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I. The Elements of Mythology 

II. The Story .... 

III. The Literary Tradition 

IV. Orphism 

V. Some Interpretations . 

VI. Incidents Treated Individually 
VII. A Far-travelled Tale . 
VIII. The Happy Other-World 

IX. The Homeward Routes 
X. Aietes and Medea 

XI. The Minyans and the Euxine 
XII. The Asiatic Trade-Route 

XIII. Early Intercourse between East and 

XIV. The Growth of a Legend . 
Stemma of the Aeolidae 
Chronological Chart of the Bronze 
Bibliography , 













The Argonauts. Vase of Polygnotan Style from Orvieto. 

Paris, Louvre ... ... Frontispiece 

From " Griechische Vasenmalerei," by Furtwangler-Reichhold 
(F. Bruckmann, Munich): 


Fig. I.— Phrixus and Helle on the Ram. Krater by 

Assteas. Naples . . . . . .12 

Fig. II. — The Building of the Argo. Terra Cotta Relief. 

British Museum . . . . . .16 

Fig. III. — Jason, Athena and a Sea-monster. Red-figured 

Vase from Caere. Rome, Mus. Gregoriano . 24 

Fig. IV. — The Death of Talos. Red-figured Amphora 

from Ruvo. Ruvo, Jatta Collection . . 80 

(From " Griechische Vasenmalerei," by Furt- 
wangler-Reichhold (F. Bruckmann, Munich). 

Fig. V. — Medea rejuvenates a Ram. Black-figured 

Amphora. British Museum . . . .128 



A Map of Europe and the Mediterranean, showing the 

Amber Routes and the Homeward Routes of the Argonauts 122 

A Map of the Euxine Sea, showing places visited by the 

Argonauts and places mentioned in the Homeric Catalogues 148 

A Map of Asia, showing Ancient Trade Routes . .158 





"... matter full of suspicion and doubt, being delivered to us by 
poets and tragedy-makers, sometimes without truth and likelihood, 
and always without certainty." — Plutarch. 

" t I "^HE Mythical" was excluded by Thucy- 
dides from the scheme of his history 
-•- because he wished his work to be a posses- 
sion for ever. He can be justified. It seemed to 
him that the aim of the historian should be a prac- 
tical one, the provision for mankind of precedents 
which when history repeated itself, as it surely would, 
might serve as warnings or examples. 1 The wonders 
of the dim past, the racy anecdotes with which 
Herodotus had enlivened his narrative, seemed to 
offer no such precedents ; they had, as Strabo 
afterwards explained, " nothing to do with facts. 
For instance, if a man were to tell of the wanderings 
of Odysseus or Menelaus or Jason, he would not seem 

1 Thuc, i. 22, 4. 


to make any contribution to knowledge, which is the 
aim of the practical man." 1 Thus in the narrower 
sense Thucydides may have been right : but on a 
broader view he was doubly blind to the value of 
the mythical, doubly unfair to the material he 

Warnings and examples may be of more than one 
kind ; they may affect the spirit of man as well as his 
practical behaviour. It is at least arguable that the 
Odyssey had a practical value ; it has certainly 
a moral justification. " The days that make us 
happy make us wise," and for the spirit these wan- 
derings of Odysseus are not only a delight, but a 
lesson ; courage, endurance, resource, generosity are 
exemplified in them and in the work of Herodotus 
as clearly as in the stricter narrative of the most 
scientific historian. And inasmuch as the example 
they show commends itself as aptly to the present 
day as to their earliest hearers, they are as nearly a 
possession for ever as mortality can compass. 

The other part of the unfairness is more insidious. 
Thucydides implied, and imposed on too many of 
his successors the belief, that " mythical " is equiva- 
lent to untrue, that the best it can offer is amuse- 
ment, the rhetorical triumph of an hour. The 
delight is not all. The ground of Strabo's depre- 
ciation, that the old sagas make no contribution to 
knowledge, no longer holds firm ; they can tell 
much more than their own good story. This is 

1 Strabo, i. 1 1 . 


coming to be recognized more and more clearly. 
The whirligig of time has brought in its revenges, 
and the historian of to-day goes to the tales dis- 
carded by his predecessor for a far from contemp- 
tible part of his material ; folk-lore has become an 
historical science, and mythology is acknowledged 
to be instructive, if not literally true. 

Mythology is a large term and its growth covers 
much time ; often it reflects the passage of a race 
from savagery to civilization. It is therefore only 
natural that a diversity of elements go to its com- 
position. These diverse elements have been grouped 
in three categories — myth, legend, and folk- tale — 
according to the source from which they seem to be 
derived or the characteristics which most distinguish 
them. 1 

Myth has an explanatory intention. It explains 
some natural phenomenon whose causes are not 
obvious, or some ritual practice whose origin has 
been forgotten. " The range of myths," says Sir 
James Frazer, "is as large as the world, being co- 
extensive with the curiosity and the ignorance of 
man." Myth may be easily distinguished from bare 
fact, 2 but it is often hard to distinguish it from 
allegory ; still, the distinction must be made, for 
allegory, a later and more sophisticated use of story- 
telling, has a different standpoint and a different 
aim. In the " myths " of Plato, for example, where 

1 Frazer, " Apollodorus," i. pp. xxvii-xxxi ; G. L. Gomme, " Folk- 
lore as an Historical Science," p. 129. 
a Gomme, p. 130. 


under material images we recognize the vicissitudes 
of the soul, allegory is employed to convey by means 
of familiar symbols an unfamiliar meaning ; in 
primitive myth, as for instance when the apparent 
movement of the sun is explained by the figure of a 
charioteer driving his car across the heavens, the 
familiar image is used to account for a phenomenon 
equally familiar, but mysterious. Aeolus, who lets 
the winds out of his bag, is a true figure of primitive 
myth ; so is Mother Carey plucking her chickens. 
There are degrees of savagery in myth, because 
different phenomena have called for explanation at 
different stages in the advance of civilization. In 
general, the myths explaining natural phenomena 
are earliest and most primitive ; "to the savage 
sky, sun, sea, wind are not only persons, but they 
are savage persons." x Later come myths explaining 
ritual, such as the stories of the rending of Dionysus, 
evolved from Dionysiac ceremonies. That this kind 
of myth-making may persist long after savagery has 
given place to civilization has been shown in the 
Arthurian studies of Miss Jessie Weston, who explains 
the story of the Holy Grail as " the restatement of 
an ancient and august ritual in terms of imperishable 
romance." 2 

Legend, on the other hand, is true tradition 
founded on the fortunes of real people or on adven- 
tures at real places. Agamemnon, Lycurgus, Corio- 
lanus, King Arthur, Saladin, are real people whose 

1 Andrew Lang in " Enc. Brit.," s.v. Mythology. 

2 Jessie L. Weston, " From Ritual to Romance," p. 196. 


fame and the legends which spread it have become 
world-wide. Their significance does not end with 
their homes, with Mycenae, or Rome, or Lyonnesse. 
Other legendary figures have never ventured far 
afield : it is their connection with certain places 
which preserves the memory of Codrus, of Hereward 
the Wake, of St. Frideswide, of local saints and 
heroes too numerous to mention. Others have left 
not even a name, only a scene for their exploits, 
like the fugitive Highlander who leapt the chasm in 
the pass of Killiecrankie. The adventures of these 
real people are often largely fictitious, but the in- 
credulous hearer must select, disbelieving the details 
of the story perhaps, but forced to accept the reality 
behind them. 

Folk-tale, however, calls for no belief, being wholly 
the product of the imagination. In far distant ages 
some inventive story-teller was pleased to pass an 
idle hour " with stories told of many a feat." They 
may have been written down very early, like the 
fables of Indian mythology, or their committal to 
writing may have waited for the folk-lorist of to-day. 
Though, like myths, they were originally invented, 
their only aim is entertainment ; though, like legends, 
they may take real people for their heroes, they make 
no claim on any but the most undiscriminating 

" If these definitions be accepted," says Sir James 
Frazer, " we may say that myth has its source in 
reason, legend in memory, and folk-tale in imagina- 
tion ; and that the three riper products of the 


human mind which correspond with these its crude 
creations are science, history, and romance. 1 

Are these definitions to find complete acceptance ? 
The names of myth and legend and the definition of 
their characteristics are acceptable enough, and when 
they are recognized it is also clear that there is a 
large amount of material which does not readily 
associate itself with either ; but to define this 
residue as the product of pure imagination, and hav- 
ing done so to name it folk-tale, is not so satisfactory. 
The matter of the name draws attention at once. 
Folk-tale covers so much more than the quality 
singled out as its distinguishing mark. To use the 
name is to lay too great a stress on the single letter 
which turns a singular into a plural, to make too 
fine a distinction between the " folk-tale " which 
stands for pure imagination and the general body of 
folk-tales, which often contain as much embryo his- 
tory and science as romance. 

This objection to the name is a question merely 
of terminology, but it calls to notice a more serious 
one, the doubt whether the third element is really 
the product of pure imagination. From the nega- 
tive point of view it is a hard rule which denies 
a tincture of imagination to memory and reason ; 
romance and its parent imagination cannot be en- 
tirely separated from the formation of legend, still 
less of myth ; there is only a hair's breadth between 
the faculty which suggests that the sun is a charioteer 

1 Frazer, op. cit., p. xxxi. 


and that which gives him a garden in the west. 
And difficult as it is to denude myth and legend of 
their romance, it is still harder to isolate any element 
of mythology as the product of unaided imagination. 
This is not to deny imagination an important part 
in the creation of mythology : it does play a part, 
but it is not, or very rarely, a creative part. Nothing 
can come of nothing, and the imagination must 
have material to work upon. This basic material is 
fact, just as the basis of myth and legend is fact. 
The material of ancient story might be said to fall 
under two heads rather than three — fact and fancy, 
matter and mind — and of these the former is the 
earlier and has the primary responsibility, provides 
the primary motive power. At the origin of fable 
lies fact, and upon fact imagination, or fancy, works 
in two ways : it seeks to explain, whence comes first 
myth, and later, as imagination is directed by 
critical reason, science; and it ornaments, whence 
comes legend, which, again by the operation of 
critical reason is refined into history. Fiction, 
nominally the product of the unfettered imagination, 
must still be based on past experience, whether in 
imitation or in defiance, and the operation of the 
fancy in producing it must originally be imitative 
or exaggerative rather than truly creative. 

What, then, is the essence and origin of this third 
class of mythological material ? Perhaps the clue 
is to be found in the words spoken of Romance by 
the late Sir Walter Raleigh : " If I had to choose a 
single characteristic of Romance as the most note- 


worth} ," he said, " I think I should choose Distance, 
and should call Romance the magic of distance." * 
This seems true also of that third class which is 
neither myth nor legend, and which is to Sir James 
Frazer the prototype of romance. Its difference 
from myth and legend lies not so much in any 
difference of essence as in its greater distance ; it is 
older, more remote, distant so far that its origins 
cannot be precisely defined. 

While, therefore, it is misleading to give to fiction 
the name of folk-tale, because a great part of what 
that name generally connotes is not wholly fictitious 
or imaginary, but popularized and simplified versions 
of what in an antiquity beyond examination were 
myths and legends, there is no anomaly in applying 
the name to material whose distinguishing mark is 
such remoteness in antiquity. It is convenient for 
purposes of analysis to keep three divisions, but they 
really represent two mythological strata, the upper- 
most of which is visibly composed of two elements, 
myth and legend, while the lower, folk-tale, lies 
buried so deep that the true nature of its constituents 
is as yet indistinguishable. Myth, then, is that part 
of mythology in which we can detect the operations 
of a reasoning imagination ; legend is that part 
where the imagination can be seen to have embel- 
lished, often to have obscured, facts ; the remainder, 
which it is convenient and not too misleading to call 
folk-tale, comes from a source at present beyond 
definition or reckoning. 

1 Sir W. Raleigh, " Romance," p. 37. 


It follows that mythology has many lessons to 
teach. From it emerges the mind of bygone peoples, 
their habits and beliefs ; it can teach fact also, for 
" pre-history " it is a source second in reliability 
only to archaeology ; most of all it is a quarry for 
the anthropologist. Indeed, only the anthropolo- 
gist can assess its full value. The aim of the present 
work, no anthropologist's, is to examine only a very 
small portion of the material, a single story of the 
Greek mythology. 

In the application of the terms myth, legend 
and folk-tale to the Greek mythology I follow the 
definitions just given : myth is that part of Greek 
story in which we can detect the reasoning imagina- 
tion of Greeks at work ; legend is Greek fact, and 
folk-tale is that part which seems to belong to a 
world older than Hellas. Some Greek stories have 
been analysed on these lines already. The com- 
bination of the three elements is well illustrated in 
the cycle of the adventures of Heracles. When he 
champions the Thebans against the Minyan Erginus 
he is a legendary figure, a real warrior of a bygone 
age ; when he fights with Achelous, and when he 
rescues Alcestis from the shades, Miss Harrison 
would have us believe that he is not merely part of 
a sun-myth, but even that super-mythical being, 
the Eniautos Daimon himself ; 1 and when he sails 
in the cup of the sun and gathers the apples of the 
Hesperides, he is the hero of stories so ancient that 

1 J. E. Harrison, " Themis," pp. 368-381. 


their precise meaning cannot be understood, and 
they seem to belong to a faery world. 

Heracles, in short, has gathered about him stories 
of all three kinds. Can the same be proved of Jason ? 
Do he, his adventures, his Argonaut companions 
derive their being from the operations of reason or 
memory, or do they come down from immeasurable 
distance ; are they the subjects of science or history 
or romance ? The story is so varied in its final form 
that it provides evidence to prove anything you 
please, if only the right details be selected. The 
present work is an attempt to assign the details to 
their appropriate categories, and going beyond them 
to the kernel of the story to show, if possible, what 
the course ,of its development has been. In this 
way it is hoped it will appear that these " wander- 
ings of Jason " have their own contribution to make 
to knowledge, and their own claim on the attention 
of the Practical Man. 


And therein all the famous history 

Of Jason and Medaea was ywritt ; . . . 

His goodly conquest of the golden fleece, . . . 

The wondred Argo, which in venturous peece 

First through the Euxine seas bore all the flowr of Greece. 

— Spenser 

AEOLUS, son of Hellen and the nymph 
Orseis, had four sons, Sisyphus, Cretheus, 
Athamas and Salmoneus. 1 Of these Atha- 
mas, king of Boeotia, was twice married, first to 
Nephele, by whom he had two children, Phrixus 
and Helle ; and secondly to Ino, whose sons were 
Learchus and Melicertes. Ino plotted against the 
children of the first wife, and having caused the 
crops to be unfertile by persuading the women of 
Boeotia to parch the unsown wheat, 2 she made 
Athamas believe that he could put an end to the 
dearth by sacrificing Phrixus to Zeus. Athamas, 
for his country's welfare, had no choice but to 
sacrifice his son, but to save Phrixus and Helle from 

1 See " Stemma of the Aeolidae," p. 171. 

2 This account is paraphrased from Apollodorus, i. ix. 16 ff., unless 
it is otherwise stated. 



death Nephele sent a ram with a golden fleece, 
which caught them up from the altar and bore them 
through the air eastward over land and sea. When 
they were over the narrow strait which divides 
Europe from Asia, Helle slipped from the ram's back 
into the sea and was drowned, and that part of the 
sea was thenceforward called after her, Hellespont. 
But the ram bore Phrixus to Colchis, whose king 
Aietes, child of the Sun, brother of Circe and Pasi- 
phae, received Phrixus kindly and gave him one of 
his daughters, Chalciope, in marriage. Phrixus sacri- 
ficed the ram to Zeus Phyxios, god of Escape, and 
gave the golden fleece to Aietes, who dedicated it to 
Ares, hanging it on an oak in the god's sacred grove, 
where it was guarded by a sleepless dragon. 

Another son of Aeolus, Cretheus, ruled the Min- 
yans of Iolcos in Thessaly. On his death the king- 
dom did not pass to his son Aeson, but was usurped 
by Pelias, child of his wife Tyro and Poseidon. 1 
Pelias, consulting an oracle " concerning the king- 
dom," was warned to beware of the man with one 
sandal. When he was offering a sacrifice to Poseidon 
he sent for Jason, Aeson's son, to attend him. Jason 
came from his home in the country, and in crossing 
the river Anauros he lost a sandal in the stream, 
and arrived at the sacrifice with only one. Pelias, 
recognizing in him the one-sandalled danger of the 
oracle, asked him what he would do if it had been 
foretold that he should be murdered by one of the 

1 Cf. Pindar, Pythian, iv. infra, pp. 27-30. 


citizens. Jason replied, " I would command him 
to fetch the Golden Fleece." " Thou art the man," 
said Pelias. 1 

Jason therefore called in the help of Argus, who 
built a ship of fifty oars, named Argo after him, and 
at the prow Athena fitted in a speaking bough from 
the oak of Dodona. Then Jason sent heralds 
throughout all Greece, to summon the heroes to the 
quest. Orpheus came, and the Tyndarids, Castor 
and Polydeuces, and Euphemus, and Zetes and Calais, 
the two sons of Boreas, and Heracles with his squire 
Hylas, and Mopsus, who knew the augury of birds, 
Idas, the keen-sighted Lynceus, the pilot Tiphys, 
and many others. 2 With them Jason put to sea. 

They stopped first at Lemnos, then empty of men 
because lately the Lemnian women had killed their 
husbands. The Argonauts had intercourse with the 
women, and the queen Hypsipyle bore Jason two 
sons, Euneos and Nebrophonos. 3 After Lemnos they 
visited Samothrace, where they were initiated into 
the mysteries. 4 Next they landed among the 
Doliones, whose king, Cyzicus, received them 
kindly and entertained them. But having put to 

1 Different accounts of this are given by Pindar {v. infra, p. 27), 
followed by Valerius Flaccus ; and by Diodorus (iv. 40, 1) who says 
that Jason desired n irpa^ai jj.v4\h7)s 6.£iov. 

2 Cf. Ap. Rh., i. 18-227; Val. Flac, i. 350-484; Orph. Arg., 
110-229 5 Diod., iv. 41 ; Apollod., i. ix. 16. 

3 Pindar puts Lemnos on the way back. Diodorus omits it, substi- 
tuting an adventure at Troy, which appears in Val. Flac. in addition 
to Lemnos. 

4 According to Ap. Rh. and Val. Flac 


sea from there by night and met with contrary 
winds, they lost their bearings and landed again 
among the Doliones. But these, taking them for a 
Pelasgian army, joined battle with them by night, 
each in ignorance of the other, and in the battle 
Cyzicus was killed. When day came and the Argo- 
nauts knew what they had done, they mourned and 
gave Cyzicus a ceremonious burial, 1 after which they 
sailed away and touched at Mysia. 

In Mysia they lost Heracles. For Hylas, his 
beautiful young squire, was carried off by the 
nymphs of a spring where he was drawing water, 
and Heracles, absorbed in the search for him, was 
left behind when the ship put to sea. 1 Next they 
touched at the country of the Bebryces, whose king, 
Amycus, " a doughty man," compelled all strangers 
to box with him, and in this way had killed many. 
But the immortal boxer, Polydeuces, met him and 
defeated him at last. 1 

Thence they came to Salmydessus in Thrace, or, 
according to some authorities, to Bithynia, 2 whose 
king, the prophet Phineus, had been blinded by the 
angry gods, and was also afflicted by the visits of 
the Haipies, who whenever the feast was spread 
snatched away the food and befouled the tables. 
Consulted by Jason about the way to Colchis, Phineus 
agreed to disclose all he knew if they would rid him 
of the Harpies. So a table was spread, and as soon 
as the Harpies appeared Zetes and Calais, the winged 

1 This incident is omitted by Pindar and Diodorus. 

2 Apollodorus says Salmydessus, others Bithynia 


sons of Boreas, pursued them through the air to the 
Strophades Islands, where the Harpies were im- 
prisoned. 1 

Phineus then told the Argonauts of their voyage, 
and how to avoid the Clashing Rocks, huge moving 
crags which, driven together by the winds, closed 
the passage into the Euxine. Following his instruc- 
tions they let fly a dove, and as she flew through the 
rocks clashed together, nipping off her tail feathers. 
Then, as they sprang apart, the Argonauts, rowing 
hard, passed through before they clashed again. 
And thenceforward the Clashing Rocks stood still. 

Next the Argonauts were received by Lycus, king 
of the Mariandyni. There Idmon, the seer, died of a 
wound inflicted by a boar ; and there also died 
Tiphys, the helmsman, and Ancaeus undertook to 
steer the ship. 

Then they passed the river Thermodon, round 
which dwelt the Amazons. And the next day they 
sped on, and at nightfall they reached the land of 
the Chalybes, who cleave the hard iron-bearing land 
and forge the metal amid bleak sooty flames and 
smoke. And they came to the Isle of Ares, where 
lived the giant birds which Heracles had driven from 
the Stymphalian lake. These they scared away by 
shouting and nodding their crested helmets and by 
the clashing of their shields ; and on the island 
they met the shipwrecked sons of Phrixus. Next, as 
they passed the Caucasus, they saw the eagle flying 

1 Pindar omits this episode : Diodorus, iv. 43-44, gives a different 


to tear the liver of Prometheus, and heard the vic- 
tim's bitter cry. And at last they reached broad- 
flowing Phasis, and the utmost bourne of the sea. 1 

There Jason went to Aietes and laid his errand 
before him, asking him to give him the fleece. This 
Aietes promised to do, on condition that Jason per- 
formed certain difficult tasks — yoking the brazen, 
fire-breathing bulls to the plough ; sowing the field 
thus ploughed with the dragon's teeth (" for he had 
got from Athena half the dragon's teeth which 
Cadmus sowed in Thebes ") ; subduing the crop of 
fierce warriors that sprang from them. 2 By the 
help of the king's daughter, the witch Medea, who, 
as Apollodorus drily puts it, " conceived a passion 
for him," Jason succeeded in these tasks. But 
Aietes refused to give up the fleece. However, 
" Medea brought Jason by night to the fleece, and 
having lulled to sleep by her drugs the dragon that 
guarded it, she possessed herself of the fleece, and 
in Jason's company came to the Argo. She was 
attended, too, by her brother Apsyrtus. And with 
them the Argonauts put to sea by night. 

" When Aietes discovered the daring deeds done 
by Medea he started off in pursuit of the ship : but 
when she saw him near, Medea murdered her brother, 
and cutting him limb from limb, threw the pieces 
into the deep. Gathering the child's 3 limbs, Aietes 

1 Ap. Rh., ii. 964-end. 

2 According to Val. Flac. he first demanded Jason's help against 
Perses, his brother, who was in revolt. V.F., v. 519-end and vi. 

3 In Ap. Rh., Val. Flac, and Hyginus, Apsyrtus is a grown man 
and leads the pursuit. 

:rv v v v w ?f ,fl "' 


^6#4l.« 4ft 4*& * « tS 


T E RRA-C'O T T A R 1 : 1. 1 E F 

[British Museum) 


fell behind in the pursuit . . . but he sent out many 
of the Colchians in pursuit of the Argo." 

To avoid these pursuers the Argonauts changed 
their course, and because of Medea's horrible deed, 
were doomed to long wanderings x till they were 
purified by Circe in Aeaea. They also visited 
Phaeacia, where Medea and Jason were married. 
" Putting to sea from there, they were hindered 
from touching at Crete by Talos ... a brazen man, 
who had a single vein extending from his neck to 
his ankles, and a bronze nail was rammed home at 
the end of the vein. This Talos kept guard, running 
round the island thrice every day. . . . His death 
was brought about by the wiles of Medea. Whether, 
as some say, she drove him mad by drugs, or, as 
others say, she promised to make him immortal, and 
then drew out the nail, so that all the ichor gushed 
out and he died. . . . 

"After tarrying a single night there they put in 
to Aegina to draw water. . . . Thence they sailed 
betwixt Euboea and Locris, and came to Iolcos, 
having completed the voyage in four months." 

1 V. infra, chap. ix. p. 107 f. 


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THIS complete narrative is the product of 
the Alexandrine age. Even apart from the 
learned allusions in which that age abounded, 
such as that fine romantic detail, the cry of the 
tortured Prometheus, the narrative is clearly not a 
homogeneous whole. Fact and fiction, the simpli- 
city of primitive man and the more complicated 
ideas of his descendants, have been mixed together 
by an undiscriminating though learned hand. It 
is difficult to see what parts of the story are peculiar 
to it, and what the accretions of later ages from 
originally independent sources. Yet such a dis- 
tinction must be made before any interpretation of 
the story can be attempted. It is necessary to 
know what essentially the story is. The best clue 
to this is to be found in the literary tradition ; 
ancient art gives little help, because the greater 
number of works of art treating the Argonaut story 



are themselves late, and others deal only with de- 
tached episodes. 

The literary tradition begins with Homer. When, 
in the Iliad, he describes how the Greek army 
before Troy got their wine from Lemnos, he names 
as king of Lemnos the son of Hypsipyle and Jason. 

Thither came ships from Lemnos, bringing wine, 
Great fleets, sent forth by royal Jason's son, 
Euneos, born of queen Hypsipyle. 1 

Details of the ancestry of Aeson and Pelias are given 
in the Odyssey, when Odysseus sees Tyro among 
the dead women of old time : she bore to Poseidon 
Pelias and Neleus, and to Cretheus Aeson, Pheres, 
and Amythaon, lover of horses. 2 

The first reference to the voyage is in the 
" Odyssey." When Odysseus passes the Planctae, 
Homer observes that he was not the first to perform 
this feat ; he had one forerunner : — 

One, only one sea-faring ship had passed them, 
Argo far-famed, bound homeward from Aietes. 
And her the rocks had surely battered in, 
But Hera sped her, loving Jason well. 3 

Elsewhere Aietes' relationship with Circe is recorded, 
she is " own sister to baleful Aietes." 4 

These are all the explicit references in the text 
of Homer as we have it, and it is worth noting that 
they make no mention of the golden fleece. The 

1 Iliad, vii. 467-469 ; cf. xxi. 40, 41. 

2 Odyssey, xi. 254-259. 3 Ibid., xii. 69-72. 
* Ibid., x. 137. auTOKaiTtyuriTi] 6\o6<j>poyos Ali)rao. 


possibility that Strabo knew of others is suggested 
by one of his allusions to Homer's knowledge of 
geography — " he also mentions in order the places 
round the Propontis and the Euxine as far as Col- 
chis, the bourne of Jason's expedition." l He may 
be interpreting some vague Homeric reference such 
as that quoted above, in the light of his own ideas 
about the Argonautic expedition, but the expression 
" in order " (e^efrj?) suggests that he had a 
definite list in mind. 

Hesiod, in the " Theogony," gives the descent of 
Aietes, " son of Helios who gives light to mortals," 2 
and tells how Jason performed the quest laid upon 
him by Pelias and married Medea : — • 

The daughter of Aietes, god-born king, 
Jason by grace of the immortal gods 
Led from her father. Grievous tasks he bore 
Which the great king appointed in his pride, 
Fierce, tameless Pelias, worker of dark deeds. 
Having toiled and won, Aesonides came home 
To Iolcos, on his fleet ship bringing with him 
The bright-eyed maid to be his loving wife. 8 

Nothing is here said of Medea which differentiates 
her from the most sympathetic of submissive 

The Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius preserves 
the earliest hint of any definite place as the goal of 
the voyage, " Hesiod says they sailed in through 
the Phasis." 4 These scholia contain also Hesiodic 

1 Strabo, i. 12. 2 Hes., Theog., 956-961. 

8 Ibid., 992-999. * Schol. ad Ap. Rh., iv. 284. 


references to Phineus and the Harpies, 1 and to 
Heracles, as having been left behind at Magnesia. 2 

It is again noticeable that in none of the extant 
passages of Hesiod is it said explicitly that Jason 
was seeking the fleece. The golden ram is mentioned 
in a reference by Eratosthenes, 3 but the context 
preserves only an allusion to Phrixus and Helle, 
and may not connect the fleece with Jason at all. 
The earliest definite association of Jason with the 
fleece is in a fragment of Mimnermus, and dates 
from the seventh century — 

Jason had never borne the fleece away 

From Aia home, a journey fraught with pain : 

Doomed by fierce Pelias to so hard essay, 

Nor come himself to the fair Ocean main . . . 

In another fragment, possibly part of the same poem, 
Mimnermus writes of — 

Aietes' city, where the swift sun's flame 
Lies stored within its golden treasury 
By Ocean's marge, where godlike Jason came. . . . 4 

Variants on points of detail are provided at the 
end of the sixth century by the fragments of Simo- 
nides, Hecataeus, and Acusilaus. A commentator 
on the words " fleece all-golden," in the fifth line of 
Euripides' " Medea," says that whereas some de- 
scribed the fleece as being all of gold, Simonides 
said " it was dyed with sea-purple." 5 Acusilaus 

1 Schol. ad Ap. Rh., ii. 181. J Ibid., i. 1289. 

8 Eratosthenes, Catast., xix. p. 124. Kpt6s • elx* 5« xp vff V" iopdy, 
&>s 'HaioSos Kal ^epr-KvSrjs up4\Kacri. 

4 Bergk, " Anth. Lyr." (Teubner), p. 32, fr. 10. 

6 Schol. Eur. Med., 5. Cf. Schol. Ap. Rh., iv. 177, 6 5* 2*/tuW8i?s 
t6t( fxty tevKbv tt6t( 5e Tropcpvpovy, 


appears to have said the same. 1 The passage of the 
Symplegades was evidently mentioned by Simonides, 
for the same Euripidean scholiast notes that he called 
the rocks Synormades. 2 Simonides also relates that 
Jason did not dwell in Magnesia, but went to Corinth 
and settled there, " consort of his Colchian bride." 3 
Hecataeus adds to our knowledge of the ram the 
fact " that it talked," 4 and is credited with two 
inconsistent variants in the account of the return 
voyage. 5 

Literary references earlier than the fifth century 
thus leave the story very fragmentary, but they 
establish as earlier than that date certain features — 

(i) The presence in Lemnos in Homeric times of 
a king tracing his descent from Jason. 

(2) The story of the fleece. 

(3) The voyage of the Argo to the realm of Aietes, 

the passage of the Planctae or Symplegades, 
the connection with the story of Phineus 
and the Harpies and of Heracles. 

(4) The existence already of a diversity of accounts. 
The representations of the story in art which can 

be dated earlier than the fifth century yield the same 
results. The earliest known, which is no longer in 
existence, was on the Chest of Cypselus, which was 

x Schol. Ap. Rh.,iv. II47. 'AKOvaiXaos 5e . . . TropQvpevOTJvai <pr]<riv 
curb rrjs 6aXdcrcrr]S. 

2 Schol. Eur. Med., 3. 

3 Fragt. 48, o.\6%ov KoAxi'Sos auvdpovos. 

4 Schol. Ap. Rh., i. 256. 

5 Ibid.) iv. 259, 284 ; v. infra^ chap. ix. p. 107 if. 


ornamented, among many other scenes, with the 
funeral games of Pelias and with Phineus and the 
Harpies. 1 The latter scene is represented also on an 
Ionian vase of the sixth century. 2 On a black- 
figured vase at Munich Jason is depicted in the 
Calydonian hunt, 3 evidently reciprocating the share 
taken by Meleager, and according to Apollodorus 
by Aatlanta, in the Argonautic expedition ; and 
on an amphora in the British Museum is a very 
fine picture of Medea boiling a ram as a guarantee 
of her power to rejuvenate Pelias ; the daughters 
of Pelias stand watching in amazement. 4 (Fig. 5.) 
The art of the fifth century and after offers more 
representations of the Argonauts than these few 
survivals from earlier ages, but still very few in 
comparison with the illustrations of other stories, 
such as the Odyssey and the Heracles cycle. 
Since there are only a few, it seems convenient to 
enumerate them here, before resuming the chrono- 
logical survey of the literary evidence. Lykios, a 
pupil of Myron, is said to have made a statue group 
of the Argonauts ; 5 and about 450 B.C. the Anakeion 
or sanctuary of the Dioscuri at Athens was decorated 
by Micon with a wall-painting representing " those 
who sailed with Jason to Colchis." 6 Neither of 
these monuments has survived, but some idea of the 
latter may be got from the famous Orvieto vase of 

1 Paus., v. 17, 9. 2 Reinach, " Vases Points," i. 201. 

3 Ibid., ii. 119. 

4 B.M. Cat. B. 22 ; Gerhard, A.V., pi. 157. 

6 Pliny, " Nat. Hist.," xxxiv. 79. 6 Paus., i. 18, 1. 


Polygnotan style depicting Athena and a group of 
warriors who are generally identified as the Argo- 
nauts. 1 Other red-figured vases bear paintings of 
different episodes in the story, and will be cited 
later when the incidents are considered individually. 
Two are worthy of special notice, as referring to no 
recorded scene in the story. In one 2 Jason is seen 
with drawn sword entering the mouth of a monster, 
apparently a sea-monster, and in the other 3 his 
lifeless body droops from the monster's mouth, 
while Athena stands by, constraining the creature 
to give up his victim. (Fig. 3.) With these two 
vase paintings may be associated the design on an 
Etruscan mirror, where Jason is shown pursued by 
the dragon or sea-serpent. 4 It is suggested that the 
picture of Jason's body in the serpent's mouth may 
be connected with some ordeal or rite in the Mysteries, 
for instance, that it may typify the ordeal by water. 
A more orthodox version of the fight for the fleece 
is depicted on a South Italian vase. 5 Other vases 
from south Italy show Jason and a fire-breathing 
bull, 6 Phrixus and Helle on the ram's back, by 
Assteas, 7 and other episodes. Pliny speaks of a 
wall-painting by Cydias, bought for the immense 
sum of HS.cxxxxiiii (about £2500) by the orator 

1 Reinach, V.P., i. 225. Cf. J.H.S., xxxix. (1919). P- J 30 ff - 
where M. Six interprets it rather as an Underworld scene. (See 

2 Reinach, V.P., i. 137. Cf. the fight between Heracles and the 
Achelous, J. E. Harrison, " Themis," p. 368. 3 Reinach, i. 101. 

