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.





By  Periklis  Deligiannis


King and Queen of a Scythian tribe in  a representation based on the archaeological finds from Central Asia. Since around 300 BC, the Scythians systematically attacked the Bosporan kingdom but a part of them settled in its territory becoming subject to the Bosporan king.  In the  last  centuries of  the  Bosporan  history,  the  Iranians (Scythians and Sarmatians) became the main population of the kingdom.

In this way, the city-state of Panticapaeum turned into an extensive hegemony, which later evolved into a Hellenistic kingdom. Generally speaking, Panticapaeum had the same evolution as Syracuse, the birthplace and capital of the Hellenistic kingdom which was founded in Sicily. The Greeks and the Hellenized Thracians were originally the ruling class of the Cimmerian Bosporus, but the status of the indigenous population and the Scythian/Iranian minority, was also important. The two peoples (Greeks and non-Greeks) supported each other: the natives were Hellenized and the Greeks gradually adopted the spirit and the habits of the natives. This duality is obvious in every aspect of the social life of Cimmerian Bosporus. Thus a special Bosporan Greek identity was formed in the Northern Black Sea coast, based on the Ionians.

King Paerisades I died in 310 BC. His eldest son, Satyros, was proclaimed king but soon faced the rebellion of his younger brother Eumelos who claimed the throne. Eumelos had secured the support of Aripharnes, king of the Thataeans as mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, the people who lived on the region of the river Thatis. This river was probably one of the tributaries of Hypanis (Kuban River). It is almost certain that the “Thataeans” (a name which is not national but geographical) are identified with the Siracae, a major Sarmatian tribe who had settled in the Kuban region during the reign of Paerisades I who made them his tributaries. The Sarmatians were a group of nomadic peoples of Central Asia, belonging to the Northern Iranian (Saka, Sakic) stock together with the Scythians. Since the 4th century BC, most of them began migrating towards the steppes north of the Black Sea, while some of their tribes began to move towards China. The various Sarmatian tribes (Sauromatae, Siracae, Aorsi/Alans, Aspourgi, Roxolani, ‘Royal’ Sarmatians, and later the Iazyges, the Alans, the modern Ossetians etc.) were independent and often fought each other. The Sarmatians fought primarily as horsemen and cavalrymen with a long cavalry spear called ‘kontos’. Other arms used by them were their typical medium and long swords, the daggers and a kind of compound bow, less powerful than the Scythian.

Eumelos and Aripharnes of the Siracae confronted Satyros and his Scythian allies in the great battle of the river Thatis , one of the  greatest cavalry battles in Antiquity, in which 10,000 Scythian and 20,000 Sarmatian horsemen and cavalrymen participated. It is certain that the Siracae were supported by many other Sarmatian horsemen, because the Sarmatians in  general were trying to oust the Scythians from the Black Sea steppe.




By  Periklis  Deligiannis


Map  of  the  Kingdom  of  the  Cimmerian  Bosporus,  the  other  Greek  states  in  the  region,  the  Scythian  territory  and  the  last  refuge  of  the  Scythians  after  their  defeat  by  the  Sarmatians  (Historical  Atlas  of  Ukraine:  Greek  colonies  and  the  hinterland)

Since  the  Mycenaean  Age,  the  Greek  navigators  and  colonizers  expressed  their  interest  in  the  Black  Sea  and  the  rich  countries  that  surround  it.  The  Mycenaeans  had  explored  the  region,  as  shown  by  the  tradition  of  the  Argonauts  and  other  evidence,  philological  and  archaeological.  Before  the  Mycenaeans,  Minoan  Crete  was  never  really  interested  in  the  Black  Sea  region.  Generally  speaking,  the  Black  Sea  was  inhospitable  for  the  Mediterranean  seafarer  because  sailing  in  its  waters  was  difficult  and  the  countries  surrounding  it  were  inhabited  by  savage  peoples,  who  used  to  kill  those  who  landed  on  their  shores.  For  these  reasons,  the  original  Greek  name  of  the  Black  Sea  was  the  ‘Inhospitable  Sea’  (Axeinos  Pontos).  The  chaos  of  the  12th  century  BC  in  which  the  Greek  world  sank,  with  the  devastating  raids  of  the  Sea  Peoples  in  the  entire  area  of  the  Eastern  Mediterranean,  the  destruction  of  the  ‘Mycenaean    Commonwealth’  and  the  collapse  of  the  palatial  sociopolitical  system  and  their  aftermath,  removed  the  Greek  navigators  of  the  Black  Sea.

