Open main menu
Gathering of the Argonauts, Attic red-figure krater, 460–450 BC, Louvre (G 341).

The Argonauts (/ˈɑːrɡənɔːt/; 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.


Reason for the questEdit

Pelias, king of Iolcos, stops on the steps of a temple as he recognises young Jason by his missing sandal; Roman fresco from Pompeii, 1st century AD.

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 ArgoEdit

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]

Apollonius Valerius Apollodorus Hyginus Orphic
Beginning of Journey
Acastus son of Pelias and Anaxibia or Phylomache Pherae or Iolcus joined the Argonauts as a volunteer and at his own accord.
Actor son of Hippasus Pellene, Peloponnesus
Admetus son of Pheres and Clymene or Periclymene Pherae his flocks they say were pastured by Apollo.
Aethalides son of Hermes Larissa
Amphiaraus √* son of Oicles Argos *he could fit the description of Hyginus ". . . Thestius’ daughter, an Argive." which could be interpreted as Amphiaraus, son of Oicles and Hypermnestra, Thestius' daughter and an Argive.
Amphidamas son of Aleus Tegea, Arcadia
Amphion son of Hyperasius or Hippasus Pellene, Peloponnesus
Ancaeus son of Poseidon Parthenia or Samos
Ancaeus son of Lycurgus Tegea, Arcadia went clad in the skin of a Maenalian bear and wielded a huge two-edged battleaxe.
Areius son of Bias Argos
Argus son of Arestor - builder of Argo
Argus son of Phrixus - builder of Argo (might be conflated with Argus the builder by late mythographers because Argus, the son of Phrixus appeared in the later part of the story according to earlier accounts on the Argonauts' voyage). see Argus below.
Argus son of Polybus or Danaus Argos also called the builder of Argo; he might be the same as the above Argus who was otherwise called the son of Arestor.
Ascalaphus son of Ares and Astyoche Orchomenus later one of the Suitors of Helen and led the Orchomenians in the Trojan War.
Asclepius son of Apollo Tricca
Asterion or Asterius son of Cometes or Hyperasius Peiresiae, Thessaly he was probably conflated by Hyginus with Asterius below who was called also the son of Hyperasius.
Asterius or Asterion son of Hyperasius or Hippasus Pellene, Peloponnesus
Atalanta daughter of Schoeneus or Iasus Arcadia Atalanta is included on the list by Pseudo-Apollodorus, but Apollonius[6] 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.
Augeas son of Helios and Nausidame Pisa, Elis
Autolycus son of Deimachus Thessaly
Butes son of Teleon and Zeuxippe or of Aeneus Athens, Attica
Calaïs son of Boreas and Oreithyia Thrace
Caeneus father of Coronus, born a woman, daughter of Atrax Gortyn
Canthus son of Abas Euboea
Castor son of Tyndareus; twin and half-brother of Pollux Lacedaemonia
Cepheus son of Aleus and Cleobule or of Lycurgus Tegea, Arcadia King of Tegea
Clymenus possibly son of Phylacus and Clymene as the brother of Iphiclus Phylace, Thessaly
Clytius son of Eurytus and Antiope Oechalia
Coronus son of Caeneus Thessaly
Deucalion son of Minos and Pasiphae Crete
Echion son of Hermes and Antianeira Alope
Eneus son of Caeneus
Eribotes son of Teleon
Erginus son of Poseidon Miletus, Caria
Erytus son of Hermes and Antianeira Alope
Euphemus son of Poseidon and Europe Taenarus, Peloponesse
Euryalus son of Mecisteus Argos
Eurydamas son of Ctimenus or of Irus and Demonassa Ctimene, Dolopia
Eurymedon son of Dionysus
Eurytion son of Irus and Demonassa or of Actor Phthia, Thessaly
Eurytus son of Hermes and Antianeira Alope
Heracles son of Zeus and Alcmena
Hippalcimus son of Pelops and Hippodamia Pisa, Elis
Hylas son of Theiodamas
Ialmenus son of Ares and Astyoche Orchomenus
Idas son of Aphareus and Arene Messenia
Iolaus nephew of Heracles
Iphiclus son of Phylacus and Clymene Phylace, Thessaly
Iphiclus son of Thestius
Iphitos son of Eurytus
Iphitos son of Naubolus
Laërtes father of Odysseus
Laocoon half-brother of Oeneus and tutor of Meleager
Leodocus or Laodocus
Lynceus son of Aphareus and Arene Messenia
Neleus son of Poseidon
Orpheus son of Calliope and Oeagrus Bistonian Pieria, Thrace ruler of Bistonian Pieria
Palaimonius son of Hephaestus
Peleus father of Achilles
Periclymenus grandson of Poseidon
Phanus brother of Staphylus and Eurymedon
Phlias son of Dionysus
Pollux son of Zeus
Polyphemus son of Elatus Larisa, Thessaly one of the Lapiths
Priasus brother of Phocus
Theseus son of Poseidon slayer of the Minotaur; Apollonius claims that Theseus and Pirithous were trapped in underworld by Hades at the time and could not join.[7] 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).[8]
Zetes son of Boreas
***thersanon son of Helios and Leucothoe
During or After the Journey
Argus son of Phrixus and Chalciope They 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.[9] 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.[10]
Autolycus son of Deimachus
Demoleon or Deileon
Medea joined when the Fleece was recovered

