Argonauts

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For other uses, see Argonaut (disambiguation).
Gathering of the Argonauts, Attic red-figure krater, 460–450 BC, Louvre (G 341)
The Argo, by Lorenzo Costa

The Argonauts (Ancient Greek: Ἀργοναῦται Argonautai) were a band of heroes in Greek mythology, who in the years before the Trojan War, accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, the Argo, named after its builder, Argus. "Argonauts" literally means "Argo sailors". They were sometimes called Minyans, after a prehistoric tribe in the area.

Story[edit]

After the death of King Cretheus, the Aeolian Pelias usurped the Iolcan throne from his half-brother Aeson and became king of Iolcus in Thessaly (near the modern city of Volos). Because of this unlawful act, an oracle warned him that a descendant of Aeolus would seek revenge. Pelias put to death every prominent descendant of Aeolus he could, but spared Aeson because of the pleas of their mother Tyro. Instead, Pelias kept Aeson prisoner and forced him to renounce his inheritance. Aeson married Alcimede, who bore him a son named Jason. Pelias intended to kill the baby at once, but Alcimede summoned her kinswomen to weep over him as if he were stillborn. She faked a burial and smuggled the baby to Mount Pelion. He was raised by the centaur Chiron, the trainer of heroes.

When Jason was 20 years old, an oracle ordered him to dress as a Magnesian and head to the Iolcan court. While traveling Jason lost his sandal crossing the muddy Anavros river while helping an old woman (Hera in disguise). The goddess was angry with King Pelias for killing his stepmother Sidero after she had sought refuge in Hera's temple.

Another oracle warned Pelias to be on his guard against a man with one shoe. Pelias was presiding over a sacrifice to Poseidon with several neighboring kings in attendance. Among the crowd stood a tall youth in leopard skin with only one sandal. Pelias recognized that Jason was his nephew. He could not kill him because prominent kings of the Aeolian family were present. Instead, he asked Jason: "What would you do if an oracle announced that one of your fellow-citizens were destined to kill you?" Jason replied that he would send him to go and fetch the Golden Fleece, not knowing that Hera had put those words in his mouth.

Jason learned later that Pelias was being haunted by the ghost of Phrixus. Phrixus had fled from Orchomenus riding on a divine ram to avoid being sacrificed and took refuge in Colchis where he was later denied proper burial. According to an oracle, Iolcus would never prosper unless his ghost was taken back in a ship, together with the golden ram's fleece. This fleece now hung from a tree in the grove of the Colchian Ares, guarded night and day by a dragon that never slept. Pelias swore before Zeus that he would give up the throne at Jason's return while expecting that Jason's attempt to steal the Golden Fleece would be a fatal enterprise. However, Hera acted in Jason's favour during the perilous journey.

Jason was accompanied by some of the principal heroes of ancient Greece. The number of Argonauts varies, but usually totals between 40 and 55; traditional versions of the story place their number at 50.

Some have hypothesized that the legend of the Golden Fleece was based on a practice of the Black Sea tribes; they would place a lamb's fleece at the bottom of a stream to entrap gold dust being washed down from upstream. This practice is still in use, particularly in the Svaneti region of Georgia. See Golden Fleece for other, more speculative interpretations.

The crew of the Argo[edit]

There is no definite list of the Argonauts. H.J. Rose explains this was because "an Argonautic ancestor was an addition to even the proudest of pedigrees."[1] The following list is collated from several lists given in ancient sources.[2][3][4]

  1. Acastus
  2. Actor (son of Hippas)
  3. Admetus
  4. Aethalides
  5. Amphiaraus
  6. Amphidamas
  7. Amphion (son of Hyperasius)
  8. Ancaeus
  9. Areius
  10. Argus (builder of Argo)
  11. Argus[disambiguation needed] (son of Phrixus)
  12. Ascalaphus
  13. Asclepius
  14. Asterion (son of Cometes)
  15. Asterius (brother of Amphion)
  16. Atalanta
  17. Augeas
  18. Autolycus, son of Deimachus
  19. Bellerophon
  20. Butes
  21. Calaïs (son of Boreas)
  22. Caeneus (son of Coronus)
  23. Canthus
  24. Castor (son of Tyndareus; twin and half-brother of Pollux)
  25. Cepheus, King of Tegea
  26. Clytius (son of Eurytus)
  27. Coronus (son of Caeneus)
  28. Cytissorus
  29. Deucalion of Crete
  30. Echion
  31. Eribotes
  32. Erginus (son of Poseidon)
  33. Erytus (brother of Echion)
  34. Euphemus
  35. Euryalus
  36. Eurydamas
  37. Eurymedon (son of Dionysus)
  38. Eurytion
  39. Eurytus (son of Hermes)
  40. Heracles (son of Zeus)
  41. Hippalcimus
  42. Hylas
  43. Idas
  44. Idmon
  45. Iolaus (nephew of Heracles)
  46. Iphitos
  47. Jason
  48. Laërtes (Father of Odysseus)
  49. Laokoön (half-brother of Oeneus and tutor of Meleager)
  50. Leitus
  51. Leodocus
  52. Lynceus
  53. Medea (joined when the Fleece was recovered)
  54. Melas
  55. Meleager
  56. Menoetius
  57. Mopsus
  58. Nauplius
  59. Neleus (son of Poseidon)
  60. Nestor
  61. Oileus
  62. Orpheus
  63. Palaemon[disambiguation needed]
  64. Palaimonius (son of Hephaestus)
  65. Peleus
  66. Peneleos
  67. Perseus (son of Zeus, slayer of Medusa)
  68. Periclymenus (grandson of Poseidon)
  69. Phalerus
  70. Phanus (brother of Staphylus and Eurymedon)
  71. Philoctetes
  72. Phlias (son of Dionysus)
  73. Phocus
  74. Phrontis
  75. Poeas
  76. Prias (brother of Phocus)
  77. Pollux (son of Zeus)
  78. Polyphemus
  79. Staphylus
  80. Talaus
  81. Telamon
  82. Thersanon (son of Helios and Leucothoe)
  83. Theseus (son of Poseidon and slayer of the Minotaur)
  84. Tiphys
  85. Zetes (son of Boreas)

