Argonauts legend

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Argonauts on board the Argo, incised drawing around 400 BC On the wall of the Ficoroni-Cista (redrawing)

The saga of the Argonauts is a complex of topics from Greek mythology and deals with the journey of Jason and his companions to Colchis in the Caucasus , the search for the Golden Fleece and its robbery. The traveling companions are called the Argonauts after their incredibly fast ship, the Argo . Already Homer makes reference to the Argonauts Myth: The Odyssey tells Kirke the Odysseus that the Argo with Heras help them successfully through planctae - two driving in the sea overhanging "Irrfelsen" against surges a strong current - whether sailed. The use of the epithet πᾶσι μέλουσα ("well-known", "much sung about ") for the Argo shows that the myth was already widespread when the Odyssey was written. More comprehensive and closed treatments of the substance are called argonautics . The oldest self-contained representation of the material are the four books of the Argonautica by Apollonios of Rhodes from the 3rd century BC. Chr.


Pelias sends Jason for the fleece
Argonaut ship ( Lorenzo Costa , 16th century )

The Argonaut legend has its starting point in the power struggle for the Kingdom of Thessaly in Greece. Pelias , the king who had secured power in Thessaly from his brother Aison , receives an oracle. He should beware of a single-legged man from the Greek city of Iolkos .

The mother of the gods Hera asks Pelias' nephew Jason to help her cross a stream, which causes the latter to lose a shoe. When Jason, Aison's son, steps in front of his uncle, he immediately recognizes who he is and uses a ruse. He promises his nephew the throne if he brings the golden fleece, the very valuable fur of a ram, back home from the end of the world. Pelias thinks this is a journey of no return.

The golden fleece of the ram Chrysomallos , on whose back the twins Phrixos and Helle fled from their stepmother Ino , is in the Hain des Ares in Colchis . To get there, Jason from Argos had the Argo built with 50 oars .

Jason invites Greece's most famous heroes to participate in the company. Of these, which are named very differently and in very inconsistent numbers, the best known are: Admetos , Amphiaraos , Amphion , Ankaios , Argos (the builder of the ship), Heracles , Idas , Idmon , Kalais , Kastor , Kepheus , Laertes , Lynkeus, Meleagros , Mopsos , Nestor , Oileus , Orpheus , Peleus , Philammon , Polydeukes (Pollux), Polyphemos , Telamon , Theseus , Tiphys , Tydeus , Zetes .

Iolkos is the assembly point where everyone comes together. Soon the ship will be out of the harbor; Orpheus invigorates courage by playing the harp and singing. First you get off at Pelion and visit Cheiron , who once raised Jason, then the journey goes around the Chalkidike to Samothrace . From here the ship is shifted to the Illyrian coast and from there to the island of Lemnos , where the women murdered all men (with the exception of Queen Hypsipyle's father ) for infidelity. They give the strangers a hospitable reception, and they enjoy life with the women until Heracles, who had stayed behind with some comrades on the ship, warned the defaulters to continue their journey. They sail to the Phrygian coast to Cyzicus , where the six-armed Gegeneis and peaceful Dolionen live side by side. The latter welcome the Argonauts hospitably and explain the further way to them.

After an arduous journey, the Argonauts finally land between the Propontis and the Black Sea near the town of Kios (later Prusias), where they are warmly received by the Mysians . On departure they forget Heracles, who went looking for his friend Hylas , who was kidnapped by a nymph while fetching water , as well as Polyphemus, and they sail on alone.

Shortly afterwards the Argonauts land in the Bebrykenland ( Bithynia ) in the morning . King Amykos had ordered all foreigners to compete with him in a fist fight . He contemptuously challenges the Argonauts, whereupon Polydeukes kills him in battle.


Continuing on, the Argonauts are driven to the Thracian coast to Salmydessos , where Phineus has long been tormented by the harpies by stealing or emptying his food. Zetes and Kalais save the emaciated old man. As a thank you, Phineus tells the Argonauts how they can get through the Symplegaden at the entrance to the Black Sea - the Kyanean rocks, which crush everything that passes by, whether ship or bird. First the Argonauts are held up by forty days northwest winds until sacrifice and prayer help. On the journey through the Black Sea they come to the Mariandynians , whose king Lykos welcomes them as the conqueror of his enemy Amykos. Later they come to the land of the Chalyber , then to various peoples and to the island of Tia , the Ares island, where the stymphalic birds live, which shoot their brazen feathers as arrows. Then the Argonauts see the peaks of the Caucasus and hear Prometheus ' groans and the beat of the eagle's wings as it digs in its liver.

Now they reach their destination, the Phasis River , into which they row the ship. On the left you can see the Caucasus and the capital Kyta , on the right, as the scene of the things that are to come, the field and grove of Ares.

