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A street scene in Médéa

Médéa (Arabic: المدية, pronounced Lemdiya‎), population 123,535 (1998 census) is the capital city of Médéa Province, Algeria. It is located roughly 90 km south of Algiers.

The present-day city is situated on the site of an ancient Roman military post and has a history dating back to the 10th century. The town is French in character, with a rectangular city plan, red tile-roofed buildings, and beautiful public gardens. The hills surrounding Médéa are covered with vineyards, orchards, and farms that yield abundant grain. Médéa’s chief products are wines, irrigation equipment, and various handicrafts.

Coordinates: 36°16′N 2°45′E / 36.267°N 2.75°E / 36.267; 2.75


Medea (Greek: Μήδεια, Mēdeia) is a woman in Greek mythology. She was the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis, niece of Circe, granddaughter of the sun god Helios, and later wife to the hero Jason, with whom she had two children: Mermeros and Pheres. In Euripides' play Medea, Jason leaves Medea when Creon, king of Corinth, offers him his daughter, Creusa or Glauce. The play tells of how Medea gets her revenge on her husband for this betrayal.

The myths involving Jason also involve Medea. These have been interpreted by specialists, principally in the past, as part of a class of myths that tell how the Hellenes of the distant heroic age, before the Trojan War, faced the challenges of the pre-Greek "Pelasgian" cultures of mainland Greece, the Aegean and Anatolia. Jason, Perseus, Theseus, and above all Heracles, are all "liminal" figures, poised on the threshold between the old world of shamans, chthonic earth deities, and the new Bronze Age Greek ways.

Medea figures in the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, a myth known best from a late literary version worked up by Apollonius of Rhodes in the 3rd century B.C. and called the Argonautica. But for all its self-consciousness and researched archaic vocabulary, the late epic was based on very old, scattered materials.

Medea is known in most stories as an enchantress and is often depicted as being a priestess of the goddess Hecate or a witch. The myth of Jason and Medea is very old, originally written around the time Hesiod wrote the Theogony. It was known to the composer of the Little Iliad, part of the Epic Cycle.


The myth of Jason and Medea

(painted 1866-68); its rejection for exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1868 caused a storm of protest]]

Medea's role began after Jason arrived from Iolcus to Colchis to claim his inheritance and throne by retrieving the Golden Fleece. Medea fell in love with him and promised to help him, but only on the condition that if he succeeded, he would take her with him and marry her. Jason agreed. In a familiar mythic motif, Aeëtes promised to give him the fleece, but only if he could perform certain tasks. First, Jason had to plough a field with fire-breathing oxen that he had to yoke himself. Medea gave him a potion to protect him from the bulls' fiery breath. Then, Jason had to sow the teeth of a dragon in the ploughed field (compare the myth of Cadmus). The teeth sprouted into an army of warriors. Jason was forewarned by Medea, however, and knew to throw a rock into the crowd. Unable to determine where the rock had come from, the soldiers attacked and defeated each other. Finally, Aeëtes made Jason fight and kill the sleepless dragon that guarded the fleece. Medea put the beast to sleep with her narcotic herbs. Jason then took the fleece and sailed away with Medea, as he had promised. (Some accounts say that Medea only helped Jason in the first place because Hera had convinced Aphrodite or Eros to cause Medea to fall in love with him.) Medea distracted her father as they fled by killing her brother Absyrtus. In some versions, Medea is said to have dismembered his body and scattered his parts on an island, knowing her father would stop to retrieve them for proper burial; in other versions, it is Absyrtus himself who pursued them, and was killed by Jason. During the fight, Atalanta was seriously wounded, but Medea healed her.

According to some versions, Medea and Jason stopped on her aunt Circe's island so that she could be cleansed after the murder of her brother, relieving her of blame for the deed.


On the way back to Thessaly, Medea prophesied that Euphemus, the Argo's helmsman, would one day rule over all Libya. This came true through Battus, a descendant of Euphemus.

The Argo then reached the island of Crete, guarded by the bronze man, Talos (Talus). Talos had one vein which went from his neck to his ankle, bound shut by a single bronze nail. According to Apollodorus, Talos was slain either when Medea drove him mad with drugs, deceived him that she would make him immortal by removing the nail, or was killed by Poeas's arrow (Apollodorus 1.140). In the Argonautica, Medea hypnotized him from the Argo, driving him mad so that he dislodged the nail, ichor flowed from the wound, and he bled to death (Argonautica 4.1638). After Talos died, the Argo landed.