Several more names are discoverable from other sources. Amyrus, eponym of a Thessalian city, is given by Stephanus of Byzantium as "one of the Argonauts";[5] he is otherwise said to have been a son of Poseidon and to have given his name to the river Amyrus.[6] Azorus was the helmsman of Argo according to Hesychius of Alexandria;[7] he could be the same as the Azorus mentioned by Stephanus as founder of the city Azorus in Pelagonia.[8]

Notes to the list[edit]

  • Atalanta is included on the list by Pseudo-Apollodorus, but Apollonius[9] claims that Jason forbade her because she was a woman and could cause strife in the otherwise all-male crew. Other sources state that she was asked, but refused.
  • Apollonius also claims that Theseus and Pirithous were trapped in underworld by Hades at the time and could not join.[10]
  • Theseus being on the list is inconsistent with accounts of his life usually including him encountering Medea at an early stage of his adventures, yet many years after the Argonauts completed their adventure (Medea, by that time, was not only abandoned by Jason, but also bore a child from Aegeus).[11]
  • Argus, Phrontis, Melas and Cytissorus, sons of Phrixus and Chalciope, joined the crew only after being rescued by the Argonauts: the four had been stranded on a desert island not far from Colchis, from where they initially sailed with an intent to reach their father's homeland.[12] However, Argus is not to be confused with the other Argus, son of Arestor or Polybus, constructor and eponym of the ship Argo and member of the crew from the beginning.[13]

Adaptations of the myth[edit]

Literature[edit]

Film and television[edit]

Jason and the Argonauts (1963), directed by Don Chaffey and featuring special effects by Ray Harryhausen, shows Jason hosting Olympics-like games and selecting his crew from among the winners.

A Soviet cartoon called The Argonauts was made in 1971.

The German movie Das Goldene Ding (The golden thing, 1972), directed by Edgar Reitz together with three co-directors, depicts Argonauts as young boys, as they seem to have been according to original Greek sources. It pays a special attention to how machines that were made possible by the relatively simple technology of the time allow for building the ship and other devices.

The 1977 Doctor Who serial Underworld is loosely based on the story of Jason and the Argonauts.

A movie titled Веселая хроника опасного путешествия (Amusing Chronicle of a Dangerous Voyage) was made in the Soviet Union in 1986 starring famous Russian actor Alexander Abdulov. (imdb)

A Hallmark presentation TV movie, Jason and the Argonauts (2000), shows Jason having to settle for men with no sailing experience. This includes a thief who says "Who better than a thief to grab the Golden Fleece?"

Two movies titled Jason and the Argonauts have been made, and a film entitled Rise of the Argonauts is in production but is not an adaptation and will act as a prequel to the first film. This film will be released sometime in spring 2011.

Music[edit]

British Rock group XTC recorded a song titled Jason and the Argonauts for their album English Settlement (1982).

Radio[edit]

In 2001, a radio drama adaptation of Apollonius' Argonautica was presented on the Radio Tales series for National Public Radio.

Video games[edit]

Jason and the Argo, along with a small number of the more legendary Argonauts and Greeks, were featured in the 2008 video game Rise of the Argonauts

Jason, along with another Argonaut, appear in the videogame God of War II. Just before the fight with the Mole Cerberus, Kratos finds a wounded Argonaut. The Argonauts tells Kratos that Jason "has the fleece". After using the Argonaut's body to bypass a mechanism, Kratos finds the Mole Cerberus, who is eating Jason, and finally swallows Jason's arm with the Golden Fleece attached to it.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Rose, A Handbook of Greek Mythology (New York: Dutton, 1959), p. 198
  2. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 23 - 228
  3. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 9. 16
  4. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 14
  5. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Amyros
  6. ^ Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 596. The Argonauts are reported to have sailed past this river by both Apollonius (1. 596) and Valerius Flaccus (2. 11)
  7. ^ Hesychius s. v. Azōros
  8. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Azōros
  9. ^ Arg. 1. 770
  10. ^ Arg. 1. 100
  11. ^ Roger Lancelyn Green, in his Tales of the Greek Heroes, gets round this problem by suppressing the name of the witch-wife who Theseus encountered in his early life.
  12. ^ Arg. 2. 1193
  13. ^ Arg. 1. 112; Hyg. Fab. 14
  14. ^ "GCD :: Covers :: Jason and the Argonauts". Comics.org. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  15. ^ "GCD :: Series :: Jason and the Argonauts: Kingdom of Hades". Comics.org. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  16. ^ "Jason and the Argonauts Dan Whitehead | Comic Corner". Campfiregraphicnovels.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • J. R. Bacon, The Voyage of the Argonauts. (London: Methuen, 1925).

External links[edit]