4 Gerhard, " Etruskische Spiegel," iii. 222, pi. 238. 

5 Reinach, i. 139. 6 Ibid., i. 449. 
7 Wiener Vorlegebl. B. Taf., 2. See Fig. 1. 



(Rome, Mus. Gregoriano) 


Hortensius, and placed in his Tusculan villa, 1 and 
Juvenal and Martial mention a painting in the 
Porticus Neptuni at Rome. 2 Finally, a Roman 
terra-cotta relief represents the building of the 
Argo, 3 while others show the winning of the 

There is more material in fifth century literature. 
The dramatists took many of their plots from the 
Argonaut cycle : the story as a whole naturally did 
not lend itself to dramatic treatment. Aeschylus 
wrote six plays dealing with episodes in the story : 
the " Athamas," " Argo," " Kabeiri," " Lemniae," 
" Hypsipyle," and " Phineus." Of these the 
" Athamas " has no direct bearing on the voyage, 
but describes how Athamas, king of the Minyans, 
was driven mad by Hera because he had sheltered 
the infant Dionysus, and how he killed his son 
Learchus believing him to be a stag ; his wife Ino 
then killed her other son Melicertes and threw herself 
into the sea. The " Argo " seems to have been a 
satyric play, probably belonging to the same tetra- 
logy as the " Kabeiri " and the " Hypsipyle." An 
extant fragment contains a new supernatural detail : 
" But where is Argo's holy speaking bough ? " 
In the " Kabeiri," according to the Scholiast on 
Pindar, 4 Aeschylus gave a list of the Argonauts. 
Whatever part the " Kabeiri " played, it is their 
earliest appearance in literature in connection with 

1 Pliny, " Nat. Hist.," xxxv. 130. 

2 Juv., vi. 153 ; Mart., ii. 14, 6. 

8 B.M. Terr. Cat., pi. 43. See Fig. 2. 
* Schol. ad Pyth., iv. 303 b. 


the Argo story. The " Hypsipyle " dealt with the 
adventure of the Argonauts in Lemnos, and repre- 
sented the Lemnian women as forcibly preventing 
the departure of the heroes. 1 The " Lemniae " is 
merely a name in the catalogue, and no fragments 
remain. Possibly its subject was the murder of 
their husbands by the Lemnian women, to which 
Aeschylus alluded in the Choephoroe as the worst 
of all the evil deeds of women. 2 The " Phineus " 
seems from an emended note to have included the 
fight of the Boreads and the Harpies. 

The fragments of Sophocles add little that is new 
to the story. 3 A satyric play, the " Amycus," pro- 
vides the first extant account of the boxing match 
between Polydeuces and the king of the Bebrycians : 
it apparently ended with the enslavement, not the 
death, of the vanquished. 4 Sophocles was the only 
one of the three great dramatists to stage the adven- 
tures of Jason in Colchis. In the " Colchides " 
Jason performs Aietes' tasks ; his conflict with the 
brazen bulls is described by a messenger. There 
seems to have been a digression on the story of 
Prometheus, introduced in connection with the 
" Promethean herb " used by Medea in her spells. 
The play ended with the flight of the Argonauts, 
who killed Apsyrtus, a mere child, in Aietes' palace. 
In the " Scythae," on the other hand, Sophocles seems 

1 Schol. Ap. Rh., i. 773. 2 Aesch. Cho., 631. 

3 The plays are Athamas A. and B., Amycus, Colchides, Lemniae, 
Rhizotomi, Scythae, Phineus, Phrixus. 

4 Cf. Theocritus, xxii. 132-134. 


to have placed the murder in Scythia, where Tomi, 
the place of Ovid's exile, was supposed to have got 
its name from the mutilated limbs of Apsyrtus which 
Medea scattered on the sea. Another play dealing 
with Medea's magic, the " Rhizotomi," probably 
portrayed the death of Pelias. 

This subject was used by Euripides in his earliest 
play, the " Peliades." He also wrote a " Phrixus," 
which dealt with the sacrifice of Phrixus, representing 
it as a voluntary sacrifice like those of Menoeceus 
and Macaria. In the " Medea " he treated the later 
adventures of Medea and Jason in Corinth : he 
seems to be the first to make Medea responsible for 
the death of her children. 1 This play contains, 
though possibly in an interpolated passage, the 
earliest reference to the manner of Jason's death, by 
a blow from the rotting hull of Argo. 2 

The most important fifth century contribution to 
the tradition is the version given by Pindar in the 
fourth Pythian ode, written in 466 B.C. This is the 
earliest consecutive narration of the story, which is 
used to glorify Arcesilas of Cyrene, a descendant of 
the Argonaut Euphemus. " I will give the Muses 
charge over him," says Pindar, " and over the golden 
fleece of the ram, for it was when the Minyae sailed 
in quest of that that the god-sent glories began for 
him and his race." 3 

Pindar goes on to tell how " it was fated that 
Pelias should die at the hands or by the inflexible 

1 V. infra, chap. x. p. 125 ff. 2 Eur. Med., 1386- 1 388. 

8 Pindar, Pyth., iv. 67 ff. 


counsels of the proud Aeolidae. And there came to 
him an oracle that chilled his wary heart, spoken 
beside the mid-omphalos of the forest-mother, that 
he should guard with all care against the one-san- 
dalled, who should come from the mountain home- 
steads to the sunny land of famed Iolcos. But in 
time Jason came, bearing two spears, a wondrous 
man. In twofold vesture was he arrayed ; with the 
native close-fitting garb of the Magnetes about his 
splendid limbs, and with a leopard-skin he warded 
off the shivering rain. Nor did the fair locks of his 
hair go shorn, but rippled all down his back. Forth- 
with he went swiftly, and stood and made trial of 
his dauntless spirit, in the market-place where the 
crowd was thick. . . . But Pelias came hastening 
headlong in his polished mule-car ; and at once he 
was awe-struck when he saw the sandal he knew 
too well binding only the right f oot . ' ' To an insulting 
question about his name and lineage Jason returned 
a modest answer, and having made himself known 
was welcomed by his aged father and his kinsmen. 
After feasting with them for five days he went to 
Pelias and claimed his royal right, offering to resign 
all claim to the wealth : "I relinquish to you the 
sheep and the dun herds of cattle, and all the land 
you stole from my fathers and hold, growing fat on 
our wealth. Nor does it irk me that all this furthers 
the fortune of your house beyond measure. But 
for the sceptre of kingship and the throne where 
once the son of Cretheus sat and meted out justice 
to a race of horsemen, surrender these to me without 


mischief between us, that no ill may arise from 
them." Pelias answered suavely, but first proposed 
a quest : " You can take away the wrath of the dead. 
For Phrixus bids us come to the chambers of Aietes 
and lay his spirit to rest and bring thence the thick- 
fleeced pelt of the ram, which saved him once from 
the sea and from the impious weapons of his step- 
mother. All this he bids, coming to me in a won- 
drous dream. . . . Perform this quest willingly, and 
I swear to leave you free to be lord and king." 

So Jason gathered together the heroes : Heracles, 
Castor and Polydeuces, Euphemus, Periclymenus, 
Orpheus, Echion and Eurytus, Zetes and Calais, 
Pheres, Amythaon, Admetus, Melampus, and Mop- 
sus. And when Jason had prayed for a safe return 
they set sail and came to the mouth of the Friendless 
Sea and to the Clashing Rocks, " two living rocks, 
and they moved more swiftly than the serried ranks 
of the loud-roaring winds. But now that voyage 
of the heroes brought them to an end. Then Argo 
came to Phasis, where they joined battle with the 
dark-skinned Colchians in the realm of Aietes 

Then the poet tells of Medea's love for Jason, and 
how she helped him to perform Aietes' tasks, and to 
escape. In this, a triumphal ode of victory in which 
there is no suggestion of anything but unblemished 
glory, no mention is made of the murder of Apsyrtus. 
It is evidently a deliberate omission. " It is a long 
way," says Pindar, " for me to return by the beaten 
track. For time presses and I know a short path. 


... By his arts Jason slew the snake of the gleaming 
eyes and speckled back, and by her own aid stole 
away Medea to be the death of Pelias. And they 
came to the open tracts of Ocean and the Red Sea 
and the race of Lemnian women who slew their 
husbands." 1 

Earlier in the poem 2 Pindar had described how 
the Argonauts met Triton " at the out-pourings of 
Lake Tritonis " when " twelve days already had we 
borne our sea-bark from Ocean over desert plains of 
land." 3 It is difficult to form any clear idea of the 
geography of his account. He makes the Argonauts 
touch at Lemnos on the way back from Phasis (one 
wonders whether Medea was a passive spectator of 
the adventure with the women), but this is incon- 
sistent with " the open tracts of Ocean and the Red 
Sea " (i.e. the Indian Ocean), which suggests that 
he, like Hesiod, sent them up the Phasis. But 
theories cannot be forced ; the geography is not the 
main concern, and " Pindar is poetry," as Professor 
Gildersleeve reminds us. We may, however, deduce, 
even from pure poetry, that an adventure in Lake 
Tritonis now formed part of the tradition. 

This appears in Herodotus also in the following 
form 4 : " When Jason had finished the building of 
the Argo at the foot of Mt. Pelion, he took on board 
the usual hecatomb, and, moreover, a brazen tripod. 
Thus equipped he set sail, intending to coast round 

1 Pindar, op. cit., 247-253. 

2 Ibid., 20 ff. 3 Ibid., 26-27. 
4 Hdt, iv. 179, trans. Rawlinson. 


the Peloponnese and so to reach Delphi. The voyage 
was prosperous as far as Malea ; but at that point a 
gale of wind from the north came on suddenly and 
carried him out of his course to the coast of Libya ; 
where, before he discovered the land, he got among 
the shallows of Lake Tritonis. As he was turning 
it in his mind how he should find his way out, 
Triton (they say) appeared to him, and offered to 
show him the channel and secure him a safe retreat, 
if he would give him the tripod. Jason complying 
was shown by Triton the path through the shallows ; 
after which the god took the tripod, and carrying 
it to his own temple, seated himself upon it, and 
filled with prophetic fury, delivered to Jason and 
his companions a long prediction. ' When a descen- 
dant,' he said, ' of one of the Argo's crew should 
seize and carry off the brazen tripod, then by inevit- 
able fate would a hundred Greek cities be built 
around Lake Tritonis.' The Libyans of that region, 
when they heard the words of this prophecy, took 
away the tripod and hid it." 

It is not certain where Herodotus got this story ; 
the bourne of Jason's voyage suggests a Delphic 
source. 1 Diodorus introduced the story of the tripod 
into one of his variant accounts of the return voyage, 
calling Triton a king of Libya. 2 

1 Macan on Hdt. ad loc. : " Had the exaggerated hopes of Hel- 
lenic colonisation ever been more nearly realised, doubtless the old 
tripod of Jason's would have been forthcoming. An unfulfilled pro- 
phecy is specially precious to the student as showing that all oracles 
are not to be dismissed as vaticinia post eventum" 

a Diod., iv. 56. 


A fifth century authority surviving only in frag- 
ments is Pherecydes of Leros, the logographer. 
Fragments of his " Historiae " are extant containing 
references to the Argonaut story. One gives the 
Athamas episode, 1 another the account of Jason's 
arrival, one-sandalled, at Pelias' sacrifice to Posei- 
don. 2 This differs from the Pindaric version in 
making Jason himself the proposer of the quest. 
Pelias asked him " what he would do, if it had been 
foretold that he should be killed by one of the 
citizens ? " Jason said, " Send him to Aia after the 
golden fleece, to bring it back from Aietes." This is 
the account followed by Apollodorus and probably 
was the standard version. Pindar alone introduces 
the idea of giving rest to the spirit of a dead kins- 
man ; 3 the other authorities leave the motive of the 
voyage unstated or quite vague. 4 

Other fifth century writers who touched upon 
the story were Hellanicus, an historian of the latter 
half of the century, and the poet Antimachus, who 
flourished about 404 B.C. Such fragments of their 
works as remain contribute nothing new to the 

Thus by the end of the fifth century the story was 

1 F.H.G., i. p. 86, fr. 52. 

2 Ibid., fr. 60. 

3 Schol. Pind. Pyth., iv. 281. ttiios Se icrri koL ivravda 6 nlvSapos 
jutra To'v Sepovs Koi t))v tyvxw rov 4>pi£ov kcXsvoov . . . aj/a/caA.e<ra<r0cu 
. . . rwu &\\wv iirl fx6prjv t^v kojuiSV tou $4povs avrhv ixir€p<p6rjyeu 

4 Ap. Rh., i. 15-17; Val. Flac, i. 47-50, 76-78; Hyginus, xii. ; 
Orph. Arg., 53, 54. 


evidently much the same as when it was related by 
Apollonius of Rhodes two centuries later. After 
him it was told in Latin verse by Valerius Flaccus 
in the Flavian age, and in Greek by the pseudo- 
Orpheus of the Orphic Argonautica, which is assigned 
to the third or fourth century a.d. Prose accounts 
were written in Greek by Diodorus Siculus (circa 
40 B.C.) and Apollodorus in the first or second cen- 
tury of our era, and in Latin by Hyginus, a fabulist 
of the Augustan age. 

From a maze of authorities and inconsistent 
versions it is difficult to disentangle a single 
thread of story. 1 The story presents itself shyly at 
first. The Homeric evidence resolves itself into 
two unrelated facts : Jason founded a royal house 
in Lemnos ; Jason sailed through the Planctae 
coming from Aietes. The first is an assertion, 
almost a proof, of Jason's reality ; the second pro- 
vides him with a setting — sea-adventure. Hesiod 
amplifies these facts with tales of hard tasks and a 
fairy princess as a reward, adding on the side of 
romance Phineus, a heroic upbringing and a golden 
ram, and on the side of fact a connection with 
Heracles, and talk, albeit vague, of Phasis and Libya. 
Mimnermus first tells unmistakably the story we 
know of a voyage for a fleece. Simonides rounds 
off the tale with a Corinthian ending, Hecataeus 
roots it in as real geography as his time permitted, 
and Orphism spiritualizes the whole. So the fifth 

1 See Table immediately following. Incidents are recorded on it 
only at their earliest occurrence. 














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century has little left to do but ornament : it adds 
supernatural details (the talking bough, the brazen 
bulls) ; it elaborates scenes (the one-sandalled, the 
tasks) ; and, perhaps diagnosing the disease from 
the remedy, it specifies sins for which the Orphic 
purifications offered a cure. 


irpwrd vvv 'Opcprios /jLvrjacv/xeSa. 

— Apollonius Rhodius 

ONE extraneous element in the complete 
story can be easily recognized and de- 
tached — Orphism, or the religious element. 
In all narratives of the voyage from Pindar onwards, 
Orpheus plays an important part : in the Orphic 
Argonautica, a witness naturally biassed, he is no 
more prominent than in others. He is usually the 
first hero named in the Catalogues. 1 In the Argo- 
nautica of Apollonius Rhodius he is the hero of six 
incidents in the first book, three in the second, and 
four in the fourth, and in general he acts as an 
adviser equally trustworthy in material and spiritual 
affairs, often turning imminent failure into success. 
By his song of the creation of the world he calms the 
strife between Idas and Idmon ; 2 his music gives 
the time to the rowers ; 3 he sings of Artemis and 
the fish follow, like sheep following their shepherd ; 4 
he drowns with his lyre the song of the Sirens, 6 

1 Pherecydes substituted Philammon for him. Schol. Ap. Rh., 
i. 23. 

2 Ap. Rh., i. 494-515. 8 Ibid., 540. 

4 Ibid., 570 ff. 6 Ibid., iv. 905. 



persuades the Hesperid nymphs to give fresh water, 1 
and advises the Argonauts how they may find an 
outlet from the Tritonian lake. 2 Under his guidance 
the Argonauts are initiated into the mysteries at 
Samothrace on their way to the Hellespont, 3 while 
in Diodorus they are saved from shipwreck in a 
storm by the intervention of " the Samothracians," 
i.e. the Kabeiri, in answer to his prayers. 4 

This prominence of Orpheus and his rites suggests 
two possible interpretations of the story. Miss Har- 
rison hints that the voyage of the Argonauts re- 
flects the diffusion of Orphism through the Aegean 
from Crete, which she believes was the native home 
of Orpheus. " From Crete," she says, " he passed 
northward by the old island route, leaving his mystic 
rites at Paros, at Samos, at Samothrace, and at 
Lesbos. At Maroneia, among the Cicones, he met 
the vine-god, among the Thracians he learnt his 
music." 5 

That Orphism had a southern origin is not im- 
probable : in its mysteries, its funeral rites, its 
doctrine of the transmigration of souls, it finds 
precedents and parallels in Egypt. The arrival of 
Orpheus in Thrace, or his activity there, was dated 
by Eusebius immediately before the voyage of the 
Argonauts ; 6 but it is probable that it was his 

1 Ap. Rh., iv. 1409. 2 Ibid., 1549. 

s Ibid., i. 910-921 ; Val. Flac, ii. 431-440 ; Orph. Arg., 467 ff. 

4 Diod., iv. 43. 

6 J. E. Harrison, " Prolegomena," 3rd ed., p. 459. 

•Orpheus in Thrace, 1276-1265 B.C. ; Argonauts, 1263-1257 B.C. 


presence in the Argonautic catalogues which pro- 
vided the chronologists with this date. That his 
progress northward is the basis of the Argonaut 
stoty is incredible. Paros, Samos, Lesbos, those 
important steps in it, do not appear in the voyage 
of Argo at all ; and the Minyans, always the heroes 
of the story, are a non-Cretan people with few 
southern affinities, unlikely to become connected 
with a religious cult spreading from the south. In 
any case, Orphism, which appears in literature with 
Ibycus and Pindar, was a product of the sixth cen- 
tury B.C. Disillusionment and dissatisfaction with 
the official religion, which failed to explain either 
how or why man came to be, produced by the end 
of that century two divergent rivals to the Olympian 
gods, embryo philosophy and the mystery religions, 
especially Orphism. But the Argonaut story, even 
its definite localization in the Black Sea, was at 
least two centuries older. 

For the same reason it is incredible that the story 
is in origin an Orphic allegory of the progress of the 
soul in this world or the next, a journey beset by 
dangers to be avoided by the help of Orpheus and his 
rites. According to this theory the directions which 
Phineus gives the Argonauts are a literary version 
of those on the Petelia gold tablet : — 

Thou shalt find on the left of the House of Hades a well-spring, 

And by the side thereof standing a white cypress. 

To this well-spring approach not near. 

But thou shalt find another by the Lake of Memory, 

Cold water flowing forth, and there are guardians before it. 

Say : " I am a child of Earth and of Starry Heaven ; . . . 


And lo, I am parched with thirst and I perish. Give me quickly 
The cold water flowing forth from the Lake of Memory." 
And of themselves they will give thee to drink of the holy well-spring 
And thereafter among the other heroes thou shalt have lordship . . . x 

and the only purpose of the wanderings of the Argo- 
nauts is to give them the right to say, with their 
fellow initiates : — 

I have flown out of the sorrowful weary wheel. 

I have passed with eager feet to the circle desired. 

I have sunk beneath the bosom of Despoina, Queen of the Underworld. 

I have passed with eager feet from the circle desired. 2 

The truth is rather that the story, existing long 
before the spread of Orphism, was adopted and inter- 
preted by the Orphics as a useful symbol, and that 
scenes from it habitually figured among symbols of 
immortality, as the winning of the fleece does among 
the stuccos of the Roman Basilica at the Porta 

The Orphics were thus in some degree responsible 
for the form in which the story was handed on. 
Some features in it are evidently due to Orphic 
influence : the initiation at Samothrace brings the 
newer and more ghostly powers to aid the heroes as 
well as the commonplace and orthodox Hera and 
Athena ; the idea of the murderers being doomed to 
wander in search of purification resembles the Orphic 
doctrine of the Cycle of Generation during which the 
souls of men were purged by migration from body 

1 J. E. Harrison, loc. cit., p. 659. 

2 Ibid., Compagno tablet a. 


to body. But it is the idea of purification, not the 
wanderings themselves, which is Orphic. 

It seems likely that the Orphic Argonautica, 
though written much later, really represents a 
version of the story current in the early days of 
Orphism. Its claim to be the work of Orpheus 
would be at once disputed if it differed widely from 
ancient canonical tradition. Such tradition, par- 
ticularly in a religion setting store by rites and 
formulae, is not to be easily tampered with or altered. 
Therefore it may be argued that the Orphic narrative 
of the voyage represents a sixth century original ; 
but the wearisome journeyings of the heroes in the 
Orphic Argonautica were not invented, but only 
interpreted by the Orphics. 1 Had the long wander- 
ings not been present in the story before the Orphics 
knew it, it had not exerted the same attraction for 
their allegorising faculty. 

The precise limits of Orphic influence would be 
more easily defined if the whole narrative of Phere- 
cydes were extant. Since he omitted Orpheus from 
the Argo's crew, he presumably followed a non- 
Orphic version of the story. Without this test by 
comparison, the most that can be said is that the 
debt of the Argonautica to Orphism lies in the 
gain in practical and spiritual quality brought by 
the beautiful figure of Orpheus and by the doctrine 
of purification, and in the widespread popularity 
entailed by the story's adoption by a powerful and 
far-reaching sect. 

1 V. infra, chap. ix. p. 107 ff. 


One said it was a boggart, 

Another he said " Nay, 
'Tis but a gen'leman farmer 

Who've gone and lost his way." 
Look ye there ! 


IT was left for modern ingenuity to read 
a hidden meaning into the Odyssey. The 
ancients, believing as they did in the historical 
existence of Odysseus, were content to leave his 
voyage in the realms of fairy-tale, because its mar- 
vellous incidents were comprehensible divine inter- 
ventions to thwart a perfectly natural and laudable 
desire, his longing to reach his home. The enter- 
prise of the Argonauts seemed not so natural ; there 
must, it seemed, be some cogent reason for so perilous 
an undertaking. Poets and scholars were at pains 
to find that reason. In their conjectures they have 
the advantage of modern scholars not only in time 
but in the startling ingenuity of some of their 
solutions. But ancients and moderns have one thing 
in common ; they have treated the story as an 
inseparable whole, whose parts are of like nature 
and equal antiquity. Some moderns have regarded 
it as entirely myth, some as entirely folk-tale, while 



the ancient interpreters succeeded, by rationalizing 
such intractable details as dragons and fire-breathing 
bulls, in persuading themselves that it was all 
legendary but indubitable fact. 

Strabo, though we have seen him pronouncing 
that its marvels contain no useful lesson for the 
practical man, has no doubt as to the reality of the 
voyage. He so far accepts it as to use the Homeric 
allusion to the Argo as proof that Homer based his 
poems on fact, 1 and he expresses the belief, founded 
on the Argonaut story, that " the ancients made 
longer journeys, both by land and by sea, than have 
men of a later time." 2 The golden fleece, he says, 
was the gold of Colchis, which was washed down the 
river Phasis and collected by the Colchians in 
fleeces. 3 

To Diodorus 4 the expedition was a warlike ven- 
ture, its end the penetration of the Pontus, till then 
a barbarian sea. The fire-breathing bulls, he says, 
were " mythologised " from the Tauric custom of 
killing strangers, the sleepless dragon from a guard 
called Dracon. 5 He carries his Euhemerism further 
in his explanations of the story of Phrixus, whom he 
describes as sailing in a ship whose prow was a 
ram's head 6 (others say, accompanied by a paeda- 
gogus called Krios — Ram). 7 Euhemerism is par- 
ticularly cruel to Helle, who is disposed of by the 

1 Strabo, i. 45-46. 2 Ibid., 48. 

3 Id., xi. 499 ; cf. Eustath. ad Dion. Perieg., 689. 

4 Diod., iv. 40. 6 Ibid., 47. 

6 Ibid., cf. Tacitus, Ann., vi. 34. 

7 Dionysius Skytobrachion in F.H.G., ii. 8, fr. 5. 


explanation that she fell overboard during a fit of 
sea-sickness. 1 

This is the prose of rationalisation. Its romantic 
side appears in Suidas, who reports that the fleece 
was " not what the poets say " (which seems likely 
enough), but a book written on parchment (i.e. 
skins, hence the fleece), explaining how to obtain 
gold by alchemy. 2 That such a work should be 
sought at Colchis could be justified by the belief 
recorded by Herodotus 3 that the Colchians were 
akin to the Egyptians, by whom alchemy was much 
practised. Charax of Pergamon, still more inspired, 
refined this explanation by identifying the fleece with 
a roll of parchment containing directions for illumin- 
ating in gold. 4 

Such fantastic explanations are not really mis- 
leading, because their very absurdity reveals them 
as ignes fatui. They at least testify to their author's 
singleness of mind. When a man holds one thing 
desirable above all others, he is apt to think that all 
mankind shares his prepossession. To the lover all 
other men are possible rivals for his lady's grace ; 
she is his golden fleece, " and many Jasons come in 
quest of her." There have, no doubt, been men to 
whom it seemed the greatest thing the world could 
offer that their manuscripts should be beautiful with 
golden illumination. But to set such store by gilded 
parchment was not " the manner of primitive man." 

1 Diod., iv. 47. 2 Suidas, s.v. S4pas. 

9 Hdt., ii. 104 ; Diod., i. 28 ; Dion. Perieg., 689. 
4 Eustath. ad Dion. Perieg., 689. 


Realizing this, modern interpreters of the story have 
sought for a golden fleece whose value and desirable- 
ness was as clear to primitive as to civilized man ; 
and they have had recourse to natural phenomena ; 
in other words, to myth. Myth has become the 
key to all mythologies, just as the philosopher's 
stone, which to Suidas' authority was the golden 
fleece, could transmute all metals. 

The ancients rationalized intractable details ; the 
modern interpreter's way is tacitly to relegate them 
to the background. When any part of the story 
does not lend itself readily to the development of 
the main thesis it tends to sink into insignificance. 
This habit displays itself very prominently in the 
interpretation of the Argonaut story. Interpreters 
have concentrated their ingenuity upon one detail, 
the golden fleece, and forgotten another of no less 
original importance, the Argo. This is natural 
enough, because the golden fleece is at once less 
self-explanatory and a more attractive subject of 
explanation. " What is the golden fleece ? " is a 
question which suggests itself at once, because the 
answer is not obvious ; " what is the Argo ? " does 
not seem to need asking. Hence the harder ques- 
tion dominates the whole topic. When Pindar ap- 
proached the story he put the question more fairly, 
" What," he said, " was the beginning of their sea- 
faring ? " x That is, he asked in effect, " What is 
the golden fleece ? " but he did not forget the voyage 

1 Pyth., iv. 70. 


which forms the bulk of the story. Not so the cham- 
pions of myth ; they imitate a less admirable prac- 
tice of Pindar's, and forget the details which are not 
easily accommodated to their theories. 

Forchhammer, 1 in the early seventies of the last 
century, identified the golden fleece with the rain- 
cloud, which is brought to Greece in spring by the 
east wind. Greece, with its Mediterranean climate, 
relies for such fertility as it can boast on big rainfalls 
in autumn and spring, " the former and the latter 
rains " of the Old Testament. The falling of this 
fertilizing rain is important to the point of sanctity : 
it is the Sacred Marriage of Earth and Sky. Ape- 
liotes, the east wind that brings the rain, is repre- 
sented on the Tower of the Winds at Athens as the 
giver of good things, his lap filled with honeycomb, 
corn, and fruits. Kaikias also, the north-east wind, 
is spoken of by Aristotle as the bringer of rain. 2 
The ram, then, who carried off Phrixus, making his 
journey through mid-air ; 3 who was sent by 
Nephele (Cloud), the mother of Phrixus ; whose 
fleece, according to Simonides, was purple, like the 
storm-cloud, or white, like the clouds in a sunny 
sky, 4 was the rain-cloud which sailed away eastward 
in summer and winter, but at the spring and 

1 P. W. Forchhammer, " Hellenika," 205 ff., 330 ff., also in Jahrb. 
v. Philologie, 1875, 391 ff. 

2 Aristotle, Meteorologica, ii. 6, 364 b, 14. 

8 Philostephanus, F.H.G., iii. p. 34, fr. 37. 

4 V. supra, p. 21. But Forchhammer does not base his identifica- 
tion on these, but says that x? v(ro ^ v m myth is often equivalent to 
foaovvy flowing. 


autumn equinoxes, when the so-called Hellespon- 
tias blows, came back as the life-giving rain. 

The connection of the story with water, says 
Forchhammer, does not end there. All the Argo- 
nauts are descended from water, in that they are 
the descendants of Poseidon or of river-gods or 
river-nymphs. This is too bold a generalization, as 
it is not true of many of the most important Argo- 
nauts, notably the Boreadae, Mopsus, Heracles, and 
the Dioscuri. In Minyas, however, the eponymous 
ancestor of the Minyae, he sees a water-spirit whose 
famous treasury was an underground spring. 

This is a superficially attractive theory, but to my 
mind it has a fatal flaw. The central point of the 
interpretation, the bringing back of the rain-cloud 
by Jason, the god of salvation and blessing, is based 
on a misunderstanding of the common primitive 
beliefs about the causes of rain. Aristotle knows 
that it is brought by Kaikias, but primitive man 
only realizes that it comes from the sky and is 
wet. So the many known charms to produce the 
rain by magical means are mostly imitative magic, 
and induce the rain by showing an example which 
heaven is to follow. Scattering water on the ground, 
making something or somebody thoroughly wet, are 
efficacious methods of stimulating the weather 
powers. Thus in Thessaly and Macedonia to-day 
the peasants " make rain " by dressing girls in 
flowers and greenery and sending them in procession 
to wells and springs, where they sprinkle themselves 
with water. In Kursk, in South Russia, when rain 


is much needed the women seize a passing stranger 
and throw him into the river. 1 

There is no lack of parallels from ancient Greece. 
In Arcadia the priest of Zeus made rain by dipping 
an oak-branch in the spring on Mount Lycaeus and 
scattering the drops on the ground. 2 At Crannon, 
in Thessaly, a bronze chariot was kept in the temple, 
and was shaken when rain was desired. 3 Here 
probably the rattling was meant to represent thunder, 
and may be compared with the operations of Sal- 

demens, qui nimbos et non imitabile fulmen 
aere et cornipedum pulsu simularet equorum. 4 

The Telchines, at Rhodes, were wizards who could 
make rain. " It is said that these were also wizards 
and could bring down clouds and rain and hail at 
their pleasure, and in the same way could conjure 
up snowstorms." 5 At Athens, according to Athe- 
naeus, 6 sacrifices to the seasons were of boiled not 
roasted meat. 
Of rain-making in myth the best Greek example 

1 J. G. Frazer, " The Golden Bough," " The Magic Art," i. 
p. 247 ft 

2 Paus., viii. 38, 4. 

3 Hist. Mirab., xv. Cf. bronze coin of Crannon in Furtwangler, 
" Masterpieces " (tr. Sellers), p. 469. Furtwangler compares minia- 
ture chariots found in Mid- and North Europe, but others call these 

4 Virgil, Aen., vi. 590, 591. Cf. Apollod., I. ix. 7. 
6 Diod., v. 55. 

6 Athen., xiv. 656 a. 


is the Danaids. 1 These were originally water- 
nymphs. One was called Amymone, and gave her 
name to a spring near Lerna, still called Amymone 
in Strabo's time. Strabo quotes a line from an epic 
poet — 

" Argos was dry till Danaus watered it." 2 

The sin for which they are punished in Hades is not 
only the murder of their husbands, but also their 
refusal to marry, though on their marriage depended 
the fertility of all Argos. For this refusal they were 
condemned to perform unendingly the magic rite 
which should produce the fertility for which they 
were responsible, and sprinkle water for ever from 
their leaky pitchers. 

