In Greek mythology, Medea was an enchantress and witch who used her magic powers to help Jason* and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece*. Later, after Jason betrayed her, she used her witchcraft to take revenge.
The daughter of Aeëtes, king of Colchis, Medea first saw Jason when he arrived at the king's palace to request the Golden Fleece. According to some accounts, Hera, queen of the gods, persuaded Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to make Medea fall in love with the young hero.
Aeëtes had no intention of handing over the Golden Fleece but pretended that he would do so if Jason successfully performed a series of tasks. He was to yoke fire-breathing bulls to a plow, sow a field with dragons' teeth, and then fight the armed warriors who grew from those teeth. In return for his promise to marry her, Medea gave Jason a magic ointment to protect him from the bulls' fiery breath and told him how to confuse the warriors so that they would fight among themselves. Following Medea's instructions, Jason completed the tasks he had been set.
Aeëtes promised to hand over the Golden Fleece, but Medea knew that he would not keep his word. She led Jason and the musician Orpheus* into the sacred grove where the fleece was kept, guarded by a vicious serpent. Orpheus sang the serpent to sleep, enabling Jason to escape with the fleece. Medea then joined Jason and the Argonauts as they set sail in the Argo, pursued by her brother Apsyrtus. When Apsyrtus caught up with them, he promised to let Jason keep the Golden Fleece if he would give up Medea. Jason refused and killed Apsyrtus.
Eventually the Argonauts arrived back at Iolcus, which was ruled by Jason's uncle Pelias. Pelias had gained the throne by killing Jason's father, King Aeson. Medea brought Aeson back to life by boiling his remains in a pot with magical herbs. In this way, she tricked Pelias's daughters into thinking that they could restore their father to youth by cutting him up and boiling him in a pot. Pelias died a gruesome death, and the furious inhabitants of Iolcus drove out Medea and Jason.
The couple married and settled in Corinth, where they raised several children. Their happy days ended when Creon, the king of Corinth, offered Jason his daughter Glauce in marriage. Anxious to please the king, Jason abandoned Medea and prepared to marry Glauce. Medea took her revenge by sending Glauce a poisoned wedding gown that burned her alive. By some accounts, before fleeing to Athens, she also killed the children she had borne to Jason.
Aegeus, the king of Athens, agreed to protect Medea if she married him and bore him children. They produced a son, Medus (or Medeius), who stood to inherit the throne. However, Aegeus was unaware that he already had a son, Theseus, from a previous marriage. When Theseus came to Athens to claim the throne, Medea recognized him, persuaded Aegeus that Theseus planned to kill him, and prepared a cup of poisoned wine for the young man. Just as Theseus was about to drink the wine, Aegeus recognized the sword that Theseus carried, realized that Theseus was his son, and knocked the cup from the young man's hand. By some accounts, Medea then fled to a region in Asia that came to be known as Media in her honor and whose inhabitants became known as Medes.