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";[11]

The Argo, by Konstantinos Volanakis (1837–1907).

he is otherwise said to have been a son of Poseidon and to have given his name to the river Amyrus.[12] Azorus was the helmsman of Argo according to Hesychius of Alexandria;[13] he could be the same as the Azorus mentioned by Stephanus as founder of the city Azorus in Pelagonia.[14]

The journeyEdit

Jason, along with his other 49 crew-mates, sailed off from Iolcus to Colchis to fetch the golden fleece. They first stopped at Lemnos.

When the Argonauts came to the island of Lemnos, they learned that all the males had been murdered. For the Lemnian women, having learned that their husbands had taken Thracian wives, resolved to kill all men on Lemnos. The women deposed King Thoas, and he should have died along with the other men, but his daughter Hypsipyle, who became queen after him, secretly spared her father. When the Argonauts arrived, Hypsipyle fell in love with their captain Jason and had children with him. But later, when the other women learned that Hypsipyle had spared her father, they sold her as a slave and killed Thoas.[citation needed] (Hypsipyle reappeared years later, when the Argives marching against Thebes learned from her the way to a spring in Nemea, where she served as nurse of the king's son.) The Argonauts consorted with the Lemnian women, and their descendants were called Minyans, since some among them had previously emigrated from Minyan Orchomenus to Iolcus. (Later, these Minyans were driven out from the island, and came to Lacedaemon.)

The Argonauts made their second stop at Bear Mountain, an island[15] shaped like a bear; the locals, called the Doliones, all descended from Poseidon. Their king Cyzicus, who had just got married, decided to have a huge party with the Argonauts. At the party the king tried to tell Jason to not go to the eastern side of the island, but he got distracted by Hercules, and forgot to tell Jason.

Adaptations of the mythEdit


Film and televisionEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "BBC - History - Ancient History in depth: Jason and the Golden Fleece".
  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. ^ Arg. 1. 770
  7. ^ Arg. 1. 100
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Arg. 2. 1193
  10. ^ Arg. 1. 112; Hyg. Fab. 14
  11. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Amyros
  12. ^ 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)
  13. ^ Hesychius s. v. Azōros
  14. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Azōros
  15. ^ Freely, John (2000). The Companion Guide to Istanbul and Around the Marmara. Companion guide to Turkey. 1. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Companion Guides. p. 350. ISBN 9781900639316. Retrieved 2018-03-04. The Kapidağ peninsula was in antiquity known variously as Arctonoros (Bear Mountain) or Arctonissos (Bear Island). It was then indeed an island, which its early settlers linked to the mainland by bridges that could be removed when enemies appeared; in later times alluvial deposits created the isthmus that we see today.

Further readingEdit

  • J. R. Bacon, The Voyage of the Argonauts. (London: Methuen, 1925).
  • Dimitris Michalopoulos and Antonis Milanos, The Evolution of the Hellenic Mercantile Marine through the Ages, The Piraeus: Institute of Hellenic Maritime History, 2014 (ISBN 9786188059900)

External linksEdit