Of these and many other parallel examples not 
one offers a precedent for fetching rain from far 
away, or bears any resemblance to a voyage, and, 
indeed, a ship is in itself antithetic and therefore 
antipathetic to water-magic. 

Not only has the voyage itself no connection with 
rain-charms, but none of the episodes in the story 
suggests any such ritual : the drowning of Helle and 
Hylas cannot be identified with the Kursk rain- 
charm. It is true that ploughing, or pretending to 
plough, especially if it be done by women, is supposed 
to be a potent means of rain-making, 3 but the essen- 
tial point of such a charm is that the rain will fall 

1 J. E. Harrison, " Prolegomena," 3rd ed., p. 619. 

2 Strabo, viii. 371. 

3 Frazer, op. cit., i. pp. 282-283. 


on the field ploughed, and in the story that field was 
far away in the realm of Aietes. 

Moreover, some of the points adduced by Forch- 
hammer in support of his theory are not very cogent 
evidence. That Theocritus says the Argo sailed at 
the rising of the Pleiads, 1 that is the spring equinox, 
is nothing to the purpose, as it was the normal 
practice of mariners to lay up their ships during the 
winter and sail in the spring. The fact that Phrixus' 
mother, who sent the ram, was called Nephele, is 
not a strong enough peg to support the whole inter- 
pretation, and other things besides clouds make their 
way through mid-air, birds for example, and the 
heavenly bodies. 

More obvious, indeed, and at first sight more 
tempting is Mannhardt's theory that the fleece is the 
sunlight. 2 The sun rises in the East, the quarter 
from which the fleece is to be brought, which, 
further, is described as the realm of Aietes, child of 
the Sun. The ram who bears Phrixus and Helle 
away is the setting sun, which rises again and returns 
from the East when Jason recovers the fleece. Medea 
is that same daughter of the sun who in Lettish 
folk-tales is wooed by the Son of God, the red glow 
in the sky which at twilight and dawn accompanies 
the rising of the planet Venus and which melts so 
soon into the darkness of night or the full light of 
day. 3 Alternatively, Medea is the moon, the " Lady 

1 Theoc, xiii. 25. 

2 Mannhardt, " Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie," vii. 243 ff., 281 ff. 

8 Hastings' " Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics," s.v. Sun, Moon, 
and Stars, vol. xii. p. 103. 


Selene," who is the time-honoured mistress of drugs 
and charms. 

These identifications can convince nobody who is 
not biassed in favour of solar myth. The fleece is 
golden and so is the sun : Phasis at any rate is in 
the East. But that is all. The story of the fleece 
does not satisfy the first test of a sun-myth : it does 
not explain the movements of the sun. Jason no 
more than Chantecler can be held responsible for its 
rising : the flight with Phrixus and Helle does not 
even reach the right point of the compass, since the 
sun sets in the west and Phrixus' ram, whatever his 
bourne, reaches the quarter whence thereafter the 
sun is to rise. Indeed, so far from explaining or 
even being consistent with the movements of the 
sun, this " myth " raises more questions than it 

Why, for instance, does the sun set voluntarily 
(the ram's flight with Phrixus and Helle) and rise 
only after severe and prolonged vicarious effort 
(Jason's voyage, the tasks, etc.) ? Why is the 
setting sun a live, golden beast endowed with flight 
and the power of speech, whereas the rising sun, to 
which yet greater vitality might reasonably be attri- 
buted, is a mere lifeless fleece ? 

Again, are we to consider the ram as rejuvenated 
on its arrival in Greece, presumably at its zenith, 
and reinvigorated daily for a new rescuing flight ? 
The setting sun dies appropriately enough when 
it " has in the Ram its halfe cours y-ronne," but 
it revives a little awkwardly from its inanimate 


condition. Medea's magic arts can compass the 
revival (she did in the story rejuvenate a ram as a 
guarantee of good faith to the Peliades), but will 
hardly conceal the absurdity of a daily death and 

The one support of the theory is the precedent to 
be found elsewhere for a connection between the 
ram and the sun-god, or, at any rate, between the 
ram and Zeus, the god of the bright sky. The points 
are stated by Mr. A. B. Cook. 1 Zeus Ammon and 
Zeus Sabazios are represented in the form of rams, 
and the idea that Phrixus' ram may also be a therio- 
morphic epiphany of Zeus is encouraged by the 
statement of an anonymous mythographer of the 
Vatican that Pelias sent Jason to Colchis " ut inde 
detulisset pellem auream, in qua Iuppiter in caelum 
ascendit." 2 Again, in the story of Atreus and 
Thyestes, the theft of the golden lamb, the symbol of 
sovereignty, led to a change in the course of the sun. 3 
But Mr. Cook shows that though it is certainly clear 
that in many parts of the ancient world Zeus was 
associated with the ram, and though " it would seem 
that in the long run most of these cults took on a 
solar character," nevertheless " this aspect of them 
was usually late, seldom early and never original/' 
The facts, in short, " do not countenance the idea^ 
that the ram was a solar animal. . . . Rather it was 
the principal beast of a pastoral population, an 

1 A. B. Cook, " Zeus," i. p. 409 ff. 

2 Myth. Vat., i. 24. 

3 Eur. El., 726-736. Cf. A. B. Cook in " Class. Rev.," 1903, xvii. 


obvious embodiment of procreative power, and as 
such associated both with fertilizing sky-god and 
with all-generating sun. The ram thus supplied the 
tertium comparationis which on occasion served to 
bring together the Hellenic Zeus and the barbarian 
sky-god." x 

The story, then, does not fulfil the function of a 
nature myth. Neither is it so like other varieties of 
sun-myth as to suggest that it should be ranked as 
such. In such myths the sun is generally either 
personal — " he cometh forth as a bridegroom out of 
his chamber and rejoiceth as a giant to run his 
course," these are merely similes, but they are in 
the true spirit of sun-myth — or else a powerful 
monster hardly to be caught or tamed, as it was by 
Maui, the Maori hero. If it is an inanimate object 
the story is usually concerned with its manufacture 
or production by great beneficent spirits, as in the 
Californian tale of the making of the sun by the 
hawk and the coyote. 2 To the Greeks of historical 
times, at least from Mimnermus onwards, the sun 
was a being who by day drove his chariot from east 
to west across the sky and at night was borne back 
sleeping over the circling stream of Ocean in a ship 
or a golden cup, that golden cup in which Heracles 
also sailed. 3 The flight through the air and the 
journey by sea occur both in this myth and in the 
story of the Golden Fleece, but the sun travels 

1 Cook, " Zeus," pp. 428-430. 

2 Hastings' " Encyclopedia," loc. cit. 

3 Athenaeus, xi. 469 d, ff. 


through the air from east to west and by ship from 
west to east, whereas with the fleece the journeys 
are reversed and so become irrational. 

Not the least unsatisfactory feature of the solar 
interpretation is the unconvincing identification of 
a fleece, even a golden fleece, with the sunlight. A 
more probable interpretation is that given in " Orcho- 
menos und die Minyer " by Karl Ottfried Muller. 

His explanation was that the attempted sacrifice 
of Phrixus and his flight upon the ram symbolize 
the expulsion of evil by means of a sin-offering. The 
mission of Jason, whose name, like his father 
Aeson's, Muller connects with Ido^at and lao-vs, was 
to win and bring back reconciliation and peace to 
his people after their sins had been purged by sacri- 
fice ; the golden fleece is, in short, the forgiveness of 

Part of this explanation fits well with what we 
know of Minyan tradition. Royal sacrifices 
abounded in the family of Athamas. The sacrifice 
of Phrixus is the most widely known, but Athamas 
also killed his son Learchus, 1 and according to some 
traditions Ino's son Melicertes ; 2 another version 
records that at the command of an oracle he was 
about to be sacrificed himself, but was rescued either 
by Heracles or by Phrixus' son Cytissorus, who 
arrived from Colchis just in time. 3 Herodotus tells 
this, " the tale known to the dwellers in Halus in 

1 Apollod., I. ix. 2 ; Paus., i. 44, 7. 

2 Servius ad Aen., v. 241 ; Paus., ix. 34, 7. 

3 Hdt., 7, 197. 


Achaea concerning the temple of the Laphystian 
Zeus — how that Athamas, the son of Aeolus, took 
counsel with Ino and plotted the death of Phrixus ; 
and how that afterwards the Achaeans, warned by 
an oracle, laid a forfeit upon his posterity, forbidding 
the eldest of the race ever to enter into the court- 
house, and keeping watch themselves to see the law 
obeyed. If one comes within the doors, he can never 
go out again except to be sacrificed. Further, they 
told him how that many persons, when on the point 
of being slain, are seized with such fear that they 
flee away and take refuge in some other country ; 
and that these, if they come back long afterwards 
and are found to be the persons who entered the 
court-house, are led forth covered with chaplets in 
a grand procession and are sacrificed. This forfeit 
is paid by the descendants of Cytissorus, the son of 
Phrixus, because when the Achaeans, in obedience 
to an oracle, made Athamas the son of Aeolus their 
sin-offering and were about to slay him, Cytissorus 
came from Aea in Colchis and rescued Athamas, by 
which deed he brought the anger of the god upon his 
own posterity." 1 Plutarch also mentions a human 
sacrifice at Orchomenus in a family tracing its 
descent from Minyas. 2 

The inference from these traditions is that there 
was a Minyan dynasty of kings liable to be sacrificed 
to Zeus Laphystius for the good of the country, 
who shifted the responsibility on to the eldest son, 

1 Hdt., loc. cit., trans. Rawlinson. 

2 Plutarch, Quaest. Graec, 38. 


for whom in turn a ram became a substitute, just 
as Abraham substituted for Isaac the ram he found 
caught in a thicket. 1 The escape of the human 
victim was conditional upon his not showing him- 
self in the town-hall. The " leading forth in pro- 
cession covered with chaplets " suggests that the 
ritual followed was that of the expulsion of the 
scapegoat, the pharmakos being in this case a 
member of the royal family. 

So far tradition bears out the theory that the story 
of the sacrifice of Phrixus is a relic of primitive 
religious ritual, but with the introduction of Jason, 
the bringer of forgiveness, the issue is complicated 
by non-primitive ideas. The arduous winning of 
forgiveness is a much more advanced conception 
than the attainment of purity by a magical rite. 
The essence of the pharmakos-sacrince is that it 
expiates sin. By it the evil effects of sin are 
mechanically obliterated : man by one simple act 
has put himself back into right relations with the 
power manifesting itself in the universe ; 2 the claims 
of religion are satisfied. What, then, is the function 
of Jason ? 

It is possible that in other Minyan ritual a fleece 
may have played a part like that of the Dian fleece 
described by Suidas. " They sacrifice to Meilichios 
and to Zeus Ktesios and they keep the fleeces of 
these victims and call them ' Dian/ and they use 
them when they send out the procession in the month 

1 Frazer, " Golden Bough," " The Dying God," p. 160 ff. 

? Warde Fowler, " Religious Experience of Roman People," p. 8. 


of Skirophorion, and the Dadouchos at Eleusis uses 
them, and others use them for purifications by 
strewing them under the feet of those who are 
polluted." x 

If the fleece in the Argonaut story is such a puri- 
ficatory fleece, there is a confusion between two 
rites, of propitiation on the one hand and purification 
on the other. In either case Jason is involved in 
the anomalous proceeding of bringing back the mor- 
tal remains of a scapegoat. If Miiller is right, as 
he seems to be, in regarding the ram who saved 
Phrixus and Helle from the altar as the ram by 
whose later substitution the dedicated Athamantidae 
avoided the same fate, the ram becomes ipso facto 
the personification of the sins of the community. 
The essential feature of such purificatory customs is 
the final expulsion of the creature embodying evil : 
unless he goes, never to return, the community has 
its sins still with it, and the rite has been of no 
effect. In short, though primitive myth is answer- 
able for part of the story, it is actually an obstacle 
in the way of interpreting the whole. If both sacri- 
fice and quest typify the winning of forgiveness, the 
story is an amalgam of a primitive and an advanced 
stage of religious thought. But what warrant we 
have for discriminating between the ages of incidents 
in the story suggests that the voyage was at least as 
old as the sacrifice of Phrixus. The inference is 
that only its connection with Phrixus has linked the 

1 J. E. Harrison, " Prolegomena," 3rd ed., p. 24. 


voyage to the idea of purification, and that in 
origin it was not so linked. 

These theories have been discussed in detail 
because the recognition of the point wherein they are 
unsatisfactory is a necessary step towards improving 
upon them. It is clear that each is unsatisfactory 
for the same reason : each fails to make its main 
explanation account for the main feature of the 
story, the voyage. The same defect mars the inter- 
pretations of three scholars who have treated the 
voyage more recently — R. Schroder, Faust, and 
J. Vurtheim. 1 To Schroder Jason is the spring-hero. 
His earliest exploit, the carrying of Hera over 
Anauros, typifies the freeing of the spring-goddess 
from the bonds of winter ; he feasts with his kins- 
men, according to Pindar, five days and five nights, 
even as " die schone Jahreszeit " lasts five months. 
The rest of his career seems relatively unimportant. 
Faust confines himself to the interpretation of the 
Phrixus story. In this he sees a nature myth akin 
to northern Teutonic myths. Helle is Halja or Hel, 
the dark underworld ; just as the Edda knows 
Niflhel, so Helle is the daughter of Nephele. Atha- 
mas is a wind god and Phrixus the thunder-shower ; 
the golden fleece is connected with the Teutonic 

1 R. Schroder, " Argonautensage und Verwandtes," Posen, 1899 ; 
Faust, " Einige deutsche und griechische Sagen im Lichte ihrer 
ursprunglichen Bedeutung. Mulhausen," 1898 ; J. Vurtheim, " De 
Argonautarum Vellere aureo, in Mnemosyne," 1902, N.S., xxx. 54-67 ; 
id. ib., N.S., xxxi. 116. I have not had access to the first two, but 
they are summarized by Otto Gruppe in Bursian's, " Jahresberichte far 
Alterthums Wissenschaft," suppl. vol. for 1907. 


goltoskur, which again is likened to olroa-Kvpos 
which Herodotus * gives as a Scythian epithet of 
Apollo. Later, he says, the fleece typifies the golden 
cornland, and so becomes localized in the Black Sea. 
This seems to have little connection with Phrixus 
and Helle, and the identification of Helle seems 
pointless, conveying nothing but resemblances in 
words, a recrudescence of the theory of " diseases of 
language." Vurtheim regards the fleece as the rough 
sea, gilded by the rays of the morning sun, and 
Phrixus and Helle as sea-deities. To take ship in 
quest of this last fleece was an unnecessary enter- 
prise for any Greek, and Faust's golden cornland in 
the Black Sea takes shape and place too late to 
attract a pre-Homeric Argo. As explanations of 
the story of Phrixus and the Ram they are no more 
satisfactory than the older theories of Forchhammer 
and Mannhardt. 

Thus all these theories break down at the same 
point — the voyage. Either they ignore it altogether 
or they explain it by hypotheses which will not bear 
examination. And K. O. Muller's theory of purifi- 
cation, the most convincing and probably the true 
interpretation of the story of Phrixus and the Ram, 
is least successful in explaining the voyage of Jason. 
The necessary conclusion would appear to be that 
as the inseparable sequel of the Phrixus story the 
voyage is inexplicable, and that the connection 
between the two parts of the story is inessential ; 

1 Hdt., iv. 59. 


in short, that the golden fleece which was sought by 
the Argonauts at Colchis had not originally anything 
to do with Phrixus and his golden ram. 

There is, indeed, one modern explanation which 
treats the voyage as the consequence of the sacrifice 
of Phrixus, and links together Phrixus and Jason, 
heroes divided by a generation. 

M. Svoronos x returns to the discredited statement 
of Diodorus 2 that Phrixus sailed in a ship with prow 
shaped like a ram. He points out that Colchis 
was called /cpiov evvai* and that whereas evvrj, 
singular, means a bed, evval, plural, is the word 
used by Homer for the anchors which hold the ship 
fast, 4 so that Colchis becomes not the " resting- 
place " but " the anchorage " of the ram. He cites 
many pictures of ancient ships with animal-headed 
prows. 5 Such heads, he argues, were not selected 
by mere chance or on the captain's personal prefer- 
ence, but were " the marine totem " of the race. 
From this custom of painting one head on all the 
ships of one community he derives the stories of 
Pegasus, the Chimaera, the Cretan bull, and among 
others, the Golden Ram which carried Phrixus. 
This apparently rationalistic solution is not incom- 
patible with ritual and religion ; in fact, it presupposes 
great reverence for the ram, which is " the principal 

1 In "Journal International d'Archeologie Numismatique," xvi. 
(1914), pp. 81-152. 

2 Diod., iv. 47 ; v. supra, p. 43. 3 Ap. Rh., iv. 116. 

4 Iliad, i. 436, xiv. 77 ; Odyssey, xv. 498. 

5 Cf."" Companion to Greek Studies," 3rded., p. 577, figs. 133, 134. 


beast of a pastoral population/' * and so not only 
" an obvious embodiment of procreative power/' 
but also their natural emblem in their adventures 
on the high seas. So also the Cretans, who venerate 
the bull ashore, use him as their standard at sea. 
Thus the Ram (ship) saved Phrixus from the sacri- 
fice, and the ram who later became a substitute for 
the royal victim, strengthened the tradition of the 
saving ram who intervened between the king's son 
and death. 

Meanwhile Phrixus, when he came safe to Colchis, 
dedicated " the golden fleece," that is, the gilded 
acrostolos of his ship in the sanctuary of the Col- 
chians, just as Jason on his return dedicated the 
Argo to Poseidon at the Isthmus, 2 where it was shown 
presumably until the destruction of Corinth in 146, 
when bits of it found their way to Rome. 3 The 
recovery of the trophy, the palladium of the Thes- 
salians, from Colchis, was a worthy enterprise, and 
one which honour demanded of Jason ; Aietes was 
no less eager to keep it, because it was a holy thing, 
a fetish of great power. 4 

The new expedition sailed under a new totem, 
not this time the golden ram of the Minyans of 
Orchomenus, but the badge of Pelias' clan, the 
symbol of the Peleiades at Dodona, the sacred bough 
built into the Argo by Athena. 5 The picture of the 

1 V. supra, pp. 52, 53. 

2 Apollod., i. 9, 27 ; Dio. Chrys., 37, 457 ; Diod., iv. 53, 2. 

3 Cf. Martial, vii. 19. 4 Diodorus, iv. 47. 
6 Apollod., i. 9, 16 ; Ap. Rh., i. 526-527. 


Argo on the Ficoroni cista represents the iepbv 
%v\ov in the form of a little stylis on the poop of 
the ship. 1 Apollodorus says the branch was fixed 
on the prow ; 2 but it is more probably right to 
place it on the poop, since that was the most im- 
portant part of the ship, where the helmsman stood. 
Argo to M. Svoronos is not a ram but a dove. He 
draws attention to the frequency with which she is 
said to fly, 3 and to the help given by the dove in the 
passage of the Clashing Rocks. 4 The interpretation 
of the word Argo as " white " seems at variance with 
the tradition that brought the Peleiades at Dodona 
from Africa and called them black, 5 but he thinks it 
possible that the creators of the myth, with some 
such story in mind as that of the two eagles at Delphi, 
wished to distinguish between the black dove resting 
at the shrine of Zeus Ammon and the white dove at 

M. Svoronos, himself a Greek, looked forward to 
a time " quand l'exegese des mythes et cultes grecs, 
abandonnant les systemes savants et elabores, 
regardera en face leurs origines avec la simplicity 
de Tesprit et de la fantaisie du peuple grec primitif." 
His own explanation complies with this demand for 
simplicity. It is almost too simple. His explana- 
tion explains too much. A theory which instantly 
explains half the stories of Greek mythology deserves 

1 Roscher, Lexikon, i. p. 527. 2 Apollod., loc. cit. 

3 E.g. Eur. Med., i. But it is a natural enough metaphor for a 
ship, without further significance. 

4 Apollod., i. 9, 22 ; Ap. Rh., ii. 562. 6 Hdt., ii, 55. 


wonder and admiration rather than serious belief. 
Its one advantage is that it connects the story with 
the sea-adventure which from Homer onwards has 
seemed its essential part. The ram-headed ship 
may well be a relic of fact, and this is a credible link 
between the Phrixus story and the sea, but it is 
surely incredible that the gilded acrostolos of the 
" Ram " should be the lure that drew Jason from 
Thessaly. To Aietes no doubt it would be a pre- 
cious trophy and worth retaining ; but its recovery, 
when its absence, if it affected any Minyan, affected 
not Jason's own tribe but the Minyans of Boeotia, 
seems hardly an adequate motive for braving an 
unknown sea. 

There is also much to be said for M. Svoronos' 
protest against the attitude of knowing better than 
the Greeks, the attitude which assumes that — 

We to antiquity are nearer far 

Than Hellas was — at least, professors are. 

Only it is surely permissible, when Hellenes disagree, 
to exercise reasonable choice. Diodorus, with his 
guard called Dracon, his Medea who smuggles the 
Argonauts into the city by speaking to the watchmen 
at the gate " in the Tauric dialect," having agreed 
to help Jason because " it was clear to her that they 
had common interests," 1 proclaims too loud his 
unimaginative Euhemerism. He looked at Jason 
through late Greek eyes. The Pontus was not to 
him the inhospitable mystery of pre-Homeric days, 

1 Diod., iv. 46, 47-48. 


it was " a barbarian sea " ; but the real Jason was 
not a fifth century Hellene to deplore the barbarity 
of other races and feel the battle lost if the other 
side set up a trophy. In short, Diodorus is a poor 
exemplar for that interpreter M. Svoronos is seeking, 
the scholar who will bear in mind " la simplicity de 
l'esprit et de la fantaisie du peuple grec primitif." 

A guide who seems simpler and more reasonable 
than Diodorus is Strabo, with his suggestion that 
the golden fleece is the gold of Colchis. 1 It is not 
necessary to accept the refinements of his explana- 
tion, the fleeces in which the Colchians caught the 
gold borne down by the mountain torrents of Phasis, 
though these may be real too. But gold, like rain 
and sunshine, appeals to primitive and civilized man 
alike ; quid non mortalia pectora cogit ? To civilized 
man it represents wealth ; to primitive man it may 
have meant immortality. 2 If this was so, there is 
no wonder he was ready to spend — 

all that pain 
To seek it through the world. 

Again, if Jason was urged by mercenary motives, he 
need not lose glamour for that, any more than the 
Elizabethan adventurers who went to America, 
hardly clear in their minds whether it was the 
wealth of this world they were seeking or the Waters 
of Youth, " Don Juan Ponce de Leon his fountain." 

1 V. supra, p. 43. 

2 Cf. W. J. Perry, " Children of the Sun," p. 57 ; " Origin of Magic 
and Religion," p. 67. 


The Greek fantasy did not scorn the quest of riches 
or despise economic motives ; it dissembled them. 
Troy did not burn for a woman's face, however little 
that statement was questioned. In that story 
economic motives were called the rape of Helen : 
the step from gold to a golden fleece is shorter. 

The stages in the progress of development may 
have been of this kind. Long before Homer voyages 
were made to Colchis for gold : according to Homer, 
repeating older tradition, a voyage was made by 
Jason. Jason was a Minyan of Thessaly ; by his 
Minyan race he was connected with Phrixus, who, 
so it was said, had been saved from sacrifice by a 
golden ram and had fled eastward. Suppose these 
the facts ; the possibilities they suggest supply 
connections. Perhaps Jason found gold where that 
golden ram had come to rest ; perhaps he found 
the golden ram's fleece : a generation of rhapsodes 
could hardly avoid the unifying inference — he went 
to fetch the golden fleece. 

Gold is real and tangible, and real men have sought 
it in all ages ; the quest for gold is no myth but a 
real adventure, the foundation of legend if not of 
history. But this Argonautic quest of gold, if such 
it was, has become enriched with such a diverse 
wealth of incidents that it is difficult to estimate it 
fairly. It is necessary to examine these incidents 
and decide which of them are essential parts of the 
story. When the story is stripped of inessentials it 
should, if it reflects fact, conform to two standards, 
first, of internal credibility, of dealing with events 


which in themselves are possible ; and secondly, if 
this is satisfied, of external credibility, of corre- 
spondence with what is known of the history of the 
period when the events are reputed to have taken 
place. The next step is to apply these tests. 


Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum 

— Virgil 

IN the narrative of the voyage there are two 
classes of episodes; events which conceivably 
might have happened in the manner stated, 
the adventure at Lemnos, the encounters with the 
Doliones, even the boxing match with Amycus ; and 
events which, however obliging the hearer's credulity, 
he cannot accept as they stand, such as the passage 
of the Clashing Rocks and the visit to Phineus. 
There are two possible ways of regarding the in- 
credible features of this latter class. Either they 
can be rationalized, as they have been, by saying 
for instance that the Clashing Rocks were an island 
of which part was hidden at high tide, and that the 
Harpies were robbers whose depredations were put 
an end to by the Boreadae ; or they can be regarded 
as the usual supernatural incidents of folk-tale. If 
it can be shown that such incidents appear in the 
folk-lore of other ages and other peoples, it is fair to 
contend that here also they should be classified as 




Lemnos. 1 — The connection of the Argonauts with 
Lemnos was pre-Homeric, as may be seen from the 
allusion in the Iliad to Jason's son, Euneos, who 
was king of Lemnos at the time of the Trojan War. 
Elsewhere, 1 Homer speaks of Lemnos as inhabited 
by men called Sinties, who, Strabo says, were a 
Thracian tribe, 3 so called according to Hellanicus, 
because they were the first to make weapons of war, 
with a view to plundering (alveaOcu) and injuring 
their neighbours. 4 The Homeric evidence of con- 
nection is borne out by the presence of Minyans in 
the island in historical times. 5 These may have 
been dislodged from Thessaly by the Achaeans. 6 
In any case, Lemnos was a necessary stepping-stone 
between Greece proper and the Hellespont : its 
value as a port of call was proved by the tenacity 
with which Athens clung to Lemnos, Imbros, and 

It is possible that the story of the Lemnian women 
also reflects fact. "It has been interpreted as 
evidence of a former custom of gynocracy in the 
island. 7 Every year the island of Lemnos was 
purified from the guilt of the massacre and sacrifices 
were offered to the dead. The ceremonies lasted 
nine days, during which all fires were extinguished 

1 Recorded by Simonides, Aeschylus, Ap. Rh., Val. Flac, Orph. 
Arg., Diod., Apollod., Hyginus. 

2 Iliad, i. 594 ; Odyssey, viii. 294. 

3 Strabo, vii. 331, fr. 46. 4 F.H.G., i. p. 60, fr. 113. 
5 Hdt., iv. 145 ; Strabo, viii. 347. 6 V. infra, p. 144. 

» J. J. Bachofen, " Das Mutterrecht," p. 84 ff. 


on the island, and a new fire was brought by ship 
from Delos." 1 

There seems no reason to regard the Lemnos inci- 
dent as anything but a record of a real settlement on 
the island by Minyans. 

Troy. 2 — The adventure at Troy, which concerns 
only Heracles, has evidently no real connection with 
the Argonauts, but has been taken over from the 
Heracles cycle by late writers of Argonautica. 
The absence of a real Argonautic adventure at Troy 
may be interpreted in three ways. It may mean 
the Argonauts never went further than Lemnos, or 
that they really navigated the Hellespont, not 
putting in at Troy but at Mysia, as the tradition 
says. Or again, the voyage may belong to a period 
of Trojan weakness, e.g. the interval between the 
fifth and sixth cities. 

Cyzicus. 3 — This episode does not appear in the 
narratives till Apollonius Rhodius, but in origin it 
appears to be much older. 4 Cyzicus and the Doliones 
are not mentioned in Homer, and little is known of 
the neighbourhood before its colonization b}' Miletus 
about 720 B.C. ; but it is clear from Hecataeus 5 that 
a town existed there already, inhabited by Doliones. 
Who these Doliones were is not certain. According 

1 Frazer ad Apollod., i. 9, 17. 

2 Recorded by Val. Flac. and Diodorus. 

3 Recorded by Ap. Rh., Val. Flac, Orph. Arg., Apollod., Hyginus. 

4 E.g. it is represented on a red-figured vase of the fifth century. 
Gerhard, A.V., iii. 27. 

5 F.H.G., i., Fr. 204 = Steph. Byz., s.v. Doliones. 


to one tradition, derived apparently from Ephorus, 1 
the land about Cyzicus was settled by Pelasgi, who 
had been driven from Thessaly by the Aeolians. 
But another version 2 calls them Thessalian settlers, 
in which case they were kinsmen of Jason ; more- 
over, that they were not Pelasgians is suggested by 
Apollodorus, who in his account of the incident says 
that the Argonauts, on their second landing, were 
mistaken by the Doliones for Pelasgians, " for it 
happened that they were continually being raided 
by the Pelasgi ; " Hyginus repeats this detail. 3 

The authorities from whom Apollonius derived 
this part of his material were both Cyzicenes, 
Deiochus of Proconnessus and Neanthes of Cyzicus. 4 
Clearly the story was a local legend ; it may or may 
not be real Argonautic tradition. It is generally 
recognized that many Euxine colonies which had no 
valid claim to the honour strove to insert themselves 
into the Argonaut story, and it is easy to see how such 
insertion might have been practised here. With the 
tomb of Cyzicus, the eponymous hero of the famous 
colony, was associated a story of robbers from the 
sea, whom the inhabitants identified with the Argo- 
nauts, relieving them of the guilt of barbarous murder 
by a tale of contrary winds and mistaken attacks. 
Death at the hands of the Argonauts seemed to 
aspiring pedigree-makers better than no connection 
at all. 

1 Schol. Ap. Rh., i. 961, 1037. 2 Ibid., 921, 987. 

8 Apollod., i. 9, 18 ; Hyginus, xvi. 
4 Cf. Hasluck, " Cyzicus," p. 157. 


But it is also possible that the story may have a 
pre-Milesian origin, and may enshrine a real con- 
nection. It may be that " it gives us, in fact, a 
very strong case for believing that here, at any rate, 
Apollonius is incorporating ... a section of a very 
much older Argonautica ; that this Argonautica 
goes up certainly into the early days of Milesian 
colonization, probably into the Homeric Age ; and 
very possibly even to a generation which stood to 
the Argonauts and the Doliones as Demodocus stood 
to the Trojan War." x 

Hylas. 2 — The story of the loss of Hylas does not 
appear in extant literature before the Alexandrine 
age, but his name and parentage seem to have been 
known in the time of Hellanicus. 3 Aeschylus has 
an allusion to " the Mysian cry," 4 which seems ex- 
plained by the fact recorded by Strabo, that the 
inhabitants of Prusa, at the foot of the Mysian 
Olympus, celebrated an annual festival, roaming on 
the mountains and calling the name of Hylas. 5 The 
name, combined with annual lamentations, suggests 
a vegetation ritual comparable with those of Linus, 
Lityerses, Adonis, Attis, etc. ; the story of his loss 
was thus a myth which arose to explain the wan- 
dering and the calling of the name. 

J J. L. Myres, "A History of the Pelasgian Theory," J.H.S., 
xxvii., pp. 222-225. 

8 Recorded by Ap. Rh., Val. Flac, Orph. Arg., Apollod., 
Theocr., xiii. 

8 Schol. Ap. Rh., i. 131 and 1207. 

4 Aesch. Pers., 1054. 8 Strabo, xii. 564. 


Another Argonaut wandered in search of him 
and was left behind — Polyphemus, son of Eilatus. 1 
Wilamowitz seems to hold the opinion that Hylas 
was originally connected with him, not with Her- 
acles ; 2 and it is quite possible that Polyphemus 
had the earlier connection with Mysia, where he 
founded the city Cius and reigned as king. 3 The 
development of the story would then be somewhat 
of this kind. Polyphemus, the founder of Cius, 
was an Argonaut who was left behind in Mysia ; he 
was left behind because he was searching for the 
lost Hylas, originally a vegetation spirit, mythically 
drowned in drawing water. Later, when Heracles 
was said to have been left behind in drawing water, 
Hylas became attached to the greater figure, and the 
loss of Heracles was shifted to Mysia. 

