Baltic’s Book: The Voyages of Jason
Balticos and the Golden Fleece
No one really knew when or from where the Birds appeared in Stymphalia. At first they were just occassional visitors, but came more and more often until they finally settled in rocks and forests around the city. Traders refused to visit Stymphalia, because the chance they will reach city gates with their goods untouched was minimal.
Situation was so serious, that king of Stymphalia had a special Advisor for Bird Affaires. His name was Balticos, and we will meet him in the moment when he – after 10 years of fruitless efforts – decided to collect his salary for the entire 10 years, leave Stymphalia and found a new city in a more friendly place. King Agapenor wasn’t very pleased to pay him those 5000 Drachmas, but he let him go on the condition that the new city will supply Stymphalia with wood, fleece and wheat.
The new city was called Iolcus, and it was founded on a river that offered abundance of fish. Fishing was also the first occupation of its citizens, but soon woodcutters and shepherds started to exploit natural resources in its vicinity. All houses and buildings were built in the central part, and rather tightly packed. There wasn’t much space, and Balticos was planning for a huge sanctuary to Zeus, if the curse is lifted from his family. Everything looked fine, but then the bad news arrived… Soon after Balticos left Stymphalia, Agapenor’s advisors made him believe that Balticos left in order to gather forces against Stymphalia. That led to several unreasonable requests for wood and fleece, which Iolcus could not meet, and finally (after several years) to an invasion. As there was no chance of bribing the army off and Iolcus didn’t have any defenses, city became vassal of Stymphalia and a tribute of 1000 drachmas was set. However, it seems that the general must have brought news of the real situation to king Agapenor, because Stymphalia did not really ask for the tribute – except once – and the demands for goods became a bit more reasonable. After some time, and regular gifts of wheat (Iolcus had 2 farms, and all production was dispatched to Stymphalia immediately after harvest), the tense weakened and Balticos could concentrate on his goals again. Iolcus grew, goatherds settled the island in West and their produce was a worthy addition to city exports (and of course Erethria received gifts of cheese regularly).
But relations with Stymphalia weren’t the only problem; already two years after city was founded, Cerberus, fierce three-headed dog, appeared. Hades, god of the underworld, sent him to discourage Balticos from fulfilling Apollo’s quest – to bring Theseus back from underworld. Thanks to the helping hand of Eretria, city had enough wine stored, and city’s competitors won Isthmian games recently… time to call Hercules! Sure enough, Hercules arrived, dispatched Cerberus readily and left off to free his friend, the great hero Theseus.