Friday, September 19, 2014

Spotted: Jason and the Argonauts Outside the NYPL

Next time you're relaxing in front of the New York Public Library on the Fifth Avenue Terrace, try to spot an exciting detail that just came to our attention. Take a look at the bottom of the light poles and what do you see? An intricate carving of the Greek myth "Jason and the Argonauts".

The myth, also commonly referred to as Jason and the Golden Fleece, is a tragic tale of a hero's quest for vengeance. When his uncle kills his father to take hold of the throne, Jason is taken away to be raised by a centaur on a mountain. However, when Jason turns 20, he decides it is time to set out to take back his rightful throne. When confronted with his angry nephew, the uncle decrees that Jason must prove his worth by retrieving the sacred Golden Fleece from the outskirts of the known world.

The northern of the two intricate poles is beautifully sculpted to portray Jason as a determined hero
After undergoing a dangerous journey through treacherous seas, Jason reaches the land of the Golden Fleece and is promised possession of it if he marries the King's daughter, Medea, as she is a powerful sorceress who has taken a liking to the young hero. Jason agrees and the two set sail back to Greece with the Golden Fleece in hand.

However, like most Greek myths, there is a tragic ending. When they return to Greece, Jason only regains the throne for a short while before the citizens grow wary of his new wife's sorcery and exile them to another land. Once they arrive, however, Jason agrees to marry the King's daughter, thereby breaking the vows he had made to Madea previously. Madea angry kills the new wife, along with her and Jason's children and then flees to Mount Olympus where she ultimately marries Achilles.

On the southern pole, a woman is carved into the base, holding what looks to be a globe.
Jason goes on to return to his ship to grieve. One day, as he is sitting by the boat weeping, a rotted beam falls from the ship and kills him.

Although tragic, the story of Jason and the Argonauts is a classic. We're happy to have found this little part of Greek mythology in the park, and it's a great example of how there are always small and interesting details to be found! Be sure to stop by the Fifth Avenue Terrace soon to see if for yourself.

For more information about Jason and the Argonauts, check out PBS's synopsis of the myth.

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