When I was a kid I spent a lot of time reading mythology. Of course I was very interested to find female characters with whom I could identify. I was never very fond of Atalanta. She seemed much too sporty, and probably a lesbian, which wasn’t my style at all. Medea, on the other hand, seemed rather cool. She was cunning like Odysseus, and she became a key part of Team Argo. Then it all fell apart. That toad Jason decided to dump her for the Corinthian princess, Glauce, and while Medea did get her revenge, she also killed the children she had with Jason. That final bit seemed terribly out of character to me at the time, and listening to Galactic Suburbia this morning I was reminded that it is by no means the only ending for the myth.
The child murder is best known from the play, Medea, by Euripides. Prior versions of the myth have the kids killed by the people of Corinth after Medea is exiled so that they won’t be rivals to Glauce’s children. I’m reminded from this post about the play that Robert Graves claimed Euripides was bribed by the Corinthians to alter the story so that their ancestors didn’t look bad. If that’s true, it is a very early, and very successful example, of political spin, because the charge has stuck and been repeated by many writers down the centuries.
I note in passing that while it was perfectly OK, even honorable, for Menelaus to declare war on Troy because Helen dumped him for Paris, therefore causing the deaths of huge numbers of people, the fact that Medea killed Glauce is seen as evidence of her villainy.
Of course there’s the whole Absyrtus thing as well, which is quite a different matter. There doesn’t appear to be any excuse for that, though again the murder doesn’t happen in all versions of the myth. Violent lot, those ancient Greeks.