The Mycenaean Dendra armor (15th c. BC) belongs to the era in which the Argonaut campaign took place. On top of the armor there is a characteristic boar-tusk helmet which in this case is equipped with bronze cheek-protectors.
By Periklis Deligiannis
TABLE: LIST of the ARGONAUTS and their origins
The first two columns of the table quote the legendary heroes of the Argonaut campaign and the city of origin of each one, according to the ancient literature. I composed and added the third column in order to present the peoples/tribes who were the bearers of the traditions or cults of the respective heroes (local deities or agathodemons) or the peoples/tribes inhabiting the listed cities. Hercules is usually referred as a Theban in the ancient texts, but he was a hero/deity of the Achaeans, as possibly was Hylas as well. For this reason I place the Cadmeian people to the city of Thebes, who surely were in control of her in the time of the Argonautica.
ARGONAUT / REGION or CITY / TRIBE(People)
Jason / Iolkos /Minyans
Akastos / Iolkos / Minyans
Admetos / Pherae / Minyans
Peleus / Phthia / Achaeans
Aethalides / Alope / Achaeans
Eurytos / Alope / Achaeans
Echion / Alope / Achaeans
Eurydamas / Ktemene / Dolopes
Asterion / Peiresiae / Lapiths
Polyphemus / Larissa / Lapiths
Koronos / Gyrton / Lapiths
Iphiclos / Phylake / Minyans
Mopsus / Titaros / Lapiths
Orpheus / – / Thracians
Kalais / – / Thracians
Zetes / – / Thracians
Meleager / Kalydon / Aetolians (?)
Laokoon / Kalydon / Aetolians (?)
Iphiclos / Pleuron / Aetolians (?)
Euretion / Opus / Locrians
Menoitios / Opus / Locrians
Oileus / Naryke / Locrians
Iphitos / -/ Phoceans
Hercules(Heracles) / Thebes / Cadmeians
Hylas / Thebes / Cadmeians
Erginus / Orchomenos / Minyans
Tiphys / Tipha (Siphae) / Minyans
Iphitos / Oechalia / Abantes
Klytios / Oechalia / Abantes
Kanthos / Cerinthos / Hellopians
Boutes / Athens / Lapiths
Phaleros / Athens / Lapiths
Telamon /- / Achaeans
Angaeos /-/ Cephallenes (?)
Phleias / Phleious / Arcades (Arcadians)
Talaos / Argos / Danaans (?)
Leodokos / Argos / Danaans (?)
Areios / Argos / Danaans (?)
Idmon / Argos / Danaans (?)
Argos / Argos / Danaans (?)
Nauplius / Nauplion / Danaans (?)
Palaemonios / Lerna (?) / Danaans (?)
Angaeos / Tegea / Arcades
Amphidamas / Tegea / Arcades
Cepheus/ Tegea / Arcades
Amphion / Pellene / Ionians
Asterios / Pellene / Ionians
Augeas / -/ Lapiths
Idas / Arene / Kaukones (?)
Lyngeus / Arene / Kaukones (?)
Periklymenos / Pylos / Minyans
Castor / Sparta / Achaeans
Pollux / Sparta / Achaeans
Euphemos / Tainaron / Minyans
Beyond the usual archaeological and other data, in this article, I will aim to the explanation of some subsequent Greek myths of the Classical age (myths referring to the Mycenaean period), behind which some historical facts are often hidden. Although the explanation of the ancient myths as mythological performance of historical facts is indeed hypothetical, this proposed interpretation of them is popular in many historians, archaeologists and researchers and it is often (if not usually) verified by the archaeological excavations.
The Minyans and the Lapiths were probably the first Greek peoples that expanded their influence on large parts of mainland Greece. Although they had not established some kind of hegemony, their greater politico-military power compared to that of the other tribes is obvious. Before them, possibly the Danaans were the most powerful people/tribe in the mainland, but the relevant evidence (archaeological, mythological and other) is insufficient to support this version, as well as for the exact localization of the areas which they controlled. The Argolic centers (Lerna, Argos and other cities) have undoubtedly been the cradle of the Danaan power.
The Minyans (coming from their cradle in central Thessaly) initially migrated in southeastern Thessaly and then in several areas of southern Greece, reaching the Peloponnesian peninsula of Tainaron (the central of the three “legs” of the Peloponnesus). They developed their palaces, palatial system and advanced civilization in Iolkos of southeast Thessaly, in Orchomenos and Glas (a fortress of the Orchomenian state) of west Boeotia and in Pylos of later Messenia (southwest Peloponnesus). Especially the Orchomenian Minyans constructed an early drainage system for drying a section of the nearby Lake Kopais (around the 15th century BC). They were also masters of military architecture. They probably built the aforementioned citadel of Glas on an island of Lake Kopais, being the larger (in area) Mycenaean citadel.
