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Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 125

[272]

Refer to caption

MEDEA.—Sichel.

Pelias dethroned.

[273] In the mean while, Pelias had reigned contentedly over Thessaly, confident that Jason would never return. Imagine his dismay, therefore, when he heard that the Argo had arrived, bearing Jason, now the proud possessor of the renowned golden fleece. Ere he could take measures to maintain his usurped authority, Jason appeared, and compelled him to resign the throne in favor of the rightful king, Æson.

Unfortunately, Æson was now so old and decrepit, that power had no charms for him: so Jason begged Medea to use her magic in his behalf, and restore him to the vigor and beauty of his early manhood. To gratify Jason, Medea called all her magic into play, and by some mysterious process restored Æson to all his former youth, strength, activity, and grace.

Medea’s spells dispersed the weight of years,
And Æson stood a youth ’mid youthful peers.”
Wordsworth.
The magic recipe.

As soon as Pelias’ daughters heard of this miraculous transformation, they hastened to Medea and implored her to give them the recipe, that they might rejuvenate their father also. The sorceress maliciously bade them cut their father’s body into small pieces, and boil them in a caldron with certain herbs, declaring that, if the directions were carefully carried out, the result would be satisfactory; but, when the too credulous maidens carried out these instructions, they only slew the father whom they had so dearly loved.

Days and years now passed happily and uneventfully for Jason and Medea; but at last their affection for each other cooled, and Jason fell in love with Glauce, or Creusa. Frantic with jealousy, Medea prepared and sent the maiden a magic robe, which she no sooner donned than she was seized with terrible convulsions, in which she died. Medea, still full of resentment against Jason, then slew her own children, and, mounting her dragon car, departed, leaving a message for Jason, purporting that the Argo would yet cause his death.

Death of Jason.

[274] Jason, a victim of remorse and despair, now led a weary and sorrowful life, and every day he wandered down to the shore, where he sat under the shade of the Argo’s hulk, which was slowly rotting away. One day, while he was sitting there musing over his youthful adventures and Medea’s strange prophecy, a sudden gale detached a beam, which, falling on his head, fractured his skull and caused instantaneous death.

The Argonautic expedition is emblematic of the first long maritime voyage undertaken by the Greeks for commercial purposes; while the golden fleece which Jason brought back from Colchis is but a symbol of the untold riches they found in the East, and brought back to their own native land.

[275]

CHAPTER XXIII.

THE CALYDONIAN HUNT.

Birth of Meleager.

Œneus and Althæa, King and Queen of Calydon, in Ætolia, were very happy in the possession of a little son, Meleager, only a few days old, until they heard that the Fates had decreed the child should live only as long as the brand then smoking and crackling on the hearth. The parents were motionless with grief, until Althæa, with true mother’s wit, snatched the brand from the fire, plunged it into an earthen jar filled with water, quenched the flames which were consuming it, and, carefully laying it aside, announced her intention to keep it forever.

Meleager, thus saved from an untimely death by his mother’s presence of mind, grew up a brave and handsome youth, and joined the Argonautic expedition. While he was absent, his father omitted the yearly sacrifice to Diana, who, enraged at his neglect, sent a monstrous boar to devour his subjects and devastate his realm. Meleager, on his return, gathered together all the brave men of the country, and instituted a great hunt, whose main object was the capture or death of the obnoxious boar.

The hunters.

Jason, Nestor, Peleus, Admetus, Theseus, Pirithous, and many other noted heroes, came at his call; but the attention of all the spectators was specially attracted by Castor and Pollux, and by the fair Atalanta, daughter of Iasius, King of Arcadia. This princess had led a very adventurous life; for when but a babe, her father, disappointed to see a daughter instead of the longed-for son, had exposed her on Mount Parthenium to the fury of the wild beasts. Some hunters, [276] passing there shortly after this, found the babe fearlessly nursing from a she-bear, and in compassion carried her home, where they trained her to love the chase.

The grand Calydonian Hunt was headed by Meleager and Atalanta, who were very fond of each other, and who boldly led the rest in pursuit of the boar. From one end of the Calydonian forest to the other the boar fled, closely pursued by the hunt, and was at last brought to bay by Atalanta, who succeeded in dealing him a mortal wound. But even in his dying struggles the boar would have killed her, had not Meleager come to her rescue and given him his deathblow.


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