Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of February 28th - March 6th,  2003

The Golden Fleece

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Constellation Aries

 

Source of
The Golden Fleece

   "Of the sons of Aeolus, Athamas ruled over Boeotia and begat a son Phrixus and a daughter Helle by Nephele. And he married a second wife, Ino, by whom he had Learchus and Melicertes. But Ino plotted against the children of Nephele and persuaded the women to parch the wheat; and having got the wheat they did so without the knowledge of the men. But the earth, being sown with parched wheat, did not yield its annual crops; so Athamas sent to Delphi to inquire how he might be delivered from the dearth. Now Ino persuaded the messengers to say it was foretold that the infertility would cease if Phrixus were sacrificed to Zeus. When Athamas heard that, he was forced by the inhabitants of the land to bring Phrixus to the altar. But Nephele caught him and her daughter up and gave them a ram with a golden fleece, which she had received from Hermes, and borne through the sky by the ram they crossed the land and sea. But when they were over the sea which lies betwixt Sigeum and the Chersonese, Helle slipped into the deep and was drowned, and the sea was called Hellespont after her. But Phrixus came to the Colchians, whose king was Aeetes, son of the Sun and of Perseis, and brother of Circe and Pasiphae, whom Minos married. He received Phrixus and gave him one of his daughters, Chalciope. And Phrixus sacrificed the ram with the golden fleece to Zeus the god of Escape, and the fleece he gave to Aeetes, who nailed it to an oak in a grove of Ares."

   Apollodorus, The Library, I. IX. I

   There is much that can be gleamed from this, one of the core myths of ancient Greece. First, from Frazer's footnotes we read,

   "These traditions point to the conclusion that in the royal line of Athamas the eldest son was regularly liable to be sacrificed either to prevent or to remedy a failure of the crops, and that in later times a ram was commonly accepted as a substitute for the human victim."

   Naturally, during the Age of Aries, self-sacrifice was seen as one of the highest forms of devotion, and sacrificing one's only begotten son, the first-born (Aries) to the gods was a common practice which first Abraham, then Athamas, and much later the Carthaginians would perpetuate. Each of these cultures shared different slices of the beginning, middle, and end of the Age of Aries.

Constellation Aries

 

Stars of the Fleece

   Secondly, we are being given clues in the story of the Golden Fleece as to just when this 'myth' may have taken place. Phrixus and Helle rode on the 'back' of the Ram, and later sacrificed the 'fleece' in a grove sacred to Ares. This would probably define the period when 0 hours Right Ascension, the Vernal Equinox, commonly known as the first day of Spring aligned with stars from this constellation. The stars Zeta and Tau Arietis (18th-17th century BC) would probably be far too early, as they indicate stars in the 'tail' of the constellation of the Ram. Anything after Hamal (4th century BC) would be too late, as this marks the Vernal Equinox's entry into the 'head' of the Ram. In all probability, if we focus on those stars which seem to indicate the central 'back' of the Ram, of Epsilon and Rho Arietis, which crossed the Vernal Equinox in the 14th century BC, we would find ourselves very close to the story of the migration of Phrixus and Helle to foreign shores.

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