Several generations of Greek heroes had dealings with Aia and Aeetes. First was Phrixus, who was brought to Aia by air on the  back of a divine talking ram with golden fleece. Upon arriving in Aia, Phrixus sacrificed the ram and hung its radiant fleece on a mighty oak tree in a grove sacred to the god Ares. The spirit of the ram flew into the firmament becoming the constellation Aries (the Ram). Phrixus was welcomed by Aeetes, married his daughter, Chalciope, and fathered several children. There are different accounts of Phrixus' end. Some have him die in Aia in deep old age, others have him murdered by Aeetes (18).
Aia, Aeetes, and his family appear again in the well known story of Jason and the Argonauts, one of the oldest of Greek myths. Although the most complete account appears in a relatively late work of Apollonius of Rhodes, the Argonautica (third century B.C.), the story already was in circulation at the time Homer wrote (eighth century B.C.), since he alludes to it as if universally familiar (19). In this myth, Jason, accompanied by the most celebrated heroes of classical Greece, traveled by ship from Thessaly to Aia. The purpose of the trip was a seemingly impossible task: to return with the Golden Fleece left in Aia by Phrixus. Jason determined first to simply ask Aeetes for the Fleece; if denied, he then would steal it.
Aeetes cunningly agreed to give up the Golden Fleece if Jason could pass a test of strength: he must yoke fire-breathing bulls to a plow, plow up a field with them, sow dragon's teeth in the field, and kill the warriors who sprang up from the teeth. Jason, however, was not working alone. The entire mission of the Argonauts was under the divine protection of the goddess Hera. Hera caused Aeetes' daughter, Medea, to fall in love with Jason, and thus it was with Medea's help that Jason succeeded.  But despite Jason's success, King Aeetes had no intention of relinquishing the fleece. The very night of Jason's triumph, Medea, fearing her father's treachery, lead the Argonauts to the grove of Ares where the fleece was kept, guarded by a dragon or snake. Medea lulled the dragon to sleep while Jason seized the fleece from the oak Phrixus had nailed it to long before. Then the Argonauts, with Medea, set sail from Aia on their return voyage to Greece (20).
Aia appears again in book ten of Homer's Odyssey. Here the story concerns not King Aeetes but his sister, Circe. Homer places Circe on an island named Aia which he does not further locate. However, based on the placement of the Circe episode in the story and other details, Circe's Aia appears to be in the same general area as Aeetes' kingdom, and perhaps belongs to an early cycle of stories about Aia (21). Odysseus, whose last remaining ship docked at Aia, sent half his men to Circe's stone house, seeking hospitality. Instead, the noted sorceress transformed the crew into animals. Through the divine intervention of Hermes, Odysseus was able to compel Circe to transform his men back to their original forms. After a romantic dalliance lasting a year, Odysseus and his crew set sail from Aia (22).
The myths of Aia described above have long been seen as reflections of contact between Greeks and Caucasians. Whether they reflect the historical trading colonies of the 7th century B.C., or a still earlier period of contact in the mid second millennium B.C. is a subject of scholarly debate which further archaeological discoveries may clarify (23). While western classicists naturally have focused on the arrival of the Greeks in the Caucasus, the legend of the Argonauts also describes movement in the other direction.  Thus, Phrixus' sons set out to return from Aia to Greece to claim their grandfather's estate (24). Aeetes' kingdom had a large armada which was able to pursue the Argonauts out of the Black Sea, and able to invade Hellas if the king chose (25). Some of the Aiaian sailors are said to have settled in various distant countries, fearing return to Aia (26). Medea also left her country and migrated west. Circe's son, Telegonus, travelled from Aia to Greece, then back to Aia. The myths also describe a physical union of Greeks and Caucasians. Phrixus' sons by Chalciope, Medea's sons by Jason, and Circe's son by Odysseus are examples.