While Jason searched for the Golden Fleece, Hera, who was still angry at Pelias, conspired to make him fall in love with Medea, who she hoped would kill Pelias. When Jason and Medea returned to Iolcus, Pelias still refused to give up his throne. Medea conspired to have Pelias' own daughters kill him. She told them she could turn an old ram into a young ram by cutting up the old ram and boiling it (alternatively, she did this with Aeson, Jason's father). During the demonstration, a live, young ram jumped out of the pot. Excited, the girls cut their father into pieces and threw them into a pot. Having killed Pelias, Jason and Medea fled to Corinth.

Many endings

In Corinth, Jason left Medea for the king's daughter. Medea took her revenge by sending Glauce a dress and golden coronet, covered in poison. This resulted in the deaths of both the princess and the king, Creon, when he went to save her. According to the tragic poet Euripides, Medea continued her revenge, murdering her two sons by Jason. Afterward, she left Corinth and flew to Athens in a golden chariot driven by dragons sent by her grandfather Helios, god of the sun.


Before the fifth century BC there seems to have been two variants of the myth's conclusion. According to the 7th-century BC poet Eumelus, Medea killed her children by accident.[1] The poet Creophylus, however, blamed their murders on the citizens of Corinth.[2] Medea's deliberate murder of her children, then, appears to be Euripides' invention.[3] Her filicide would go on to become the standard for later writers.[4]

Fleeing from Jason, Medea made her way to Thebes where she healed Heracles (the former Argonaut) for the murder of Iphitus. In return, Heracles gave her a place to stay in Thebes until the Thebans drove her out in anger, despite Heracles' protests.

She then fled to Athens where she met and married Aegeus. They had one son, Medus, although Hesiod makes Medus the son of Jason[5]. Her domestic bliss was once again shattered by the arrival of Aegeus' long-lost son, Theseus. Determined to preserve her own son's inheritance, Medea convinced her husband that Theseus was a threat and that he should be disposed of. As Medea handed Theseus a cup of poison, Aegeus recognized the young man's sword as his own, which he had left behind many years previous for his newborn son, to be given to him when he came of age. Knocking the cup from Medea's hand, Aegeus embraced Theseus as his own.

Medea then returned to Colchis and, finding that Aeëtes had been deposed by his brother, promptly killed her uncle, and restored the kingdom to her father. Herodotus reports another version, in which Medea and her son Medus fled from Athens to the Iranian plateau and lived among the Aryans, who then changed their name to the Medes.[6]

Personae of Medea

Confusion and frustration may arise if modern readers attempt to shoehorn the disparate mythic elements connected with the persona of Medea into a single, self-consistent historicized narrative, in order to produce a "biography" in the hagiographic manner familiar to Christians. Though the early literary presentations of Medea are lost,[7] Apollonius of Rhodes, in a redefinition of epic formulas, and Euripides, in a dramatic version for a specifically Athenian audience, each employed the figure of Medea; Seneca offered yet another tragic Medea, of witchcraft and potions, and Ovid rendered her portrait three times for a sophisticated and sceptical audience in Imperial Rome. The far-from-static evolution undergone by the figure of Medea was the subject of a recent set of essays published in 1997.[8] Other, non-literary traditions guided the vase-painters,[9] and a localized, chthonic presence of Medea was propitiated with unrecorded emotional overtones at Corinth, at the sanctuary devoted to her slain children,[10] or locally venerated elsewhere as a foundress of cities.[11]



