Answering to a New Yorker author’s criticism on my articles about the Argonautica (and making an exception)


ArgoGathering of the Argonauts, Attic red-figure krater, 460–450 BC, Louvre (G 341) (Wikipedia commons)

Periklis  Deligiannis

Sometimes some of my articles are criticized by various scholars, historians, researchers and other readers around the world. These criticisms are sometimes positive, sometimes negative and sometimes malicious or aggressive/abusive. Except the latter, all of them are welcome.
The most recent criticism (negative criticism, but I think not malicious) was made by an editor and writer from New York, Jason Colavito, who wrote here a long article in which he presents a number of his ‘arguments’ based on which he is trying to question the conclusions of my two articles on the Argonautica. Although I generally do not answer to the criticism of others, I will make an exception for Mr Colavito because my vacations have already started and I have plenty of time (no, I’m not on a beach of a Greek island, but in the cement-city of Athens under a heat wave!).

Mr Colavito writes that “Deligannis makes a number of errors, beginning with the fact that he takes the developed Argonaut myth of the Classical and Hellenistic period as representative of the state of the story in the Archaic period and earlier, including all of the people and places of the standard version of the myth. There is no evidence that the full complement of fifty some-odd Argonaut celebrities drawn from all over Greece were original to the myth. Homer knows nothing of them, nor does Hesiod’s Theogony. The Hesiodic fragments contain episodes…”

It is obvious that the writer of the above paragraph/argument does not have a picture in depth, of the topography, geography and settlement history of the Mediterranean region in Antiquity, which probably plays the most important role in dating the Argonautic myth and mostly the chronology of its approximately final form. The myth of the Argonauts mentions several cities such as Peiresiae, Oechalia, Iolkos, Titaros, Alope, Tipha, Lerna, Pylos, Arene and others which in the Classical and Hellenistic period either no longer existed and no one knew their location, or had become insignificant villages, overshadowed by famous nearby cities. Additionally, the legend does not mention at all very important cities of the Classical and Hellenistic period of the same areas such as Chalkis, Eretria, Histiaia, Megara, Marathon, Eleusis, Corinth (Ephyra), Sicyon, Patrae, Orchomenos in Arcadia, Mantineia, Olympia and many others. And above all, no one in the Classical and Hellenistic period knew for sure the location of the Bebryces, Salmydessos, the Symplegades, not even of Colchis (Colchis’ location at the foothills of the Caucasus was a reasonable hypothesis made by the subsequent Greeks but not a certainty).
The Classical and Hellenistic Greeks knew only the location of Lemnos, Samothrace, and the territories of the Doliones and the Mariandyni, but specifically for the Mariandyni this is doubtful because the homonymous people of their time is not certainly identical to the tribe encountered by the Argonauts. All these peoples, figures and cities obviously belong to a very ancient period (Proto-Mycenaean period, archaeologically known as Middle-Helladic); so ancient that the Classical and Hellenistic Greeks knew them only as ‘empty names’ without location or personal history. I think it is very unlikely for the later and much later (Hellenistic) Greeks to attach the lesser legends of such ’empty’ place names, peoples and other to the ‘central’ myth of the Argonautica. After all, that central myth would be very reduced in its original form.  I think that this evidence is enough to demonstrate that the Argonaut myth of the Classical and Hellenistic period is representative enough of the state of the story in the Archaic period and earlier, including all of the people and places of the standard version of the myth.



JASON’S ARGONAUTS (part II): a Historical and Geopolitical approach to the myth of the Argonautica

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argoA modern reconstruction of the Argo, the ship of the Argonauts or rather their flagship, by the Historical Association “Argonauts 2008”. Argo was an early Bronze Age penteconter.
By Periklis Deligiannis


As it was mentioned, the Argonauts docked at first in Lemnos Island, where Jason had a love affair with the local queen Hypsipyle with whom he had two sons. This episode is sometimes interpreted as a Minyan colonization of Lemnos and the neighbouring and closely related island of Imbros. During the Trojan War, the people of the two islands were not sided with the Mycenaeans, at least from the beginning of the war, but that does not mean that they were not akin to them. The reason is that the mentioned islands were near the coasts of the Troad and Thrace (most of the Thracians were allies of the Trojans) and thereby they were obliged (or threatened) to join the Trojan alliance. It is also very plausible that the mercantile and geopolitical interests of the Lemnians and the Imbrians were identical to those of the Trojans. Other ancient literary sources inform us that after the destruction of Troy, Lemnos and Imbros were occupied by Pelasgians who actually were non-Greek Tyrsenians from Lydia, kinsmen of the Etruscans of Italy. It is obvious that the Pelasgi/Tyrsenians evicted the Minyan settlers from the two islands. In the Archaic period the latter became Greek again, when the Athenians occupied them evicting their Tyrrhenian/Tyrsenian inhabitants and colonizing them.
After Lemnos, the Argonauts anchored at the island of Samothrace very close to the Thracian coasts, then crossed the Hellespont and from there they faced adventures in the territories of the Doliones, the Bebryces and the city-principality of Salmydessos, which they lie on the south coasts of the Propontis (Sea of Marmara) with the probable exception of the latter. Next the Argonauts crossed the perilous strait of the Symplegades (probably the modern Bosphorus in Turkey) and thus managed to reach the Black Sea. There, they first docked in the land of the Mariandyni tribe at the north coast of Asia Minor. The aforementioned peoples of the south Propontis coasts were rather of proto-Phrygian and proto-Thracian stock who had already settled in Asia Minor, while the country of the Mariandyni can be identified with the one of the Palaites (the land Pa(ph)la, the subsequent Classical Paphlagonia) or even of the Gasga (Kaska) mentioned in the Hittite royal archives at Hattusas.


JASON’S ARGONAUTS: a Historical and Geopolitical approach to the myth of the Argonautica (part I)



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.
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 (?)