Since  Early  Antiquity,  since  the  time  of  the  ancient  Tripolye  civilization  of  the  3rd  millennium  BC,  the  modern  Russo-Ukrainian  steppes  were  inhabited  by  sedentary  agricultural  and  stockbreeding  populations.  These  populations  were  subdued  by  the  nomadic  peoples  who  arrived  successively  from  Central  Asia,  moving  north  of  the  Caspian  Sea.  The  Indo-Aryan  or  Iranian  Cimmerians  were  the  first  known  (historical)  nomadic  people  to  arrive  there,  followed  by  the  Iranian  Scythians  and  Sarmatians,  and  then  by  the  Turko-Mongol  Huns,  Avars,  Cumans,  Pechenegs  and  others.  The  nomadic  invaders  considered  the  Russo-Ukrainian  steppe  as  a  very  suitable  environment  for  the  growth  of  their  flocks.  The  resident  population  of  modern  southwestern  Ukraine  was  rather  Thracian  in  origin,  while  that  of  southeastern  Ukraine  and  the  steppe  north  of  the  Caucasus  belonged  to  the  people  of  the  older  Shrubnaya  (Timber-grave)  culture.  The  lands  of  the  natives  were  relatively  rich  in  agricultural  production,  so  they  could  pay  without  much  difficulty  the  taxes  imposed  on  them  by  the  nomad  rulers.  Various  nomadic  tribes  retained  as  long  as  they  could  their  power  on  those  lands,  substantially  as  long  as  their  military  superiority  against  external  threats  lasted.




 By  Periklis  Deligiannis


These  Scandinavian  warriors  are  almost  identical  with  their  Gothic  relatives  because  of  their  unity  of  culture.  The  weaponry  of  the  Scandinavians/Vikings  was  in  fact  originated  from  the  arms  and  armor  of  their  Germanic  kinsmen  in  the  main  European  continent , especially  from  those  of  the  Eastern  Teutonic  tribes.

The  Goths  lived  and  fought  in  most  parts  of  the  European  continent.  From  the  dense  frosty  forests  of  Scandinavia  and  contemporary  Poland,  and  the  frigid  Baltic  Sea,  to  the  warm  civilized  countries  of  Greece,  Italy  and  the  Mediterranean,  and  from  the  vast  grasslands  of  Ukraine  and  the  Black  Sea  to  the  Iberian  Atlantic  coast,  their  martial  migration  course  is  a  truly  unparalleled  feat.  Their  Vandal  brothers  managed  to  colonize  North  Africa,  while  other  Gothic  branches  settled  in  Britain (Jutes) and  Asia  Minor.  The  History  of  the  Goths  is  one  of  the  most  exciting  in  general  World  History,  while  their  admirable  martial  art  brought  the  Dawn  of  Chivalry  in  Europe.

The  modern  theories  on  the  ethnogenesis  of  the  Goths  are  divided.  The  best  known  view (supported  mainly  by  modern  Teutonic  historians  and  scholars)  considers  them  of  pure  Germanic  origins,  originating  from  Gotland  (“Land  of  the  Goths“),  i.e. modern  South-Central  Sweden  and  the  adjacent  long  island  of  the  same  name.  This  view  is  supported  by  a  number  of  medieval  sources.  However,  there  is  also  the  theory  (supported  mainly  by  modern  Slav  historians  and  scholars)  that  the  Goths  and  the  Vandals  were  indigenous  non-Germanic  peoples  of  modern  Poland,  who  adopted  their  Germanic  language  from  a  Teutonic  ethnic  element  sparsely  settled  in  their  area.


