The Golden Fleece – what was it, really?

Argo

An impression of the Argo by Constantine Volonakis, 1837-1907

Here is something completely different. It dates from my days breeding natural-coloured sheep, and becoming very interested in the genetics of their colour. Inevitably, given my background in classics, I started to wonder about Jason’s voyage in the Argo to carry off the “golden fleece”. What was that all about?

Eventually I presented this paper at the Fifth World Congress on Coloured Sheep held in Australia. It’s a while ago now (1999) and there must have been more recent research that I haven’t caught up with. One aspect I didn’t consider properly is the value of a golden fleece as a symbol of kingship which is inherent in both the legends discussed. Jason had actually been promised the throne of Iolkos, to which he was the rightful heir, if he brought back the fleece. (The promise was broken and it didn’t end well…)

But we still must ask, why a golden fleece and not something else golden?

Anyway, I hope you will find it interesting. Because it’s rather  long, I’ll put the footnotes and bibliography on a separate page. And I’ve added a few colour photos to the original black-and-white text.

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