The Loss of Heracles. — The earliest extant refer- 
ence to Heracles in connection with the Argonauts is 
preserved by the Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius. 4 
According to him Hesiod in the Marriage of Ceyx, 
says that Heracles landed to look for water, and was 
left behind in Magnesia near the place called Aphetae 
because of his desertion there. This story is re- 
peated by Herodotus 5 and Apollodorus, 6 the latter 
adding as a reason, on the authority of Pherecydes, 
" the Argo having declared with human voice that 

1 Ap. Rh., i. 1241 ; iv. 1470. 

2 Wilamowitz, " Euripides' Herakles." p. 31. 

3 Apollod., i. 9, 19 ; Ap. Rh., i. 1345. 
4 Schol. Ap. Rh., i. 1289. 

6 Hdt., vii. 193. 6 Apollod., i. 9, 19. 


she could not bear his weight." The tradition finally 
accepted was that he was left in Bithynia, searching 
for Hylas. 

Thus the earliest recorded exploit of Heracles in 
connection with the Argo was that he was left 
behind. And down to the fifth century the current 
tradition was that he was left behind in Magnesia, 
almost at the starting-place of the voyage. It is 
hard to resist the conclusion that he was never on 
board the Argo at all. 

This is likely on other grounds too. The Argo- 
nautica is a tale of the exploits of Minyans, and 
Heracles, though he figures in Thessalian stories, was 
not a Minyan hero : an early exploit, the fight with 
Erginus, himself an Argonaut, shows Heracles hostile 
to the Minyans of Boeotia, and even in Thebes, his 
birthplace, his parents were strangers from the 
south. 1 

Wilamowitz 2 holds that it was the Dorians of 
Corinth who connected Heracles with the Argo. 
They boasted themselves Heracleidae, and when, 
possibly by association with Hera Acraia, who, 
through Medea, became the protectress of Jason, 
the Argonaut story found a place in the Corinthian 
cycle, it was noticeable that their ancestor was not 
among the crew, though these were the flower of 
Greece. They therefore provided reasons for his 
absence, e.g. that the ship could not bear him, so 
great was he, and that he therefore disembarked 

1 Cf. Farnell, " Greek Hero Cults," pp. 106-107. 

2 Wilamowitz, " Euripides' Herakles," pp. 30, 31. 


and was left behind. The localization of his deser- 
tion in Bithynia, not Magnesia, Wilamowitz attri- 
butes to the colonists of Heraclea, of which Heracles 
was the namesake. There he became connected 
with the Bithynian legend of Hylas, who had earlier 
been associated with another Argonaut, Poly- 
phemus, and the scene of his desertion was roman- 
ticized, and moved from Magnesia to Bithynia. The 
stories of his being chosen leader instead of Jason, 
and of his reaching Colchis, on foot, after all, belong 
to Hellenistic times, and were invented to explain 
why the foremost Greek hero was found occupying 
a subordinate place in the expedition. 

Not all the details of this explanation are com- 
pletely acceptable. Hesiod, for instance, a Boeotian 
authority, seems not quite consistent with the in- 
fluence attributed by Wilamowitz to Corinth. The 
supposed influence of Heraclea was long in exerting 
itself, since a century after its foundation Heracles 
was still represented as landing in Magnesia. Again, 
Pindar x has the fact that " when he (with Peleus) 
had made an end of the famous voyage with Jason, 
he took Medea in the home of the Colchians." So 
the story that he did reach Colchis cannot have 
been an invention of the Alexandrine age. 

But the main contention, that Heracles had no 
original part in the voyage, seems a most probable 
interpretation of the literary evidence. It seems 
likely that the date of his inclusion in the story 
should be placed earlier than the age of colonization. 

1 Pindar, fragt. 172. 


It had evidently taken place before Hesiod ; by that 
time indeed, if not when the Odyssey was written, 1 
Heracles must have become as well " known to all " 
as Argo herself, and it is clear enough from the 
Heracles cycle that in the process of a character's 
winning world-wide fame there is no end to the 
possibilities of confusion and combination with other 
stories and cults. 

Amycus. 2 — The fight with Amycus is depicted on 
a South-Italian vase 3 and in bronze relief on the 
magnificent Ficoroni Cista from Praeneste. 4 The 
first traceable reference in literature which connects 
Amycus with the Argonauts is the lost satyr-play 
"Amycus" by Sophocles. Epicharmus is credited 
with a comedy on the same subject, from which 
Sophocles probably borrowed his material. The 
earliest source seems to have been the epic poet 

Neither Amycus nor the Bebrycians are men- 
tioned in Homer. This surprises Dr. Leaf, who holds 
they " were undoubtedly settled in Bithynia long 
before the arrival of the Bithynians. They seem to 
have been a sub-tribe of the Phrygians ; it looks as 
if their name were related to that of the Phrygians 
(Bpvyes) as that of the Bithyni to the Thyni, the 
Be being a preposition." 5 His contention that they 

1 Odyssey, xi. 60 1 ff. 

2 Recorded by Soph., Ap. Rh., Val. Flac, Orph. Arg., Apollod., 
Hyginus, Theocr. xiii. 

8 Reinach, Repertoire, ii. p. 79. 

4 Roscher, Lexikon, i. p. 527. B Leaf, " Troy," p. 299, n. 3. 


were of old establishment in Bithynia seems to rest 
upon their presence in the Argonaut story, but that 
cannot be proved to be pre-Homeric. 

The function of the episode seems to be to provide 
employment for Polydeuces, though, according to 
one version, Amycus was killed by Jason. Accord- 
ing to Theocritus, Amycus was not killed but only 
admonished. This may throw light on the origin 
of the story, which may have lain in commemorative 
contests attached to a hero-shrine of Amycus which 
was in later times still to be seen in Bithynia. 1 
Possibly the occupant of Amycus' tomb was a local 
hero whose death was glorified by being attributed 
to the Argonauts. 

Phineus and the Harpies. 2, — Phineus in Apollodorus 
is placed at Salmydessus in Thrace, though the 
other Argonautica locate him in Bithynia. The 
Hesiodic fragment recording that the Harpies 
brought him " to the land of the milk-drinkers who 
live in caravans " 3 would indicate the northern 
coast. Tradition said that the Bithyni were a 
Thracian people from the Strymon originally called 
Strymonii, but in Asia Bithyni. 4 Phineus is theie- 
fore a Thraco-Bithynian figure. 5 He may have got 

1 Schol. Ap. Rh.j ii. 159. 

2 Recorded by Hesiod, Aesch., Pherecydes, Soph., Ap. Rh., Val. 
Flac, Orph. Arg., Diod., Apollod., Hyginus. 

3 Ephorus. in Strabo, vii. 302. 

4 Hdt., vii. 75 ; Xen. Anab., vi. 4 ; Strabo, xii. 541. 

5 Pherecydes calls him king of the Asiatic Thracians (F.H.G., i. 
p. 88, fr. 68), Hellanicus of the Paphlagonians (F.H.G., i. p. 50, 
fr. 38). 


his name from a place ; there was a Phinopolis near 
Salmydessus * and a Phineion, named apparently 
from <f>lva%, which Hesychius explains as &pv<;. 2 He 
is necessary to the story, as none of the other 
episodes has been, inasmuch as the Argonauts 
depend on him for knowledge of the way. It has 
been suggested 3 that he represents the " Demon of 
the House in the Wood," who is a stock figure of 
many fairy-tales about heroes or princes and their 
quests. Frequently in such stories one of the hero's 
companions, left in the house in the wood, is found 
by the Demon, who destroys or pollutes the food in 
the house and ill-treats the companion. When the 
demon attempts to repeat his performance with the 
hero himself he is foiled, beaten, and forced to dis- 
close the way to win the princess, who is the prize 
of the hero's quest. The incident sometimes takes 
another form, as in the Beowulf saga, 4 when the 
demon is wounded in fight by the hero, but escapes 
underground and is tracked by the blood dropping 
from his wound to the subterranean demon-kingdom, 
where he is at last subdued. 

According to this analogy, Phineus plays the part 
of the demon in the wood. The identification is 
attractive, and there is evidence to support it. 
Several versions of the story make Phineus hostile 
to the Argonauts, or make their office one not of 

1 Strabo, vii. 319. z Pauly-Wissowa, vii. 2429. 

3 Karl Meuli, " Odysee unci Argonautika," p. 102. 

4 Cf. Panzer, " Studien zur Germanische Sagen-geschichte," i., 
Beowulf, 74 f. 


protection, but of punishment. The Orphic Argo- 
nautica 1 describes how " ill-wedded Phineus " was 
punished by the Boreads for his cruelty to his chil- 
dren — 

But raging Boreas with his whirling gales 
Seized him, and through Bistonia's coppices 
And oak-woods rolled him. So he met his doom. 

Diodorus also follows the same account, bringing the 
events into line with reason, as his custom is, by 
saying that the Argonauts fought against Phineus 
and reinstated his wronged wife, Cleopatra, and her 
children. Apollodorus, having given a hint in his 
Argonautic narrative of a diversity of accounts, 
when dealing with the Boreadae records without 
qualification that the Argonauts punished Phineus. 2 
On this interpretation the presence of Zetes and 
Calais is given point. Their swiftness of flight is 
essential to the performance of the quest, because 
without them Jason cannot defeat the wind-demons, 
the Harpies, who serve the master-magician, Phineus, 
and without defeating them he cannot learn the way 
to his goal. Even a friendly Phineus is not incon- 
sistent with this theory ; that witches and wizards 
can for their own ends put on a semblance of hos- 
pitality is well known to any reader of fairy-tales. 
Later, when from this wind- and woodland-demon a 
human Phineus had been evolved, the true relation 
between him and the Harpies was lost sight of, and 
from being their master he became their prey. 

1 Orph. Arg., 671-679. 2 Apollod., iii. 15, 3. 


The Clashing Rocks. — These appear in Homer in 
connection with the Argo, and are omitted from 
the story only by Diodorus, to whose temperament 
supernatural marvels were uncongenial, and who 
takes his Argonauts straight from Bithynia to 
Colchis. The general tradition was that when the 
Argo passed them their clashing was brought to an 
end, and thenceforward they were fixed in the sea. 
This seems not to have held good in the time of 
Homer, assuming his Planctae to be the usual 
Symplegades of the Argonaut story and not the 
Planctae introduced under that name by Apollonius 
and Apollodorus, for after their passage by Argo 
they still moved sufficiently to endanger Odysseus. 1 

Strabo identified the rocks with two islands at the 
mouth of the Propontis where the passage is nar- 
rowest. It has been suggested that the belief that 
the rocks moved and clashed was due to a connecting 
spur of rock between them being hidden at high 
tide so that when the waters receded the rocks were 
seen to be joined. It has also been suggested that 
they are a far-off reminiscence of experiences with 
icebergs in the polar seas. 2 But it seems more 
likely that the Rocks were a purely fairy-tale element. 
They can be paralleled in Russian, 3 Roumanian, 4 

x Or so one supposes. But on examination of Od., xii. 55-72, I 
cannot be sure that Homer actually says they moved. 

2 H. Rink, " Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo," p. 158 ff.* 

3 W. R. S. Ralston, " Russian Folk-tales," p. 235 ff.* 

* M. Gaster, " Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories," pp. 263-265.* 

[* I take these references from Frazer, " Apollodorus," vol. ii., 
Appendix v.] 


and modern Greek * fairy tales, where the water of 
life is said to be found between two huge cliffs 
which move continually, so that only by lightning 
quickness can the treasure between them be seized. 
In the Roumanian story a stork plays a part like 
that of the dove in the Argonautica, and gets his 
tail-feathers torn off in the same way. 

It is possible that Phineus' blindness may be a 
relic of the Clashing Rock story, since the water of 
life is sometimes sought in order to cure blindness. 

Island of Ares. 2 — Probably this incident does not 
originally belong to the Argonaut story, but is a 
learned interpolation by Apollonius, who, knowing 
that in performance of his sixth labour Heracles had 
driven the birds away from the Lake of Stymphalus 
in Arcadia to a remote island in the Euxine, felt it 
necessary to introduce them into his account of the 
Argo's voyage. 

Talos. 3 — Hesychius says that the word raXm is 
6 rpuo?, and Talos, who goes round the island of 
Crete every day, seems to be an anthropomorphic 
conception of the sun. But the story of the single 
vein of ichor closed by a nail suggests the cire perdue 
method of bronze-casting, an association borne out 
by a story of Simonides in which Talos himself 

1 J. G. v. Hahn, Griechische und albanesische Marchen, ii. 644.* 

2 Recorded by Apollonius and Hyginus. 

3 Recorded by Ap. Rh., Orph. Arg., Apollod. 

[* I take this reference from Frazer, " Apollodorus," vol. 
Appendix v.] 

s > 

< 3 

H a ? 

fe o 5 

O P 5 -5 

S « § 

< o O 

w £ « 

Q a 3 

w 2 o" 

H a: g 


leapt into a fire. 1 His death is represented on a 
very fine vase. 2 (Fig. 4.) 

From the review of these various incidents it is 
clear that of them, too, myth, legend, and folk-tale 
may each claim a share. Myth is responsible for 
the stories of Hylas and Talos, legend of varying 
degrees of authenticity for the adventures at Lemnos 
and Cyzicus and for the fight with Amycus, folk-tale 
for the Phineus incident and the passage of the 
Clashing Rocks. 

Again, their age can be determined. The myths 
of Hylas and Talos appear in the story late in its 
development ; the Cyzicus episode and the fight 
with Amycus are probably later than the Greek 
colonization of the Euxine, though the former may 
be older ; Lemnos and the supernatural episodes 
have the longest descent, Lemnos having the earlier 
evidence, the other two the older nature. 

Thus myth, it appears, came last into the story, 
and in the earliest stage fancy and fact are fairly 
equally balanced. These two elements represent 
roughly a Greek factor, and one which cannot be 
appropriated to Greece or to any other country. 
The Greek factor gives the characters their names — 
Jason, Argo — and takes them to Lemnos and perhaps 
Cyzicus. Did the other dictate or merely decorate 
their adventures ? The Clashing Rocks are age- 
less ; Jason may be just a hero who passed them, 

1 A. B. Cook, " Zeus," i. p. 719 ff. 

2 Baumeister, Denkmaler, iii. fig. 1804. 


like others after him and no doubt before. But on 
the other hand, it may be that he has a story of 
his own, that he made a real voyage which did not 
include clashing rocks and wind-demons, but ac- 
quired them later as an ornament. An attempt 
must be made to weigh the relative probability of 
these two alternatives. 


What shall we tell you ? Tales, marvellous tales 
Of ships and stars and isles where good men rest. 

—J. E. Flecker 

These things are but toys, to come amongst such serious observations. 

— Francis Bacon 

HOMER called the Argo story TraaL/xeXovaa 
— known to all. To-day Homer himself is our 
only means of conjecturing what all his world 
knew about the Argo. But conjecture is certainty 
of one thing — that even in Homer's day the story 
was, in a lesser degree perhaps, what it is now, a 
blending of possible fact with probable fiction, of 
well-attested places and peoples with the light that 
never was on sea or land. The question which 
remains to be solved is whether either of the com- 
ponent parts ought to predominate, whether Phasis 
or fairyland was the goal of Jason's voyage, whether 
Phasis is the sun-god's Aia given a local habitation, 
or whether the wonders of fairyland have only 
coloured the narrative of a real voyage to a real 
If Phasis is only a name for fairyland the story 


may be expressed in the usual narrative style of that 
country. " Once upon a time there was a prince 
whose wicked kinsman took the kingdom from him ; 
and when Jason, for that was the prince's name, 
claimed his rights, his kinsman said, ' You shall 
have it all back if you will go to the land of the sun 
and bring me .the golden fleece/ After many won- 
derful adventures, Jason came in his ship to the 
land of the sun, and the daughter of the sun, who 
was a beautiful witch-maiden, loved him and helped 
him to win the fleece. . . . And they all lived hap- 
pily ever after." 

There are many stories of this kind. Andrew 
Lang, 1 seeking nearly forty years ago to disprove 
the theses that the Argonaut story is a nature myth, 
or a myth founded on " a disease of language," a 
delusion now happily dead, compared with it stories 
from Scotland, Russia, Madagascar, Japan, Zululand, 
Scandinavia, Italy, North America, Finland, and 
Samoa, all of which have the same theme : A young 
man is brought to the home of a hostile being. Put 
to severe trials, 2 he is helped by the daughter of his 
host, and with her he elopes. They are pursued by 
the father (or mother, or brother, or witch-aunt), 
but they stop the pursuit by throwing things behind 
them ; a twig or a comb thus thrown turns into a 
tangled forest, a chip of rock grows into a mount ain- 

1 Andrew Lang, " Custom and Myth " (London), 1885, pp. 87- 
102. " A Far- Travelled Tale." 

a Often very like those in the Argonautica, e.g. in " Kalevala " the 
smith Ilmarinen has to plough a field of serpents. 


range, a mirror or a bottle of water becomes a lake 
in which the pursuer is drowned, and so on. In the 
Norse story of " The Master Maid " the prince and 
the Maid sail away over the sea, " but where they 
got the ship from I never heard tell." 1 

This " far- travelled tale " is easily perceptible in 
the Argonaut story. Aietes, child of the sun, with 
his brazen bulls, his dragon's teeth, is the giant of 
the fairy tale ; Medea, that notable sorceress who 
shows Jason how to perform the tasks, anoints him 
with her magic ointment and charms the sleepless 
dragon, is the wonder-working daughter ; the inci- 
dent of the fugitives throwing things behind them 
is supplied in the accounts of how Medea hacked 
Apsyrtus in pieces and scattered his limbs on the 
sea. Further, Jason's desertion of Medea at Corinth 
is paralleled in many of the stories, where the hero 
forgets his saviour and is reminded only when he 
is on the point of marriage with another, often 
with the king's daughter of the land to which he 
returns. 2 

In other stories the hero is helped not by a giant's 
daughter or witch-maiden, but by companions or 
attendants whose special qualities enable him to 
perform apparently impossible tasks. In what is 

1 Sir George Dasent, " Popular Tales from the Norse," 2nd ed., 
P- 143- 

1 Cf. Russian story of " King Kojata," Norse" The Master Maid," 
Scots " Nicht Nought Nothing." Lang does not mention this point. 
Other details of the Corinthian adventures can be paralleled, e.g. the 
deadly gold and silver robe in Grimm's story of " Faithful John." M 


perhaps the best known of this class, Grimm's story 
of " The Six Soldiers of Fortune," the hero is accom- 
panied by a strong man who could pluck up and carry 
away bundles of trees as though they were weed, a 
huntsman so keen of sight that he could shoot a 
fly which settled on a tree two miles away, a man 
who with the breath from one nostril could set wind- 
mills turning, a runner who could go faster than 
birds can fly, and a man who created intense frost 
by taking off his hat. These gifts and others appear 
elsewhere. In the Sicilian story of " How the Her- 
mit Helped to Win the King's Daughter," 1 the 
strong man, archer, and runner were reinforced by 
a man who kept the fog in a sack and a man who 
could drink rivers dry. The simpleton Moscione in 
the Italian folk-tale 2 had also a companion, Hare's 
Ear, who, by laying his ear to the ground, could 
hear everything that went on in the world. A 
Bohemian story 3 describes how a prince won his 
bride by the aid of " Long, Broad, and Quick-eye," 
of whom Long could cover miles at a stride, and 
Broad puff himself out so as to sweep all obstacles 
from his path. The Seven Simons in the Hungarian 
tale 4 could respectively build a pillar that reached 
the sky, see from the top of it all over the world, 
build a wonderful ship that could sail to any part 

1 A. Lang, " Pink Fairy Book," p. 174, from Sicilianische Marchen. 

2 A. Lang, " Grey Fairy Book," p. 309. 

3 Ibid., from Contes Populaires traduits par Louis Leger, Paris. 

4 A. Lang, " Crimson Fairy Book," p. 37, from Ungarische 


of the globe in a week, sink it by a turn of the hand 
and bring it up again from the depths of the sea, 
make a cross-bow which could shoot anything in 
the sky, catch whatever was shot by the bow, and 
steal anything in the world without detection. 

Gifts of this kind were not uncommon among the 
Argo's crew. Heracles is, of course, the strong 
uprooter of trees, Lynceus has the keen eyes which 
can descry objects very far away or even beneath 
the earth, 1 the Boreadae are fleet of foot and wing, 
Argus is the builder who makes the wonderful boat, 
Tiphys the skilful helmsman, while the master- thief 
seems to be represented by Autolycus, of whom 
Hesiod says " whate'er he touched, he made in- 
visible." 2 

Others, too, have supernatural gifts. The power 
of Orpheus is well known. Melampus and Mopsus 
could understand the language of beasts and birds, 
Idmon could foretell the future, the strength of 
Caeneus was continually renewed by contact with 
his mother, Earth, while of Periclymenus Hesiod 3 
records that " earth-shaking Poseidon gave him all 
manner of gifts. At one time he would appear 
among birds, an eagle ; and again at another he 
would be an ant, a marvel to see ; and again one 
of the fair tribe of bees ; and again at another time 
a dread relentless snake. And he possessed all 
manner of gifts which cannot be told." 

*Ap. Rh., i. 155. 

2 Hesiod, fragment 80 (Loeb Classical Library). 

8 Schol. Ap. Rh., i. 156. 


Again, certain names in the Catalogues of Argo- 
nauts suggest traces of a story in which the hero's 
helpers were not human beings but beasts, grateful 
for some past kindness. 1 Echion may have been a 
snake, Coronus a raven, Ascalaphus a lizard, Auto- 
fycus perhaps originally a wolf. 2 

With so diversely talented a company Jason 
should not have needed the help of Medea. Orpheus 
with his lute could have made the grim guardian of 
the fleece " fall asleep or hearing die " ; Autolycus 
could have stolen the fleece unseen away. It is 
perhaps the outcome of the Greek character that 
these heroes and their wonderful gifts are so inactive 
at the crisis of the quest. The supernatural dis- 
appeared from Greek stories very early : its twilight 
may be seen in the Odyssey, where its dangers are 
outworn, powerless to trap the man of many wiles. 
Beasts in Homer may take on them the powers of 
men, as when Achilles' divine horse speaks, but man 
does not assume the properties of beasts or of forces 
of nature. Melampus, who was taught by grateful 
serpents to understand the language of all beasts, 8 
is unique in Greek mythology. The Greek touch- 
stone of reason, the belief, present even where 
unexpressed, that man is the measure of all things, 

x Cf. Mitford, " Tales of Old Japan," p. 185. Sir George Dasent, 
" Tales from the Norse," p. 130, " The Giant who had no heart in 
his body." Benfey, Pantchatantra, ii. 128; Die Dankbaren Thiere, 
etc., and of course, " Puss in Boots." 

2 Cf. Karl Meuli, " Odysee und Argonautika," pp. 10-15. * think 
it is going too far to identify Castor with a beaver. 

3 Apollodorus, I. ix, IX, 


accepted a barbarian sorceress and her learned magic 
but rejected the god-given magic of Periclymenus. 

But there is another possible explanation of the 
inactivity. It may be that the heroes were not 
originally the companions of a hero of folk-tale, 
mere incarnations of useful qualities, but real people, 
regarded by their contemporaries as stronger, per- 
haps, or braver or keener-sighted than most men, 
endued with the glamour of youth and strength and 
royalty, but with nothing more. As the Romans of 
his day credited the undoubtedly real Scipio with 
supernatural affinities, as Virgil the simple poet 
seemed to many ages a magician of no common 
order, so a real Lynceus or Tiphys may have grown 
in the imagination of his clan into the possessor of 
superhuman powers. No deep or debased credulity 
is necessary to such belief. In this civilized age, 
there are athletes well on the way to becoming 
a legend : a step or two further, and the paralysis 
of their opponents may be attributed to supernatural 
causes. Heracles, Castor, and Polydeuces were 
worshipped in all parts of Greece, and had been real 
men : Lynceus and Tiphys did not catch the 
imagination of strangers in the same way : only a 
tribe, perhaps, paid heroic honours at their tombs. 
They never became gods, but they were heroes ; and, 
I think, they had been mortal men in their day. 1 

This is made to seem more likely by the diversity 
of places where Argo was fabled to have been 

1 Cf. Sir J. G. Frazer, " Apollodorus," i. p. xxiii. 


built. At Argos the story ran that Argus, the epony- 
mous hero of the town, built the ship there ; at 
Thespiae it was thought that she was built at the 
harbour Tipha, or Sipha, in Thespian Argos, and 
Tiphys was regarded as the leader of her crew. A 
detailed study of the catalogues reveals quite clearly 
that many of the heroes have an independent if not 
a real existence ; they do not come into being 
merely for the convenience of their leader. This is 
especially true of the earliest catalogue, that given 
by Pindar ; in general the later the catalogue the 
more useful qualities and helpful beasts it contains. 
Autolycus and Ascalaphus appear only in Apollo- 
dorus. In Pindar there is one possible beast, 
Echion, and only two persons distinguished by their 
useful qualities who do not appear more prominently 
in other stories — Mopsus and Periclymenus, the 
latter of whom is of strictly Minyan descent. Their 
qualities are hardly used ; only Zetes and Calais 
have, in the early versions, anything important to 
do. All this suggests very strongly that the greater 
number of the crew find themselves there only 
because they were famous in other connections ; 
because they were indispensable to great enter- 
prises, like Heracles, because they were racial 
heroes, like Euphemus. Some, like Orpheus and 
Poly deuces, find something appropriate to do, while 
others who might have been useful remain inactive, 
like Melampus and Periclymenus, or leave the ship, 
like Heracles. 

It seems, further, that some of their activities 


have been adopted at the expense of Jason. He, 
for example, had in some quarters the credit of 
having vanquished Amycus, generally counted the 
victim of Poly deuces. Indeed, in the later versions 
the incidents of the story employ anyone rather 
than Jason ; he has no aristeia ; things befall him, 
but he rarely acts. He is passively agreeable 
throughout the Argonautica, as he is passively dis- 
agreeable in the Medea of Euripides ; his one heroic 
action, the carrying of Hera over the Anauros, is 
apocryphal and late ; Pindar and Pherecydes know 
nothing of it. Except for his youth and beauty he 
is as unheroic as Aeneas. This seems to me an argu- 
ment for his reality ; a fictitious hero would cut 
a better figure, a " Healer " ('Idacov) would surely 
heal, especially a pupil of the wise Centaur. No 
piece of evidence in all the versions seems to suggest 
that Jason exists by reason of his qualities. 

If the centre of the story is sought, that feature 
which above all others is indispensable to the 
story, it must be found in the Argo. It is Argo — 
sea-adventure — that differentiates the Argonautica 
on the one hand from pure fairy tale, the six soldiers 
of fortune, and the like, and on the other from the 
stories of great human appeal like the Homeric 
poems. The Odyssey, as its name implies, is the 
story of a man : the Argonautica too is well named — 
it is the story of a ship and of a voyage. 


It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles. — Tennyson 

THE possibility that Phasis is simply fairyland 
suggests also an affinity with a particular 
class of folk-tale, the stories of the search for 
the Earthly Paradise. The idea of a place removed, 
though accessible from this world, whose inhabitants 
enjoy a golden age and immortal life, is common to 
many mythologies ; * the Sumerians had their story 
of the island-garden Dilmun, the Vedas fabled 
Yama's realm, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata 
described an Earthly Paradise, Persian story cele- 
brated Yima's grove, the Hebrews Eden, the Chinese 
and Japanese believed in Islands of the Blest, the 
Greeks in Elysium, the Irish had their stories of the 
Happy Other-world, Ciuin and Tirnanoge. These 
last bear the strongest resemblance to the Argo- 

The earliest written versions of the Irish stories 
date from the sixth to the eighth century a.d., so 

1 Cf. A. Nutt and Kuno Meyer, " The Voyage of Bran," vol. i., 
appendix by A. Nutt ; and W. J. Perry, " The Origin of Magic and 
Religion," ch. iv. 



that it is possible that they are consciously or un- 
consciously derived from the Argonaut story. One 
Irish saga, at any rate, " The Fate of the Children 
of Tuirenn," * bears resemblances to Greek tales 
which cannot be the fruit of mere coincidence ; but 
this is not one of the other-world stories, so except 
as evidence of possible Greek influence, it is not 
relevant here. The Other- world stories clearly do not 
owe their origin to Greece, but seem to arise inde- 
pendently in Ireland and among the Celtic races, 
though their details may be influenced by Greek and 
Latin models, as they are by Christianity. 2 

In these stories the theme is the search for the 
Earthly Paradise, which is to be found sometimes 
in a hollow hill, sometimes across the sea. The 
hollow hill version has little in common with the 
Argonautica. The voyage to a Paradise beyond the 
sea is related in the stories of the voyage of Bran, 
son of Febal, the voyage of Maeldune, and, definitely 
Christian in spirit and detail, the voyages of Saint 
Brendan and of the sons of O'Corra. 3 The heroes of 
these stories are led by some supernatural means — 
the sound of music, the vision of some celestial 
being or the inspired mandates of some holy hermit — 
to seek for the Other-world, a land full of every kind 
of natural riches, where the people are beautiful and 

1 Charles Squire, " Mythology of the British Isles," p. 89 ff. 

2 Cf. Nutt, op. cit., ii. pp. 278-280. 

8 Ibid., i. p. 162. The extant version of the Voyage of the Sons 
of O'Corra dates from the thirteenth century, but the lost original 
was the oldest of the stories. 


joyful, and disease and death are unknown. Manan- 
nan, riding in his golden chariot over the sea, tells 
Bran of Ciuin, " the gentle land " — * 

Wealth, treasures of every hue 
Are in Ciuin, a beauty of freshness. 
Listening to sweet music, 
Drinking the best of wine. . . . 

Yellow golden steeds are on the sward there, 
Other steeds of crimson hue, 
Others with wool on their backs 
Of the hue of heaven all blue. 

At sunrise there will come 
A fair man illumining level lands. 
He rides upon the sea-washed plain, 
He stirs the Ocean till it is blood. 

A host will come across the clear sea, 
To the land they will show their rowing ; 
Then they row to the conspicuous stone 
From which arises a hundred strains. 

The host race along Mag Mon. [Plain of Sports.] 
A beautiful game, not feeble. 
In the variegated land over a mass of beauty 
They look for neither decay nor death. 

On his voyage Bran passes an island " with a large 
host gaping and laughing " : it is the Island of Joy. 
Then he comes to the Land of Women, where he 
tarries : "it seemed a year to them that they were 
there — and it chanced to be many years." Mael- 
dune 2 also visited such an island, where the queen 
with her magic clew would fain have kept him. He 

1 Kuno Meyer's trans., loc. cit. 

2 P. W. Joyce, " Old Celtic Romances." 


saw also an island of birds and an island where a 
great monster ranged along the shore and flung 
stones at the ship ; he sailed over a lovely country 
beneath the crystal waves where a dragon preyed 
upon the cattle ; he visited the Island of the Blest ; 
and he saw many other wonders. 

Maeldune saw the Island of the Blest and came 
safe home. But from most of these Happy Other- 
worlds it is impossible or very difficult for the wan- 
derer to return unscathed to earth ; and if he brings 
anything away it turns like faery flowers and fruit 
to dust and bitterness. 

In Greek literature there are many traces of a 
similar other-world. Homer describes the Elysium 
which will receive Menelaus — 

Nor snow nor winter storm nor ever rain 

Falls there, but still the cool clear Zephyrs blow 

Gently from Ocean to refresh mankind, 1 

a description repeated many times in Greek and 
Latin literature and in the medieval accounts of 
Avalon, the Isle de Voirre, Urbs Vitrea, or Insula 
Pomorum, which came to be identified with Glaston- 
bury, the island- valley of Avilion. But in Homer 
it was not mortal effort, but only the favour of the 
gods that could bring men after death to this calm 

Again, there is Calypso's island, 2 an " island of 
women," in which all sense of time is lost ; there is 
the island of Syria described by Eumaeus the swine- 

1 Odyssey, iv. 561-569. 2 Ibid., v. 56 ff. 


herd ; * there is Phaeacia, 2 with the palace of Alcinous 
where the Phaeacians spend their time 

Listening to sweet music 
Drinking the best of wine, 

and his gardens, which have fruit trees no less 
magical than the apple-trees on whose fruit Bran, 
Maeldune, and Connla miraculously subsisted — 

There grow great trees, luxuriant, whose fruit 
Fails not nor perishes all the seasons through, 
Winter or summer. Apple on apple still, 
Pear after pear grows mellow, fig on fig, 
Cluster on cluster purples on the vine. 

