Golden Fleece

by James Hunter

The Golden Fleece was the treasure sought by Jason and the Argonauts. It originated in the following fashion. Phrixus and Helle were the children of Athamas and the Oceanid Nephele. When Athamas remarried, the children's stepmother, Ino, became jealous of them and plotted to get rid of them. She arranged to have seed-corn roasted so that it would not sprout. When the crop failed, messengers were sent to consult the oracle at Delphi, and Ino persuaded the messengers to say that that the oracle required the sacrifice of Phrixus to restore fertility to the fields.

Athamas was forced to comply, but before Phrixus could be sacrificed, however, Nephele sent a golden ram which carried both children off through the air. Helle fell into the Hellespont (which was named after her), but Phrixus arrived safely at Colchis, where he married the daughter of King Aeëtes. Phrixus sacrificed the ram to Zeus, and gave its pelt (the Golden Fleece) to Aeëtes. Aeëtes placed the fleece in an oak tree, guarded by the Colchian dragon, where it remained until Jason arrived to claim it.



  • Hyginus. Fabulae, 3.
  • Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 9.1 ff.