Land of the Golden Fleece
18 December, 2014
Land of the Golden Fleece
2015, the year of the so-called goat or sheep in Chinese zodiac, is quite close. Georgians will likely celebrate the New Year with special gusto. The culture of breeding sheep and goats has existed for thousands of years in Georgia. In ancient times, Georgian people, especially the inhabitants of high mountains, domesticated sheep and goats. These animals served various purposes.

Hides and wool were widely used for making warm clothes. From goat’s milk a cheese was made that remains poplar
still today among tourists for its sharp flavor and oily texture. Also, the king of traditional Georgian dishes, Tushuri Khinkali, is made of lamb meat. Tushetian Guda cheese and high-quality wool was famous and was exported to both Europe and Russia. Even today, animal husbandry is the leading sector of the economy of the highlands.
Several of the most widespread breeds in Georgia are Tushetian sheep, which come fro­m a northern region of Georgia Imeretian sheep, which come from a western region of Georgia, and Megre­lian goats, which come from the westernmost region. The goat is usually used by shepherds to guide the flock of sheep. The Megrelian goat is an ancient species and is noted for its long life and stubborn attitude even by goat standards.

"The sheep has a significant symbolic meaning in Christianity as well as in Greek mythology."

The Open Air Museum of Ethnography encompasses 14 geotv.geethnographic zones of Georgia. In the part representing Samegrelo. stands an old wooden house typical of that region. The house is more than 200 years old. Beside the old house lives an old Megrelian white goat, Beko. Beko is quite popular attracting tourists and making the landscape livelier. Unlike his kin, Beko is very friendly and loves playing with visitors, especially children.
Aside from this animal’s agricultural usage and other benefits, the sheep has a significant symbolic meaning in Christianity as well as in Greek mythology. According to the famous Greek myth, Jason and the Argonauts – a band of heroes in the years before the Trojan War – visited Georgia. In their expedition, they visited the Colchis Kingdom (the capital was known as Aia – present day Kutaisi), centered on present-day western Georgia, to steal the fageotv.gemous Golden Fleece that was guarded by a never-sleeping dragon.
The Colchians represented early Kartvelian-speaking tribes, ancestral to the contemporary groups of Svans, Megrelians and Lazs. The Colchian Late Bronze Age (15th to 8th century B.C.) saw the development of significant skill in the smelting and casting of metals. Fertile, well-watered lowlands and a mild climate promoted the growth of progressive agricultural techniques.
As it is said in the myth, Jason and the Argonauts quested for the mythical Golden Fleece that was brought by Nephele and Athamas’s children, who escaped from their stepmother – who plotted their deaths – on a winged ram with the Golden Fleece over the sea. The powerful King Aeëtes of Colchis promised to give Jason the fleece only if he could fulfill several difficult tasks. Presented with the impossible tasks, Jason became discouraged and fell into a deep depression. Luckily for Jason, the Gods conspired to make Aeëtes’s daughter Medea fall in love with Jason. The charming daughter of the king had a rare talent for witchcraft and alchemy that she used to help Jason overcome the obstacles. First Jason had to plow a field with fire-breathing oxen that he had to yoke himself. Then Jason had to sow the teeth of a dragon into a field that sprouted into an army of warriors. Jason’s final task was to overcome the sleepless dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece. Jason sprayed the dragon with a herbal potion that Medea had crafted for him. The dragon fell asleep and Jason was able to seize the Golden Fleece.

Jason sprayed the dragon with a herbal potion that Medea had crafted for him. The dragon fell asleep and Jason was able to seize the Golden Fleece.
The story has several different endings, but in one they agree: Jason and Medea escaped from Aeëtes with the Golden Fleece to Greece. Nobody knows how it really ended, but one thing is clear: Many scientists admit that just as the Trojan War historically took place, similarly the Argonauts from Greece were indeed attracted by something mysterious that brought them to Georgia, the country of the Golden Fleece.

What the golden fleece really was:

“The Golden Fleece in the myth likely derived from the local practice of using sheep fleeces to sift gold dust from rivers. Over time the fleece would absorb and accumulate flakes of gold, giving it a rich, glamorous appearance. Other variations of the myth also exist. One claims that the Golden Fleece was a book where the secret technique of processing gold and flax was written.”

Author: Lika Chigladze
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