In Pindar there are descriptions of the Orphic 
Elysium where the ocean breezes blow round shores 
rich with flower and fruit, 3 and of the country of the 
Hyperboreans, that gentle land at the world's end. 4 
Euripides, in the Hippolytus, sings of the sun-god's 
wonderland in the west, the garden of the Hesperides, 

Where the noise of many waters never ceaseth 

In god's quiet garden by the sea, 
And Earth, the ancient life-giver, increaseth 

Joy among the meadows, like a tree. 5 

Modern Greek folk-tales do not provide much 
evidence of the survival of this non-eschatological 
Elysium common and peculiar to ancient Greece 
and Ireland. But this is natural in view of " the 
Oriental and particularly the Turkish character " of 

1 Odyssey, xv. 403 ff. 2 Ibid., vii. 77 ff. 

3 Pindar, Ol., ii. 68-83 ; Frags. 95, 96, 98. 

4 Pindar, Pyth., x. 29-46. 

5 Eur. Hipp., 748-751, trans. Gilbert Murray. 


the modern Greek stories. " It cannot be too 
strongly insisted," says Professor W. R. Halliday, 
" that there is no special connection at all between 
ancient mythology and modern Greek folk-tales." * 
Was Colchis, then, one of these Elysian worlds ? 
Was the golden fleece such another as Bran was 
to see, " of the hue of heaven all blue ? " Was 
Simonides' purple ram a forerunner of those Virgil 
promised for the Golden Age — 

ipse sed in pratis aries iam suave rubenti 
murice, iam croceo mutabit vellera luto ? 2 

Many details in the voyage of the Argo can be 
paralleled in the voyages of Maeldune and Bran. 
Lemnos is strikingly an island of women which 
threatens to ensnare the hero " in mere uxorious- 
ness." The Island of Ares is an island of birds ; 
Talos is like the monster who walked round the 
island and flung stones at the ship. But so is 
Polyphemus, and he is a figure of pure fairy-story. 3 
The Happy Islands of Celtic mythology were 
usually in the west. Westward lay the illimitable 
ocean in which, when the weather was exceptionally 
clear, were dimly seen suggestions of a distant land — 

" There are thrice fifty different isles 
Into the sea to the west of us," 

said Bran's guide. But the eye of man rarely, 
perhaps never, saw them. This land, in appear- 
ance sometimes there, sometimes not there, naturally 

1 R. M. Dawkins, " Modern Greek in Asia Minor," pp. 216, 217. 

2 Virgil, Eclogue iv. 43, 44. 3 Dawkins, loc. cit, p. 217. 



assumed a mystery and a sanctity which still attaches 
to the Arran Islands and the Western Hebrides, even 
in some degree to Ireland itself. And so, half 
unconsciously we expect the Happy Other-world to 
lie westward — 

Beyond the sunset and the baths 
Of all the western stars. 

This feeling is well-founded only to a limited 
extent. The northern races of Europe do tend to 
place their Happy Islands westward. There is a 
prevalent belief in a " white island " in the western 
seas where the souls of the good go after death : 
Baltic is a Lithuanian word meaning white, and 
enshrining this belief. The Fortunate Islands of 
Greek mythology were placed by geographers in the 
west, " not far from the peaks of Maurusia that lie 
opposite Gadeira." * Atlantis was in the west. But 
Leuce, the white island where Achilles went after 
death, was eastward in the Euxine Sea, and the land 
of the Hyperboreans was far north, or maybe far 
east. The early Middle Ages, influenced probably 
by the Apocryphal traditions which placed the 
Garden of Eden in Mesopotamia, and by such early 
Christian poems as that of Lactantius, who describes 
a happy eastern land where the Phoenix dwells in 
the grove of the sun, transferred their Earthly Para- 
dise to the east. 

Erik, the hero of a Scandinavian saga, in quest of 
Odainsakr, or Paradise, was told by the Emperor of 

1 Strabo, iii. 150. Cf. Plutarch, Sertorius, 8. 


Constantinople that it lay beyond India, encircled 
by a wall of fire. On a ninth century map preserved 
at Strasbourg, Paradise is marked in the extreme 
east of Asia. 1 A letter purporting to be written by 
Prester John to the Emperor Comnenus mentions 
" the river Indus which issues out of Paradise " ; and 
Gower explains how from the river Tanais — 

into the worldes ende 
Estward Asie it is algates 
Til that men come unto the gates 
Of Paradise and there ho ! 2 

The direction of the voyage does not therefore help 
to test its other-worldliness. 

There is another possibility suggested by medieval 
stories of the Earthly Paradise. Paludanus in the 
" Thesaurus Novus " 3 declares that Alexander's 
eastern campaign was undertaken in the hope of 
finding the Earthly Paradise. That this motive 
has been attributed to an historical character 
engaged on an authentic expedition suggests that 
other fabled seekers and their journeyings may have 
been originally real. This contention has been 
urged even of the voyage of Maeldune, which con- 
tains more remarkable and supernatural incidents 
than, any other of the Celtic stories. 4 It is now 

1 S. Baring Gould, " Curious Myths of the Middle Ages," p. 251. 

2 Gower, " Confessio Amantis," 568-571. Cf. J. L. Lowes in 
" Modern Philology," iii. 1 (1905). 

3 Baring Gould, loc. cit., p. 254. 

4 P. W. Joyce, " Old Celtic Romances," introd., p. xiii : " I think 
it likely that Maeldune actually did go on a voyage, which was after- 
wards made the framework of the story." 


certain that the Norse traditions of Vineland the good 
were based on real Viking voyages to America, and 
it is even possible that the Greek stories of Atlantis, 
like the Aztec legends of Ouetzalcoatl, their instruc- 
tor in agriculture and metallurgy, who came to them 
from the sea, and when his task was finished sailed 
away eastward, may point to prehistoric intercourse 
between the eastern and western worlds. 1 

The existence of all these Earthly Paradise stories 
has been comprehensively explained by a theory 
recently put forward by Mr. W. J. Perry. 2 Accord- 
ing to him, the search for the Earthly Paradise is 
bound up with the spread of the civilization which is 
responsible for the megalithic monuments found in 
many parts of both hemispheres and placed there, 
as he contends, by men who, prompted directly or 
indirectly by beliefs current in Egypt, prospected all 
the world over for precious substances, gold, peail, 
jade, lapis lazuli, etc., which were regarded by them 
as givers of eternal life. The lands where these 
things were to be obtained became by their presence 
Isles of the Blest, Happy Lands, El Dorados, to find 
which no effort could be too great. Thus the Indian 
Earthly Paradise was in the northern mountains, 
where the diamond workings were and the mines of 
lapis lazuli, the Eden of Ezekiel (xxviii. u) was the 
rich realm of the king of Tyre, the Greek land of the 
Hyperboreans was the land from which the amber 

1 Sir Daniel Wilson, " The Lost Atlantis." 

* W. J. Perry, " The Origin of Magic and Religion," ch. iv. 


came, the Lyonnesse of King Arthur was among the 
tin-mines of Cornwall. 

Material riches, gold and precious stones are often 
prominent in the descriptions of Happy Lands — 

Wealth, treasures of every hue 
Are in Ciuin. . . . 

" Thick groves there are " in the Chinese Isles of the 
Blest, " laden with pearls and gems " ; * " precious 
stones it (Dilmun) bears as fruit, the branches are 
hung with them ; lapis lazuli it bears." 2 In Uttara- 
kuru, the northern paradise of the Mahabharata and 
the Ramayana, " instead of sand, round pearls, 
costly jewels and gold from the banks of the rivers, 
which are covered with trees of precious stones, trees 
of gold shining like fire." 3 In the Greek stories of 
Elysium wealth and precious stones do not figure 
so noticeably ; the attractions are rather those of 
natural beauty, the windless calm untroubled by 
rain or snow, the unfading flowers and fruit which 
await good Orphics, the trees at which Heracles 
marvelled in the land of the Hyperboreans. 4 But 
Greek wonderlands, too, had their precious treasures, 
the golden apples of the Hesperides, the amber 
drops which Phaethon's sad sisters wept into the 
clear waters of Eridanus. 5 

If Mr. Perry's explanation is sound, if every 
Earthly Paradise is, in itself or in its ancestry, a 
mining-camp in disguise, then Colchis was an 

1 Perry, op. cit., p. 76. 2 Ibid., p. 69. 3 Ibid., p. 79. 

4 Pindar, Ol., iii. 32. 6 Eur. Hippol., 735-741. 


Elysium, just as California was and as the gold- 
workings of the Yukon may be a thousand years 
hence. 1 It has other claims to be regarded as a 
settlement of the " Children of the Sun." Herodotus 
says the Colchians were an Egyptian race, established 
there by Sesostris. 2 He based this belief on the 
facts that they were dark-skinned and woolly- 
haired, that like the Egyptians they practised cir- 
cumcision, and that they worked linen in the same 
way. Diodorus 3 repeats the story and Dionysius 
Periegetes 4 calls the Colchians emigrants from 
Egypt. This tradition has been interpreted as 
showing that " there was perhaps an ethnic relation- 
ship between Colchians and Phoenicians, Colchis in 
the time of the Argonauts being peopled by the same 
Cushite or (so-called) ^Ethiopian race which . . . 
before the arrival of the Semites held the seaboard 
of Phoenicia." 5 The Phoenicians, according to Mr. 
Perry, were one of the channels by which the 
Children of the Sun diffused their influence. 6 

But Mr. Perry's theory, though he states it authori- 
tatively and somewhat dogmatically, may not hold 
good. It is not, indeed, consistent with all the 
Earthly Paradise stories. The Chinese Isles of the 
Blest were in the eastern sea, not in the mountains 
of Central Asia, where the precious life-giving jade 
was found ; the Celtic Happy Other-worlds in the 

1 Perry, " The Children of the Sun," p. 57. 

2 Hdt., ii. 104. 3 Diod., i. 28. 
4 Dion. Perieg., 689, juer^Ai/Ses Aiyvirroio. 

6 Rawlinson on Hdt., i. 2. 

• Perry, " The Children of the Sun," pp. 501-502. 


western ocean, tne " white islands " of the Baltic 
peoples, seem rather a figment of picturesque imagina- 
tion than a source of actual wealth. Indeed, some 
of the stories discourage the idea that their origin 
was the quest of anything material, whether for its 
intrinsic or for its magical value. In the Celtic tales, 
for instance, the riches of Ciuin and Tirnanoge cannot 
be carried away, but fade or decay when brought 
into contact with the real world, a circumstance 
which has led to the opinion that theft-taboo is an 
essential feature of the Celtic other- world. 1 

Apart from its truth or falsehood, before this 
attractive and romantic theory can be used to explain 
the story of the Argonauts, there are two considera- 
tions which must be taken into account. 

(1) Such an explanation of the story rests upon 
the assumption that the Argo really went to Colchis. 
This is the final version of the voyage, but it is held 
by many authorities 2 that, if there was an Argo at 
all, she sailed no further than Lemnos, or, at best, 
the Hellespont. This question awaits investigation 
in a later chapter. A misconception due to a similar 
indiscriminate acceptance of a secondary version 
appears in Mr. Perry's own words about the Argo. 
" The story of the Argonauts has a wider bearing. 
For Heracles, one of them, was closely connected 
with the Phoenicians, with Melcarth, the god of 
Tyre. . . . That a man so closely connected with the 

1 A. Nutt, op. cit., i. pp. 171, 305. 

2 Bunbury, " Hist, of Anc. Geog.," i. p. 19 ; T. W. Allen, " The 
Homeric Catalogue," pp. 159, 166, 177. 


Phoenicians as Heracles should act as he did, is but in 
keeping with the characteristics of the rulers of the 
Phoenicians. ' ' * The words italicized contain two 
assumptions which are by no means certain. The 
earliest authority for the connection between 
Heracles and Melcarth is Herodotus ; 2 the connec- 
tion itself is probably not earlier than the seventh 
century B.C. Heracles is an independent Hellenic 
figure Pan-hellenic in his prime, pre-Dorian and 
human in his origin. Melcarth is the Tyrian 
Heracles, Heracles in no sense the Greek Melcarth. 3 
Secondly, it seems most likely that Heracles, a post- 
Minyan figure in Boeotia, has only an honorary con- 
nection with the Argo. 4 

(2) With all its likenesses to the stories of the 
quest for the Happy Other-world, the Argonautica 
is in some respects very unlike them ; and it is 
especially unlike the normal Greek variety of the 
passage to Elysium. Aia, to give it its earliest 
name and so detach it from all assumptions about 
Colchis, has many differences from the Elysium of 
Greek story. Severe efforts are needed to attain it ; 
the Greek other-worlds are not so attainable. It is 
by the favour of the gods, no merit of his own, that 
Menelaus reaches his Avalon ; " not on foot or by 
ship can man find the wondrous road to the trysting- 
place of the Hyperboreans," says Pindar. 5 Only the 

1 Perry, " Origin of Magic," pp. 90-91. (The italics are mine.) 

2 Hdt, ii. 44. 

4 See pp. 73-75. 

3 Farnell, " Greek Hero Cults," pp. 97-115, 142-144. 
6 Pyth., x. 29, 30, trans. Sandys. 


Orphic Elysium is attainable by effort and careful 
observance of directions ; and we have dismissed 
already the theory that the Argon autica is the ac- 
count of an Orphic journey to Paradise. 

Again, the Argonauts do not stay in Aia, as one 
might expect them to do if it were Elysium : they 
make all haste to get away. Argo's earliest appear- 
ance in literature shows her " sailing from Aietes," 
and from a king's court, not from a fairyland, at 
some pain and trouble to herself. Indeed, the whole 
tone of the story seems alien to the spirit of the happy 
other-world. The tasks performed by Jason bear 
no relation to the " beautiful game " which rejoices 
the host jn Mag Mon, or the sports which occupy the 
dwellers in the Elysia.n fields ; 1 Medea's function is 
not that of the Sibyl, to say " Nox ruit, Aesonida," 
and urge Jason to leave when he longs to delay. 

It might be argued that these differences lie rather 
between the Aia of the Argonautica and the Greek 
Elysium or the Celtic other-world than between Aia 
and the Paradises of the other mythologies. But it 
seems fair to test the Argonautica as a Greek story 
before seeking farther for its origins. Pushed to its 
logical conclusions, since the Children of the Sun 
diffused all culture through the world, 2 Mr. Perry's 
theory means that all stories of quests are in origin 
the offspring of their quests for the life-giver, and 
the thing sought, the golden fleece, the apple of the 
Hesperides, the elusive fairy princess herself, is 

1 Pindar, frag. 130, Bergk. ; Virgil, Mix., vi. 642-659. 

2 G. Elliot Smith, " The Ancient Egyptians," new ed., p. 7. 


always in some form the elixir of life. Of these 
quest-stories a certain class have retained their 
other-worldly character ; others have become secu- 
larized, as it were, and profess to deal with only 
ordinary occurrences— the adventures of princes and 
their gifted companions, wizards and their undutiful 
daughters, lovers with giants in pursuit, features not 
often encountered in these forms in modern civiliza- 
tion, but to savage peoples of the present as to the 
simple and superstitious races of the past " at least 
as probable and common as duels and concealments 
of wills in European society." l 

But the story of the Argonauts has more in it 
than these occurrences. It professes to be a Greek 
story and to deal with the tc\ea avhpwv, the glorious 
deeds of real, named Greeks, performed at real, 
named places. It has a right to be tested according 
to its pretensions. If it can be shown that Argo 
can never have existed, that Jason must be a mere 
abstraction, that it is utterly impossible that a 
real man of his time could do as he did, then it is 
fair to give folk-tale, if not myth, all the credit for 
the genesis of the story. But if, on the other hand, 
it can be shown that Argo's claim to reality is 
not baseless, that there could have been a Minyan 
chieftain who did what Jason is fabled to have done, 
then there is no ground for denying the Argonautica 
its title of legend. 

1 Andrew Lang, " Enc. Brit," s.v. Mythology. 


who . . . 
Fled over Adria to th' Hesperian fields 
And ore the Celtic roam'd the utmost isles. 

— Milton 

THE study of ancient mythology, as of 
ancient history, has only recently begun to 
shake off the hampering assumption that our 
later, if not our greater, knowledge gives us the right 
when reading the ancient authors to discredit not only 
the statements which are demonstrably false, but 
also those which are not demonstrably true. Many 
stories which were dismissed by scholars of the last 
century as fiction are taking rank as proved or prob- 
able fact. Homer, writing of Troy and of Agamem- 
non, seemed to the Greeks both the first historian 
and the first geographer. 1 After centuries during 
which his work receded further and further into the 
enchanted distances of romance, the Troy he wrote 
of was unearthed by Schliemann and Dorpfeld, and 
his title was re-established. Minos, to Thucydides 
a figure real but remote, to Homer a great name of 

1 Strabo, i. 2. 


a bygone generation, has been revealed in all the 
glory of his thalassocracy by the work of Sir Arthur 
Evans. It is strange that this certifying of reality 
should seem to some people a belittling of the old 
figures : a critic complained that Sir William Ridge- 
way would make of Menelaus merely " a dashing 
cavalry officer with red whiskers." It is better to 
be a fool than to be dead, and even to Menelaus it 
should seem preferable to be called a dashing cavalry 
officer with red whiskers than a verbal abstraction 
or the consort of a faded goddess. 

No one could claim for the Argonaut story that it 
is true from end to end. It has been shown that 
some details in the story belong to the realm of 
fiction, and are the common property of story- 
tellers in all ages. But the presence of some obvi- 
ously fictitious episodes does not necessarily invali- 
date the whole narrative. If a sailor says that — 

One Friday morn when we set sail 

And our ship not far from land. 
We there did espy a fair pretty maid 

With a comb and a glass in her hand, 

the last assertion may safely be ascribed to " the 
lies and marvels of sea-faring men," * but there are 
no good grounds for denying that he has ever been 
to sea, or even for doubting that he set sail on a 
Friday morn. And though it is reasonable to doubt 
that the Argonauts really dashed between Clashing 
Rocks or pursued malevolent spirits through the air, 

1 Polybius, iv. 42, 7. 


it does not therefore follow that they did not make 
the voyage at all. Some authorities suggest that the 
" lies and marvels " were deliberate, inspired by the 
double motive of self-glorification and the desire to 
exclude others from the wealth which might be the 
prize of exploration. 1 Butcher attributed this kind 
of myth-making to the Phoenicians : " With jealous 
exclusiveness they guarded the secret of their geo- 
graphical discoveries, of their trade-routes, of the 
winds and currents. By inventing fabulous horrors 
they sought to deter rivals from following in their 
track, and at times committed acts of murderous 
cruelty upon those whose indiscreet curiosity im- 
pelled them to pursue the quest." 2 Whether the 
introduction of the fictitious element was purposeful 
or fortuitous, its removal from the Argonaut saga 
leaves us with the story of a voyage. It remains 
to test the truth of this. 

Ultimately, arguments for and against the reality 
of the voyage cannot be based on any source later 
than Homer and Hesiod. The colonization of the 
Euxine in the seventh and sixth centuries operated 
both directly and indirectly on the story of the voy- 
age. Directly, the local patriotism of the colonies 
produced a mass of Argonautic tradition which 
served as a patent of antiquity to the neighbour- 
hood, just as racial pride swelled the numbers of the 
heroes taking part in the expedition. There were 
even tangible remnants of the voyage. Arrian was 

1 A. Shewan, in the " Class. Quarterly," xiii. p. 66. 

2 S. H. Butcher, " Harvard Lectures," p. 47. 


shown at Phasis the anchor of the Argo, but he 
shrewdly noted that " the iron did not seem to me 
really antique," 1 though other fragments seemed 
older. These and the relics shown at Sinope and 
other places on the south coast of the Euxine 2 
could not be proved to have existed earlier than the 
colonization of that coast. Indirectly, wider know- 
ledge led to wider interest, and was responsible for 
the early fifth century vogue for geographical digres- 
sion. This preoccupation with quite indefinite and 
often irrelevant geography is very noticeable in 
Aeschylus, 3 and it is easy to see how such passages 
as those in the Prometheus may have coloured the 
work of later writers, especially of such erudite 
compilers as Apollonius, who would work into any 
account of a voyage in the Euxine all the appropriate 
local colour they could collect from any source. 

Though post-Hesiodic localizations cannot be ac- 
cepted as original in the story, they are none the 
less interesting and instructive, particularly in their 
varying accounts of the homeward voyage. 

There are four different accounts of the route 
followed by the Argonauts on their return from 
Phasis to Iolcos. The simplest is that they returned 
the way they had come, through the Hellespont. A 
second sends them up the Phasis to the circling 

1 Arrian, Periplus Ponti. Euxini, II. 

2 Strabo, i. 45 ; xi. 531 ; xii. 546, 548. 

3 Supplices, 250 if. ; Persae, 480 ff. ; Prom. Vinct., 705 ff., 785 ff. ; 
Agam., 281 ff. ; and evidently in Heliades, fr. 73 a ; Niobe, fr. 158; 
and Prom. Solut., fr. 196, 197, 198, 199, 199 a (Oxford Text). 


stream of Ocean, whence they reached the Mediter- 
ranean again by way of the Nile. A third version 
is more complicated. According to Apollonius, 1 the 
Argonauts, changing their course to escape the pur- 
suit of the Colchians, sailed up the Ister (" And in 
the meadows the country shepherds left their count- 
less flocks for dread of the ships, for they deemed 
them beasts coming forth from the monster-breeding 
sea. For never yet had they seen seafaring ships ") 
and out to the Adriatic, where they touched at the 
island Electra " near the river Eridanus." They 
then tried to sail southward through the Adriatic, 
but were driven back and had to row up the Eridanus. 
" Thence they entered the deep stream of Rhodanus 
which flows into Eridanus ; and where they meet 
there is a roar of mingling waters. Now that river, 
rising from the ends of the earth, where are the por- 
tals and mansions of night, on one side bursts forth 
upon the beach of Ocean, and at another pours into 
the Ionian Sea, and on the third through seven 
mouths sends its streams to the Sardinian Sea and 
its limitless bay." Then, after an adventure among 
" stormy lakes which spread throughout the Celtic 
mainland," they sailed down the Rhodanus, " passing 
unharmed through countless tribes of Celts and 
Ligyans " to the Stoechades islands and Aethalia, 
" and there is the Argoan harbour called after them." 
Thence they coasted down the Tyrrhenian shores of 
Ausonia and came to ^Eaea, where Circe purified 
them, and then, having safely passed the straits of 

1 Ap. Rh., iv. 302-end. Translations by R. C. Seaton. 


Messina, with the Planctae and Scylla and Charybdis, 
and visited Phaeacia (Corcyra), where Medea and 
Jason were married, they were driven to the Syrtes 
and had their adventure in the Tritonian lake. 

The fourth account takes them northward through 
Russia by the Tanais or Borysthenes to the Baltic 
or still further, and round the outer edge of Europe 
to the Pillars of Heracles. 

It is worth while to examine the literary evidence 
for these four routes. The oldest connected narra- 
tive of the voyage now extant is that embodied by 
Pindar in the fourth Pythian ode, written in 466 B.C. 1 
Apart from the inconsistent detail that he puts their 
adventure at Lemnos on the way back, Pindar's 
testimony supports the route eastward and south- 
ward, " they came to the open tracts of Ocean and 
the Red Sea "(i.e. the Indian Ocean), and later to 
Lake Tritonis, having " carried their sea-barque 
twelve days over the desert plains of Libya." 

The next existing narrative is the Argonautica of 
Apollonius Rhodius, who describes at great length 
the Ister-Eridanus-Rhodanus route. He was imi- 
tated in this by Apollodorus and Hyginus, and the 
unfinished account of Valerius Flaccus evidently 
follows his. 

Diodorus in his main narrative adopts the direct 
route through the Hellespont, adding as corroborative 
detail the fact that the Argonauts founded altars to 
the gods on the mainland, " the ruler of the country 
at that time being Byzas, after whom the city of 

1 V. supra, pp. 27 ff. 



Byzantium was named." 1 But elsewhere 2 he cites 
two variant routes. The first is that by the Tanais 
and round by the outer Ocean. He seems to think 
this account worthy of credit, though strange, 3 and 
he produces evidence to support it — the facts that 
the Kelts worship the Dioscuri and that the land 
bordering on the Ocean has a number of place-names 
derived from them and the other Argonauts. His 
other variant, the Ister passage, he dismisses. Time 
refuted it, he says, when the Romans discovered that 
the sources of the Ister were forty stades from the 
sea. He here shows a different standard of credi- 
bility for things near and things far away, for though 
not two pages back he had described the Argonauts 
in the heart of Russia, " at one place dragging their 
ship along," the twenty-five miles of known country 
appear an insuperable barrier. 

In the Orphic Argonaut ica the Argonauts sailed 
up the Phasis to the junction of that river and a 
river called Sarange, which flowed from Lake Maeotis. 
Thence they went northward to the Ocean. After 
passing all the legendary peoples of the north, 
Scythians, Hyperboreans, Nomads, and Caspians 
(in that order) they came on the tenth day to the 
Rhipaean mountains — 

And Argo straight 
Went leaping through the narrow firth and plunged 
In Ocean. They who dwell beyond the North 
Call it the " Cronian water " and " Dead Sea." 4 

1 Diod., iv. 49. * Ibid., 56. 

3 irpafyv . . . rrapdSo^ou k<x\ fxvfjfjLTjs ct£ia»>. 
*Orph. Arg., 1079-1082. 


This Cronian Sea seems to correspond with the Gulf 
of Riga or the Gulf of Finland, dead inasmuch as 
ice closes it during a part of the year. Or it may 
be the White Sea. It is described also in the 
Periegesis of Dionysius. 1 Eustathius in his com- 
mentary on this says it was called dead because the 
sun could not pierce the overhanging mists, and 
Cronian because it is said those parts are under the 
domination of the planet Cronos, i.e. Saturn. 

There they gave up hope, but Ancaeus, who had 
succeeded Tiphys as helmsman, steered to the right 
of the shore, and after towing the ship when they 
were unable to row further, they came on the sixth 
day to the rich race of the Macrobioi and then to the 
Cimmerians and Acheron. There the west wind 
rose, and the talking bough, proclaiming that it was 
the blood of Apsyrtus that caused their wanderings, 
bade them go to the Iernian island and the Atlantic 
Ocean. This they did, and passed the island of 
Ierne (Ireland ?), on which the sharp-eyed Lynceus 
descried a temple of Demeter. On the third day 
from there they came to iEaea, and thence to Tar- 
tessus and the Pillars of Heracles. 

All these full and connected accounts of the voyage 
are late, except the fifth century version of Pindar. 
The sources of their traditions must be sought much 

The scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius has at 
iv. 259 a valuable note : " Herodorus in his Argo- 
nauts says they went home through the same sea 

1 Dion. Perieg., 30-35 ; Geog. Graec. Min., ii. 


by which they had sailed to Colchis. Hecataeus of 
Miletus says they went through from Phasis to the 
Ocean and from there to the Nile, whence they 
reached our sea. But Artemidorus of Ephesus says 
this is untrue, for Phasis does not join the Ocean, 
but flows down from the mountains : Eratosthenes 
in book iii. of the Geographies says the same. Tima- 
getus, in the first book On Harbours says that the 
Ister rises in the Celtic mountains and flows into 
the Celtic lake : after that the water is cleft into two 
streams, of which one flows into the Euxine, the 
other into the Celtic Sea. The Argonauts sailed 
through this mouth and came to Tyrrhenia. Apol- 
lonius follows him. But Hesiod and Pindar in the 
Pythians and Antimachus in the Lyde, say they 
went through the Ocean to Libya, and, carrying the 
Argo, reached our sea." At line 284 there is a further 
note about the Ister explaining that no one says the 
Argonauts sailed up the Ister except Timagetus. 
The scholiast adds that Scymnus of Chios (first cen- 
tury B.C.) said they went up the Tanais " to the great 
sea . . . and he cites an account that they brought 
the Argo over on rolleis. Hesiod says they went up 
the Phasis, but Hecataeus disproves this, and does 
not mention the Tanais either, but says that they 
returned the same way as they went. So do 
Sophocles in the Scythae and Callimachus." 

These two notes are in one point contradictory. 
In the first, Hecataeus is credited with a statement 
that the Argonauts sailed up the Phasis to the 
Ocean ; in the second, he is said to disprove this very 


tradition and to send them home by the direct route. 
Miiller, in his edition of the " Fragmenta Histori- 
corum Graecorum," therefore suggests that at 284 
the scholiast really cited Herodorus, who was quoted 
to the same effect at 259. Herodorus was a contem- 
porary of Hecataeus, so that in either event the ver- 
sion belongs to the sixth century. The date of 
Timagetus is unknown, but it seems likely that he 
was one of the many Alexandrine geographers. The 
passage by the Ister is described also in the pseudo- 
Aristotelian " Book of Wonderful Stories." 

Further information is to be had from Diodorus, 
who names his sources. He says in hi. 66, 5-6, that 
he takes his account of the Argonauts from Dionysius. 
This is Dionysius Skytobrachion or Dionysius of 
Mytilene, if, indeed, the two are not the same person. 
This dates the information in the first or second 
century B.C. At iv. 56, 3, Diodorus further names 
Timaeus (fl. 306 B.C.) as his authority for the Tanais 
route. This source is two centuries earlier than 
Scymnus of Chios, cited by the Apollonian commen- 
tator. Earlier than this there is no trace in literature 
of the Tanais route, unless we may infer it from the 
fragments of Sophocles' " Scythae," which seem to 
locate the action in Scythia ; but the scholiast, who 
had presumably read the play, names Sophocles as a 
supporter of the direct route. 

It is now possible to trace each route to its earliest 
appearance in literature. The first or direct route 
belongs, by virtue of its alternative attribution to 
Hecataeus or Herodorus, to the sixth century. For 


the route by Phasis, the Ocean and Libya, the earliest 
authority is Hesiod. He is the first existing writer 
to mention Phasis, 1 and his geography probably 
represents the results of Milesian enterprise in the 
Euxine. For the Argonautic passage up the Ister 
the only named authority is Timagetus. A detail of 
Apollonius' account, the adventure in L. Tritonis, 
is older, appearing in Pindar and probably belonging 
originally to the Ocean-Libya route. Diodorus notes 
that the Argonauts dedicated in Libya a bronze 
tripod with an archaic inscription, but a different 
account of the dedication is given by Herodotus. 2 
This version is attributed to a Delphic source, and 
inasmuch as it contains an unfulfilled prophecy 
pointing to colonization, it may date back as far as 
the sixth century. For the northern route Timaeus 
(cir c. Xoo B.C.) is the first authority. 

So far the routes have been considered only in 
their literary connection. To some their variations 
and impossibilities are a proof of " the unreal and 
poetic character of the whole narrative." 3 This 
conclusion might follow if the routes were themselves 
unreal. If, on the other hand, the accounts of the 
voyages are credible in themselves, they surely can- 
not detract from the credibility of the story as a 

In themselves the routes are not incredible. The 
direct route is the most likely, and ought on the face 
of it to be the original ending of the story. But the 

1 Theog., 340. 2 Hdt., iv. 179 ; v. supra, p. 30, 

8 H. Rawlinson on Hdt., loc. cit 


Phasis-Ocean-Libya route is in literary tradition 
older. This has the strongest poetic colouring, and 
was refuted most eagerly by the ancients. " For the 
Phasis does not join the Ocean but flows down from 
the mountains," as Eratosthenes and Artemidorus 
pointed out. But this is a weak reason for dismiss- 
ing the whole route — it demolishes only that figment 
of imagination, the circling stream of Ocean, and 
leaves untouched the undoubtedly real Phasis and 
Nile. The Nile was certainly navigated by Greeks 
before the time of Hesiod ; and Phasis, though it 
flowed down from the mountains, led to what in the 
eyes of later Greeks than Hesiod seemed no less than 
an ocean — the Caspian Sea. In the time of Strabo 
it was one way to the interior of Asia : the possi- 
bility that the Argonaut story may reflect pre- 
Homeric trade with Central Asia will be discussed in 
a later chapter. 