The Minyan myths concerning the emigration of the Orchomenian hero Phrixos to the kingdom of Colchis in the eastern shore of the Black Sea (probably in modern Caucasian Georgia) and the expedition of the Argonauts led by Jason (organized mainly by heroes of Iolkos), are potentially indicative of the efforts of the Minyan people to discover new trade routes and raw materials in the Black Sea region (perhaps because at the period of their prosperity, the southern Aegean Sea was controlled by the Minoan navy of Crete which prevented any maritime expeditions from the mainland to the South seas). It is obvious that at this era the city-state of Troy (being some phase of Troy VI) was not yet strong enough to prevent the Minyan crossing of the Hellespont, as she probably have succeeded to do in the age just before the Trojan War at the expense of the Mycenaeans (the inheritors of the Minyan legacy).
The first Minyan myth about the “Golden Fleece”, being the tale of Phrixos and Helle, reflects a first attempt of the Minyans (rather those of Orchomenos because this legend originates from that city) to explore the Propontis Sea (modern Sea of Marmara) and the Black Sea and to exploit their natural resources. But it is most likely for this first expedition to have been organized by a partnership of Orchomenos and Iolkos, perhaps under the leadership of the former city. I strongly hypothesize the presence of the Iolkian Minyans because they had at their disposal more suited harbors than the Orchomenians and also had a rather larger seagoing experience. After all Orchomenos was an inland city and the few ports of her territory were not so suitable for such a large expedition (taking into consideration the Bronze Age conditions). Iolkos was also an inland city but not so far from the sea and with better ports at her disposal, especially the port of Pagasae.
Helle’s death and the permanent stay of Phrixus and the Golden Fleece at Colchis according to that myth, probably reflects the failure of the first Minyan naval campaign. The stay of Phrixus at Colchis reflects the ‘choice’ of the survivors of the expedition to settle there, especially if they actually were captives of the Colchians. It has been suggested that the legendary Golden Fleece represents the decorative statue on the prow of the Minyan flagship in the first expedition, which supposedly had the form of a gilded ram. I do not refuse this suggestion, but it is also very plausible that the Golden Fleece represents the wealth of Colchis in precious and other metals (gold, silver, iron and others) in which the Minyans were actually interested (this is another suggestion made by the 19th century scholars). The reported possible campaigns are usually placed in the 15th-14th centuries BC and this is also my opinion concerning their chronology.
The names of the Argonauts, their origins from several cities or regions of the mainland (and a few nearby islands) and their origins from different tribes are noted in the Table above which I prepared for this article. The Classical List of the Argonauts is justifiably considered as a list of the political situation of Proto-Mycenaean Greece, that is to say before the predominance of the Achaeans in the country. It is therefore a valuable and much older counterpart of the Catalogue of the Achaean Ships in Homer’s Iliad.
The Argonauts’ voyage according to the Fragments of the history of Herakles (Hercules) by Herodorus of Heraclea, in Plutarch: Theseus (Parallel Lives). I think that Herodorus’ version of the voyage is the most probable.
The Argonaut myth (quoted as the ‘Argonautica’ in the ancient literature) mentions 54 Argonauts who traveled in a penteconter: the renowned ‘Argo’ which gave to them its name (Argo-Nauts, meaning “the Argo’s crew”). Jason of Iolkos was their leader. Actually the ancient geographer Strabo reveals (or perhaps reasonably supposes) that Jason led a fleet of ships («… καθάπερ τον Ιάσονα όνπερ και μέχρι της Αρμενίας και της Μηδίας εκ των Κόλχων στρατευσάντα, αφέντα τας ναυς», Strabo’s Geographica I, 3). According to the legend, the Argonauts gathered at Pagasae, the port of Iolkos. I support the view that the mythical figures of the Argonauts, rather local deities or agathodaemones, represent the commanders of the naval squadrons coming from the respective Helladic (mainland) regions and that Jason or rather the Minyan admiral that this mythical figure represents, was the supreme commander of the expedition. His ship, HMS Argo (Helladic Minyan Ship Argo, to make a joke of it!), probably represents the flagship of the allied fleet. I believe that the heroes who came from the inland cities and areas (Arcadia, Larissa and others) or regions without any maritime tradition (Elis, Phokis and others) probably represent troops taken on board on ships provided by the maritime cities along with their crews.
Iolkos organized the new campaign in the Black Sea and for this reason the concentration of the fleet took place at Pagasae. But I have to emphasize the excellent geo-strategic position of Iolkos’ Pagasetic Gulf (the sole gulf of Thessaly, in the southeast of that region) as a base for a naval campaign in the North Aegean Sea and then in the Hellespont (modern Dardanelles Strait), the Propontis and the Black Sea. The Pagasetic Gulf offers a safe base for a fleet (having only one narrow access) and moreover it is the nearest to the Hellespont, the first aim of the Argonauts, than any other secure natural harbor of the mainland area controlled by the Minyans and the other Proto-Mycenaeans.
The Argonauts docked at first at Lemnos Island, where Jason had a love affair with the local queen Hypsipyle with whom he had two sons. Euenos, the one of them was the king of the island during the Trojan War. This episode is sometimes interpreted as a Minyan colonization of Lemnos and the neighboring and closely related Imbros Island by Minyans (according to Arnold Toynbee, J.L. Myres and other historians).
CONTINUE READING IN PART II