Certain symbols are associated with Aia in these myths. First, there is a definite connection with metals and metallurgy, be it the Golden Fleece itself; the image of Aeetes, son of the Sun in his glittering golden helmet (27); or his palace full of mechanical marvels made by Hephaestus, god of metalworking (28). Second, the strong and independent royal women of Aia are shown as practitioners of magic/medicine. Both Medea and her aunt Circe have extensive knowledge of the local pharmacopoeia, which is accurately reflected in these myths (29). Thus, it is due to a magic ointment which Medea gives to Jason that he is able to yoke the bulls, plow the field and defeat the men sown from dragon's teeth (30). After this battle, it is due to another of Medea's drugs that the sleepless dragon guarding the Golden Fleece is lulled to sleep and Jason is able to take the fleece (31). Medea, during her subsequent adventures in Greece, continued to concoct poisons and medicines (32).  Circe, Medea's aunt, is the sorceress par excellence in Greek mythology. She transformed half of Odysseus' men into pigs by putting a drug into their wine, and later restored the crew to human forms using a different drug. Still another Aiakid, Pasiphae, sister of Aeetes and Circe, exhibited similar talents (33). Several scholars have observed a connection between Aia and the underworld (34). Medea was a priestess of Hecate, a goddess of the underworld. Her father, Aeetes, in the view of K. Kerenyi, is a king of the underworld, related to Hades (or Aides)(35). An association between Aia and the entrance to the underworld is also suggested by Odysseus' visit to the underworld on instructions from Circe, and his expected return to Aia upon emerging (36).
The gift that Prometheus is best known for is fire. He stole fire from heaven or from Hephaestus' workshop, hid it in a stalk of fennel, and brought it down to earth (39). For this, a furious Zeus had Prometheus chained to a mountain and daily sent an eagle to peck at his liver. During the 30,000 years that he endured this torment, Prometheus is visited by the daughters of Oceanus, Oceanus himself, Io, and Hermes. Eventually he is freed by the efforts of Heracles (40). Prometheus' claim to have discovered metals, his gift of fire (enabling forging), the repetition of iron imagery in the myth, and his own lineage as a pre-Olympian god suggests his origins in the Iron Age as a god of mining. His description of his place of imprisonment as the "mother of iron" (41); confirms that the Greeks associated the eastern Black Sea area and/or the Caucasus with the birth of metallurgy.
Frequently associated with Prometheus is the god Hephaestus (Roman Vulcan). In some myths he is Prometheus' nephew or work mate, in some versions of myths, one god substitutes for the other (42). According to Homer, Hesiod, and Apollonius of Rhodes, Hephaestus was a master craftsman, artist, and creator of marvels (43). In his workshop,  which was staffed by robots, twenty bellows worked spontaneously at his bidding. He made Achilles' armor; the fatal necklace of Harmonia; the fire-breathing bulls of Aeetes and the hydraulic fountains in the royal palace of Aia. A very reluctant Hephaestus was ordered to chain Prometheus to the mountain. According to Hesiod, Hephaestus, upon Zeus' orders, created the first woman, Pandora, from earth and water (44).
Hephaestus' connection to the Armenian highlands extends beyond his association with Prometheus and Aia, to the location of his workshop. While the 6-5th century poet Pindar placed Hephaestus' workshop on the volcanic Mt. Aetna in Sicily (45), the earlier Homer and Hesiod point to eastern Asia Minor. It was there, in the "land of the Arima" that a volcanic fire-monster named Typhoeus was finally defeated by Zeus (46). Zeus then hurled a mountain named Aidna on top of the monster. Hephaestus' workshop sat on top of this volcano and perhaps was fed by its flames. Some believe that the "land of the Arima" or Arimi which Homer calls the "couch of Typhoes" may be a reference to either the Armen or the Aramaean tribes to the west of Lake Van before the 8th century B.C.(47). In the view of many scholars, Aidna, despite Pindar's later story, is probably not to be identified with Aetna (48). Also associated with Hephaestus' workshop and with early metallurgy are the one-eyed giants called Cyclopes (49).