The other two routes are not, indeed, plausible 
for a vessel of fifty oars. But they bear a curiously 
exact correspondence with the actual routes in use 
in the amber trade. Amber, which is mentioned in 
Homer, 1 was found by Schliemann at Mycenae 2 in 
great quantities, chiefly in the form of beads, dark 
with age, such as no doubt decked the necklaces of 
which Homer speaks, " Gold, studded all with amber, 
like the sun." Analysis established the fact that 
this Mycenaean amber came from the Baltic. 

1 Od., iv. 73 ; xv. 460 ; xviii. 296. 

2 Schliemann, " Mycenae," pp. 203, 245. 


There are four natural trade routes from the 
Baltic to the Mediterranean or the Euxine Sea : — x 

(1) By the valley of the Elbe and its tributary the 
Moldau to the Danube, and thence to the Euxine. 
This was the most important route, " the grand 
trunk route between Central Europe and Asia," 2 
and branched southward when it left the Moldau 
to the head of the Adriatic. Theophrastus describes 
amber as coming through Liguria, 3 and the use of 
this route for amber in early times is attested by 
beads found in Switzerland, Bavaria, North Italy, 
and the graves of the Hallstatt period in Bosnia. 4 
It seems to have been by this route that the offerings 
of the Hyperboreans came to Delos, according to 
information given to Herodotus. 5 

(2) By the Vistula and the Dniester. Sites in the 
valleys of these rivers have yielded amber beads 
belonging to the neolithic age. That the route was 
used by Greek traders of the fifth century is made 
probable by the discovery at Schubin, near Brom- 
berg, of thirty-nine small silver coins of Greek 
manufacture, bearing on the obverse a four-spoked 
wheel, and on the reverse an incuse square. One 
has a gorgoneion on the obverse. These are pre- 
sumably coins of Olbia, the Greek trading port at the 
mouth of the Dniester. There were also three coins 
clearly from Athens, Aegina, and Cyzicus, dating 

1 Dechelette, " Manuel d'Archeologie," i. p. 626. See Map I. : 
" The Amber Routes." 

2 Ridgeway, " Early Age," i. p. 182. 

3 Theophr., irepl AiOuv, 16-19. 

4 Ridgeway, " Early Age," i. pp. 364, 365. 5 Hdt., iv. 33; 


from the middle of the fifth century. A Rhodian 
coin was found in Samland, with Macedonian gold 
coins and one from Thasos. 1 These coins and other 
objects of Greek origin suggest that there was a 
trade-route from Olbia to Lemberg, and thence by 
the San, Wistoka, and Weichsel to Kalisch, then on 
to Schubin and the Baltic. Sir William Ridge way 
does not believe this route was used before the fourth 
century. But even supposing that the coins at 
Schubin might have come from the Adriatic, its use 
seems proved by the presence of the amber and by 
what Herodotus says about Gerrhus on the Borys- 
thenes and his knowledge of the course of the Tyras 
and Hypanis. 2 Pausanias, moreover, gives a differ- 
ent route for the offerings of the Hyperboreans, 
saying they came from Sinope to Prasiae in Attica 
and thence reached Delos. 3 

The Tanais was too far east to be used for amber. 
The products of the regions round it would be 
" nomadic products " — hides, slaves, fish. There 
was an emporium named Tanais on the river, 4 on 
whose probable site have been found many Greek 
relics of the third century B.C., and some much 
older. 5 Travellers following the river could reach 
the Gulf of Finland by way of the upper waters of 
the Volga, and the furthest north of Russia by way 
of the Dvina. The transporting of the ship from 

1 Speck, " Handelgesch. des Altertums.," ii. p. 455 ; von Sadow- 
ski, " Handelstrassen der Griechen und Romer," p. 71 fif. ; cf. Minns, 
" Scythians and Greeks," p. 440 ; Berard, " P. et. O.," i. p. 452. 

2 Hdt., iv. 52, 53. 3 Paus., i. 31, 2. 

4 Strabo, xi. 493. 6 Minns, op. cit., pp. 563-569. 


river to river has confirmation in the actual practices 
of the Vikings and Goths. 

(3) Along the coast of the Netherlands, up the 
Rhine and down the Rhone to the Mediterranean. 
Small finds of amber have come to light in neolithic 
tombs in the valley of Petit Morin in the Marne dis- 
trict, and in dolmens of the early bronze age in Gard 
and Aveyron. 1 Two bronze double axes of Aegean 
form found in Auvergne trace an old trade connection 
between the Rhone valley and the Eastern Mediter- 
ranean. 2 

(4) A sea-route by Gades and the Straits of 
Gibraltar. This was a great neolithic highway, 
but was little used for amber, and finds are scarce 
and sporadic. This is natural, as amber, unlike 
more bulky wares, could be carried as easily by land 
as by sea. 

Is it a mere coincidence that the Argonauts, in 
one account or another, are credited with travelling 
by all these routes, or routes so like them as to 
be probably garbled versions of these same trade 
highways ? It seems hardly possible to entertain 
the idea of such a fourfold coincidence. There are 
two alternative explanations. First, that Apollo- 
nius, or his authority Timagetus, and the writers of 
the other accounts so manipulated their stories as 
to associate them with trade-routes. It is difficult 
to believe that they could have done this deliberately 

1 D^chelette, op. cit., p. 625. 

2 Arthur Evans in "Times," Sept. 18th, 1896: "The Eastern 
Question in Anthropology." 


without betraying any other signs of an interest in 
trade. If Apollonius, in particular, had known that 
he was describing an amber route, he could never 
have resisted the temptation to air his knowledge 
of the trade. Diodorus is the only writer who hints 
at a connection between trade and the Argonauts, 
and he does not in fact commit himself to either of 
the routes. Again, even by the time of Pliny the 
source of the amber supply was so imperfectly 
known as to be inextricably involved in myth : he 
gives many equally vague and incredible accounts 
of its provenance, and even when finally he tells us 
what " certum est " he deals only in tracts of country 
such as Pannonia and in intermediate peoples such 
as the Germani and the Veneti. 1 Earlier, Herodotus 
had evidently heard rumours of the Adriatic route, 
but dismisses the idea. " I do not allow that there 
is any river, to which the barbarians give the name 
of Eridanus, emptying itself into the northern sea, 
whence (as the tale goes) amber is produced. . . . 
For, in the first place, the name Eridanus is mani- 
festly not a barbarian word at all, but a Greek name 
invented by some poet or other ; and, secondly, 
though I have taken vast pains, I have never been 
able to get an assurance from any eye-witness that 
there is any sea on the further side of Europe." 2 
Time, as Diodorus puts it, has confuted Herodotus. 
The other alternative is to conclude that the stories 
have a basis of truth, that behind them lie the facts 
of many such voyages, facts told, half-suppressed or 

1 Pliny, " Nat. Hist.," xxxvii. 31-46. * Hdt., iii. 115. 


AtaW Koubzs - 

&oub&o/]fadonavks — ► 

N.B. The, /Wonaiifcic rtouizs ui 
luxssia are cpifce coruectoral . 


ornamented with mystery and the supernatural, by 
the pioneers who found out the ways, the latest and 
most marvellous version being successively linked 
with the name of the ship whose exploits earliest 
or most securely caught the popular fancy, "Argo 
known to all men." " Starting from some hint in 
actual fact, a name, a story has its Wanderjahre in 
the realms of myth, fabulous lands of Arthur, or 
Ogier, or Prester John, and then comes back to 
re-attach itself somehow to fact again." 1 The 
development of the tradition may very well have 
been of this kind. In the earliest version the story 
was simply that of a voyage in the Euxine Sea. For 
the Greeks of its day this was an exploit remarkable 
enough. With greater knowledge of the Euxine, 
the impression made by the exploit diminished, and 
Argo's voyage was pushed into regions known 
only vaguely and inaccurately — Phasis, the Nile, 
and Ocean. More exact acquaintance revealed the 
inaccuracies, and threw such people as Hecataeus 
back upon the earlier version. By the time of 
Timaeus, and later of Apollonius, the story had been 
extended over new routes, " strange and memorable." 
It is no wonder that Charax came to the conclusion 
quoted by Eustathius, 2 that " the Argonauts sailed 
not with one ship, as most of the stories say, but 
with a considerable fleet." In a sense, other than 
he intended, his words sum up the truth. Argo was 
many ships. The Argonauts were many different 

1 J. L. Lowes in " Mod. Philology," iii. p. 17. 
a Eust. ad Dion. Perieg., 687. 


bands of pioneers by sea and land. They had sailed 
the Euxine a generation before the fall of Troy : 
before the time of Hesiod they had traded at the 
mouth of the Phasis and heard of the Caspian Sea : 
by the fourth century B.C. they had followed the 
route up the Ister, had crossed the Russian steppes 
and travelled " from the north star to the sunset " : 
by the time of the Orphic Argonautica they had seen 
Ireland far off. The north-west passage and the 
discovery of the new world awaited them, but by the 
time these feats were performed, Argo had rotted 
and been broken up for souvenirs, and her sailors 
plied their oars no longer. 

In the end the truth of the story cannot be proved 
by appeal to these later elaborated accounts. But it 
is not valueless to establish the point that they are 
based upon real, non-literary tradition descending 
from an antiquity as remote as the earliest versions 
of the story. 


Medea gathered the enchanted herbs 
Which did renew old Aeson. 

— Shakespeare 

PINDAR is the first who explicitly names 
Phasis as the goal of the Argo's voyage. 
Before him the connection between Phasis 
and the quest is only inferential. Homer describes 
the Argo merely as " sailing from Aietes," whom 
he names elsewhere as the brother of Circe. Hesiod, 
in the "Theogony," also uses the expression " from 
Aietes," but he is quoted by the scholiast on Apollo- 
nius Rhodius as saying that " the Argonauts had 
sailed in through the Phasis," and the hypothesis 
that he located their adventures in the Euxine is 
borne out by his statement in " the so-called Journey 
round the Earth " that Phineus was brought by the 
Harpies — 

to the land 
of men that feed on milk and dwell in wains, 1 

a clear allusion to the nomad Scythians who drank 
fermented mare's milk and lived in caravans. 

1 Ephorus in Strabo, vii. 302. 


Mimnermus calls the resting-place of the fleece Aia, 
and says it was beside the stream of Ocean, in the 
realm of Aietes. Simonides points to Colchis by 
calling Medea Jason's " Colchian bride." * 

The one fact that emerges from all these scraps of 
information is that the fleece is inseparable from 
Aietes, and the goal of the Argo thus depends on 
the establishment of his identity and habitation. 

Aietes himself is a figure of myth but not of cult. 
Hesiod describes him as the son of Helios and 
the Ocean-nymph Perseis, the father of Medea by 
another nymph, Idyia. 2 Neither in his genealogy 
nor in the account of Jason's adventure does Hesiod 
name any specific home of Aietes. Epimenides of 
Cnossus, in a lost poem on the Argonauts, said that 
Aietes was Corinthian by race, and that his mother 
was Ephyra. 3 A fuller account of him is given by 
Eumelus, a Corinthian epic poet of the early eighth 
century 4 — 

Two sons had Helios of Antiope, 

Aietes and Aloeus. So for them 

Hyperion's child parted his land in twain. 

God-like Aloeus for his portion took 

All that Asopus bounded ; but the realm 

Of fair-built Ephyra to Aietes fell. 

Then he full fain gave it to Bunus' care 

Till he should come again, or one from him, 

Child or child's husband. But he went to Colchis. 

1 Fragt. 48. 2 Theog., 956-962. 

3 Schol. Ap. Rh., hi. 242 ; cf. Kinkel, " Epicorum Graecorum 
Fragmenta," i. p. 233. 

* Quoted by Schol. Pind. Ol., xiii. 74. 


Pausanias also cites this account by Eumelus, and 
continues the story. 1 " But when Bunus died, 
Epopeus, son of Aloeus, thus got possession of the 
kingdom of Ephyraea also. Afterwards, when 
Corinthus, son of Marathon, left no child, the 
Corinthians sent for Medea from Iolcos and com- 
mitted the government to her. Thus through her 
means Jason reigned in Corinth." 

Aietes is thus represented as originally Corinthian, 
and as migrating to Colchis. His daughter and his 
son-in-law in time recover the sovereignty of Corinth. 

Medea, who, at least from the fifth century on- 
wards, overshadows her father in the stories, has 
also a place in cult. In the festival of Hera Acraia 
at Corinth, yearly sacrifices were made at the tomb 
of Medea's children, and seven boys and seven girls 
belonging to the noblest families were enslaved for 
a year in the temple. This rite was intended as an 
expiation of the death of Medea's children, who, 
according to the oldest accounts, were killed by the 
Corinthians in revenge for the death of Glauce. 
" And because their death had been violent and un- 
just, they caused the infant children of the Corin- 
thians to pine away, till, at the bidding of the oracle, 
yearly sacrifices were instituted in their honour, and 
an image of Terror was set up. That image remains 
to this day. . . . But since the destruction of 
Corinth by the Romans and the extinction of its old 
inhabitants, the sacrifices in question have been 
discontinued . . . and the children no longer poll 

1 Paus., ii. 3, 8 ; trans. Frazer. 


their hair and wear black garments in honour of the 
children of Medea. " 1 

Medea herself was worshipped at Corinth, 2 and 
was credited with establishing there the worship of 
the Cyprian Aphrodite. 3 This fact, and certain 
foreign traits in the worship of Hera Acraia — the 
shaving of the children's heads and the wearing of 
dark robes, are non-Greek rites, and are paralleled 
in the worship of Adonis 4 — suggest that Medea was 
originally a foreign goddess who had been introduced 
into Corinth and had obtained a footing in the temple 
and rites of the indigenous Hera. Farnell suggests 
that she was brought by the Minyans from Lemnos, 
whose connection with the cult of Medea at Corinth 
may be inferred from the legend that she stayed a 
famine there by sacrificing to the Lemnian nymphs. 5 

It has been argued that the population of Corinth 
consisted of three distinct strains, Ionian, of the 
original settlers, who worshipped Poseidon, and to 
whom the figures of Theseus and Marathon belong ; 
Aeolian, aristocratic immigrants from north Greece, 
to whom belong Sisyphus and his descendants, Jason 

1 Paus., ii. 3, 6 ; trans. Frazer. 

2 Athenagoras, Legat. pro Christ., 14 ; cf. Farnell, " Cults," i. 203. 

3 Theopompus, Fragt. 170 ; Plutarch, de Hdti Malig., 39, 14. 

4 Farnell, " Cults," i., p. 203. The relic of child-sacrifice may be a 
sign either of foreign origin or of primitiveness. "It is a curious 
fact that the legend of Medea is haunted by stories of people being 
boiled alive in cauldrons : some such practice seems to have occurred 
at Carthage in the rites of Baal and Moloch." Cf. also Pelops and 
the cauldron : he is traditionally Asiatic. 

6 Schol. Pind. Ol., xiii. 74. 



(British Museum) 


and Neleus ; and Phoenician, worshipping Aphrodite- 
Astarte, Melicertes, and Medea. 1 If this were so, 
Medea would appear to be a later arrival than Jason, 
whereas the inference from Pausanias, Eumelus, and 
Simonides' " consort of a Colchian bride " is that 
she had the securer footing in Corinth. 

An image of Terror, black-robed children mourning 
to avert wasting sickness and death, all the sugges- 
tion of evil, of the rites of Baal and Moloch, that 
lies in the word Phoenician, readily attune themselves 
to the Medea of Euripides. And the note struck by 
him was echoed by the Romans, has indeed been 
dominant from the fifth century B.C. till to-day. 
Apollonius' Medea shows a promise of the passion 
which burned with such a deadly flame in Euripides' 
Medea, from whom she was no doubt drawn. But 
it is possible to doubt whether the Medea of an 
earlier age was quite the same. Her antecedents are 
worth consideration. 

She is not mentioned in Homer. But a fragment 
of the Nostoi records that — 

She made good Aeson lusty as a youth, 
Wiping old age away by wise device, 
With simples seething in a pot of gold. 2 

This is the oldest extant reference to her. In 
Hesiod's Theogony her parentage is given ; 3 noth- 
ing is told of her activities, but the epithets applied 

1 E. Wilisch, " Die Sagen von Korinth nach ihrer geschichtlichen 
Bedeutung" in " N. Jahrb. f. Philologie," 1878, pp. 721-746. 

2 Argument to Eur. Medea ; cf. Schol. Arist. Eq., 1321. 

3 Theog., 956-961. 



to her are interesting. At line 960 she is " neat- 
ankled," a colourless term of praise ; at 998 she is 
" the maiden of the gleaming eyes " ; and in the 
next line she is Jason's " tender wife." If Hesiod 
had the same view of her as Euripides, he carried 
the practice of euphemism too far. Eumelus also 
leaves her colourless, so far as he is represented by 
the paraphrase of Pausanias. Simonides seems to 
have the story of Glauce's death, but to set against 
this the Argument to Euripides' Medea represents 
him as saying that she rejuvenated Jason, a story 
repeated by Pherecydes, while Aeschylus is cited as 
showing her renewing the youth of the Hyades, the 
" Nurses of Dionysus," who give their name to the 
satyr-play. Apart from the fourth Pythian, Pindar 
has an allusion to Medea in the thirteenth Olympian, 
where he says that she " resolved on her own mar- 
riage against her father's will, and thus saved the 
ship Argo and her seamen." l Pindar, we know, 
had a method of his own in dealing with unpleasant 
details, but he usually draws the attention of his 
audience to his own alterations. And in this ode 
he is using Medea to glorify Corinth, which no one 
in agreement with Euripides could ever do. In 
Pherecydes appears for the first time Medea's most 
unnatural crime after the murder of her children, 
that of her brother Apsyrtus. Sophocles makes this 
the subject of a play, the Scythae ; in the Colchides 
and the Rhizotomi he shows Medea as the sorceress, 

1 Pind., 01., xiii. 53, 54. 


wise in the lore of simples. Then at last Euripides, 
in Venall's phrase, " makes her a murderess," the 
murderess of her own children. 

When the literary tradition is reviewed dispas- 
sionately, it is remarkable how often Medea appears 
not as a murderess, but as a saviour. In the Nostoi, 
Simonides, Aeschylus, Pherecydes, Sophocles, she 
uses her wizardry to " wipe away old age." Pindar 
excuses her defiance of her father by its result, 
the safety of the ship Argo and her seamen. 1 She 
is in all these places what she is etymologically by 
virtue of her name — -the Saviour or the Healer. 2 

This significant connection with healing is found 
also in two other heroines, Agamede and Perimede. 
The former was the daughter of Augeas or Augeias. 
He, according to one account, was the son of Eleios, 
but Pausanias notes another version of his parentage. 
" Those who magnify his history give the name 
Eleios a twist, and affirm that Augeas was a son 
of Helios." 3 The Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius 
says that he was " said to be the son of Helios, but 
was really the son of Phorbas," and adds a story 
that rays of light seemed to shine from his head. 4 
These might have been imagined from his name, 
" the shining one." But if he was indeed a son of 

1 In Diod., iv. 48, she heals their wounds fiifais nal froravais. 

2 sJfiyS- as in /irj5ao,uat. 

3 Paus., v. 1,7; trans. Frazer. 

4 Schol. Ap. Rh., i. 172. Pauly-Wissowa, s.v., says there is no 
doubt that Augeas is a Hypostasis of Aietes ; cf. Apollod., ii. 5, 5, 
" he had many herds of cattle " — so had the Sun ; and cf. the brazen 


Helios Agamede bore to the Sun the same relationship 
as Medea. In any case, the earliest allusion to her 
in literature x records that she " knew the healing 
powers of all the plants that grew upon the earth." 
The name of Perimede occurs in the same connec- 
tion in a couplet of Propertius — 

non hie herba valet, non hie noctutna Cytaeis 
non Perimedeae gramina cocta manus, 8 

where he is copying two lines of Theocritus' " Phar- 
maceutria " — 

Not Circe's self-brewed potions worse than these, 
Nor fair-haired Perirnede nor Medea. 3 

The Scholiast on Theocritus says that this Perimede 
is the Agamede of the Iliad. 

Perimede, Agamede, and Medea have in common 
an etymological root and a healing skill with herbs 
and simples. It is surely not fanciful to see in these 
common attributes their essential quality. " It was 
as a magician," says Seeliger, 4 " that Medea lived in 
the imagination of the ancient world ; the magic 
casket and the magic wand are her natural attributes 
in her artistic representations." Medea here is the 
counterpart of her kinswoman Circe : both use the 
properties of plants to magical ends, Medea to re- 
juvenate and save, Circe to degrade and destroy. 
In childish language, Circe is the bad, Medea the 
good fairy. 

1 Horn., Iliad, xi. 739. * Prop., ii. 4, 8. 

3 Theoc., ii. 15, 16. 4 Roscher, Lexikon, s.v. Medea- 


The essential wizardry of Medea has some bearing 
on her original home. The ancient centre of witch- 
craft and magic was traditionally Thessaly ; and 
with Thessaly the earliest references connect Medea. 
Hesiod says that Jason having accomplished his 
tasks, came to Iolcos and married Medea ; that, so 
far as his account goes, is the end of the story. 
Eumelus makes the Corinthians summon Medea 
from Iolcos, with the implication that had they not 
so summoned her she would have remained there. 
True, both these accounts represent her as coming 
to Iolcos from another place, but at least they sug- 
gest that Iolcos rather than Corinth was her natural 

On the religious ground, too, Corinth is not un- 
challenged. Eumelus said that Aietes' ancestral 
inheritance was Ephyra. 1 This is identified with the 
citadel of Corinth. But the ancients knew five 
places named Ephyra — the Corinthian, Ephyra in 
Elis, a Thesprotian Ephyra, an Ephyra in Thessaly, 
near Crannon, and one in Sicyon. And all these are 
connected with Medea or some being very like her. 
The Elean Ephyra was the home of Agamede, and 
a noted source of " soul-destroying drugs." 2 Medea 
herself was supposed to have come to Athens from 
there. 3 According to the Homeric Scholia, 4 it was 
in the Thesprotian Ephyra that Jason and Medea 

1 Epimenides said his mother was Ephyra : probably the two ver- 
sions mean the same thing. 

2 Horn., Od., ii. 328. 3 Schol. Horn., Iliad, xi. 741. 
* Od., i. 259. 


begat Pheres, whose son Mermeros and grandson Ilos 
were the oldest Thesprotian kings. Jason was said 
to have buried Medea at Buthroton in Thesprotis. 1 
At Titane, in Sicyon, on the site of the ancient 
Ephyra, there was a sanctuary on a hill and an altar 
of the winds " on which the priest sacrifices to the 
winds one night in every year. He also performs 
other secret rites at four pits, soothing the fury of 
the blasts ; and he chants, they say, Medea's spells." 2 

Medea, then, either as sorceress or as ordinary 
heroine, seems specially connected with places bear- 
ing the name of Ephyra. Her connection with 
Corinth is strengthened by her footing in the en- 
tourage of Hera Acraia, but it seems clear that she 
is not an indigenous element there. So Corinth has 
no more claim to be her original home than any other 
Ephyra, and the literary evidence, for what it is 
worth, goes to prove that she came to Corinth from 
Thessaly. If, however, this literary evidence is 
admitted as good evidence, it also proves that she 
came to Thessaly from another place — " from the 
home of Aietes," according to Hesiod, from Colchis 
according to Eumelus, because Aietes was there. 

So it all comes back in the end to Aietes. It has 
been seen that, apart from his appearances in the 
Argonaut story, the evidence bearing on Aietes is 
scanty ; but it provides much material for confusion. 
At the farthest limit of the Euxine sea a dynasty 
traced its descent from him : 3 this gives him the 

1 Cn. Gell., Frag. 9. 2 Paus., ii. 12, 1 ; trans. Frazer. 

• Xenophon, Anab., 5, 6, 37. 


same claim to reality as Jason or any other remote 
ancestor of a royal house. He may be, as Miiller 
maintained, a genuinely Corinthian figure. If so, it 
almost seems as though he had a double existence. 
In Corinthian story he is the son of Helios and 
Antiope (or Ephyra) ; in the Theogony of Hesiod, 
of Helios and the Ocean nymph Perseis. In the 
former account he has a brother, Aloeus, in the latter 
only a sister, Circe. In Eumelus he seems more 
mortal than divine, in Hesiod more divine than 
mortal, with his Oceanid wife Idyia, " the wise one," 
who bore him Medea. It would seem that the Hesi- 
odic genealogy is the same as the Homeric, where 
Circe is " own sister to baleful Aietes," and that the 
Aietes of Hesiod, Homer, and the Argonaut story is 
the older, as he is the more remote-"and mysterious 
figure. His earliest epithet, the " baleful " x applied 
to him by Homer, has been interpreted as meaning 
that he was a sorcerer. 

In short, Aietes certainly, and possibly Medea, 
belong to a stage in the growth of the story before 
anything definite can be affirmed about its localiza- 
tion. The baleful Aietes of Homer is, I believe, 
nothing more definite historically or mythologically 
than the typical bad king, wizard, ogre, what you 
will, of the " far-travelled " folk-tale. Medea is the 
" helpful " daughter by whose devices the young 
hero accomplishes his task. This helpfulness is the 
origin, too, of her career of crime, the first step being 
her disloyalty to her father. Her treatment of 

1 6\o6<f>puv. Od., x. 137. 


Apsyrtus is very likely a magical rite, the throwing 
behind of something which will stop the pursuit, as 
in the story it does stop Aietes. 

But there remains that Medea who came from 
abroad into the hierarchy of Corinth and the temple 
of Hera Acraia, who seems to have connections with 
Phoenician ritual. It is possible that she really came 
from Colchis or its neighbourhood. A coin of Min- 
grelia, dated about 400 B.C. or later, shows on the 
obverse an archaistic female head, apparently of a 
goddess, and on the reverse a bull's head. 1 This 
may recall Medea and the fire-breathing bulls she 
helped to tame. She may have been Phoenician. 
It has been noted that there are other signs of a con- 
nection between Phoenicia and Colchis. Herodotus 
believed the Colchians to be an Egyptian race, basing 
his belief on their dark skins and woolly hair, their 
practice of circumcision, and their method of working 
linen. 2 Rawlinson interpreted this as showing 
rather a relationship between Colchians and Phoe- 
nicians. 3 

If, then, there was by the eighth century a 
Phoenico-Colchian Medea in Corinth, one of two 
things may have happened. The Argonauts on 
their reaching Colchis — with which, as we have 
seen, they were credited by the eighth century — 
may have found there and brought thence Medea, 
goddess, wise woman, or good fairy, and established 

1 Head, Historia Numorum (191 1), p. 495. 

2 Hdt., ii. 104 ; cf. Ammianus Marcellinus, 22, 8, 24. 

3 Cf. supra, p. 102. 


her in Thessaly and later in Corinth. In fact, that 
abduction of Medea, which Herodotus calls the 
original aggression on the part of the Greeks, 1 may 
really have taken place. Or — and this is more 
likely — when Colchis became known, it was found 
that the Colchians worshipped a goddess whom they 
called " The Helper." This goddess was assumed 
to be the same Helper as figured already in the story 
of Jason, and this was regarded as evidence that 
Argo had long since gone to Colchis and found her 
Helper there. 

This double possibility raises a double question — 
could a pre-Homeric Argo conceivably have gone 
to Colchis, and, if so, why ? An attempt must be 
made to answer this. 

1 Hdt., i. 2. 


ireido/Liai 5' eV 'Apycpov Sophs &£tvov vyph.v 

inTrepucrai irovriav 3iv(Air\T)yd5(vv 

KXeivav £tt\ va.v(TT0Xia.v. 

— Euripides 

COULD Argo have sailed to Colchis ? Be- 
fore this question can be answered Argo 
must emerge from the realms of faery and 
find a place in a real if prehistoric world. She must 
be located in time before any test can be applied to 
her localization in space. 

Argo sailed before Odysseus ; and the Homer in 
whom we read of Odysseus sang of an age already 
past and a civilization already dead. The " Homeric 
Age," the last years of Trojan power, belong to the 
period when the use of iron for weapons was sup- 
planting that of bronze. The Achaeans of the 
" Iliad " are the fair-haired, iron-using immigrants 
from Central Europe who, whether by sudden ir- 
ruption or by gradual infiltration, penetrated first 
to Thessaly and afterwards to Southern Greece, 
establishing themselves, like the Normans in Eng- 
land, as the overlords of the earlier population. 1 
Until this " Coming of the Achaeans," which is 

1 Ridgeway, " Early Age," i., pp. 682-684. 


dated about 1250 B.C., 1 the Aegean civilization had 
developed without disturbance from outside. 2 This 
development from Neolithic times to the Achaean 
interruption can be traced most clearly in Crete, but 
the progress of culture on the islands and the main- 
land of Greece followed similar lines. Only in 
Thessaly the Neolithic culture, and that a culture 
distinct from the Neolithic culture of Crete, per- 
sisted until the later stages of the Aegean Bronze 
Age. 3 Thus the Bronze Age in Thessaly begins in 
the Cretan period Late Minoan I, approximately 
six hundred years later than the Bronze Age in Troy, 
the islands of the Aegean and the mainland of 
Greece. 4 It seems likely that this tardy develop- 
ment is accounted for by the presence in Thessaly 
of an ethnic element slightly different from the races 
of the Aegean. 5 The remains of its art show affinities 
with the Neolithic arts of Central Europe, South 
Russia, 6 Susa, and Turkestan. 7 It has been vari- 
ously suggested that this stone-using race migrated 
round the north coast of the Euxine from Turkestan, 
and that it came from northern or central Europe. 
On the latter hypothesis it is the forerunner of the 
later migration and may be called Pro to- Achaean. 8 

1 Myres, " The Dawn of History," p. 209. 

2 Hall, " Ancient History of the Near East," p. 31. 

3 Myres, op. cit., p. 173. 

4 See chronological chart, based on Dussaud, " Civilisations pre- 

6 Hall, op. cit., p. 32. 

6 E. J. Forsdyke in J.H.S., xxxiv. p. 148. 

7 Myres, op. cit., pp. 121, 202. 8 Hall, loc. cit. 


Whatever its origin, this late Neolithic civilization 
of Thessaly seems to have been impervious to outside 
influence. Obsidian has been found in neolithic 
tombs at Zerelia, and this was probably imported 
from Melos, but " no other influence from the Aegean 
or from South Greece seems to have affected Thes- 
saly, and thus the importation and use of obsidian 
is seen to be a thing apart, and should not be taken 
into account when considering foreign influence." 1 
Thessaly may not, however, be even so far connected 
with Melos ; obsidian is found in Tokay and in the 
Caucasus, 2 and it is just possible that one of these 
may be the source of the obsidian at Zerelia. If so, 
there is no need to postulate the curious detachment 
of Melian obsidian from other Melian wares. 

About 1600 B.C. this self-contained Neolithic cul- 
ture gives way to a Bronze Age, with traces of inter- 
course with outside in the pottery generally known 
as " Minyan ware." 

All Argonautic tradition describes the leaders of 
the expedition, if not the whole crew, as Minyans 
from Iolcos in Thessaly. According to Strabo, 3 the 
Minyae of Iolcos were a colony from the Minyan 
Orchomenus : Sir William Ridgeway holds rather 
that the founders of Orchomenus came from Thes- 
saly. 4 If the " Minyan ware " has any connection 

1 Wace, Droop, and Thompson in B.S.A., xiv. p. 221. 

2 Bosanquet in Phylakopi, p. 229. 

3 Strabo, ix. 414. 

4 Ridgeway, " Early Age," i. p. 168; and cf. A. B. Cook, " Zeus, 
i. p. 416. 


with the legendary Minyae, it bears out Strabo's 
statement, since it appears at Orchomenus in deposits 
of the period called Orchomenus III, corresponding 
with Middle Minoan in Crete, 1 while in Thessaly it 
does not appear till the Bronze Age (Late Minoan I). 
The pottery, wheel-made and in colour slatey grey 
varying to yellowish-brown or black, 2 has been 
found also at Phylakopi in Melos, in Attica, the 
Megarid, Argolis, and in the sixth city at Troy. 

