Medea was a character in Greek mythology. Many poets, mythmakers and playwrights have told her story. Playwright Euripides wrote the most popular version of the Medea myth as a tragedy in 5th Century BC. Medea, daughter of Aeëte, the King of Colchis, is a witch with extraordinary powers. The kingdom where Medea lives is the site of the Golden Fleece, a ram skin with divine power. To protect it, the King orders it hidden in a sacred wood. An invincible dragon guards the fleece.
To gain the Gold Fleece, a Greek hero named Jason embarks for Colchis. Jason is heir to the kingdom of Iolcus but his uncle Pelias stole the throne. Jason and Pelias agree that Jason can become King of Iolcus if he brings home the Golden Fleece.
The task seems impossible. Medea falls in love with Jason. She uses her magic powers to help him steal the Golden Fleece. Medea betrays her family and homeland for the love of Jason, who takes her to Iolcus. On arrival at Iolcus, Jason expects to be crowned king. His uncle Pelias does not keep his promise and threatens to have the young lovers executed. Medea uses her shrewdness and witchcraft to kill Pelias. Jason finally takes the throne of Iolcus. Medea marries him. They have two sons. The king and queen face a new enemy. Acastus, Pelias’ son, wages war on them in his father's name. Jason and Medea lose the battle. They take refuge in Corinth, at the court of King Creon. They enjoy many years of happiness until King Creon offers his daughter, Princess Glauce, as a bride for Jason. The marriage would make Jason King of Corinth. Driven by ambition, he abandons Medea to wed Glauce. Medea plots her revenge.
Pretending to accept her fate, she offers a wedding present to the future bride. It is a poisoned dress and crown that create deadly flames when they are worn. Princess Glauce, her attempted rescuers and her father Creon all die in a blaze. Then, to inflict the most atrocious possible pain on Jason, Medea kills their sons with her own hands. Taking their corpses with her, she departs on a flying chariot while Jason invokes the gods’ vengeance. The myth of Media explores a varied tapestry of human emotions. In Euripides’ play, the story is linked to deep, dangerous passions. Love transforms into hate and the desire for revenge leads to infanticide. The tendency of depressed mothers to wish for the death of their children is defined in contemporary psychology as the Medea Complex.