Medea did kill her brother, so that her love could live another day. Fratricide was not uncommon in those days. Still, it is easy to be repulsed by the thought of someone murdering a family member. Medea is guilty of murder, but Jason is guilty of taking advantage of the death of another. He raised no objections at the death of someone with whom he should have eventually welcomed at court as a brother and as a friend. Jason was as guilty as the woman who murdered for him.
Jason was not a man to let love and loyalty stand in the way of his reaching the top. Jason and Medea had been forced to flee to Corinth after the death of Pelias. He believed that his ambitions to advance politically would be stymied unless he made an advantageous marriage. Unfortunately, the marriage was not to be with the woman who had saved his life time and time again. Medea was to be left out in the cold while Jason took Glauce for his wife. According to Federici-Nebbiosi, no self-respecting sorceress could take such a betrayal and turn the other cheek (465).
Jason believed that he could toss aside Medea. He arrogantly told her that she was the lucky one to have fallen in love with him in the first place. After all, it was Aphrodite who made Medea fall in love with Jason. Jason was the type who forgot that it was through the help of Medea and others that he had advanced so far up the ladder. It was the female goddess Aphrodite who brought Medea into Jason’s life. It was Medea who saved the day when the Golden Fleece was so near and yet so far. Medea was the one who defeated the giant Talos on Crete. Now Jason wanted to take advantage of Glauce so that he would be one step closer to his goal of becoming king.
Jason had clawed, climbed, and stabbed his way almost to the pinnacle of power. There was nothing he was unwilling to do or say in his overweening reach for dominance. Power was the ying and yang of his existence. Now he was so very close with the upcoming marriage to Glauce. He had the blessing of the King of Corinth. The throne would soon be his as he would have undoubtedly plotted some nefarious deed to help the current crown wearer onto the path of an early meeting with the gods. Jason was ready to do anything to win.
Jason had tossed aside Medea. Now he lost Glauce and his chance to become the next King of Corinth. But far worse lay in store for Jason. Medea was deeply afraid that her actions would result in the torture, enslavement, and possible murder of the children which she had borne for her former lover. Medea decided to put her two children to death. She has been painted as a woman who would stop at nothing. What must be kept in mind are two things: One is the conditions of the times. Her children would have undoubtedly suffered far worse in the hands of the followers of the dead king. Second, Jason had thrown his lover to the wolves to fend for herself. Jason is the one ultimately responsible for the death of his own children.
Jason had never raised any objections when Medea killed for him. She was welcome to kill her brother, as well as to bring down Talos and Pelias. The blood was as much on his hands as that of Medea. He was not unfamiliar with killing as he lived by the sword. That was no better than Medea who used sorcery and trickery. Blood is blood and death is death. Jason was willing to let the blood flow as long as it flowed in his favor.
The man who wanted to be king seems more bothered by the loss of power than the loss of progeny. The death of his children did not stop Jason from once again reaching for the top. The death of his fiancée and his two sons should have seen Jason reduced into an inconsolable mass. Such a loss should have turned him into a man who renounced violence and personal gain. Instead, he and Peleus decided to attack the city of Iolcus where they defeated Acastus. All of the bloodshed did not teach Jason a lesson. He kept on reaching no matter who stood in his way.
Jason was not Medea and she was not him. She finally had had enough of ambition and bloodshed. Medea went to Athens in a chariot provided by Helios who was her grandfather as well as being the Sun God. The story of Medea ends with a ride provided by a god. Medea was saved by a god while Jason was condemned by a goddess. He had used both goddesses and mortal women to advance his aims. How fitting that it was Hera who abandoned Jason after he threw aside Medea. He tossed away a sorceress and was in turn tossed aside by a goddess.
The tragedy that is Medea’s life story ends with her escaping to a new existence. Jason’s tale ends with a lonely death beneath the very ship which had carried him to adventures and fame. Jason and Medea had walked that ship together as they plotted and schemed how to advance his career. Medea sailed away from Colchis with Jason on the Argo after she had revealed to him the secrets of winning the Golden Fleece. The same ship took them to Crete where it was again Medea who saved the day.