Whatever may have been its source, 3 the distri- 
bution of the pottery at least gives reason to conclude 
that by 1600 there must have been a close connection 
between Orchomenus and South Thessaly, due in all 
probability to relationship by blood. It is not clear 
whether these " Minyans " came from the north or 
whether they were Minoan settlers ; 4 no Minyan 
ware has as yet been found in Crete, and that at Troy 
is in deposits of a slightly later period than those on 
the mainland of Greece. Though the movement sug- 
gested by the pottery is from south to north, the 
joint " Minyan " culture seems to have been un- 
touched until much later by influences from further 
south. In the last century of the Bronze Age a 
debased variety of Mycenaean pottery appears in 

1 See Chart. 

2 Forsdyke, loc. cit., and cf. V. Gordon Childe in J.H.S., xxxv. 
p. 204. 

8 Forsdyke thinks it was introduced by conquerors from Troy ; 
Childe that it is indigenous to the mainland ; Wace in " Camb. 
Anc. Hist.," vol. i., p. 607, that it was all made at one centre not 
yet identified and reflects the invasion of some other people. 

4 Hall, op. cit., pp. 6o, 61. 


the eighth, most recent stratum at Zerelia, 1 and in 
the topmost strata at Orchomenus were found painted 
pots with spirals and other Mycenaean ornamenta- 
tion. 2 It seems as though influence from the south 
reached Thessaly only through Boeotia, and that 
Thessaly with its port of Iolcos on the Pagasaean gulf, 
the natural outlet of North Greece to the Aegean, 
was the connecting link between Orchomenus, with 
her port on the Euboic gulf, and the north Aegean 
and Troy. 3 

By the help of these archaeological data the legen- 
dary traditions of the Minyans and the Argonauts 
can be tested. They have at least established the 
possibility of Argo's sailing from Iolcos to the Helles- 
pont at any time after 1600 B.C. The stories place 
her voyage in the generation before the Trojan War. 
Many of the heroes mentioned in the Catalogues 
were the fathers of the Homeric heroes — Peleus, 
Tydeus, Telamon, and others. Some of them prob- 
ably owe their place in the Argonautic catalogues 
solely to the prominence of their more famous sons, 
Laertes, for example, who is mentioned among the 
Argonauts only by Apollodorus. Nestor is said to 
have taken part both in the voyage of the Argo 
and in the Trojan War. 4 

The sack of Troy was dated by the ancients at 
1 1 84 B.C., and archaeological evidence confirms this 

1 Dussaud, " Civilisations Prehelleniques," p. 187. 

2 Schliemann in J.H.S., ii. p. 152. 

3 Hall, " Oldest Civilization of Greece," p. 215. 

4 Only in Val. Flac, but he is a Minyan by both parents, Neleus, 
brother of Pelias, and Chloris, daughter of the king of Orchomenus. 


as credible. Eratosthenes {circa 220 B.C.) dated the 
voyage of the Argo at 1225 B.C., but Eusebius (circa 
a.d. 300) put it earlier, 1263-1257 B.C. 1 These dates 
are presumably based on the genealogies, a method 
which frequently means moving in a vicious circle. 
But they may be brought into relation with the 
archaeological evidence. Jason and Pelias belong 
to the same generation as Castor and Polydeuces, 
i.e. of Agamemnon. (This bears out the 1225 date.) 
They are of the generation after Phrixus, who is the 
son of Athamas by his first wife. The relation of 
Athamas to Minyas, the eponymous hero of the 
Minyans, is far from clear, but as Minyas is described 
by some authorities as the son of Aeolus, there seems 
to have been not more than one generation between 

Pausanias says of Minyas, " he outdid all his pre- 
decessors in riches and he was the first man we know 
of who built a treasury to store his wealth in. . . . 
The Treasury of Minyas, than which there is no 
greater marvel either in Greece or elsewhere, is con- 
structed as follows : It is made of stone : its form 
is circular, rising to a somewhat blunt top, and 
they say that the topmost stone is the keystone of 
the whole building." 2 This " treasury " has been 
identified with a building found at Orchomenus of 
the same construction and probably the same period 
as the tholos buildings at Mycenae. It is, however, 
certainly not a treasury, since it is outside the 

1 Cf. Dottin, " Anciens Peuples de l'Europe," p. 255. 

2 Paus., ix. 36, 3, and 38, 2 ; trans. Frazer. 


fortifications, but more probably a tomb or heroon. 
If Minyas coincides with the period Orchomenus IV, 
corresponding with the Mycenaean period to which 
the tholos buildings belong and beginning about 
1400 B.C., the generation but one after Athamas may 
fairly be dated not earlier than 1300 B.C. 

Another criterion is the tradition that Heracles 
left the Argonauts in Mysia and afterwards sacked 
Troy. This story of the sack of Troy in the time of 
Laomedon should reflect the ruin of the fifth city of 
Troy. This cannot have been later than 1500. But 
the incident is not inseparable from the Argonaut 

A later date is indicated by the adventure at 
Lemnos, if it is admitted that this enshrines a fact. 
It was probably the pressure of the advancing 
Achaeans that, crowding the Minyans out of Thessaly, 
led them to cross to the islands and establish among 
the Thracian Sinties the Minyan overlords of whom 
Euneos, son of Jason, is an example in the Homeric 

Literary chronology thus wavers between 1260 
and 1225, archaeological evidence points to a date 
not earlier than 1300, and the Lemnian adventure 
suggests a date between 1300 and 1250. There 
seem good grounds, therefore, for rejecting the infer- 
ence from the Heracles episode, and for concluding 
that striking an average between Eusebius and 
Eratosthenes will give a reasonable date. If then 
we assume that Argo sailed from Thessaly about 
1250 B.C., could she have sailed to Colchis ? 


It is difficult to be certain when the Greeks first 
penetrated to the Euxine and explored the coasts 
which were " the first El Dorado, the first mysterious 
land to draw adventurers across broad seas in search 
of fame and treasure." * The foundation of colonies 
there is the first unassailable evidence of the presence 
of Greeks. In the colonization of the Euxine the 
Milesians were the pioneers with their settlements 
of Cyzicus, Abydos, and Sinope with her daughter 
city Trapezus. The foundation of these colonies 
cannot have been earlier than 720 B.C. 2 But the 
perception of the value of a settlement and the choice 
of sites so obviously advantageous as Sinope and 
Trapezus presuppose considerable familiarity with 
the coast. While, therefore, it is just possible that 
Milesians and Samians may have penetrated into the 
Black Sea as early as the first half of the eighth 
century, it is quite certain that there were Thalas- 
socrats before the Milesians. Evidence of Greek 
knowledge of the sea appears in the Theogony of 
Hesiod, an eighth century work, 3 which recognizes 
the existence of the rivers Phasis, Ister, Aesepus, 
Sangarius, and Parthenius, but does not mention the 
Halys or the Lycus. 4 

Whether the author of the Iliad knew of voy- 
ages in the Euxine Sea is a question still much 

1 Minns, " Scythians and Greeks," p. 436. 

2 Hall, " Oldest Civilization of Greece," p. 255. 

3 T. W. Allen, in J.H.S., xxxv., p. 85 ff. The Date of Hesiod. 

4 Hesiod, Theogony, 339-345. 



disputed. On the one side it is argued that the 
lines — 

Close-fighting Mysians and proud Hippemolgoi, 
Feeders on milk, and Abioi, righteous men, 1 

show knowledge of the nomad Scythians and their 
neighbours, and that part of the Catalogue of the 
Trojan Allies — 

From Enetai, where the wild mules are born 

Came stout Pylaimenes of heart untamed 

Leading the host of Paphlagonians 

Who hold Cytorus, dwell round Sesamus, 

And make fair homes beside Parthenius' stream, 

The Beach, and Kromne and the high Red Rocks, 2 

proves that Greek sailors knew the strip of coast 
from the Propontis to Sinope and " had given their 
own names to at least two of the chief landmarks — 
the * beach ' and the ' red rocks.' " 8 For Enetai 
Eustathius read Enete, a place which he says Heca- 
taeus identified with Amisus. Others feel that 
Amisus intrudes here too soon, and prefer to regard 
Enete as Heraclea. The lines immediately following : 

Odius and Epistrophus led the Halizones 
From Alybe afar where silver's born, 

are said to show a vague, not personal, knowledge 
of the parts beyond the Halys, with which and with 
the Chalybes, the legendary inhabitants of that part 
of the coast, the word Alybe may be connected. 
Again, the standard epithet of the Homeric ships, 

1 Iliad, xiii. 5, 6. 2 Ibid., ii. 851-855. 

3 W. Leaf, " Troy," p. 284. 


" vermilion-cheeked," suggests that the Greeks must 
have traded with the region of the later Sinope for 
the cinnabar from which the vermilion paint was 
made. 1 Lastly, Dr. Leaf cites 2 the discovery of 
Mycenaean pottery at Ak-alan, an ancient site near 
Amisus, " where I suppose a land-route from the 
interior to have reached the sea in the country of 
the Halizones." 3 

The other side, in the person of Mr. T. W. Allen, 4 
retorts that the lines naming the coast towns were 
not in the vulgate text of Homer before the time of 
Eratosthenes or Apollodorus, but were interpolated 
between the time of the latter and that of Strabo, 
citing Strabo 298 and 553 to support his contention. 
But, as Dr. Leaf points out, 5 these references contain 
a criticism of Apollodorus by Strabo on the ground 
that he blunders in saying that the communications 
of Paphlagonia with the Troad in Homeric times were 
overland and not by sea : Strabo uses these lines of 
Homer to prove his error. The interpolation seems 
motiveless, too, for none of the places is interesting 
or important enough to claim insertion. Mr. Allen 
himself (p. 167) notes the freedom of the Trojan 
Catalogue from later interpolation. " On neither 
side does it reflect or forecast later history ; the 
claims and vanity of no one are served by it. The 

1 Cf. Strabo, xii. 540. 

2 From W. Leonhard, " Hettiter und Amazonen," p. 203. 
8 W. Leaf in B.S.A., xviii., p. 311. 

4 " The Homeric Catalogue of Ships," p. 156 ff. 
6 " Class. Rev.," xxxvi. (1922), p. 55. 


colonists among whom it was sung first are not 
allowed the slightest prophecy or indication of their 
future existence : the nostos of no hero affects it. 
It appears to really represent the knowledge which 
Greece had of Asia at that moment." 

Mr. Allen asks for actual evidence of any sea-borne 
trade with the Euxine in the Homeric age, but rejects 
the Mycenaean pottery near Amisus because that 
site lies on a road. What kind of traces does he 
expect sea-borne trade to leave ? If to convince 
him it is necessary to produce Mycenaean relics 
from the vasty deep, he may be set down as 
impregnable to argument. These, or remains in a 
place inaccessible by land, are the only possible 
conclusive proofs. Failing these, relics at a place 
more accessible from Greece by sea than by land 
are evidence by no means negligible, and such a place 
as Amisus answers to this description. 

The most favourable interpretation of the Homeric 
evidence does not prove Greek penetration beyond 
Amisus. But it has been argued that the knowledge 
Homer shows in this part of the Catalogue was 
derived from an earlier poem or poems on the voyage 
of the Argo. 1 Strabo's assertion that Homer knew 
all the north coast of Asia Minor from the Propontis 
to Colchis, " the bourne of Jason's expedition," has 
been noticed already. 2 But this particular passage 

1 Niese, " Der Homerische Schiffskatalog," p. 53 ff., cited by 
H. M. Chadwick, " The Heroic Age," p. 245. 

2 Strabo, i. 12, quoted above, pp. 19, 20. 




•s i-Ji 

&i 1 


in Homer is now lost, if indeed it was ever more 
than a vague recollection. The question whether 
Argo reached Colchis must be approached from the 
other side, with a consideration of the country and 
what it offered to the adventurer. 


Here thou beholdest 
Araxes and the Caspian lake, thence on 
As far as Indus east, Euphrates west, 
And oft beyond. — Milton 

ON the question whether Argo sailed be- 
yond the Hellespont, archaeological discovery 
throws little light. The later exports from 
Phasis — timber, furs, and slaves — are perishable 
commodities and leave no trace ; her gold is in no 
way distinguishable among the treasures of Troy, 
Orchomenus, and "Mycenae rich in gold." 

But Phasis, " where ships can drive no further," 
was not in actual fact what it was in poetic phrase, 
the end of the world : it was one end of a great 
highway, the caravan road to the interior of Asia. 1 
The river Phasis itself was not navigable a great 
distance from the mouth, 2 as it was very winding 
and swift, but it was spanned by one hundred and 
twenty bridges, and the traders followed the river 

1 Cf. J. de Morgan, " Mission Scientifique au Caucase," ii. pp. 143, 

2 Strabo, xi. 500. 



up as far as a fort called Sarapana, whence it was 
four days' journey overland, by a road practicable 
for vehicles, to the Cyrus, which flowed into the 
Caspian. The present railway line from Batum to 
Baku corresponds with this ancient trade-route. 
From Tiflis to Baku the line follows the Kura (Cyrus) 
valley, amid signs of prehistoric occupation, mounds 
resembling at a distance the larger sites in the plain 
of Larissa in Thessaly. 1 

Speaking of Indian trade, Pliny says 2 that mer- 
chandise from India was carried down the Icarus 
(possibly the Bactrus) into the Oxus, and thence to 
the Caspian Sea, and from the Caspian up the Cyrus 
and so to the Black Sea and Phasis with a land jour- 
ney of five days. Strabo also states on the authority 
of Eratosthenes, " who gets it from Patrocles," that 
the Indian merchandise came down the Oxus to the 
Hyrcanian Sea (the Caspian), " then crossed to 
Albania, and by the Cyrus and the successive stages 
after that was brought down to the Euxine." 3 
These accounts have been set aside on the ground 
that the Oxus does not and did not flow into the 
Caspian, 4 but it has also been shown that there are 
strong geological reasons for believing that the Aral 
and the Caspian were once one sea. 5 This would 

1 S. Casson in B.S.A., xxiii. p. 112. "Prehistoric Mounds in 
Caucasus and Turkestan." 

2 Pliny, " Nat. Hist.," vi. 17. 3 Strabo, xi. 509. 

4 W. W. Tarn in J.H.S., xxi. " Patrocles and the Oxo- Caspian 
route," p. 10. 

5 S. Casson in B.S.A., xxiii. pp. 175-193. Herodotus and th,§ 


account for the silence of Herodotus and other Greek 
authorities about the Aral Sea, and is consistent 
with what is known of the gradual desiccation of 
Central Asia. 1 

Whether or not it be true that the Caspian and the 
Aral were once one sea, there is no doubt that in 
later Greek and in Roman times there was a great 
trade-route from east to west across Asia. Ptolemy 
describes the route by which silk came to Europe : 2 
The caravans started from Sera Metropolis, which 
is identified with Si-ngan on the Wei-ho, a tributary 
of the Hoang-ho. Thence by way of a landmark 
called the Stone Tower (Lithinos Pyrgos) they 
reached Bactra. Then they passed by Merv (Mar- 
giana) and through Aria and Hyrcania to Heka- 
tompylos, and thence by the Caspian Gates and 
Ecbatana the route led them to the Euphrates and 
the Persian Gulf, where the merchandise passed into 
the hands of the Greek and Roman traders them- 

This account, detailed enough for regions west of 
Bactra and known to later Greek geographers, gives 
no hint of the route between Bactra and Sera 
Metropolis. The Stone Tower is no help, for it can- 
not be identified with certainty. Chinese sources 
are more informing. Between 136 and 123 B.C. one 
Chang Ch'ien was sent on an embassy to the rulers 

1 Huntington, " Pulse of Asia," p. 359; cf. T. Peisker in " Cam- 
bridge Medieval History," i. p. 323 ff. 

2 Ptolemy, i. 12; cf. Frazer on " Pausanias," vi, 26, 6 n. See 
Map III. 


of Farghana, the district round the upper waters of 
the Jaxartes (Sir Daria) just north of the Tian-shan. 
At this time the Chinese knew of two main routes 
by which to reach the " Western Regions.' ' Both 
started from Tun-huang, the modern Sha-chow, 
where the fortified frontier line of China ended in 
the so-called Jade Gate. The first, or Northern, 
route led from Tun-huang past Chii-sin, the present 
Turfan, through the northern oases of the Tarim 
basin to Kashgar (Issedon Scythica), then skirting 
the Tian-shan to Farghana and Sogdiana. The 
other, the Southern route, passed through the terri- 
tory of Lou-Ian (Issedon Serica) in the neighbour- 
hood of Lop-nor, along the foot of the Kuen-lun 
mountains through Khotan to Yarkand, whence it 
joined the northern route. 1 

The end of these routes is Farghana : for caravans 
going further west the northern route skirted the 
southern fringe of the Tian-shan and came to Samar- 
kand and thence down the north branch of the Oxus 
valley through Bokhara to Merv, which the southern 
route also reached from Khotan by the Kara-kash, 
the Oxus proper and Bactra. This latter was the 
route followed in the thirteenth century by Marco 
Polo, who thus described the great desert of Lop-nor. 
" The length of this desert is so great that 'tis said 
it would take a year and more to ride from one end 
of it to the other. . . . Tis all composed of valleys 
and hills of sand. . . . But there is a marvellous 

1 Sir M. Aurel Stein, " Ruins of Desert Cathay," ii. 206 ff. 


thing related of this desert, which is that when 
travellers are on the move by night, and one of them 
chances to lag behind or to fall asleep or the like, 
when he tries to gain his company again he will 
hear spirits talking, and will suppose them to be his 
companions. Sometimes the spirits will call him 
by name ; and thus shall a traveller oftentimes be 
led astray so that he never finds his party. And in 
this way many have perished. . . . And sometimes 
you shall hear the sound of musical instruments, 
and still more commonly the sound of drums. Hence 
in making this journey it is customary to keep 
together." x In 1896 Sven Hedin discovered, cross- 
ing the desert of Lop-nor, a long string of mile-posts, 
tall pyramids of wood and clay, measuring the dis- 
tances of the road in Chinese li. In 1901 he found 
documents dating from the third century a.d. 
which located the region of Lou-Ian, till then uniden- 
tified, and established the existence of a regular 
postal service between Lop-nor and Sha-chow. In 
other words, the desert of Gobi was then passable 
by an established route. 2 

The oldest Chinese records mention countries 
called Ta-ts'in, Li-kan, and Tiao-chih, " several 
thousand li west of An-hsi." An-hsi is identified 
with Parthia, and of the others Ta-ts'in and Tiao- 
chih are said to be respectively Petra and Babylonia 
or Chaldaea, while it is just possible that Li-kan 

1 Yule-Cordier, " Book of Ser Marco Polo," i. p. 197. He went from 
Badakshan to Yarkand, Kashgar, and the Northern route. 

2 Yule, loc. cit., i. p. 198. 


may be Lycia. 1 In a passage from these records 
there occur the words, "it is further said that, 
coming from the land road of An-hsi, you make a 
round at sea, and, taking a northern turn, come out 
from the western part of the sea, whence you proceed 
to Ta-ts'in." 2 This ambiguous passage has been 
interpreted as meaning that Ta-ts'in is reached by 
land by travelling round the northern shore of the 
sea, i.e. either going round the Mediterranean shore 
of Asia Minor or round the Black Sea through the 
Caucasus. 3 But one cannot jao-hai, make a round 
at sea, except on board ship, and it is possible that 
the passage means that instead of continuing south 
and west from Parthia to Babylonia, the route 
struck northward through Hyrcania to the Caspian, 
by Cyrus and Phasis " and the successive stages of 
the journey," to the Euxine and so " making a 
round " through the Hellespont and down the coast 
of Asia Minor, which would bring the trader to 
Petra from the west. It is not impossible that 
travellers from China came so far, for in another 
contemporary record there is an allusion to beings 
clearly identifiable with the Amazons, who were 
located by legend near the river Thermodon. 4 

It cannot be assumed, on the support of this slight 
and inferential evidence, that there was a syste- 
matic trade with China during very early times. 

1 Hirth, " China and the Roman Orient," pp. 139-140. 

2 Ibid., op. cit., p. 184, passage E37. 

3 Bretschneider in " Chinese Recorder," iii. p. 30 ; quoted by Hirth. 

4 Hirth, op. cit., p. 84, passage Q52. 


Richthofen dates the first caravan that went from 
Bactria to China as late as 114 B.C. 1 But there must 
have been some traffic, sporadic and indirect, over 
this route from time immemorial. A few rare finds 
of jade in Assyria, some pieces of bamboo, a repre- 
sentation of a Tibetan hound on a Babylonian 
terra-cotta 2 suggest early intercourse with Central 
Asia, and it has been argued that the early commerce 
of Egyptians, Babylonians, and Arabs did not in- 
clude India before the seventh century B.C., 3 and 
must therefore have been carried on entirely by the 
Central Asiatic route. 

The earliest Greek mention of the Chinese is 
ascribed to Ctesias (fourth century B.C.), who says 
that they were very big and very long-lived. 4 
Strabo quotes from Onesicritus (died 328 B.C.) to 
the same effect. 5 Little more is known by the first 
century a.d. In the anonymous Periplus of the 
Erythraean Sea, it is stated that beyond the Golden 
Chersonese, the Ganges delta, " immediately under 
the north " in the interior of the land of Thin, there 
is a very great city (probably Si-ngan) from which 
raw silk, silk threads, and silken stuffs are brought 
through Bactria to Barygaza (the modern Baroda). 
"It is not easy, however, to get to this Thin, and 

1 Richthofen, " China," p. 464 ; cf. W. W. Tarn in J.H.S., xxii. 
" Notes on Hellenism in Bactria and India." 

2 J. Kennedy in J.R.A.S., 1898, " Early Commerce of Babylon and 
India," p. 258. 

3 Ibid. 

* Ctesias, ed Bahr, p. 371. 

* Strabo, xv. 701. 


few and far between are those who come from it." 1 
No more is known by Marcianus of Heraclea. 2 

Aelian 8 credits Ctesias with an account of how 
the Indians who are neighbours of the Bactrians 
make expeditions in troops of one or two thousand 
into the great desert to win gold from the gryphons 
who guard it. These are the gryphons, and possibly 
the Indians are the Arimaspians, of whom Herodotus 
heard at second or third hand from the Scythians. 4 
Prometheus warned Io to beware of both — 

Beware the sharp-toothed silent hounds of Zeus, 
The gryphons ; and the one-eyed host beware, 
The Arimaspian horsemen, who abide 
Where Pluto pours his stream of running gold. 5 

Ctesias* Indians knew how to elude the gryphons ; 
they waited for a moonless night and then dug for 
dear life. The alternative issues were plain. " For 
if they escaped the notice of the gryphons, they made 
a double profit : they were saved themselves and, 
moreover . . . won enormous wealth to recompense 
their danger. . . . But if they were taken in the act, 
they perished." 6 They returned from these jour- 
neys about the third or fourth year. For all its 
legendary terrors Gobi, the great desert, contained 
no gryphons, 7 and probably little gold ; but it 
might well be the avenue to riches, to all the wealth 

1 Periplus Maris Erythraei, § 64. Geog. Graec. Minor, i. p. 303. 

2 Geog. Graec. Minor, i. p. 537. 

3 Hist. Animal, iv. 27. 4 Hdt, iv. 27. 

6 Aesch. Prom. Vinct, 804-807. 6 Aelian, loc. cit. 

7 Unless they were " mythologized " from the bones of prehistoric 
mammoths, as Yule suggests, vol. ii., p. 419. 


of China. And the journey there and back, taking 
two to three years, corresponds with Marco Polo's 
computations. 1 If the terrors of the desert were 
illusory, the terror was very real : a gryphon is 
perhaps a homely beast compared with hordes of 
unseen cavalry and the beating of invisible drums. 
In any case, it is fair to infer from Ctesias' information 
that in the fourth century B.C. there was some trade 
between Khotan and China ; and Herodotus, with 
his " stories received by the Scythians from the 
Issedonians, and by them passed on to us Greeks/' 
is evidence that a century earlier there was enough 
communication between Greece and Khotan for 
travellers' tales to spread. 2 Aeschylus had heard of 
Indians early in his career, 3 and it is possible that 
Aristeas of Proconnesus may himself have pene- 
trated as far as the Tarim oases. 4 

Later, after the expedition of Alexander and his 
foundations in Bactria, Greece and China were 
brought into contact by the campaigns of the Han 
dynasty. Curiously enough, the younger civilization 
left the greater mark. Under Greek influence the 
Chinese imported the water-clock, specimens of 
which are still to be seen in China in working order, 
they introduced the olive and grape, and the prac- 
tice of alchemy, assimilated their calendar to the 

1 V. supra, p. 153. 

2 Cf. Tomaschek in Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. Baktrianoi, p. 2807 ; and 
Hdt., iii. 92. Darius' Eastern levy. 

3 Cf. Supplices, 284-286. 

4 Minns, " Scythians and Greeks," p. 114. 



fifth century calendar of Meton introduced at 
Athens in 330 B.C. and based on a cycle of nineteen 
years, and adopted a new system of music closely 
resembling the Pythagorean system. Chinese mir- 
rors of the second century B.C. are ornamented with 
Greek key-pattern, pomegranates, snakes, tortoises, 
and winged horses, all new and Greek forms of decora- 
tion, the last undoubtedly a Chinese copy of Pegasus. 
Lastly, Chinese words which appear about this time 
are clearly derived from intercourse with the west : 
the word for pomegranate means " Parthian fruit," 
the words for grape (p'u-t'ou), radish (lo po), and 
water-melon (si-kua), are Chinese versions of the 
Greek fiorpvs, pdcfyr) and ai/cva. 1 

1 H. A. Giles, " China and the Chinese," p. 128 ff. 



H-navr* 6 fxaKphs Kapapl6/j.7]ros xP^vos 
(pvet t' &1>7)\a Kal <pav4vTa KpvTrrerai. 


Time, which antiquates Antiquities, and hath an art to make dust 
of all things, hath yet spared these minor Monuments. — Sir Thomas 

TO trace an ancient route is to traverse in 
imagination vast distances not only of space 
but also of time. For roads are the great 
conservatives ; their lines are as enduring as the 
formation of the earth. Until the Romans drove 
their roads straight across the landscape, surmount- 
ing or subduing all obstacles, men travelled in the 
ways of least resistance ; and in these ways their 
successors have continued and will continue, unless 
they are diverted by some cataclysm of nature or 
by some cataclysmic invention such as that of aerial 
transport, which can make light of natural features. 
Apart from such changes as these, " the great routes 
of the world remain unchanged through the ages/' 
and the constant use of one in Roman times is almost 

1 60 


enough to prove its existence during generations 
unrecorded. 1 

Here in Central Asia was a road constantly used 
in Roman times. Over it came caravans from China 
and Khotan to Bactria, and so to Parthia where 
intermediaries took over the 

Of silk-bales and of balsam-drops 
Of gold and ivory. 
Of turquoise -earth and amethyst, 
Jasper and chalcedony 
And milk-barred onyx stones, 

and carried them on to Ecbatana and Syria and so 
to Rome. Earlier the stream may have gone to 
Greece by Trapezus or Phasis, earlier again by the 
great rivers to Susa and Persepolis, earlier still to 
Tyre and Sidon. Perhaps as far back as the third 
millennium B.C. pilgrims were making the golden 
journey to Samarkand. 

The Chinese annals already quoted do more than 
prove the existence of the road : they prove its use 
in prehistoric times. It is recorded that in the reign 
of Hwang Ti, which belongs to the legendary period 
and is dated about 2697 B.C., " inventors of sundry 
arts and sciences " arrived from the region of the 
Kuen lun mountains. In 2356 B.C. envoys of a race 
called Yue shang shi (the people of the trailing robes) 
came and presented the Emperor Yao with " a divine 
tortoise one thousand years old," whose shell was 
inscribed with " characters like tadpoles/' Assyrian 

1 Ridgeway, " Early Age," i. p. 365. 


cuneiform was not unlike tadpoles, and it is possible 
that these people of the trailing robes were the 
Chaldaeans. They appeared again in mo B.C. 
About 985 B.C. Mu Wang made a journey to the 
remote west and brought back artisans and curi- 
osities, in particular the arts of inlaying metal and of 
making paste gems, some jade from Khotan, marion- 
ettes, and amber. 1 Metal inlay seems to have been 
invented in Persia, but it was known in Greece 
in Mycenaean times, witness the fine dagger-blades 
inlaid with hunting scenes ; marionettes were known 
in Greece and imported thence to Rome, but appar- 
ently they originated in Egypt. It seems as though 
the amber must have reached Central Asia by way 
of Siberia or the Black Sea. 

So far recorded history. But the consideration 
of Central Asia reveals long vistas of history unre- 
corded, indeed, the whole history of the ancient 
world from its origins ; and it provokes a question 
which must be noticed here though it cannot be 
answered. A theory has recently been strongly put 
forward that " the whole of the available evidence 
goes to show that all the great civilizations of the 
world derived their cultural capital directly or in- 
directly from the ancient East ; and, further, that 
every food-producing community on the earth is 
derived from some other food-producing com- 
munity." 2 The culture of the whole world is, in 
short, derived from Egypt, which sent forth bands 

1 Yule, " Cathay and the Way Thither," vol. i. preface. 

2 Perry, " Origin of Magic and Religion," pp. 99-100. 


of pioneers, who exploited, in course of time, all 
parts, first of Arabia and the Mediterranean, then 
of further Asia and Central Europe, and at last of 
Mexico and Guatemala, in the search for metals and 
ores and precious stones which they desired either 
because they had a practical use for them, or because 
they set on them a magical value, regarding them 
as " givers of life." 

The concern of the present work is not with the 
history of mankind, but with the story of the 
Argonauts. But while it is permissible to doubt 
whether " the whole of the available evidence goes to 
show " anything of this kind, it is easy to see how 
neatly the doctrine can be applied to this particular 
story. If it holds good, Argo stands for a concen- 
tration of world-history, a single embodiment of all 
the pioneers who went out to seek a distant treasure, 
who followed a road that led past Colchis to the riches 
of a vast continent ; and the Golden Fleece becomes 
a type of all those riches, the gold of Colchis rein- 
forced by all the gold of India and the Tarim valley, 
all the jade of Khotan and Turkestan, all the gems 
that were ever sought in Asia and brought to the 
shores of the Mediterranean. 1 Was Argo a symbol 
of anything so large and so world wide ? Or does 
her story reflect, not a whole process of historical 
or prehistoric development, but a single fact — that 
a Thessalian ship of the Bronze Age sailed the 
Euxine Sea ? If there is any reason to think that 
this narrower explanation can be true, it ought to 

1 de Morgan, op. cit. p. 114. 


be accepted, and there is no need to trespass on the 
wider question of the diffusion of great cultures. 

There is, of course, no literary evidence here that 
will serve. Greek literature began after the Bronze 
Age, and cannot bear conclusive testimony to its 
events. But in Hesiod's statement that the Argo- 
nauts sailed in through the Phasis * there is a hint 
that Phasis, dimly known in the eighth century, was 
known as a stream down which something or some- 
body came. Strabo's statements that Jason was 
said to have gone to the Caspian Sea, and that the 
mountain which towered above the Caspian Gates 
had been on that account called from time imme- 
morial Mount Jasonium, 2 are of less value because 
before Strabo wrote the literary works of such as 
Apollonius, who made the Argonauts hear the cry 
of Prometheus tortured in Caucasus, were well 
known, and had perhaps suggested to Greek travel- 
lers the pleasing fiction that they were treading where 
the heroes of old had trod. 