The next morning Jason goes with Telamon and the sons of Phrixus to King Aietes to claim the Golden Fleece. Aietes promises to deliver it up when Jason plows the Ares corridor and sows the dragon's teeth with the fire- snorting, arch-footed bulls that Hephaestus had given him. Jason manages this with the help of Medea , the king's daughter, who has fallen in love with him. So the conditions are met, but Aietes refuses the fur and thinks about killing the Argonauts overnight. Medea reveals her father's plan and helps Jason steal the fleece on the condition that he takes her as his wife.

There are very different legends about the journey home of the Argonauts . Some let them take the same route they came, others through the Phasis in the Okeanos (sea), around Asia , through the Nile and partly by land where they carry the ship, partly by water via Libya (Africa) the lake Triton get into the Mediterranean Sea . According to Apollonios (" Argonautika "), the Argonauts, according to Phineus' advice, do not want to return on the same route, but instead drive through the Pontus Euxinus into the Ister (Danube); but the Kolchians follow them and cut off their way out (see also Absyrtus ).

Then the Argonauts from the Ister arrive in the Adriatic Gulf and to an island at the mouth of the Eridanos , continue to the land of the Hylleer in Illyria , past Korkyra , Melite and Kalypsos ' island. After further wanderings, Hera has an understanding and favors the further journey. Orpheus' counter-song brings the Argonauts happily past the sirens , Thetis and the Nereids help them through Scylla and Charybdis ( Strait of Messina ), and so they happily come to the happy people of the Phaeacians , whose King Alcinous welcomes them. The latter, of the overtaking Kolchians who demanded the extradition of Medea, as recognized by the persecuted Argonauts as arbiter, now wants to award the Virgin to the Kolchians. His wife Arete, however, knows how to bring about a marriage between Jason and Medea, and the Kolchians have to renounce.

Jason hands Pelias the fleece.

The Argonauts wander through the area on land and water for a while until they finally land on the island of Aegina and return home. According to Ovid , Aison was still alive when Jason returned and was rejuvenated by Medea. Jason's mother had cursed Pelias and killed herself; her son Promachos had murdered Pelias. Now Jason comes and presents the Golden Fleece. Pelias, however, refuses Jason the throne he had promised him in return for the golden fleece.

After dedicating the Argo to Poseidon , Jason asks Medea to help him get revenge on Pelias. She persuades his daughters that if they cut him up and cook, which they do, they could rejuvenate Pelias. Medea, however, has no intention of having her rejuvenation spell work again, so that Pelias perishes in this way. His son Akastos buries his father and drives out Medea and Jason. They flee to Corinth, into the kingdom of King Creon. They live happily there for ten years until Jason falls in love with Creon's daughter, Glauke. King Creon betrothed his daughter to Jason and casts out Medea , who then takes revenge on them.

List of participants in the Argonaut train

To take part in the procession to Colchis, Jason can win over the greatest heroes of his time, including the fathers of many Troy fighters. Participant lists contain the Pythian Odes of Pindar , the Argonautica of Apollonios of Rhodes , the Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus , the Library of Apollodorus , the Fabulae of Hyginus and the Orphic Argonautica , which however differ from each other. Up to sixty varying names are given, 28 of which match in the various lists.

