The Library of History

Page 151

Page 151 and at other times by her subtil Contrivance procuring their Escapes out of Prison.

For Aectes prompted thereunto both by the cruelty of his own Nature, and likewise incited by the Counsels and Persuasions of Hecate his Wife, observ'd the Custom of Murdering of Strangers. But Medea every day more and more opposed her Parents in this thing; Aectes (upon suspicion of Treason) committed his Daughter Medea to Prison, whence notwithstanding the escap'd, and fled to a Temple of Apollo, seated on the Sea-Shoar; about which same time, the Argonauts sail'd by Taurica, and arriv'd in the Night at Colchis, at the very Place where the Temple stood; where meeting with Medea, wandring upon the Shoar, were inform'd by her of the cruel Custom of Murdering of Strangers in those Parts; whereupon giving the Virgin thanks for her Humanity and Kindness, they told her of their Designs, and of the end of their adventure; and she on the other Hand inform'd them what Dangers she was surrounded with from her Father, by reason of her Kindness and Compassion to Strangers: It being therefore evident to both Parties what was then fit to be done, Medea on her part promis'd she would assist 'em to the uttermost of her power, till they had accomplish'd their Design; and Jason promis'd and confirm'd by a Solemn Oath, that Medea should from that time forward be his Wife. Hereupon the Argonauts leaving a Party to guard their Ships, went with Medea in the Night to the Golden Fleece: Of which we must here write more largely, that nothing may be omitted which is pertinent to the History.

They say that Phryxus the Son of Athamantes, to avoid the malice of his Step-mother, fled out of Greece, together with Helles his Sister, and being by the advice and direction of the Gods, transported out of Europe into Asia, upon the Back of a Golden-fleec'd Ram, it happened that the Young Maid fell off into Pontus, which was therefore from thence call'd Hellespont: But Phryxus landing safe in Colchis, by the Command of the Oracle sacrific'd the Ram, and hung up its Skin in the Temple of Mars.

Afterwards the King was told by the Oracle, that he should dye when some Sea-faring Men came thither, and carry'd away the Golden-Fleece. And this was the Cause (besides the cruelty of his Nature) that mov'd this Vile Man to sacrifice Strangers, that (this horrid Cruelty being nois'd Abroad in all Parts) no Stranger might dare to set footing in his Country. He built a Wall likewise round the Temple, and plac'd a strong Guard of Taurican Soldiers to keep it, which has afforded matter for prodigious Stories among the Grecians; as how that Bulls that breath'd out Fire at their Nostrils guarded the Temple, and that a Dragon kept the Fleece. For by reason of the ambiguity of the Word Taurus, it was strain'd to signify the fierceness and violence of Bulls, and the cruel Murdering of Strangers, gave rise to the fiction of the Bulls breathing out Fire. Upon the same Account the Poets have given the Name of a most terrible and monstrous Beast, plac'd as a Guard for Security of the Temple.

And much like to this Story, is what they say concerning Phryxus: For they say that he sail'd in a Ship, upon whose Foredeck was carv'd the Head of a Ram, and that Helles by leaning too much forward over the sides of the Ship to vomit, fell over-board into the Sea.

Others say, that about the time that Phryxus with his School-master was taken by Aeetes; the Scythian King, the Father in Law of Aeetes, came to Colchis, and fell in love with the Boy, and upon that account he was bestow'd by Aeetes upon the Scythian, who lov'd him as his own Child, and adopted him his Heir and Successor to the Kingdom. But that the School-master whose Name was Crius, was sacrific'd to the Gods, and his Skin according to the Custom, was fastened to the Walls of the Temple.

Afterwards Aeetes being foretold by the Oracle that he should dye when Strangers carry'd away the Ram's-Skin, it's said that he gilt it with Gold, that the Splendour thereof should cause the Soldiers who were set to guard it, to be more careful and diligent in their watch. But we leave every one to judge of these things as he thinks fit.

However it was, Medea conducted the Argonauts to the Temple of Mars, which was not above Seventy Furlongs distant from the City Sybaris, dignify'd with the Palace Royal of the Kings of Colehis. Medea therefore coming in the Night to

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