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Gathering of the Argonauts, Attic red-figure krater, 460–450 BC, Louvre (G 341).
The Argo, by Konstantinos Volanakis (1837–1907).

The Argonauts (Ancient Greek: Ἀργοναῦται Argonautai) were a band of heroes in Greek mythology, who in the years before the Trojan War, around 1300 BC,[1] accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, Argo, named after its builder, Argus. "Argonauts" literally means "Argo sailors". They were sometimes called Minyans, after a prehistoric tribe in the area.


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.

The crew of the Argo

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."[2] The following list is collated from several lists given in ancient sources.[3][4][5]

  1. Acastus
  2. Actor (son of Hippas)
  3. Admetus
  4. Aethalides
  5. Amphiaraus
  6. Amphidamas
  7. Amphion (son of Hyperasius)
  8. Ancaeus (son of Poseidon)
  9. Ancaeus (son of Lycurgus)
  10. Areius
  11. Argus (builder of Argo)
  12. Argus (son of Phrixus)
  13. Ascalaphus
  14. Asclepius
  15. Asterion (son of Cometes)
  16. Asterius (brother of Amphion)
  17. Atalanta
  18. Augeas
  19. Autolycus, son of Deimachus
  20. Bellerophon
  21. Butes
  22. Calaïs (son of Boreas)
  23. Caeneus (son of Coronus)
  24. Canthus
  25. Castor (son of Tyndareus; twin and half-brother of Pollux)
  26. Cepheus, King of Tegea
  27. Clytius (son of Eurytus)
  28. Coronus (son of Caeneus)
  29. Cytissorus
  30. Deucalion of Crete
  31. Echion
  32. Eribotes
  33. Erginus (son of Poseidon)
  34. Erytus (brother of Echion)
  35. Euphemus
  36. Euryalus
  37. Eurydamas
  38. Eurymedon (son of Dionysus)
  39. Eurytion
  40. Eurytus (son of Hermes)
  41. Heracles (son of Zeus)
  42. Hippalcimus
  43. Hylas
  44. Idas
  45. Idmon
  46. Iolaus (nephew of Heracles)
  47. Iphitos
  48. Jason
  49. Laërtes (Father of Odysseus)
  50. Laokoön (half-brother of Oeneus and tutor of Meleager)
  51. Leitus
  52. Leodocus
  53. Lynceus
  54. Medea (joined when the Fleece was recovered)
  55. Melas
  56. Meleager
  57. Menoetius
  58. Mopsus
  59. Nauplius
  60. Neleus (son of Poseidon)
  61. Nestor
  62. Oileus
  63. Orpheus
  64. Palaemon
  65. Palaimonius (son of Hephaestus)
  66. Peleus
  67. Peneleos
  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";[6] he is otherwise said to have been a son of Poseidon and to have given his name to the river Amyrus.[7] Azorus was the helmsman of Argo according to Hesychius of Alexandria;[8] he could be the same as the Azorus mentioned by Stephanus as founder of the city Azorus in Pelagonia.[9]

Notes to the list

  • Atalanta is included on the list by Pseudo-Apollodorus, but Apollonius[10] 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.[11]
  • 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).[12]
  • 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.[13] 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.[14]

Adaptations of the myth


  • The Life and Death of Jason (1867) by William Morris
  • Hercules, My Shipmate (1945) by Robert Graves
  • The Greek Myths by Robert Graves
  • Jason and Medeia by John Gardner, a modern, epic poem in English.
  • The Argonautica by Gaius Valerius Flaccus, a first-century AD Latin epic poem.
  • The Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes, a Hellenistic, Greek epic poem.
  • Despoiled Shore Medea Material Landscape with Argonauts (1982) -- a play in the synthetic fragment form by Heiner Müller
  • In comics, The Argonauts was included in the British version of the Classics Illustrated series. In addition to a comic book adaptation of the film Jason and the Argonauts published by Dell Comics in 1963 as part of their Movie Classics series, there were 2 series that featured The Argonauts alongside Jason. The first was a 5 issue series published by Caliber Press in 1991,[15] while the other was a series called Jason and the Argonauts: Kingdom of Hades, a 5 issue mini-series, published by Bluewater Comics in 2007.[16] In 2011, Campfire Books published a graphic novel called Jason and the Argonauts written by Dan Whitehead.[17]

Film and television

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.

In the animated television serie Captain Fathom (1965) produced by Cambria Productions, the main characters sail in a submarine called the "Argonaut".

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?"


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


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

Video games

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.

See also


  2. Rose, A Handbook of Greek Mythology (New York: Dutton, 1959), p. 198
  3. Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 23 - 228
  4. Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 9. 16
  5. Hyginus, Fabulae, 14
  6. Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Amyros
  7. 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)
  8. Hesychius s. v. Azōros
  9. Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Azōros
  10. Arg. 1. 770
  11. Arg. 1. 100
  12. 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.
  13. Arg. 2. 1193
  14. Arg. 1. 112; Hyg. Fab. 14
  15. "GCD :: Covers :: Jason and the Argonauts". Retrieved 2014-06-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "GCD :: Series :: Jason and the Argonauts: Kingdom of Hades". Retrieved 2014-06-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Jason and the Argonauts Dan Whitehead | Comic Corner". Retrieved 2014-06-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

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

External links