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In Greek mythology, the Argonauts were a band of heroes who, in the years before the Trojan War, accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest for the Golden Fleece. They sailed the ship the Argo – hence their name, which literally means "Sailors of the Argo". They were sometimes called Minyans, after a prehistoric tribe of the area.

The ship was named after its builder, Argus, son of Phrixus.

Pelias, king of Iolcus in Thessaly (near the modern city of Volos), had been warned to be on his guard against a man with one shoe and, one day, upon seeing his nephew Jason with only one sandal (the other having been lost in crossing a stream), bade him to go and fetch the Golden Fleece, hoping that he would be killed in the attempt.

Jason was accompanied by some of the principal heroes of ancient Greece.

Some have hypothesised that the legend of the Golden Fleece was based on a practice of the Black Sea tribes of placing a lamb's fleece at the bottom of a stream to entrap particles of gold being washed down from upstream. This practice was still in use in recent times.

The Argonauts were: (Jason and Medea are sometimes not counted)

Τῖφυς Ἀγνίου, ὃς ἐκυβέρνα τὴν ναῦν, Ὀρφεὺς Οἰάγρου, Ζήτης καὶ Κάλαϊς Βορέου, Κάστωρ καὶ Πολυδεύκης Διός, Τελαμὼν καὶ Πηλεὺς Αἰακοῦ, Ἡρακλῆς Διός, Θησεὺς Αἰγέως, Ἴδας καὶ Λυγκεὺς Ἀφαρέως, Ἀμφιάραος Ὀικλέους, Καινεὺς Κορώνου Παλαίμων Ἡφαίστου ἢ Αἰτωλοῦ, Κηφεὺς Ἀλεοῦ, Λαέρτης Ἀρκεισίου, Αὐτόλυκος Ἑρμοῦ, Ἀταλάντη Σχοινέως, Μενοίτιος Ἄκτορος, Ἄκτωρ Ἱππάσου, Ἄδμητος Φέρητος, Ἄκαστος Πελίου, Εὔρυτος Ἑρμοῦ, Μελέαγρος Οἰνέως, Ἀγκαῖος Λυκούργου, Εὔφημος Ποσειδῶνος, Ποίας Θαυμάκου, Βούτης Τελέοντος, Φᾶνος καὶ Στάφυλος Διονύσου, Ἐργῖνος Ποσειδῶνος, Περικλύμενος Νηλέως, Αὐγέας Ἡλίου, Ἴφικλος Θεστίου, Ἄργος Φρίξου, Εὐρύαλος Μηκιστέως, Πηνέλεως Ἱππάλμου, Λήιτος Ἀλέκτορος, Ἴφιτος Ναυβόλου, Ἀσκάλαφος καὶ Ἰάλμενος Ἄρεος, Ἀστέριος Κομήτου, Πολύφημος Ἐλάτου.

Argonauts, Polydeuces binds Amycus at fountain

Apollonius Rhodes:

The ship, as former bards relate, Argus wrought by the guidance of Athena. But now I will tell the lineage and the names of the heroes, and of the long sea-paths and the deeds they wrought in their wanderings; may the Muses be the inspirers of my song!

First then let us name Orpheus whom once Calliope bare, it is said, wedded to Thracian Oeagrus, near the Pimpleian height. Men say that he by the music of his songs charmed the stubborn rocks upon the mountains and the course of rivers. And the wild oak-trees to this day, tokens of that magic strain, that grow at Zone on the Thracian shore, stand in ordered ranks close together, the same which under the charm of his lyre he led down from Pieria. Such then was Orpheus whom Aeson's son welcomed to share his toils, in obedience to the behest of Cheiron, Orpheus ruler of Bistonian Pieria.

Straightway came Asterion, whom Cometes begat by the waters of eddying Apidanus; he dwelt at Peiresiae near the Phylleian mount, where mighty Apidanus and bright Enipeus join their streams, coming together from afar.

Next to them from Larisa came Polyphemus, son of Eilatus, who aforetime among the mighty Lapithae, when they were arming themselves against the Centaurs, fought in his younger days; now his limbs were grown heavy with age, but his martial spirit still remained, even as of old.

Nor was Iphiclus long left behind in Phylace, the uncle of Aeson's son; for Aeson had wedded his sister Alcimede, daughter of Phylacus: his kinship with her bade him be numbered in the host.

Nor did Admetus, the lord of Pherae rich in sheep, stay behind beneath the peak of the Chalcodonian mount.

Nor at Alope stayed the sons of Hermes, rich in corn-land, well skilled in craftiness, Erytus and Echion, and with them on their departure their kinsman Aethalides went as the third; him near the streams of Amphrysus Eupolemeia bare, the daughter of Myrmidon, from Phthia; the two others were sprung from Antianeira, daughter of Menetes.