The land of the Arimi and eastern Asia Minor generally is considered the birthplace of a significant number of such multi-headed or hybrid monsters as the Chimera (a fire-breathing goat-lion-snake), the Hydra, the hounds Cerberus and Orthus, the Sphinx, the Nemean lion and the Crommyonian sow. These were Typhoeus' offspring by Echidna, a monster described by Hesiod as half nymph, half snake (50).
In the view of R.D. Barnett, the harpies (bird-monsters with women's heads) also relate to the area of our interest. Barnett believes that the harpies of Greek mythology ultimately derived from the ornaments on Urartian bronze caldrons:
These made such an impression in Greece that they seem to have given rise to the siren type in archaic Greek art, and as they appeared to flutter at the rim of such noble cooking vessels, apparently gave rise to the familiar Greek legend of Phineus and the Harpies, who are thus depicted in Greek art. The very name of Phineus, the victim of their persecutions, may be nothing but a corruption of the name of a king of Urartu, Ishpuinish or Ushpina (ca. 820 B.C.), who was perhaps associated by the Greek merchants with these vessels (51).
In these myths the dragon, too, has some special connection to eastern Asia Minor. The unsleeping dragon which guarded the Golden Fleece was another child of Typhoeus. Aeetes had Jason sow a field with dragon's teeth; and winged dragons pulled the chariot of Aeetes' daughter, Medea.
Among Greek heroes to clash with the Amazons were Bellerophon, Heracles, and Theseus. As a result of the abduction of Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons (or her sister) by Theseus, Amazons supposedly went as far as Attica in pursuit. Homer describes how another Amazon queen, Penthesileia, aided Priam in the Trojan War (54). Much earlier, Jason and his Argonauts, en route to Aia, had eluded an inevitable battle with the Amazons through divine intervention (55).
There is a wide spectrum of opinion about the existence of the Amazons, ranging from complete dismissal as fantasy to complete acceptance as historical reality. There is also an abundant literature on the topic, extending back to Classical writers, many of whom doubted the existence of Amazons. In the middle of the spectrum are the rationalizers who found in these myths remembrances of the matrilineal societies, or societies where women fought alongside men, encountered by Greeks in the eastern Black Sea. A. H. Sayce, one of the 19th century excavators of Van, thought that the Amazons were priestesses of the Mother goddess Ma/Artemis/Anahit whose cult was especially associated with Asia Minor (56). While Sayce associated the name Amazon with the goddess Ma, Joseph Karst related it to a putative hamazuni, deriving from Amasia, descendant of the Armenian patriarch Hayk (57).  It is also possible that legends of an exclusively women's society derive from an apparently widespread cult of the sacred bee with a female priesthood, known from Melitene/Malatya, theTrebizond area, and parts of the Caucasus. The legends may also be connected with the Maenades, the armed and sometimes dangerous female devotees of the god of intoxication Dionysus/Bacchus, who is also associated with eastern Asia Minor (58).
The Greek myths reviewed above have a familiarity with the Black Sea coast (Aia and the Amazons) and the area west of Lake Van (the Arimi). Images relating to metallurgy and mechanical marvels are associated with both areas. Specifically attached to the seemingly more familiar north are images of powerful women, magic/medicine/drugs, and the underworld. References to horse and chariot appear in interesting details of these myths (59). Associated with the volcanic Lake Van area are fire-breathing monsters and hybrid animals. The Greek myths also reveal a noteworthy consistency regarding their dramatis personae. There is a definite clustering of the deities, heroes, and heroines relating to eastern Asia Minor and the Caucasus into several genealogical lines, all of which derive from the most ancient pre-Olympian gods, the Titans. These are: (1) the line of Cronos, including his descendants Demeter, Poseidon, Hephaestus, Ares, Hebe, Persephone, and Hades; (2) the line of Iapetus, including his descendants Prometheus, Deucalion, Bellerophon, Aeson, Jason, Phrixus and Helle, and Castor and Polydeuces; (3) the line of Hyperion, including his son Helios and his descendants Aeetes, Circe, and Pasiphae; and (4) the Cyclopes, the smiths of Zeus.
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