Cinema and television

Medea in popular culture

  • A "Medea complex" is sometimes used to describe parents who murder or otherwise harm their children.[12]
  • Born Susie Benjamin, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of both Code Pink and the international human rights organization Global Exchange, renamed herself after the Greek mythological character Medea during her freshman year at Tufts University.
  • Medea is featured in the visual novel game and anime series Fate/stay night as an example of the Caster-class Servant.
  • In 2006 The Abingdon Theatre Company produced a spoof on the Medea novels, "My Deah" by John Epperson.
  • Playwright Christopher Durang wrote a short spoof of Medea.
  • Playwright Neil LaBute wrote a scene in his play "Bash: Latter-Days Plays" called "Medea Redux", inspired by the myth of Medea.
  • Medea is one of the NPC villains in the Freedom City campaign setting for the Mutants and Masterminds role-playing game. Talos, the bronze man of Crete, is also featured as an NPC villain.
  • Singer/songwriter Vienna Teng wrote a song entitled My Medea.
  • The genetic technique called Maternal effect dominant embryonic arrest, which favors offspring with particular genes, is named after Medea.
  • In Stephen Sondheim's musical, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," the opening number, "Comedy Tonight," contains the line, "Nothing that's grim; nothing that's Greek. She plays Medea later this week."
  • In the PS2 game Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, Medea is the Persona for the character Chidori. Appropriate to the "Medea complex", Medea herself tries to strangle Chidori at one point in the game.
  • In the PS2 game Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, Medea is the princess of a ruined kingdom, Trodain. She was put under a curse by a jester named Dhoulmagus and was transformed into a horse. She is a horse throughout most of the game.
  • In the book series Cry of the Icemark, book 2, The Blade of Fire, Medea tries to kill her brother and betray her country.
  • "Medea--One Foot In Hell" is the final track on The Showdown's album Back Breaker.
  • In James Owen's novel "The Search for the Red Dragon," Medea is a woman that lives on only as a reflection in a mirror. She spends most of her time in the novel talking to Peter Pan in a cave guarded by children dressed in animal furs.
  • In the Woody Allen Movie Annie Hall, the character played by him, Alvy Singer, is lamenting Annie moving to Hollywood. Leaving a theater in an impromtu conversation with an older lady he meets on the street, she asks him, "Don't tell me you're jealous?" Alvy replies, "Yeah. Jealous? A little bit. Like Medea."

Primary sources

Heroides XII
Metamorphoses VII, 1-450


  • G.Theodoridis. Full Text. Prose: [1]

Secondary material

Related Literature


  1. ^ As noted in a scholium to Pindar's Olympian Ode 13.74; cf. Pausanias 2.3.10-11.
  2. ^ As noted in the scholium to Medea 274.
  3. ^ See McDermott 1985, 10-15.
  4. ^ Hyginus Fabulae 25; Ovid Met. 7.391ff.; Seneca Medea; Apollodorus Bibliotheca 1.9.28
  5. ^ Hesiod Theogony 1000-2
  6. ^ Herodotus Histories VII.62i
  7. ^ The lost Corinthiaca of Naupactos and the Building of the Argo, by Epimenides of Crete, for instances.
  8. ^ Medea: Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philosophy, and Art, James Joseph Clauss and Sarah Iles Johnston, eds., (Princeton University Press) 1997. Includes a bibliography of works focused on Medea.
  9. ^ As on the bell krater at the Cleveland Museum of Art (91.1) discussed in detail by Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood, "Medea at a Shifting Distance: Images and Euripidean tragedy", in Clauss and Johnston 1997, pp 253-96.
  10. ^ Edouard Will, Corinth 1955. "By identifying Medea, Ino and Melikertes, Bellerophon, and Hellotis as pre-Olympianprecursors of Hera, Poseidon, and Athena, he could give to Corinth a religious antiquity it did not otherwise possess," wrote Nancy Bookidis, "The Sanctuaries of Corinth", Corinth 20 (2003)
  11. ^ "Pindar shows her prophesying the foundation of Cyrene; Herodotus makes her the legendary eponymous founder of the Medes; Callimachus and Apollonius describe colonies founded by Colchians originally sent out in pursuit of her" observes Nita Krevans, "Medea as foundation heroine", in Clauss and Johnston 1997 pp 71-82 (p. 71).
  12. ^ Lucire, Yolande. Medea: Perspectives on a Multicide [online]. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, The; Volume 25, Issue 2; Dec 1993; 74-82. Availability: <;dn=783875560798854;res=E-LIBRARY> ISSN: 0045-0618.
  13. ^ Fragments are printed and discussed by Theodor Heinze, Der XII. Heroidenbrief: Medea an Jason Mit einer Beilage: Die Fragmente der Tragödie Medea P. Ovidius Naso. (in series Mnemosyne, Supplements, 170. 1997


  • McDermott, Emily (1985). Euripides' Medea. Penn State Press. ISBN 0271026537

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