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Who Were the Argonauts?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Argonauts were a crew of heroes who helped Jason sail the ship Argo in search of the Golden Fleece in Greek mythology. Along the way, Jason and the Argonauts ran into a number of interesting, thrilling, and sometimes dangerous adventures which have been told in various Greek myths for centuries. The Argonauts can be seen on Greek vases and in other works of art from Ancient Greece, and they also appear in many Greek plays, both as part of the crew of the Argo and as individuals.

According to legend, Jason was ordered to retrieve the Golden Fleece to reclaim his rightful throne after is was usurped. The challenge was actually supposed to be impossible, and it certainly turned out to be difficult, as Jason had to contend with all sorts of threats from wars to Sirens on his way to get the Golden Fleece. Upon returning, Jason ultimately reclaimed his throne, after going through several trials, but he died miserable and alone when part of the then greatly decayed Argo collapsed on him.

Descriptions of the number of Argonauts varies, although most accounts seem to describe around 50 men and women, including some famous figures from Greek mythology like Medea, Bellerophon, Heracles, Laertes, Iolaus, Orpheus, Theseus, and Polydeuces. Descriptions of the Argo often include the fact that the ship had fifty oars, so the crew likely included at least 50 people, if not more.

After assembling his crew of Argonauts, Jason had to sail to Colchis, where the Golden Fleece allegedly resided in the Grove of Ares. As the Argonauts journeyed through the Aegean, their numbers waxed and waned, with some going off on private quests while others joined up and some died in combat. The Argonauts were also forced to contend with hazards like the Sirens, who attempted to lure the ship onto a rocky shoreline, as they navigated the sometimes treacherous waters of the Aegean.

The term “Argonauts” literally translates as “Argo sailors,” but the Argonauts were much more than sailors. They were some of the finest and most renowned heroes of Ancient Greece, and their deeds both before and after their journey with Jason were notable enough to be enshrined in a number of myths and legends. You may also see the Argonauts referred to as the Minyans, referencing a tribe which lived in the region Jason came from, although the Argonauts came from all over Greece.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By strawCake — On Oct 23, 2011

@Monika - If you dislike the ending of the story, you might be heartened to know that they changed the ending on the Hallmark made for TV version. In that version, Jason gets married and lives happily every after. Although, like someone else said, that movie was pretty awful so I wouldn't recommend it!

Interestingly enough, in the "real" version of the myth, the reason Jason dies so tragically is that he betrays his wife. His wife happens to be a sorceress, so she curses him and he dies alone! I guess that wouldn't have gone over too well in the Hallmark remake of the story though.

By Monika — On Oct 22, 2011

I'm actually not familiar with this particular myth. However, it sounds extremely depressing to me!

I can't believe after all the journeying and adventuring, the hero reclaims his throne and then dies in an accident!

I know a lot of Greek myths trend towards the tragic, but this is just ridiculous! Maybe after going through all those trials he could have just lived happily ever after?

By wander — On Oct 22, 2011

I'm familiar with Argonauts from the PC game, Rise of the Argonauts. I think they changed a lot from the Argonauts of Greek mythology because a bunch of other mythological characters like Achilles, Pan and Medusa manage to show up.

I have to admit I haven't seen the classic movie so maybe I will have to see about getting Jason and the Argonauts on DVD sometime. Perhaps that movie would be a candidate for a remake at some point in the near future to introduce the story to a new audience. Come to think of it, the story of the Argonauts reminds me a lot of the movies 300 and Clash of the Titans.

By lonelygod — On Oct 22, 2011

When I hear of Argonauts I usually think of the Toronto Argonauts, a team in the Canadian Football League. I didn't really think about the significance of the nickname but come to think of it now, it is quite cool and unique. At least it's more special than all the school teams calling themselves the Spartans. The CFL Argonauts are one of the oldest surviving pro teams in North America so being named for heroes of ancient times is doubly appropriate.

Does anyone else know of an organization or company that has taken the Argonauts name?

The Toronto Argonauts team even reflects the origin of their name with a shield on their logo, while their old logo had a boat represented by a football.

By backdraft — On Oct 21, 2011

I remember that there was a made for TV movie that told the story of Jason and the Argonauts that came out 5 or 10 years ago. I also remember that it was not very good. This is one of those stories that I always wished would get a big budget Hollywood treatment with lots of special effects and a cast of thousands.

I think there is potential. There seems to be a lot of interest in classical civilization lately with movies like 300 and the show about Spartacus. Maybe Jason is ripe for a comeback. If anyone reading this is a big time Hollywood producer, you might just have a hit on your hands.

By nextcorrea — On Oct 21, 2011

Jason and the Argonauts was one of my favorite stories when I was a little kid. I was pretty crazy about Greek mythology in general, but there was just something about the story of Jason that captured my young mind more than anything else.

We had a picture book that told the story and my dad must have read it to me 500 times throughout my youth. It is still on a book shelf in my parents house. I am hoping that when my son gets a little older he will get into the story of Jason as well and I can pass the book down to a new generation.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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