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[27]

Now Pelias, despairing of the return of the Argonauts, would have killed Aeson; but he requested to be allowed to take his own life, and in offering a sacrifice drank freely of the bull's blood and died.1 And Jason's mother cursed Pelias and hanged herself,2 leaving behind an infant son Promachus; but Pelias slew even the son whom she had left behind.3 On his return Jason surrendered the fleece, but though he longed to avenge his wrongs he bided his time. At that time he sailed with the chiefs to the Isthmus and dedicated the ship to Poseidon, but afterwards he exhorted Medea to devise how he could punish Pelias. So she repaired to the palace of Pelias and persuaded his daughters to make mince meat of their father and boil him, promising to make him young again by her drugs; and to win their confidence she cut up a ram and made it into a lamb by boiling it. So they believed her, made mince meat of their father and boiled him.4 But Acastus buried his father with the help of the inhabitants of Iolcus, and he expelled Jason and Medea from Iolcus.


1 Compare Diod. 4.50.1; Valerius Flaccus, Argon. i.777ff. The ancients believed that bull's blood was poisonous. Similarly Themistocles was popularly supposed to have killed himself by drinking bull's blood (Plut. Them. 31).

2 Her name was Perimede, according to Apollod. 1.9.16. Diodorus Siculus calls her Amphinome, and says that she stabbed herself after cursing Pelias (Diod. 4.50.1).

3 Compare Diod. 4.50.1.

4 With this account of the death of Pelias compare Diod. 4.51ff.; Paus. 8.11.2ff.; Zenobius, Cent. iv.92; Plaut. Ps. 868ff.; Cicero, De senectute xxiii.83; Ov. Met. 7.297-349; Hyginus, Fab. 24. The story of the fraud practised by Medea on Pelias is illustrated by Greek vase-paintings. For example, on a black-figured vase the ram is seen issuing from the boiling cauldron, while Medea and the two daughters of Pelias stand by watching it with gestures of glad surprise, and the aged white-haired king himself sits looking on expectant. See Miss J. E. Harrison, Greek Vase Paintings (London, 1894), plate ii; Baumeister, Denkmäler des klassischen Altertums, ii.1201ff. with fig. 1394. According to the author of the epic Returns (Nostoi), Medea in like manner restored to youth Jason's old father, Aeson; according to Pherecydes and Simonides, she applied the magical restorative with success to her husband, Jason. Again, Aeschylus wrote a play called The Nurses of Dionysus, in which he related how Medea similarly renovated not only the nurses but their husbands by the simple process of decoction. See the Greek Argument to the Medea of Euripides, and the Scholiast on Aristophanes, Knights, 1321. (According to Ov. Met. 7.251-294, Medea restored Aeson to youth, not by boiling him, but by draining his body of his effete old blood and replacing it by a magic brew.) Again, when Pelops had been killed and served up at a banquet of the gods by his cruel father Tantalus, the deities in pity restored him to life by boiling him in a cauldron from which he emerged well and whole except for the loss of his shoulder, of which Demeter had inadvertently partaken. See Pind. O. 1.26(40)ff with the Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 152-153. For similar stories of the magical restoration of youth and life, see Frazer's Appendix to Apollodorus, “The Renewal of Youth.”

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