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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; Georgian: არგონავტები, Argonavtebi) were a band of heroes in Greek mythology who, in the years before the Trojan War, accompanied Jason to Colchis (ancient Georgian Kingdom) in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, the Argo, which was named after its builder, Argus. "Argonauts", therefore, literally means "Argo sailors". They were sometimes called Minyans, after a prehistoric tribe of 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 Diomedes. 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, who changed the boy's name to Jason.

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 cousin. 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

There is no definite list of the Argonauts. The following list is collated from several lists given in ancient sources.[1][2][3]

  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 (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 Zeus)
  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. Heracles (son of Zeus)
  40. Hippalcimus
  41. Hylas
  42. Idas
  43. Idmon
  44. Iolaus (nephew of Heracles)
  45. Iphitos
  46. Jason
  47. Laërtes
  48. Laocoön (half-brother of Oeneus and tutor of Meleager)
  49. Leitus
  50. Leodocus
  51. Lynceus
  52. Medea
  53. Melas
  54. Meleager
  55. Menoetius
  56. Mopsus
  57. Nauplius
  58. Neleus (son of Poseidon)
  59. Nestor
  60. Oileus
  61. Orpheus
  62. Palaemon
  63. Palaimonius (son of Hephaestus)
  64. Peleus
  65. Peneleos
  66. Perseus
  67. Periclymenus
  68. Phalerus
  69. Phanus (brother of Staphylus and Eurymedon)
  70. Philoctetes
  71. Phlias (son of Dionysus)
  72. Phocus
  73. Phrontis
  74. Poeas
  75. Prias (brother of Phocus)
  76. Pollux (son of Zeus)
  77. Polyphemus
  78. Staphylus
  79. Talaus
  80. Telamon
  81. Thersanon (son of Helios and Leucothoe)
  82. Theseus
  83. Tiphys
  84. 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";[4] he is otherwise said to have been a son of Poseidon and to have given his name to the river Amyrus.[5] Azorus was the helmsman of Argo according to Hesychius of Alexandria;[6] he could be the same as the Azorus mentioned by Stephanus as founder of the city Azorus in Pelagonia.[7]

Notes to the list

Adaptations of the myth


Film and Television

A Soviet cartoon called "The Argonauts" was made in 1971.

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.

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 Hallmark presentation TV movie, Jason and the Argonauts (2000), on the other hand, 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?"

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

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


British Rock group XTC recorded a song entitled Jason and the Argonauts, to be found on 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

See also


  1. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 23 - 228
  2. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 9. 16
  3. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 14
  4. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Amyros
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ Hesychius s. v. Azōros
  7. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Azōros
  8. ^ Arg. 1. 770
  9. ^ Arg. 1. 100
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Arg. 2. 1193
  12. ^ Arg. 1. 112; Hyg. Fab. 14
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^


External links