Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
*Lemnos. Greek island in the northeastern part of the Aegean Sea where Jason and his crew make their first stop after setting out from Iolcus. Inhabited only by women, Lemnos is the first of many locations where the Argonauts encounter representations of otherness–non-Greek, non-male, or non-human forms. Lemnos is a site of danger for the Argonauts, who risk being entrapped by sexual desire and diverted from their quest. This danger is reflected in the landscape, as the boy Hylas is pulled into a cooling spring by water nymphs and drowned.
Clashing Rocks. Known as the Symplegades in Greek, these massive rocks are shrouded in an impenetrable mist and by smashing together destroy anything that attempts to pass between them. They bar access to the Black Sea from the Aegean and are a mythical outgrowth of the narrow straits of the Bosporos, or perhaps the Hellespont. The rocks are a symbolic barrier between the world of the living and the realm of the dead, for the voyage of the Argo to Colchis is, on one level, the equivalent of the hero’s journey to the underworld and his overcoming of death.
*Aea (EE-ah). Capital of the land of Colchis, a region at the eastern end of the Black Sea that included part of the Caucasus. Aea was ruled by King Æetes, who was a son of Helios the sun god and whose name means “earthman.” Aea is an archetypal end-of-the-world location–a place where traditional boundaries and rules do not apply. There, the Golden Fleece hangs on an oak tree in a grove, guarded by an unsleeping dragon. Medea, whom the gods have made fall in love with Jason, helps Jason secure the fleece by using her knowledge of magic herbs and potions. She abandons her father and country to escape with the Argonauts and is the embodiment of Aea’s close links with the earth and its old matriarchal powers.
*Libya. Ancient Greek name for much of the coastal area of North Africa, a region much larger than the modern country of the same name. One of the most fanciful locations in the story, Libya is marked by strange geography, harsh conditions, and close encounters with danger. The homeward journey of the Argo does not retrace the route taken to get to Colchis, but follows a path that mixes real and fictional geography. Traveling up the Danube River, to the Adriatic Sea, then up the Po River and through southern France to the coast of Italy, Jason and the Argonauts finally reach Libya, where a storm drives them into the Syrtis, a “dead sea” filled with seaweed. This episode includes a visit to an inland lake, Tritonis, a journey across the desert to the Garden of the Hesperides (mysteriously transposed from the far-western seas), and a return to the Mediterranean guided through treacherous waters by the god Triton.
*Corinth. Greek city in the north of the Peloponnese. After a journey of four months, Jason returns to Iolcus and restores his father to the throne. Shortly thereafter, he and Medea are driven out of the city and travel to Corinth. There, Jason returns to his Greek self, abandoning Medea for the daughter of the local king; however, Medea takes her revenge by killing their two sons. She flies away to Athens, and Jason is killed by a beam that falls on his head from the rotting Argo on the seashore. Jason’s pathetic death makes him a less than typically heroic character, and it happens by the sea, the element on which he had his greatest successes. Corinth represents the heart of Greece; although Jason attempts to fit into this location, he cannot do so, perhaps because he is now too tainted by otherness and the exotic.