And mark my words well: no-one shall learn of this oracle if you value your lives! Phrixus, however, was so popular with the people that no one wished to see him die. A large crowd gathered in the market-place and began an anxious discussion. What if we have to offer Helle, too, and after that our own children as well? The gods are right to seek his punishment! At this moment she was seizing the opportunity to be revenged on the unfortunate youth because he had once spurned her lustful advances.
And so she now began to tell the crowd how Phrixus had allegedly made a shameless attack on her virtue, and that it was for this reason the gods were angry with him. Until a day before, not a single one of them had wished to see him sacrificed, now they all demanded it as the only way to make the earth bear seed again. Although Athamas could not bring himself to believe that Phrixus was guilty, the people could endure no more and rose against him. Angry crowds gathered outside the palace, and there were many who were ready to burst in, seize Phrixus and drag him to the place of sacrifice.
And while Athamas paced back and forth in an agony of indecision, Ino decided that the time had come for her to add her voice:. Everything Biadice says is the plain truth. If you doubt it, the anger of the gods is all the proof you need.
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The people have every right to rise against you and demand that Phrixus be led to Laphystium for punishment. Face the facts: the salvation of Orchomenus lies in your hands!
Athamas saw that he had no other choice. Besides, how was he to know that the oracle was a fake? How could he have imagined that his wife could be so sly, or Biadice such a liar? And so the sacrifice was decided upon.
Ni Claydon (Author of Flights of Nephele)
The son of Athamas was doomed to die for the disaster he had supposedly brought upon the people of Orchomenus. Phrixus accepted the news of his harsh fate with calm courage. Although he stood accused of a crime he had never committed, he was willing to lay down his life if only he knew that by his death he would save his people from starvation.
But on the other hand he was no fool; he saw what lay behind the charge, and that his sacrifice would be in vain. Helle, too, though younger, sensed that a hideous injustice was about to be enacted — but she still had a secret hope. At sunrise the next day, they took Phrixus and led him up to the place of sacrifice. They did not wish to let Helle accompany her brother, but nothing could keep her away, and she refused to be parted from him.
The Story of the Golden Ram Begins
Shattered with grief, their unhappy father followed in their footsteps. The procession reached the summit of Mount Laphystium and halted before the altar of Zeus. When the soldiers had prepared the pyre for the sacrifice, the priest, a knife concealed beneath his cloak, seized Phrixus by the arm.
Hoping for a miracle, Phrixus and Helle searched the sky with anxious eyes.
Suddenly they saw a cloud, which drew ever closer. On it, the young people could just make out a tiny dot. Their hearts began to beat in wild hope. Now the figure of a woman could be clearly distinguished. He attempted to push her away, but Helle cried again:. All those on the mountain-top watched the cloud in awe as it rapidly approached. Upon it sat Nephele, returning to her children in the hour of their greatest need. At her side was a ram with a golden fleece that glinted in the bright beams of the sun.
All who saw the scene were moved, except Ino, who glared at Nephele with hatred in her eyes. The priest, his heart softened too, relaxed his hold on Phrixus, who ran with Helle into the arms of their mother. Nephele embraced her two children with tears of joy, then, wiping the teardrops from her eyes, whispered urgently to her son:.
It is a magic ram that can fly through the sky, even though it has no wings. Seek his protection, and in return make him a gift of the golden fleece, after you have first sacrificed the ram to Zeus. It will prove more precious than he could ever begin to imagine. How can I stay here all alone? And her words were echoed by their astonished father, who could not conceal his joy at this unhoped-for aid. All who stood on the summit added their farewells, dazzled by the great miracle, and filled with remorse for the fate they had so recently reserved for the innocent young man.
Soon the shining ram was but a tiny golden speck, and then it faded from sight into the vault of the heavens. Phrixus and Helle flew on calmly and peacefully, filled with boundless joy. They sped swiftly over mountains and plains, then crossed above a broad sea filled with islands of all sizes. How wonderful it would have been if their flight had continued as smoothly as it had begun.
But this, alas, was not to be.
The Golden Ram and the Golden Fleece
When they reached the narrow channel which links the Aegean to the Sea of Marmara, the weather suddenly changed for the worse. Heavy black clouds filled the sky, while bolts of lightning and the rumbling of thunder made them fear that the world was about to come to its end. At the same time a furious wind blew up, lashing the air to wild turbulence. For all this, the ram kept straight on course. Helle, meanwhile, was terrified. Her courage failed her as she stared in dread at the stormlashed waves below.
Phrixus, calm and brave as ever, tried to reassure his sister, telling her that if she clung on tightly there was nothing to be feared. But Helle, who was not a strong girl, grew more and more terrified, and could not hold her own against the raging storm. Exhaustion and fear had weakened her so much that in the end her grip loosened. By a cruel irony of fate, at the very moment when the first sign of clear blue sky appeared on the horizon, she slid from the slippery back of the golden ram and with a cry of despair hurtled into the void beneath.
There was no saving her. Phrixus had lost his sister and now, alone and desolate, he continued his flight with a heart torn by grief. The unlucky girl had died, but her name was destined to remain alive for all time — for the narrow strait in which she fell to her death has been known as the Hellespont ever since. And men say that the flow of the waters through its narrow walls may sometimes rise to a roar and sometimes fall to a murmur, but it will never cease entirely, for its sound is the lullaby which sweetens the eternal sleep of the daughter of Nephele.
Phrixus entered with the golden ram, and there he told the king his whole tragic story and how his sister had been lost. Not only did he receive the young man with an open heart, but he gave him his daughter Chalciope in marriage, and four sons were eventually born of this union. Delighted with his precious gift, the king hung it from a thousand-year old oak tree in the sacred grove of Ares, and set a fearsome dragon to guard it night and day.
The golden fleece soon proved to be even more precious than it appeared. OVUM : Pale green, slightly oval 1.
THE GOLDEN RAM IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY
Dichromatic: green or brown. Surface of head dull and smooth. Body tapering somewhat sharply from segments 5 to 2, rest of body nearly cylindrical; surface dull and smooth. Horn rising from a conical tumidity; long, stout, tapering evenly to a blunt tip, from the dorsal surface of which projects a short conical tooth; basal half of horn slightly down-curved, distal half straight.
In the green form, head grass-green; labrum green; ligula dull violet; basal segment of antenna pale green, other segments blood-red; mandible yellow, tip dark reddish-brown; eyes brown. Body green, dotted closely with yellow; a narrow violet dorsal stripe, touched with black at the front. Horn dark fuscous-violet, the conical point chestnut; legs white with a dark brown streak down the outer face of each segment; prolegs with base and shank green, ankle green tinged with violet, feet violet.
Spiracles small, flush, brown with a dusky band across the middle and with a narrow, yellow rim. The dorsum turns brown before pupation. At rest the larva raises the head and anterior segments at a sharp angle with the rest of the body. PUPA : 66mm. Colour bone-yellow, tongue-sheath pinkish, abdomen suffused with pale violet-brown; a dark brown dorsal stripe on thorax becoming broad and greenish on abdomen; venter pale pinkish-yellow, with a brown interrupted central stripe; spiracles and cremaster black.
Slender in build; tongue-sheath projecting much frontad, the ventral surface of sheath concave basad; antenna about half length of wing-case, foreleg slightly shorter; a narrow coxal piece.