From rich Gyrton came Coronus, son of Caeneus, brave, but not braver than his father. For bards relate that Caeneus though still living perished at the hands of the Centaurs, when apart from other chiefs he routed them; and they, rallying against him, could neither bend nor slay him; but unconquered and unflinching he passed beneath the earth, overwhelmed by the downrush of massy pines.

There came too Titaresian Mopsus, whom above all men the son of Leto taught the augury of birds; and Eurydamas the son of Ctimenus; he dwelt at Dolopian Ctimene near the Xynian lake.

Moreover Actor sent his son Menoetius from Opus that he might accompany the chiefs.

Eurytion followed and strong Eribotes, one the son of Teleon, the other of Irus, Actor's son; the son of Teleon renowned Eribotes, and of Irus Eurytion. A third with them was Oileus, peerless in courage and well skilled to attack the flying foe, when they break their ranks.

Now from Euboea came Canthus eager for the quest, whom Canethus son of Abas sent; but he was not destined to return to Cerinthus. For fate had ordained that he and Mopsus, skilled in the seer's art, should wander and perish in the furthest ends of Libya. For no ill is too remote for mortals to incur, seeing that they buried them in Libya, as far from the Colchians as is the space that is seen between the setting and the rising of the sun.

To him Clytius and Iphitus joined themselves, the warders of Oechalia, sons of Eurytus the ruthless, Eurytus, to whom the Far-shooting god gave his bow; but he had no joy of the gift; for of his own choice he strove even with the giver.

After them came the sons of Aeacus, not both together, nor from the same spot; for they settled far from Aegina in exile, when in their folly they had slain their brother Phoeus. Telamon dwelt in the Attic island; but Peleus departed and made his home in Phthia.

After them from Cecropia came warlike Butes, son of brave Teleon, and Phalerus of the ashen spear. Alcon his father sent him forth; yet no other sons had he to care for his old age and livelihood. But him, his well-beloved and only son, he sent forth that amid bold heroes he might shine conspicuous. But Theseus, who surpassed all the sons of Erechtheus, an unseen bond kept beneath the land of Taenarus, for he had followed that path with Peirithous; assuredly both would have lightened for all the fulfilment of their toil.

Tiphys, son of Hagnias, left the Siphaean people of the Thespians, well skilled to foretell the rising wave on the broad sea, and well skilled to infer from sun and star the stormy winds and the time for sailing. Tritonian Athena herself urged him to join the band of chiefs, and he came among them a welcome comrade. She herself too fashioned the swift ship; and with her Argus, son of Arestor, wrought it by her counsels. Wherefore it proved the most excellent of all ships that have made trial of the sea with oars.

After them came Phlias from Araethyrea, where he dwelt in affluence by the favour of his father Dionysus, in his home by the springs of Asopus.

From Argos came Talaus and Areius, sons of Bias, and mighty Leodocus, all of whom Pero daughter of Neleus bare; on her account the Aeolid Melampus endured sore affliction in the steading of Iphiclus.

Nor do we learn that Heracles of the mighty heart disregarded the eager summons of Aeson's son. But when he heard a report of the heroes' gathering and had reached Lyrceian Argos from Arcadia by the road along which he carried the boar alive that fed in the thickets of Lampeia, near the vast Erymanthian swamp, the boar bound with chains he put down from his huge shoulders at the entrance to the market-place of Mycenae; and himself of his own will set out against the purpose of Eurystheus; and with him went Hylas, a brave comrade, in the flower of youth, to bear his arrows and to guard his bow.

Next to him came a scion of the race of divine Danaus, Nauplius. He was the son of Clytonaeus son of Naubolus; Naubolus was son of Lernus; Lernus we know was the son of Proetus son of Nauplius; and once Amymone daughter of Danaus, wedded to Poseidon, bare Nauplius, who surpassed all men in naval skill.

Idmon came last of all them that dwelt at Argos, for though he had learnt his own fate by augury, he came, that the people might not grudge him fair renown. He was not in truth the son of Abas, but Leto's son himself begat him to be numbered among the illustrious Aeolids; and himself taught him the art of prophecy--to pay heed to birds and to observe the signs of the burning sacrifice.

Moreover Aetolian Leda sent from Sparta strong Polydeuces and Castor, skilled to guide swift-footed steeds; these her dearly-loved sons she bare at one birth in the house of Tyndareus; nor did she forbid their departure; for she had thoughts worthy of the bride of Zeus.

The sons of Aphareus, Lynceus and proud Idas, came from Arene, both exulting in their great strength; and Lynceus too excelled in keenest sight, if the report is true that that hero could easily direct his sight even beneath the earth.

And with them Neleian Periclymenus set out to come, eldest of all the sons of godlike Neleus who were born at Pylos; Poseidon had given him boundless strength and granted him that whatever shape he should crave during the fight, that he should take in the stress of battle.

