32. Ino plots against Phrixus

Once upon a time, Athamas, son of Aeolus and Enarete, ruled Boeotia. To obey Hera’s command, Athamas married divine Nephele, and begat a son Phrixus and a daughter Helle. But Athamas loved the mortal Ino, daughter of Kadmos and Harmonia. So, he married again, brought Ino as his second wife, and begat two sons, Learchus and Melicertes. Nephele sorrowfully found Athamas loved Ino more than her. With hurt and anger, the divine Nephele left Athamas and returned to the gods.

Ino hated the children of Nephele and with Nephele gone, she plotted against Nephele’s son Phrixus. She persuaded the women of her tribe, without the knowledge of their men, to parch the seed grains and thereby, make them unfertile. Secretly, the women parched the seed grains. Unaware, the men sowed the parched seeds and the earth did not yield any crops. Athamas was worried that a famine may occur and he sent messengers to the oracles at Delphi, to inquire how the dearth may end. But Ino bribed the messengers to say that if Phrixus, the son of Nephele, was sacrificed to Zeus, then the infertility would end and crops would grow again.

The citizens demanded the sacrifice of Phrixus and reluctantly, Athamas agreed. But Nephele rescued her children Phrixus and Helle, by sending a ram with golden fleece, which she had received from Hermes. Sitting on this ram, Phrixus and Helle escaped through the sky. While crossing the sea between Sigeum and Chersonese, Helle accidentally slipped off the ram, fell in the sea, and drowned. The sea was called as Hellespont after her.

Phrixus arrived to Colchis and was greeted by Aeetes, the king of Colchis. Aeetes gave his daughter Chalciope in marriage to Phrixus. Phrixus sacrificed the ram to Zeus and gave the golden fleece to Aeetes, who in a grove of Ares, nailed it to a big oak tree. Phrixus and Chalciope had children named Argus, Melas, Phrontis, and Cytisorus.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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