Exploring the Limes Germanicus… images from Rome’s Germanic Frontier (part one)


Republication from FOLLOWING HADRIAN.


From one end of the empire to another!

The Roman empire encircles the Mediterranean Sea, and beyond that, lay its frontiers. By the early 2nd century the empire was stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea, through the deserts of the Middle East to the Red Sea, and across North Africa.

The “Limes” represents the border line of the Roman Empire at its greatest extent in the 2nd century AD. It stretched over 5,000 km from the Atlantic coast of northern Britain, through Europe to the Black Sea, and from there to the Red Sea and across North Africa to the Atlantic coast. The remains of the Limes today consist of vestiges of built walls, ditches, forts, fortresses, watchtowers and civilian settlements. The two sections of the Limes in Germany, Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall are now all inscribed on the World Heritage List as the “Frontiers of the Roman Empire”. (Source Unesco)

Limes Unesco © Carole Raddato

The Germanic Limes was a line of frontier fortifications that bounded the ancient Roman provinces of Germania Inferior, Germania Superior and Raetia, dividing the Roman Empire and the unsubdued Germanic tribes from the years 83 (under Domitian) to about 260 AD.

Upper Germanic & Raetian Limes

The Upper German-Raetian Limes extends to a length of 550 km between the Rhine
in the north-west (near Rheinbrohl) and the Danube in the south-east (near Regensburg). It consisted of about 900 watchtowers, numerous small forts and over 60 large forts for cohorts and alae (Roman allied military units). More a guarded border line than a military defence system, the Limes enabled traffic to be managed, movement of people to be controlled and goods to be traded and taxed.

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THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER THATIS – PART III Scythians, Sarmatians and Greeks struggling in the Cimmerian Bosporus



A masterpiece from the land of the Scythians. A golden comb depicting a battle on its back: Scythian horseman and infantry fighting (from the royal tomb of  Solokha).




By  Periklis    Deligiannis

Eumelos suggested a compromise to his brother, Prytanis, based on the division of the kingdom into two territories, which they would share. But his brother rejected his proposal. Prytanis went to Panticapaeum to ensure his control on the kingdom. The aristocrats and the citizens of the Greek cities could exploit the power vacuum which was created by the dynastic war, overthrowing the tyranny of  the Spartocids. Prytanis’ absence gave the opportunity to Eumelos and his allies to capture the small city Gargaza and other towns, which were probably in the modern Taman peninsula (May 309 BC). When Prytanis secured his authority on Panticapaeum, he returned to the Kuban region joining again his army. But his military forces were already highly stressed by Eumelos’ army, and were finally defeated in a new conflict. Eumelos clustered the enemy army in the region of Lake Maeotis (modern Sea of Azov) and thereby he forced Prytanis to resign the throne. Eumelos was proclaimed king but his brother made a last attempt to regain the throne when he returned to Panticapaeum. Prytanis failed, bringing about the wrath of his brother because of his attempt. Eumelos executed him along with his family and Satyrus’ family (June 309 BC).

The new king was murderous, ordering the killing of many friends of his dead brothers. Thus he ultimately caused the counteraction of his subjects, who were sick and tired of his atrocities. Eumelos realized that he would face a revolution and so he called the people of the capital in a popular assembly, in which he announced economic measures favorable to the merchant class, whose support he was intended for. Thereby he consolidated his authority. The kings Paerisades and Satyrus were active and capable rulers. Eumelos proved worthy of them in his five years of rule. The indigenous peoples of the northern and eastern shores of the Black Sea region, especially the Tauri (Taurians), the Heniochi (‘charioteers’) and the Achaeans (not to be confused with the Greek Achaeans) were conducting piracy against the Greek merchants of the Bosporus, damaging seriously its economy. Eumelos used the Bosporan fleet against them, which he reinforced, and managed to crush them. Thereby he strengthened the Bosporan trade and gained over consistently the strong middle class of traders. He also strengthened the military forces by recruiting more Greeks from the urban centers, who provided by then only a limited number of men in the royal army.


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