  1. Admetus , consort of Alcestis
  2. Akastos
  3. Aithalides
  4. Actor , son of Hippasus
  5. Amphiaraos one of the seven against Thebes , general from Argos
  6. Amphidamas , son of Aleus , brother of Cepheus
  7. Amphion , son of Hyperasius
  8. Ankaios , son of Lycurgus
  9. Ankaios , son of Poseidon and Althaia, successor of Tiphys as helmsman
  10. Areios , son of bias
  11. Argos , son of Arestor (or Polybos, Danaos, Hestor, Alektor) or Argos (son of Phrixos) , the builder of the ship "Argo"
  12. Askalaphus , son of Ares, brother of Ialmenus
  13. Asclepius
  14. Asterion , son of Antigone, daughter of Pheres
  15. Atalante , the fast runner
  16. Augias
  17. Autolycus , thief and son of Hermes
  18. Butes , retired, enticed by the sirens, on the way home
  19. Daskylos , joined the Argonauts in Mysia
  20. Deucalion
  21. Echion , brother of Eurytus
  22. Eneius , son of Kaineus
  23. Erginos from Orchomenos
  24. Eribotes , son of Teleon, killed on the way home in Libya
  25. Euphemus , a son of Poseidon and Europa , an oceanid
  26. Euryalos
  27. Eurydamas , son of Iros or Ktimenos
  28. Eurymedon , son of Dionysus and Ariadne
  29. Eurytion
  30. Eurytus , son of Hermes and Antianeira
  31. Heracles , the son of Zeus and Alcmene , left behind in Mysia
  32. Hippalkimos , son of Pelops
  33. Hylas , the armor-bearer of Heracles, kidnapped by nymphs in Mysia
  34. Ialmenos
  35. Jason , the leader of the train
  36. Idas , the son of Aphareus
  37. Idmon , the seer, killed by a boar among the Mariandyn people
  38. Iolaos , son of Iphicles and nephew of Heracles
  39. Iphiklos , son of Thestius
  40. Iphiklos
  41. Iphitus , son of Eurytus
  42. Iphitus , son of Naubolos or Hippasus
  43. Kaineus, son of Koronus
  44. Kalais , one of the Boreas sons
  45. Kanthos , killed on the way home in Libya
  46. Castor , one of the Dioscuri
  47. Cepheus , brother of Amphidama
  48. Clytius , son of Eurytos of Öchalia, brother of Iphitus killed by Aeetes
  49. Koronos
  50. Kytisoros
  51. Laertes , father of Odysseus
  52. Laocoon , son of Porthaon
  53. Leitos , son of Alector
  54. Leodokos , son of Bias, brother of Areios and Talaos
  55. Lynkeus , the pilot of the Argo
  56. Melas
  57. Meleagros , son of Oineus and Althaia
  58. Menoitios (Menotius), the father of Patroclus
  59. Mopsos , the soothsayer of the Argonauts, died of a snakebite on the way home in Africa
  60. Nauplios , son of Poseidon
  61. Neleus (Nileus, a warrior who claims to be a descendant of the Nile)
  62. Nestor , son of Neleus from Pylos
  63. Oileus
  64. Orpheus , the singer
  65. Palaimon , son of Hephaestus or Aitolus
  66. Peleus , father of Achilles
  67. Peneleos
  68. Periclymenus
  69. Phalerus , son of Alkon
  70. Phanos , son of Dionysus,
  71. Philoctetes , the archer
  72. Phlias , son of Dionysus and Ariadne
  73. Phocos, son of Kaineus, brother of Priasus
  74. Phrontis , the youngest son of Phrixus
  75. Peirithoos , son of Ixion
  76. Poias , son of Thaumakus
  77. Polydeukes (Pollux), one of the Dioscuri
  78. Polyphemus , is left behind with the Mysians
  79. Priasus , son of Kaineus, brother of Phocos
  80. Staphylos , son of Dionysus, brother of Phanos
  81. Talaos
  82. Telamon , the father of Ajax
  83. Theseus , son of Ageus
  84. Tiphys , the helmsman, died of illness with the Mariandyn people
  85. Zetes , one of the Boreas sons


  • According to Apollonios of Rhodes, Theseus and Peirithoos did not take part because they were being held in the underworld.
  • According to Apollonios of Rhodes, Atalante was not allowed to participate in order to avoid jealousy problems among the otherwise all-male crew.
  • Nestor is mentioned as a participant by Valerius Flaccus, but according to Quintus of Smyrna ( Posthomerica ) he was denied participation by Pelias.
  • In the library , Argos, the son of Phrixus, is the builder of Argo. In the other traditions, however, he and the builder are different people.

Artistic arrangements

Apollonios of Rhodes, Argonautika in the Florence manuscript written in 1280, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 32,16, fol. 207v

The saga of the Argonauts has been edited in many literary terms, both as an epic and as a tragedy ; B. Eumelos , Peisandros , Aeschylos , Sophocles and others. The Greek epics of Apollonios of Rhodes and the so-called Orpheus and the Latin heroic poem of Valerius Flaccus have been preserved . A fairly detailed history of this move is also given by Pindar in the fourth Pythian ode .

Artists also made the Argonaut procession the subject of their depictions, according to Lykios in an unspecified sculptural work. In the Anakeion, the so-called Temple of the Dioscuri in Athens , the painting came from the return of the Argonauts from Mikon . A painting of Kydias bought by Quintus Hortensius Hortalus for 144,000 sesterces also deals with the Argonaut saga . Among the still existing works of art is the depiction of the defeat of Amykos by Polydeukes on the so-called. " Ficoronischen Ciste " in the Villa Giulia in Rome should be highlighted. The myth is also dealt with several times in vase pictures. More recent representations deserve mention: the Argonaut procession by Asmus Carstens and the frieze containing scenes from it by Ludwig Michael Schwanthaler in the Munich residence .

In ancient times:

Later edits:

Film adaptations:


Translations and retelling

Secondary literature

Web links

Commons : Argonauts  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Homer, Odyssey 12: 59-73.
  2. Edzard Visser: Homer's catalog of ships. Teubner, Stuttgart 1997, p. 672.
  3. Pindar , Pythische Oden 4, 117-187.
  4. Apollonios of Rhodes, Argonautika 1, 20 ff.
  5. Gaius Valerius Flaccus 1, 353 ff.
  6. Libraries of Apollodorus 1, 111-113.
  7. ^ Hyginus Mythographus, Fabulae 14.
  8. Orphic Argonautics 119 ff.