4. THE ASSEMBLING OF THE HEROES AND THE BUILDING OF THE SHIP
First there came the youths Castor and Polydeuces. They came riding on white horses, two noble-looking brothers. They came from Sparta, and their mother was Leda, who, after the twin brothers, gave birth to another child born—Helen, for whose sake the sons of many of Jason’s friends were to wage war against the great city of Troy. These were the first heroes who came to Iolcus after the word had gone out through Greece of Jason’s adventure in quest of the Golden Fleece.
Then there came one who was both welcome and respected by Jason. This one came without spear or bow, carrying in his hands a lyre only. He was Orpheus, and he knew all the ways of the gods and all the stories of the gods. When he played his lyre and sang the trees would listen and the animals would follow him. It was Chiron who had advised Orpheus to go with Jason. Chiron the centaur had met him as he was wandering through the forests on Mount Pelion and had sent him down into Iolcus.
Then there came two men well skilled in the handling of ships—Tiphys and Nauplius. Tiphys knew all about the sun and winds and stars, and all about the signs by which a ship might be steered, and Nauplius had the love of Poseidon, the god of the sea.
Afterward there came, one after the other, two who were famous for their hunting. No two could be more different than these two were. The first was Arcas. He was dressed in the skin of a bear. He had red hair and savage-looking eyes, and for a weapon he carried a mighty bow with bronze-tipped arrows. The folk were watching an eagle as he came into the city, an eagle that was winging its way far, far up in the sky. Arcas drew his bow, and with one arrow he brought the eagle down.
The other hunter was a girl, Atalanta. Tall and bright haired was Atalanta, swift and good with the bow. She had dedicated herself to the goddess Artemis, the guardian of wild things, and she had vowed that she would never marry. All the heroes welcomed Atalanta as a comrade, and the young woman did everything that the young men did.
There came a hero who was not as young as Castor or Polydeuces. He was a wise man named Nestor. Afterward Nestor went to the war against Troy, and then he was the oldest of the heroes in the camp of Agamemnon.
Two brothers came who were to be special friends of Jason’s—Peleus and Telamon. Both were still young and neither had yet achieved any notable deed. Afterward they were to be famous, but their sons were to be even more famous, for the son of Telamon was strong Aias, and the son of Peleus was great Achilles.
Another who came was Admetus. Afterward he became a famous king. The God Apollo once made himself a shepherd and he kept the flocks of King Admetus.
There came two brothers, twins, who were a wonder to all who saw them; Zetes and Calais. Their mother was Oreithyia, the daughter of Erechtheus, King of Athens, and their father was Boreas, the North Wind. These two brothers had on their ankles wings that gleamed with golden scales. Their black hair was thick on their shoulders, and it was always being shaken by the wind.
With Zetes and Calais there came a youth armed with a great sword whose name was Theseus. Theseus’s father was an unknown king .He had asked the mother show their son where his sword was hidden. The king had hidden it under a great stone before Theseus was born. While still a child Theseus had been able to raise the stone and draw out his father’s sword. As yet he had done no great deed, but he was determined to win fame and to find his unknown father.
On the day that the messengers had set out to take throughout Greece the word of Jason’s setting off in quest of the Golden Fleece the woodcutters made their way up into the forests of Mount Pelion. They began to fell trees for the timbers of the ship that was to make the voyage to far Colchis.
Great timbers were cut and brought down to Pagasae, the harbor of Iolcus. On the night of the day he had helped to bring them down Jason had a dream. He dreamt that she whom he had seen first in the forest and afterward by the River Anaurus appeared to him. In his dream the goddess told him rise early in the morning and welcome a man who he would meet at the city’s gate—a tall and gray-haired man who would have on his shoulders tools for the building of a ship.
He went to the city’s gate and he met such a man. Argus was his name. He told Jason that a dream had sent him to the city of Iolcus. Jason welcomed him and put him in the king’s palace, and that day the word went out that the building of the great ship would soon begin.
But Argus did not begin with the timbers brought from Mount Pelion. Walking through the palace with Jason he noted a great beam in the roof. That beam, he said, had been shown to him in his dream. It was from an oak tree in Dodona, the grove of Zeus. A sacred power was in the beam, and from it the prow of the ship should be made. Jason had them take the beam from the roof of the palace. It was brought to where the timbers were, and that day the building of the great ship began.
Then all along the waterside came the noise of hammering and in the street where the metalworkers were came the noise of beating upon metals as the smiths made out of bronze, armor for the heroes and swords and spears. Every day, under the eyes of Argus the master, the ship that had in it the beam from Zeus’s grove was built higher and wider. And those who were building the ship often felt as though it was a living creature.
When the ship was built and made ready for the voyage a name was given to it—the Argo it was called. And naming themselves from the ship the heroes called themselves the Argonauts. All was ready for the voyage, and now Jason went with his friends to view the ship before she was brought into the water.
Argus the master was on the ship, seeing to it that the last things were done before Argo was launched. Argus looked very grave and wise. How wonderful the ship looked to the heroes now that Argus had set up the mast with the sails and had even put the oars in their places. The Argo looked majestic with her long oars and her high sails, with her timbers painted red and gold and blue, and with a marvelous figure carved upon her prow. All over the ship Jason’s eyes went. He saw a figure standing by the mast. For a moment he looked at it, and then the figure vanished. But Jason knew that he had looked upon the goddess whom he had seen in the forest and had seen afterward by the Anaurus River.
Then mast and sails were taken down and the oars were left in the ship, and the Argo was launched into the water. The heroes went back to the palace of King Pelias to feast with the king’s guests before they took their places on the ship, setting out on the voyage to far Colchis.
When they came into the palace they saw that another hero had arrived. His shield was hung in the hall. The heroes all gathered around, amazed at the size and the beauty of it. The shield shone all over with gold. In its center was the figure of Fear—of Fear that stared backward with eyes burning with fire. The mouth was open and the teeth were shown. And other figures were placed around the figure of Fear—Strife and Pursuit and Flight; Tumult and Panic and Slaughter. The figure of Fate was there dragging a dead man by the feet. On her shoulders Fate had a garment that was red with the blood of men.
Around these figures were heads of snakes, heads with black jaws and glittering eyes, twelve heads such as might frighten any man. On other parts of the shield were shown the horses of Ares, the grim god of war. The figure of Ares himself was shown also. He held a spear in his hand, and he was urging the warriors on.
Around the inner rim of the shield the sea was shown, made in white metal. Dolphins swam in the sea, fishing for little fishes that were shown there in bronze. Around the rim chariots were racing along with wheels running close together. There were men fighting and women watching from high towers. The awful figure of the Darkness of Death was shown there, too, with mournful eyes and the dust of battles upon her shoulders. The outer rim of the shield showed the Stream of Ocean, the stream that encircles the world swans were soaring above and swimming on its surface.
All in wonder the heroes gazed on the great shield, telling each other that only one man in all the world could carry it—Hercules the son of Zeus. Could it be that Hercules had come amongst them? They went into the feasting hall and they saw one there who was as tall as a pine tree, with long hair upon his head. Hercules indeed it was! He turned to them a smiling face with smiling eyes. Hercules! They all gathered around the strongest hero in the world, and he took the hand of each in his mighty hand.