The ship Argo had reached the end of its glory days. The vessel lay rotting on the shore much like the ruins of Jason’s life. He had used, abused, and abandoned Medea. He was only going to marry Glauce to get one step closer to power. Now he was himself abandoned by all that knew him. Hera and human alike no longer had anything to do with him. His end came when his magnificent ship fell apart about him as he slept beneath. He literally went down with the ship. However, it was certainly not in a way that he or anyone else could have ever imagined. He did not die at sea during a mighty storm. That would have been a fitting (though tragic) end for a man who became a legend. Jason’s greed and gluttony for power brought him down to earth in a devastating manner.
The story of Medea and Jason is in a way an ancient Bonnie and Clyde. Guns were not drawn, but those who stood in their way were bound to come to a bad end. One encouraged the other to greater deeds, or excesses, depending on who was looking at it. The difference is that Bonnie and Clyde lived for each other. One would do anything for the other. According to Federici-Nebbiosi, Medea was willing to do anything to help Jason one step further up the ladder (470). Jason was willing to let Medea do his dirty work until such time as he no longer felt a need for her.
Jason was not afraid to get his hands dirty when it came to treachery, deceit, and murder. At the same time, he raised no objections when Medea or his Argonauts were the ones to shed the blood instead of him. All that mattered was that he was one step closer to his goals. Medea murdered for love, whereas Jason murdered for ambition. Medea betrayed others in the desire to help the love of her life. Jason betrayed others in his desire to advance at all costs. Murder and betrayal are not to be admired. The one redeeming factor in Medea’s favor is that she did it for love.
Medea has long been looked at as nothing more than a woman willing and able to murder family members. Jason is looked at as a hero. The story of Jason and Medea was written well before the birth of Jesus. Jason was brave then and brave now. Medea was a murderess then and the same today. The birth of the 20th century saw the rise of a new medium of entertainment in the form of moving images. The story of Jason and the Argonauts was filmed in 1963 and again in 2000. Jason is a hero written large in both productions. Another production is planned for 2014, and the hero remains. Jason is proof that things do indeed stay the same no matter how the times change. Two films bear the title of Medea. One was made in 1969 and another in 1988. Medea was not portrayed as a heroic figure. She is again the woman who is best remembered for murdering her own family. Medea cannot get a break onscreen or off. She is a villain no matter in which century or in which medium.
The arrival of a new millennium has seen very little change. Jason’s name is writ large in the annals of the great heroes. What matters is not the body count for which he was directly or indirectly responsible. All that is of import is that he boldly went out in search of great adventure. Men were expected to do such things in that day and age. Women were meant to stay at home, raise the children, and wait patiently for the men. Medea broke the mold in that regard. She was as willing and as capable as any man. Her very boldness is in large part what has eternally condemned her. Men are supposed to be men, and women are supposed to worship the very ground they walk on.
Medea was a villainess hundreds of years before the start of what is now called the Common Era. Jason has been the image of a hero for the same length of time. Jason encouraged Medea’s murdering schemes as long as they helped him reach his goals. He raised no more objections to fratricide than he did to the murder of the bronze giant of Crete. The body count in the story of Jason and Medea is an impressive one. However, it is the story of one who remains majestically above the fray while the one who loved him was cast down into the dirt. Jason is ultimately the real villain of the piece. Medea is a model of strength and determination all too rarely seen in works of fiction.
The fact that Jason first encouraged Medea’s rampage is largely ignored or glossed over. Men will be men and women have to be women. According to Staley, Medea was a woman out of her time (137). She still is in many ways. She has not been forgiven for her sins. The double standard means that Medea will never be redeemed.
Federici-Nebbiosi, Susanna. "Earth, Speak to Me, Grass, Speak to Me!" Trauma,
Tragedy, and the Crash Between Cultures in Medea. Psychoanalytic Dialogues.
16.4. (2006). 465-480. Ebscohost. 06 Oct. 2012.
Staley, Gregory A. ed. American Women and Classical Myths. Waco. Baylor
University Press. 2009. Print.
Stover, Tim. Confronting Medea: Genre, gender, and allusion in the Argonautica of
Valerius Flaccus. Classical Philology. 98.2 (2003). 123-147. Ebscohost. 06 Oct.