Jason achieve his goals, if he agrees to marry her. He agrees, but only because in order to obtain the Fleece (which will assure him a kingship), he must complete a series of nearly-impossible tasks assigned by Medea's father.

In the first task, he must yoke and drive a pair of fire-breathing oxen to plow a field. Medea gives him an ointment which will protect his body and his weapons from the beasts' fiery breath. When the field has been plowed, his second task is to sow it with dragon's teeth. It sounds simple enough, but once sown, the teeth will turn into soldiers that will attack Jason. Medea tells him to throw a rock into the crowd of soldiers to confuse them, causing them to attack and kill each other. (No magic, there, just a good strategy!)

Finally, Jason must kill a sleepless dragon that guards the Fleece. Medea gives him a narcotic to put the dragon to sleep: mission accomplished!

But when Medea starts to leave with Jason, her father tries to stop them. No problem, she tells Jason; he only has to kill and dismember her brother and scatter his parts around an island. The father will spend time gathering them up for a proper burial, and Jason and Medea can escape.


The two had further adventures before the story is picked up by Euripides: besting the "bronze man" Talos (a kind of robot), cursing all Cretans to become liars unable to tell the truth (because they judged against Medea in a beauty contest), reinvigorating Jason's father through a blood transfusion, convincing the daughters of King Pelias (the half-uncle who sent Jason after the fleece) to kill him, and more.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. besting
  2. dismember
  3. an ointment
  4. oxen
  5. reinvigorating
  6. a snippet
  7. a sojourn
  8. sow
  9. a transfusion
  10. yoke

  1. place in the ground, like seed
  2. skin medication
  3. temporary stay
  4. animals like cows
  5. tie together; join
  6. small part
  7. beating; getting the better of
  8. transferring (of blood)
  9. bringing back to life
  10. take apart

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 8, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. j; 3. b; 4. d; 5. i; 6. f; 7. c; 8. a; 9. h; 10. e