Only archaeological evidence is valid, and that 
only within very narrow limits. First, it must be 
shown that neither Assyria nor Egypt had any part 
in the transmission of the objects. No such claim 
could be made about any finds in Minoan Crete ; 
but Thessaly seems to have been aloof from southern 
influences. 3 If finds in Thessaly, or at Troy, which 
was in touch with both Thessaly and the Euxine, 4 

1 Schol. Ap. Rh., iv. 284. 

2 Strabo, xi. 503, 526. 3 V. supra, pp. 140, 141. 
4 Schliemann, " Ilios," p. 465 and note. 


provide traces of connection with the far East, 
these will justify the stating of the possibility that 
the nucleus of the Argonautica is legend. Secondly, 
the limits of time must be carefully defined. It is 
argued l that between 2300 and 2000 B.C. the south- 
ward movement of the Aryans in Central Asia cut 
off the trade in such substances as jade from the 
west, separated Babylonia from Syria and deflected 
the lines of intercourse to the route by the Red Sea. 
This puts out of court various pieces of evidence 
that otherwise had been relevant, making them too 
early to bear upon the voyage of the Argonauts. 
For instance — an example Cretan indeed but inde- 
pendent of southern influence — a certain method of 
representing animals in rapid movement with all 
four legs extended horizontally, known as " the 
flying gallop," is a convention peculiar to the arts 
of Minoan Crete and Mycenae, Scythia, Persia, and 
China. 2 Its best-known specimens are the Mycenaean 
dagger-blades, which we have already seen reason 
to connect with Persia. But inasmuch as it appears 
in Crete, which seems to have been its chief distri- 
buting centre, as early as Middle Minoan II, 3 it 
seems as though it must have been established before 
Argo's day. In the same way, nothing to the 
present purpose can be proved from the jade found 
by Schliemann at Troy, for he dates that before 

1 A. C. Haddon, " The Wanderings of Peoples," p. 21. 

2 Dechelette, " Manuel d'Archeologie," ii. p. 68 ; quoting S. Rein- 
ach in " Rev. Arch.," 1901, i. p. 27. 

3 Sir Arthur Evans, " The Palace of Minos," i. p. 713. 


2000 B.C. 1 and the celebrated Senas afi^iKvireWov, the 
double-spouted, boat-shaped, gold cup which has 
been likened to a bronze vessel in use in Chinese 
temples, 2 was found in the third city, which had 
fallen by 1800 B.C. The only relevant Trojan 
treasure is the copper sickle found in Troy VI, 
whose counterpart was found at Anau in Turkestan 
along with Armenian obsidian and some pottery 
types which recall those of Europe. 3 

There is one single piece of evidence which satisfies 
the two conditions, having been found in Thessaly 
in a deposit of the Bronze Age. At Dimini, three 
miles from the ancient Iolcos, the port from which 
Argo sailed, was found in a bee-hive tomb " a very 
remarkable engraved gem of lapis-lazuli, still re- 
taining a thin wire in its perforation." 4 If such a 
gem had been found in Crete or Mycenae its source 
would probably have been Egypt, but its absence 
from Southern Greece and its presence in Thessaly 
suggest an independent contact with Central Asia 
or Persia. Dionysius Periegetes says of the Ariani, 
who lived between the Hindu Kush and the Indus — 

The earth all round them teems with veins of ore, 
Cyanus and gold and the fair sapphire stone, 
And digging these they win their livelihood. 5 

This so-called sapphire is probably lapis-lazuli : 

1 Schliemann, " Ilios," p. 240. 

2 J. W. Lockhart, quoted by Schliemann, p. 465. 

3 Pumpelly, " Explorations in Turkestan," ii. p. 446 ; cited by 
S. Casson in B.S.A., xxiii. 

4 Ridgeway, " Early Age," i. pp. 41, 172. 

6 Dion. Perieg. in " Geog. Graec. Min.," ii. p. 172, lines 1104-1106. 


Theophrastus describes it as " gold-flecked," L an 
epithet not applicable to the true sapphire. To-day 
Tartary, Tibet, and China provide small quantities 
of the stone, but most of it comes and came from 
Badakshan in the valley of the Kokcha, a tributary 
of the Oxus, where the mines were visited by Marco 
Polo in 1271 a.d. 2 

Parturiunt monies . . . When it is the roof of the 
world that travails a scrap of lapis-lazuli, perhaps 
only a sailor's curio, may well seem a ridiculous 
progeny. But it is just enough to prohibit a con- 
temptuous dismissal of the claim to be legend, to 
make it. not impossible that Argo put to sea from 
her fabled harbour of Iolcos, that a Minyan chieftain 
whose fathers had " meted out justice to a race of 
horsemen " became himself a sea-rover and sailed 
the Euxine and brought back a golden prize. It is 
not more than a possibility ; but Time and excava- 
tion may strengthen it ; it may be that Sir Aurel 
Stein will one day turn up somewhere in " Serindia " 
a Minyan sherd or an island stone. Till this stage 
is reached, till the assurance that it can claim to be 
" what has happened " makes it material for the 
historian, the Argonaut story must remain, with so 
much of the ancient mythology, " matter full of 
suspicion and doubt, being delivered to us by poets 
and tragedy-makers, sometimes without truth and 
likelihood, and always without certainty." 

1 De Lapidibus, 23. 

2 Yule, " Book of Ser Marco Polo," i., xxix., vol. i. p. 157. 


ov ra yevofxeva . . . dAA' ola av yeVoiTo. — Aristotle 

IN its original form the Argonaut story was a 
narrative of a real voyage in the Euxine 
Sea, made by Minyans of Thessaly in the 
late fourteenth or early thirteenth century B.C. 
This feat, marvellous in itself, became very soon 
embellished with many of the stock incidents of 
fairy tales about quests and journeys. The king's 
daughter of one of these fairy-tale versions came to 
be identified with Medea, a minor goddess worshipped 
in Corinth and in parts of Thessaly, who also was 
associated by tradition, possibly because of her 
Phoenician origin, with the eastern shores of the 
Euxine. Under the influence of this identification, 
if not before, the Argo reached Phasis. 

Very early also the voyage of Jason became con- 
nected with another Minyan story, that of Phrixus 
and the Ram, a myth enshrining the cessation of 
human sa crifice in the royal family of Orchomenus 
Professor Gilbert Murray has argued that Homer, 
expurgated traces of human sacrifice from the 
Iliad ; if this is so, human sacrifice in Boeotia 

1 68 


may have continued as late as the Homeric Age. 
From Phrixus' ram came the idea of the fleece, which 
became golden by association with the gold of 

During the Homeric Age vague reminiscences of 
the amber routes from the Baltic connected them- 
selves with the Argonautica as they did with the 
legends of Heracles. By this time also the Minyan 
settlement in Lemnos had taken place, and Heracles, 
a post-Minyan figure in Boeotia, had been intro- 
duced into the crew. 

During the age of colonization the wider know- 
ledge of Euxine geography enriched the story with 
details taken from the local traditions of the new 
colonies and their neighbourhood. At the end of 
this century or the beginning of the next came in 
the adventures in the western Mediterranean, and 
possibly the legend of the northern route. 

In the sixth century the spread of Orphism intro- 
duced the religious element, the idea of purification 
for sin, and the detail of the initiation into the 
mysteries of Samothrace. The early fifth century 
put the finishing touches to the geography and pro- 
duced the first systematic account of the voyage, by 
Pherecydes. The characterization of the persons in 
the story as we have it clearly owes much to the 

Thus by the end of the fifth century the many 
component factors had grouped themselves together, 
and the story had become substantially what it 
appears in the version of Apollonius Rhodius, not 


pure science, not pure history, not undiluted romance, 
but a mixture of all three. In Apollonius's hands 
the old romance was mingled with the new — romantic 
love — and the tale was complete. 











- ri- 



— <a 






c/i "<D 

3 w 



C P-> 



s 11 
3 2 


Si >% 









{Points relevant to intercourse 




Mainland of Greece. 






M.M. i. 

M.M. ii. 
M.M. iii. 

First Bronze Age. 

Phylakopi i. 
Export of obsidian. 

Phylakopi ii. 
Import of Minyan 


Rectangular house. 



Minyan ware. 


Lustre ware. 


1 100 

L.M. i. 
L.M. ii. 
L.M. iii. 

Second Bronze Age. 
Phylakopi ii., contd. 
Minyan ware. 

Phylakopi iii. 
Mycenaean ware. 

Mycenaean age. 
orchomenus iv. 
Mainland palaces and 
beehive tombs. 

" Flying gallop." 
Amber, amethyst, and 
jasper found. 

" Coming of 




printed in heavy type\ 



The East. 

Neolithic ii. 

Troy ii. 

Jade axehead in 

Painted " Dimini 


Desert of Lop- 


Bronze plentiful. 

Ware in S. Russia 

akin to " Dimini 

Tripolje and Petreny 

spiral pots. 

Obsidian at Zere- 


Copper Age. 

Troy ii. or III. 

Incised ware. 

Jade axe-heads. 

Gold SeVas a/j.<pi- 

Troy iii.-v. 

Bronze vessel used 
in Chinese tem- 

Bronze Age. 

Black monochrome 


Minyan ware. 

Metal still rare. 

Troy vi. 
Homeric Troy. 
Minyan ware. 
Terra-cotta whorls. 
Copper sickle. 

Copper sickle at 
Anau in Turkes- 

Beehive tombs at 

Mycenaean influence. 


Dimini, Sesklo, 

Mycenaean pot- 

and Zerelia. 

tery nr. Amisos. 


"Flying gallop" 


in Scythia and 


c. 1 180, Fall of Troy. 


Base Mycenaean 


Troy vii. 



Apollodorus. The Library, I. ix. 16 sqq. 

Apollonius Rhodius. Argonautica, with Scholia. 

Argonautica Orphica. 

Diodorus Siculus, iv. 45-56. 

Dionysius, Periegesis. 

Eustathius ad Dion. Perieg. 

Hyginus, xii.-xxiv. 

Pindar. Pythian, iv., with Scholia. 


Valerius Flaccus. Argonautica. 


British Museum Guide to the Antiquities of the Bronze Age. 
Cambridge Ancient History, vol. i. Cambridge, 1923. 
Daremberg, Saglio et Pottier. Dictionnaire des Anti- 

quites, s.v. Cabiri, Electrum, Sol, etc. 
Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. Inlay, Jade, Lapis-lazuli, 

Marionettes, Mythology, Silk, etc. 
Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum (F.H.G.), ed. Muller. 
Hastings' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, s.v. Nature, 

Sun, etc. 
Pauly-Wissowa. Reallexikon, s.v. Argonautai, Baktrianoi, 

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Allen, T. W. The Date of Hesiod, in J.H.S., xxxv., p. 85 ff. 

The Homeric Catalogue of Ships. Oxford, 1921 

Benfey, Theodor. Pant chat antra. Fiinf Bucher indischer 

Fabeln, Marchen und Erzahlungen. Leipzig, 1859. 
Berard, Victor. Les Pheniciens et TOdysee, 2 vols. 

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Bosanquet. See Phylakopi. 
Boswell, C. S. An Irish Precursor of Dante. Grimm 

Library. London, 1908. 
Bunbury, Sir E. History of Ancient Geography, 2 vols. 

London, 1879. 
Burrows, R. M. The Discoveries in Crete. London, 1907. 
Butcher, S. H. Harvard Lectures on Greek Subjects. 

London, 1904. 
Campbell, J. F. Popular Tales of the West Highlands, 

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Herodotus and the Caspian, in B.S.A., xxiii., pp. 175- 

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Ware, in J.H.S., xxxv. 
Chipiez. See Perrot. 
Cook, Arthur Bernard. Zeus, Jupiter, and the Oak, in 

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The European Sky-gods in Folk Lore, xv. (1904) and 

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Zeus : a Study in Ancient Religion, vol. i. Cam- 

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Dasent, Sir George W. Popular Tales from the Norse, 

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Dawkins, R. M. Modern Greek in Asia Minor. Cambridge, 



D^chelette, J. Manuel d'Archeologie Prehistoriques Cel- 
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Dottin, Georges. Les Anciens Peuples de l'Europe. 
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Droop. See Wace. 

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The Golden Bough. The Magic Art, 2 vols. London, 

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[ The references are to the text only, not the footnotes, unless specially 

Amythaon, 19, 29. 

Anauros, R., 12, 58, 91. 

Ancaeus, 15, 114. 

Antiope, 126, 135. 

Apollodorus, 16, 32, 33, 72, 79, 
90 ; on Phineus, 76, 78 ; return 
in, 112. 

Apollonius Rhodius, 33, 70, 71, 
79, 80, 129, 169, 170; on 
return, ill, 112, 117, 122. 

— Scholia, 20, 72, 114, 115, 131. 

Apsyrtus, killed by Medea, 16, 34, 
114, 130; in palace of Aietes, 
26, 35 ; in Scythia, 27, 35 ; death 
of, a magical rite, 85, 136 ; not 
in Pindar, 29. 

Ares, grove of, 12; Isle of, 15; 
incident discussed, 80 ; an 
Island of Birds, 97. 

Argo, built by Argus, 13, 25 ; 
speaking bough, 13, 25, 34, 
61, 62 ; voyage of, 13-17, 22, 
3°5 35> 39 and passim; passes 
Planctae, 15, 19, 22, 29, 34, 79, 
80 ; on terra-cotta relief, 25 ; 
play by Aeschylus, 25 ; dedicated 
to Poseidon, 61 ; = a dove, 62 ; 
built at Argos, or Sipha, 90 ; 
centre of story, 45, 91 ; home- 
ward routes of, 107-124. 

Argonauts, enumerated, 13, 29 ; 
on Orvieto vase, 24 ; statue 
group of, 23 ; chronology of, 
38, 39, 140-144; descended 
from water-spirits, 47 ; super- 
natural gifts of, 87, 88, 90 ; as 
friendly beasts, 88, 90 ; as real 
people, 89; homeward routes 
of, 107-124. 

Achaeans, 55, 138, 139, 144. 

Achelous, fight of Heracles with, 
9, 24*. 

Acusilaus, 21, 35. 

Admetus, 29. 

Adonis, 71, 128. 

Aeolus, figure of myth, 4 ; ancestor 
of Aeolidae, II, 12. 

Aeschylus, plays of, bearing on 
Argonauts, 25, 26; allusion to 
Hylas, 71 ; geography in, no; 
on Medea, 130, 131 ; on 
Indians, 158. 

Aeson, 12, 19, 34; rejuvenated 
by Medea, 34, 129. 

Agamede, 131, 132, 133. 

Agamemnon, 4, 143. 

Aia, city of Aietes, 21, 32, 34, 35, 
126; equivalent to Elysium? 
97, 101-106. 

Aietes, child of sun, 12, 20, 34, 85, 
126; brother of Circe, 19, 34; 
realm of, 21, 22, 29, 50, 105, 
133 ; tasks imposed by, 16, 26, 
2 9> 34? 61, 85 ; figure of fairy- 
tale, 85, 135 ; originally Cor- 
inthian, 126, 127, 133, 135 ; 
dynasty of, 134. 

Alexander, 99, 158. 

Allen, T. W., 147, 148. 

Amazons, 15, 155. 

Amber, 1 18-122, 162, 169. 

Amisus, 146, 147, 148. 

Amycus, 14, 91 ; play by Sop- 
hocles, 26 ; incident discussed, 



Argus, 13, 87, 90. 

Aria, 152, 166. 

Arimaspians, 157. 

Aristeas, 158. 

Arrian, 109, no. 

Artemidorus of Ephesus, 115, 118. 

Ascalaphus, 88, 90. 

Asia, Trade Route in Central, 

I 5°- I 59 J IDI > 162, 165. 
Atalanta, 23. 
Athamas, play by Aeschylus, 25 ; 

human sacrifice in family of, 

"> 54> 55 > chronology of, 143, 

Athena, 13, 24. 
Atreus, 52. 
Autolycus, 87, 88, 90. 
Avalon, 95. 


Bactra, 152, 153. 

Bactria, 156, 158, 161. 

Baltic, 98, 112, 119-121, 169. 

Bebryces, 14, 75, 76. 

Beowulf, 77. 

Bithynia, 14, 74, 76. 

Boeotia, II, 168 ; Minyans of, 61, 
140, 141, 142 ; human sacrifice 
in, 55, 168 ; Heracles in, 73. 

Bokhara, 153. 

Boreadae, the, 13, 14, 15, 26, 29, 
35, 78, 87. 

Borysthenes, R., 112, 120. 

Bran, voyage of, 93, 94, 97. 

Brendan, St., 93. 

Calais, see Boreadae. 

Caspian Sea, 118, 124, 151, 152, 
155, 164. 

Castor, 13, 29, 143; not a water- 
spirit, 47 ; not a beaver, 88» ; 
worshipped, 89. 

Caucasus, 15, 140, 155, 164. 

Chalciope, 12. 

Chaldaea, 154. 

Chaldaeans, 162. 

Chalybes, 15, 146. 

Charax of Pergamon, 44, 123. 

China, 152-156, 158, 159, 161. 

Circe, 12, 16, 19, 132, 135. 

Ciuin, 94, 103. 

Clashing Rocks, 15, 19, 22, 29, 
34, 62 ; incident discussed, 79, 

Colchians, akin to Egyptians, 44, 
102, 136, 137. 

Colchis, 12, 14, 20, 44, 54, 55, 74; 
gold of, 43, 64, 65, 163, 169; 
Kpiov cvvai, 60, 61 ; = Ely- 
sium ? 97, 102-104; did Argo 
reach? 103, 126, 136-137, 138- 
149 ; Aietes migrates to, 
126; native place of Medea, 
134, 136 ; in Homer, 20, 148. 

Cook, A. B., 52, 53, 80, 81. 

Corinth, 22 ; influence of, on 
story, 73, 74 ; Aietes and Medea 
in, 126-129, 133- 

Coronus, 88. 

Crete, 17, 141, 164; Orphism 
derived from, 38 ; Talos in, 17, 

Cretheus, 11, 12, 19, 28. 

Ctesias, 156, 157, 158. 

Cydias, 24. 

Cypselus, Chest of, 22. 

Cyrus, R., 151, 155. 

Cyzicus, 13, 14, 119, 145 ; incident 
discussed, 69-71. 

Danaids, the, 49. 

Deiochus of Proconnessus, 70. 

Dimini, 166. 

Diodorus Siculus, 31, 33 ; view of 
voyage, 43, 63, 64 ; return in, 
112, 113, 116, 122 ; on Phineus, 

Dionysius Periegetes, 114, 166. 

— Skytobrachion, 116. 

Dniester, R., 119. 

Dodona, 13, 61, 62. 

Doliones, 13, 14, 69, 70. 



Ecbatana, 152, 161. 

Echion, 29, 88, 90. 

Eden, 92, 98. 

Egypt, 38, 100, 162, 164. 

Elbe, R., 119. 

Elysium, 92, 95, 96, 101, 104, 105. 

Ephyra, mother of Aietes, 126, 

135 ; place-name, 133, 134. 
Epimenides of Cnossus, 126. 
Eratosthenes, 21 ; on return, 115, 

118; on chronology, 143, 144; 

text of Homer, 147, 148 ; on 

Indian trade, 151. 
Erginus, 9, 73. 

Eridanus, R., 101, ill, 112, 122. 
Euhemerism, 43, 44, 63. 
Eumelus, 126, 129, 130, 133, 135. 
Euneos, 13, 19, 144. 
Euphemus, 13, 27, 90. 
Euripides, 21, 27, 96 ; Medea of, 

129, 131. 
Eusebius, 143, 144. 
Eustathius, 123. 
Euxine Sea, 15, 20, 29, 39, 43, 59, 

63, 80, 125 ; colonization of, 

70, 81, 109, no, 145, 169; 

voyages in, 123, 145-148, 155, 

163, 164, 167 ; Fortunate Island 

in, 98. 

Farghana, 153. 

Faust, 58, 59. 

Ficoroni Cista, 62, 75. 

Folk-tale, 3-8, 9, 81, 83-91, 92- 

106, 168. 
Forchhammer, P. W., 46-50, 59. 
Frazer,SirJ.G., 3 , 5,8. 

Gobi, Desert of, 154, 157. 

Golden Fleece, the, 13, 16, 19, 21, 
22, 27, 34 ; interpretations of 
43 and ff. ; = gold of Colchis, 
43, 64, 65, 169 ; = treatise on 
alchemy, 44; = treatise on 
illumination, 44 ; =» rain-cloud, 

46-50 ; = sun, 50-54 ; = for- 
giveness of sins, 54, 56, 57 ; = 
golden cornland, 59 ; = sea at 
dawn, 59 ; = marine totem, 60- 


Halliday, W. R., 97. 
Halys, R., 145, 146. 
Harpies, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23 ; 

incident discussed, 76-78. 
Harrison, J. E., 9, 38. 
Hecataeus, 21, 22, 33, 34, 69; 

return in, 115, 116, 123. 
Hekatompylos, 152. 
Helios, father of Aietes, 20, 126, 

135; of Augeas, 131. 
Hellanicus, 32, 68, 71. 
Helle, n, 12, 21 ; on vase by 

Assteas, 24 ; interpreted, 43, 

44, 58. 
Hera, 19, 25, 58 ; Acrais, 73, 127, 

128, 136. 
Heraclea, 74. 
Heracles, hero of myth, legend, 

folk-tale, 9, 10 ; an Argonaut, 

13, 22, 29, 33, 169 ; left behind, 

14, 21, 35, 72-75 ; at Troy, 69, 
144 ; not originally an Argo- 
naut, 15, 23, 104 ; not a Minyan 
hero, 73, 104, 169 ; not a water- 
spirit, 47 ; supernatural gifts, 
87 ; and Melcarth, 103, 104. 

Herodorus, 35, 114, 115, 116. 

Herodotus, I, 2, 54, 117, 120, 136, 
J 37, 157, 158; account of 
Lake Tritonis, 30, 31 ; on 
Colchians, 44, 102, 136; on 
Eridanus, 122; on Hyper- 
boreans, 119. 

Hesiod, 20, 21, 34, 35, 72, 74, 
76, 87, 125, 126, 133, 134, 135, 
145; on return, 109, 115, 117, 

Hesychius, 77, 80. 

Homer, 19, 20, 22, 33, 34, 43, 65, 68, 
69, 75, 79, 83, 88, 107, 109, 129, 
J 35, 138, 168; amber in, 118; 
Elysium in, 95, 96 ; on Euxine, 


Hyginus, 33, 70, 112. 

Hylas, 13, 14, 49, 73, 74 ; incident 

discussed, 71, 72. 
Hyperboreans, land of the, 96, 98, 

101, 104, 113 ; and amber, 100, 

119, 120. 
Hypsipyle, 13, 19; play by 

Aeschylus, 25, 26. 
Hyrcania, 152, 155. 


Idas, 13, 37. 

Idmon, 15, 37, 87. 

Iliad, 19, 34, 68, 138, 145-148, 168. 

Indians, 157, 158. 

Ino, 11, 25. 

Iolcos, 12, 17, 20, 28, 142, 166, 

167 ; Medea in, 127, 133 ; Min- 

yans of, 140. 
Ireland, Other-world stories in, 92, 

93,94,98; - Ierne, 114, 124. 
Issedon, 153, 158. 
Ister, R., in, 112, 115, 117, 119, 

124, 145. 

Jade, 162, 163, 165 ; Gate, the, 

Jason, son of Aeson, 12, 34 ; inter- 
view with Pelias, 28-29, 32 ; 
summons Argonauts, 13, 29; 
at Lemnos, 13, 19, 21, 33 ; 
kills Amycus, 76, 91 ; consults 
Phineus, 14, 34, 78 ; passes 
Planctae, 19, 29, 33, 34 ; reaches 
Colchis, 20, 21, 22, 61, 148; 
performs tasks, 16, 20, 26, 29, 
34, 105 ; wins fleece, 16, 21, 22, 
34; marries Medea, 17, 20, 34, 
133 ; at Lake Tritonis, 31, 112 ; 
at Caspian Sea, 164 ; in Caly- 
donian hunt, 23 ; rejuvenated by 
Medea, 34, 130; death of, 27, 
35 ; and sea-monster, 24 ; 
protege of Hera, 73 ; a Minyan 
of Thessaly, 65, 73; at Corinth, 
27, 34, 127, 128, 129 ; founder of 
dynasty in Lemnos, 13, 33, 34, 

68 ; inactivity of, 91 ; chron- 
ology of, 143 ; as rain magician, 
49, 50 ; as sun hero, 51; as 
spring hero, 58 ; as healer, 54, 
91 ; as hero of fairy-tale, 84, 
85 ; and passim. 
Jasonium, Mt., 164. 


Kabeiri, 25, 34, 38. 

Kashgar, 153. 

Khotan, 153, 158, 161, 162, 163. 

Lang, Andrew, 84, 85. 

Lapis-lazuli, 101, 166. 

Leaf, Walter, 75, 146, 147, 148. 

Learchus, II, 54. 

Legend, 3-8, 9, 81, 106, 168-170. 

Lemniae, 25, 26. 

Lemnos, 13, 19, 22, 33, 34, 128; 
in Pindar, 30 ; incident dis- 
cussed, 68, 69, 81 ; an Island of 
Women, 97 ; Minyans in, 68, 
144, 169. 

Lop-nor, 153, 154. 

Lycus, 15, 145. 

Lykios, 23. 

Lynceus, 13, 87, 89, 114. 

Lyonnesse, 5, 101. 


Maeldune, voyage of, 93, 94, 95, 

97, 99- 

Magnesia, 21, 22, 35, 7 2 - 

Mannhardt, W., 50, 59. 

Mariandyni, 15. 

Maui, 53. 

Medea, 16, 17, 20, 21, 23, 63, 105, 
125-137 ; conceives passion for 
Jason, 16, 29 ; daughter of the 
sun, 50; kills Apsyrtus, 16, 26, 
2 7, 34, 35 ; kMs Talos, 17 ; kills 
Pelias, 23, 27, 30; rejuvenates 
Ram, 23, 34, 52 ; rejuvenates 
Aeson, 35, 129; rejuvenates 



Jason, 34, 130; in Corinth, 
27, 127, 128, 129, 169; as the 
moon, 50 ; as heroine of fairy- 
tale, 84-86 ; as healer, 130, 131, 
1 3 2 > J 37 ; a s sorceress, 26, 27, 
89, 132, 133, 134, 135; coin 
with, 136; play by Euripides, 
21,27,35,91, 129. 

Melampus, 29, 87, 88. 

Meleager, 23. 

Melicertes, II, 25, 54, 129. 

Menelaus, 1, 95, 108. 

Merv, 153. 

Micon, 23. 

Milesians, in Euxine, 71, 117, 145. 

Mimnermus, 21, 33, 34. 

Mingrelia, coin of, 136. 

Minyans, 12 ; of Thessaly, 12, 65, 
140, 141, 144, 168; of Boeotia, 
61, 63, 73, 140, 141 ; human 
sacrifice among, 54, 55 ; in 
Lemnos, 68, 69, 144, 169 ; a 
non-Cretan people, 39 ; Minyan 
ware, 140, 141, 142. 

Minyas, 47, 143, 144. 

Moldau, R., 119. 

Mopsus, 13, 29, 87. 

Muller, K. O., 54-56, 57, 59. 

Munich, vase at, 23. 

Mycenae, 5, 150; amber at, 118 ; 
tholos tombs at, 143, 144 ; 
dagger-blades, 162, 165. 

Mysia, 14, 71, 72, 146. 

Myth, 3-8, 9, 81, 168. 

Mythical, the, 1, 2. 


Neanthes of Cyzicus, 70. 
Neleus, 19, 129, 142?*. 
Nephele, 11, 12, 46, 50, 58. 
Nestor, 142. 

_ . _[ — .. VJ - « 
Nestor, 142. 
Nile, R., in, 115, 118. 
Nostoi, 34, 129 

Obsidian, 140, 166. 
Ocean, 21, 34, in, 113, 115, 117, 
12 * 

Odysseus, 1, 2, 19, 42, 79. 

Odyssey, 2, 19, 42, 91. 

Olbia, 119, 120. 

Orchomenus, Minyans of, 61, 63, 
140, 141, 142 ; human sacrifice 
at, 55, 168; Treasury at, 143, 
144 ; gold at, 150. 

Orpheus, 13, 29, 33, 41 ; promin- 
ence of, 37, 38 ; fairy powers 
of, 87, 88. 

Orphic Argonautica, 33, 41 ; on 
Phineus, 78; on return, 113, 
114, 124. 

Orphism, influence of, on story, 
35, 36, 38-41, 169 ; doctrine of 
purification, 39, 40. 

Orvieto vase, 23. 

Other- world, 92-106. 

Oxus,R., 151, 153, 167. 

Paradise, Earthly, 92-106. 

Parthenius, R., 145, 146. 

Parthia, 154, 155. 

Pasiphae, 12. 

Pelasgi, 70. 

Pelias, 12, 13, 19, 20, 21, 23, 32, 
61 ; sends Jason for fleece, 13, 
21, 28, 29; son of Tyro and 
Poseidon, 12, 19,34; killed by 
Medea, 23, 27, 30, 35 ; chron- 
ology of, 143. 

Periclymenus, 29, 87, 89, 90. 

Perimede, 131, 132. 

Perry, W. J., 100, 101, 102, 103, 

Perseis, 126, 135. 

Persian Gulf, 152. 

Phaeacia, 17, 96. 

Phasis, 16, 20, 29, 34, 51, 123, 124, 
125, 145, 168; Argonauts sail 
up river, 30, no, 113, 115, 117, 
134; gold washed down, 43, 
64; way to Caspian, 118, 150, 
*5*» 155, 161 ; equivalent to 
fairyland, 83, 84, 92. 

Pherecydes of Leros, 32, 34, 41, 
72, 91, 169; on Medea, 130, 

Pheres, 19, 29. 


Phineus, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, 33, 
34; instructs Argonauts, 15, 
39 ; incident discussed, 76-78 ; 
81 ; play by Aeschylus, 25, 26. 

Phoenicians, myth-making of, 109 ; 
and Medea, 129, 136, 137, 168 ; 
and Colchians, 102, 136, 137. 

Phrixus, 11, 12, 15, 21, 34, 168, 
169; sacrificed, *i 1, 27, 54, 55, 
56, 57 ; saved by Ram, 12, 21, 
24,29,46,52, 54, 56, 57,60,61, 
63, 65, 168 ; on vase by Assteas, 
24 ; soul of, 29 ; sons of, 15; 
interpreted, 43, 51, 52, 54, 55, 
5 8 > 59> 65 ; chronology of, 143. 

Pindar, 37, 39, 45, 90, 91 ; version 
of story, 27-30, 34 ; Elysium in, 
96, 104; on return, 112, 115; 
on Medea, 130. 

Planctae, 19, 22, 34, 79 ; and see 
Clashing Rocks. 

Plato, 3. 

Pliny, 122, 151. 

Polo, Marco, 153, 158, 167. 

Polydeuces, 13, 14, 29, 76, 89, 
90, 91, 143. 

Polyphemus, 72. 

Porticus Neptune, fresco in, 25. 

Poseidon, 12, 19, 47, 87. 

Prometheus, 16, 18, 26, 157, 164. 

Propontis, 20, 79, 146, 148. 

Ptolemy, 152. 


Rain magic, 47-50. 
Rhodanus, R., Ill, 112, 121. 
Ridgeway, Sir William, 108, 120, 

Rome, 5, 161. 

Salmydessus, 14, 76, 77. 
Samarkand, 153, 161. 
Samothrace, 13, 35, 38, 40, 169. 
Schliemann, H., 107, 118, 165. 
Schroder, R., 58. 

Scymnus of Chios, 115, 116. 

Seeliger, K., 132. 

Sera Metropolis, 152, 153. 

Simonides, 21, 22, 33, 34, 129, 130. 

Sinope, no, 120, 145, 146, 147. 

Sinties, 68. 

Sisyphus, IX, 128. 

Sophocles, plays on Argonaut 
story, 26, 27, 75 ; on return, 1 1 5, 
116; on Medea, 130, 131. 

Strabo, 1, 2, 20, 49, 68, 71, 140, 
164 ; regards story as fact, 43 ; 
view of fleece, 43, 64 ; view of 
Planctae, 79 ; on Indian trade, 
151 ; his text of Homer, 147, 

Suidas, 44, 45, 56. 

Sun-myth, 50-54. 

Svoronos, J. N., 60-64. 

Symplegades, 22 ; and see Clash- 
ing Rocks, Planctae. 

Talos, 17, 80, 81. 

Tanais, R., 112, 113, 1 15, 1 16, 120. 

Tarim, 153, 158. 

Tel chines, 48. 

Theocritus, 50, 76, 132. 

Thermodon, 15, 155. 

Thessaly, 12 ; rain charms in, 48 ; 
Medea in, 133, 134, 169 ; Bronze 
Age in, 138-142, 164; lapis 
lazuli in, 166, 167 ; Minyans of, 
12,65,140,142, 144,168. 

Thucydides, 1,2. 

Timaeus, 116, 117, 123. 

Timagetus, 115, 116, 117, 121. 

Tiphys, 13, 15, 87, 89, 90. 

Trapezus, 145, 161. 

Tritonis, Lake, 30, 31, 35, 112, 117. 

Troy, 69, 141, 142, 144, 164, 165, 

Tyro, 12, 19. 

Valerius Flaccus, 33, 112. 
Vikings, 100, 121. 



Vistula, R., 119, 120. 
Vurtheim, J., 58, 59. 


Weston, Jessie L., 4. 
Wilamowitz, 72, 73, 74. 

Zerelia, 140, 142. 

Zetes, see Boreadae. 

Zeus, Ammon, 52, 53, 62 ; Ktesios, 

56 j Laphystios, 55 ; Phyxios, 

11, 12 ; Sabazios, 52. 










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