Moreover from Arcadia came Amphidamas and Cepheus, who inhabited Tegea and the allotment of Apheidas, two sons of Aldus; and Ancaeus followed them as the third, whom his father Lycurgus sent, the brother older than both. But he was left in the city to care for Aleus now growing old, while he gave his son to join his brothers. Antaeus went clad in the skin of a Maenalian bear, and wielding in his right hand a huge two-edged battleaxe. For his armour his grandsire had hidden in the house's innermost recess, to see if he might by some means still stay his departure.

There came also Augeias, whom fame declared to be the son of Helios; he reigned over the Eleans, glorying in his wealth; and greatly he desired to behold the Colchian land and Aeetes himself the ruler of the Colchians.

Asterius and Amphion, sons of Hyperasius, came from Achaean Pellene, which once Pelles their grandsire founded on the brows of Aegialus.

After them from Taenarus came Euphemus whom, most swift-footed of men, Europe, daughter of mighty Tityos, bare to Poseidon. He was wont to skim the swell of the grey sea, and wetted not his swift feet, but just dipping the tips of his toes was borne on the watery path.

Yea, and two other sons of Poseidon came; one Erginus, who left the citadel of glorious Miletus, the other proud Ancaeus, who left Parthenia, the seat of Imbrasion Hera; both boasted their skill in seacraft and in war.

After them from Calydon came the son of Oeneus, strong Meleagrus, and Laocoon--Laocoon the brother of Oeneus, though not by the same mother, for a serving-woman bare him; him, now growing old, Oeneus sent to guard his son: thus Meleagrus, still a youth, entered the bold band of heroes. No other had come superior to him, I ween, except Heracles, if for one year more he had tarried and been nurtured among the Aetolians. Yea, and his uncle, well skilled to fight whether with the javelin or hand to hand, Iphiclus son of Thestius, bare him company on his way.

With him came Palaemonius, son of Olenian Lernus, of Lernus by repute, but his birth was from Hephaestus; and so he was crippled in his feet, but his bodily frame and his valour no one would dare to scorn. Wherefore he was numbered among all the chiefs, winning fame for Jason.

From the Phocians came Iphitus sprung from Naubolus son of Ornytus; once he had been his host when Jason went to Pytho to ask for a response concerning his voyage; for there he welcomed him in his own hails.

Next came Zetes and Calais, sons of Boreas, whom once Oreithyia, daughter of Erechtheus, bare to Boreas on the verge of wintry Thrace; thither it was that Thracian Boreas snatched her away from Cecropia as she was whirling in the dance, hard by Hissus' stream. And, carrying her far off, to the spot that men called the rock of Sarpedon, near the river Erginus, he wrapped her in dark clouds and forced her to his will. There they were making their dusky wings quiver upon their ankles on both sides as they rose, a great wonder to behold, wings that gleamed with golden scales: and round their backs from the top of the head and neck, hither and thither, their dark tresses were being shaken by the wind.

No, nor had Acastus son of mighty Pelias himself any will to stay behind in the palace of his brave sire, nor Argus, helper of the goddess Athena; but they too were ready to be numbered in the host.

So many then were the helpers who assembled to join the son of Aeson. All the chiefs the dwellers thereabout called Minyae, for the most and the bravest avowed that they were sprung from the blood of the daughters of Minyas; thus Jason himself was the son of Alcimede who was born of Clymene the daughter of Minyas.

Paintings

The Return of the Argonauts , Konstantinos Volanakis

Argonauts? Vase

Phoebe with the craters : Acastus, Admetus, Amphion, Butes, Calais, Canthus, Clytius, Erginus, Euphemus, Eurydamas, Eurytion, Eurytus, Hylas, Idmon, Iphitus, Jason, Mopsus, Nauplius, Oileus, Peleus, Phlias, Talaus, Telamon, and Zetes

"We picked the legend of the Argonauts for Phoebe as it has some resonance with the exploration of the Saturn system by Cassini-Huygens. We can't say that our participating scientists include heroes like Hercules and Atalanta, but they do represent a wide, international spectrum of outstanding people who were willing to take the risk of joining this voyage to a distant realm in hopes of bringing back a grand prize." Dr. Toby Owen chairman of the International Astronomical Union Outer Solar System Task Group. http://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/saturn/phoecrat.html

Stamps

Argo

Voyage of the Argonauts , Voyage of the Argonauts Greece 1995,

Sources

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica I, 23-227;

The Argonautica by Apollonius Rhodius

Apollodorus, Bibliotheke I, ix, 16.

R. J. Clare, The path of the Argo : language, imagery and narrative in the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius (Cambridge Classical Studies) Cambridge University Press 2002, ISBN 0521810361

Bulfinch's Mythology, The Age of Fable: The Golden Fleece

The Argonaut Epos and Bronze Age Economic History


Greek Mythology


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