A daughter of Aeëtes by the Oceanid Idyia, or, according to others, by Hecate, the daughter of Perses.1 She was the wife of Jason, and the most famous among the mythical sorcerers. The principal parts of her story have already been given under Absyrtus, Argonauts, and Jason, q.v.
After her flight from Corinth to Athens, she is said to have married King Aegeus,2 or to have been beloved by Sisyphus.3Zeus himself is said to have sued for her, but in vain, because Medea dreaded the anger of Hera; and the latter rewarded her by promising immortality to her children. Her children are, according to some accounts, Mermerus, Pheres, or Thessalus, Alcimenes and Tisander, and, according to others, she had seven sons and seven daughters, while others mention only two children, Medus (some call him Polyxemus) and Eriopis, or one son Argus.4
Respecting her flight from Corinth, there are different traditions. Some say, as we remarked above, that she fled to Athens and married Aegeus, but when it was discovered that she had laid snares for Theseus, she escaped and went to Asia, the inhabitants of which were called after her Medes.5 Others relate that first she fled from Corinth to Heracles at Thebes, who had promised her his assistance while yet in Colchis, in case of Jason being unfaithful to her. She cured Heracles, who was seized with madness, and as he could not afford her the assistance he had promised, she went to Athens.6 She is said to have given birth to her son Medus after her arrival in Asia, where, after her flight from Athens, she had married a king; whereas others state that her son Medus accompanied her from Athens to Colchis, where her son slew Perses, and restored her father Aeëtes to his kingdom. The restoration of Aeëtes, however, is attributed by some to Jason, who accompanied Medea to Colchis.7
There is also a tradition that in Thessaly Medea entered into a contest with Thetis about her beauty, which was decided by Idomeneus in favor of Thetis,8 and another that Medea went to Italy, and there taught the Marrubians the art of fascinating and subduing serpents, whence she is said to have been called Anguitia or Angitia.9
Medea is usually portrayed on Greek vases as an eastern-looking woman wearing a Phrygian cap, such as on an Attic amphora from Ruva (late fifth century BCE) and on an Apulian vase at Munich. On murals and Roman sarcophagi she is portrayed in Roman clothes, such on a fresco from Herculaneum. A Roman sarcophagus at Berlin shows the entire tragedy of Medea: the presentation of the deadly bridal gift to Creusa, the death of Creusa, the murder of her two children, and her flight in the dragon-chariot. Feuerbach painted Medea in his famous work.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 9.23; Hesiod. Theogony, 961; Diodorus Siculus, iv, 45.
- Plutarch. Theseus, 12.
- Scholiast on Pindar's Olympian Odes xiii, 74.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 9.28; Diodorus Siculus, iv, 54; Ptolemy Hephaestion, 2; Scholiast on Euripides' Medea, 276.
- Medi, Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 3.7; Ovid. Metamorphoses vii, 391 ff.
- Diodorus Siculus, iv, 54.
- ibid., iv, 54-56; Hyginus. Fabulae, 26; Justin, xlii, 2; Tacitus. Annals, vi, 34.
- Ptolemaeus Hephaestus, 5.
- Servius on Virgil's Aeneid vii, 750; comp. Angitia.
- Scholiast on Euripides' Medea, 10; on Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica iv, 814.
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.