To sail to Colchis, Jason commissioned a ship, the Argo, named after its builder, Argus, who constructed it from pine trees felled on Pelion, while Athene fitted to its prow a talking plank, cut from the sacred oak at Dodona. For his crew (the Argonauts, ‘Argo Sailors’) Jason assembled the bravest heroes of his age. Most sources agree that they included Castor and Polydeuces from Sparta, Meleager from Calydon, Zetes and Calais, sons of the North Wind, Iphitus, the brother of Tiryns’ King Eurystheus, Pelias’ son Acastus, Orpheus, and Heracles, who – although the bravest of them all conceded the captaincy to Jason.
The Voyage of the Argo Begins Photo Gallery
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The Argo first called at Lemnos, where it was greeted by a hostile army. Tensions were diffused when its leader, Queen Hypsipyle (‘High Gates’), revealed the reason for her nervousness. The Lemnians had neglected their wives, complaining of their body odour, and conducted affairs with mainland girls. In consequence, Hypsipyle said, the women drove them into exile (in fact they murdered them). Finding their hostesses distinctly aromatic, the Argonauts enthusiastically embraced them, and in time Lemnos resounded to the mewls of newborn babies. Even Jason was reluctant to depart, but at last Heracles dragged the crew back to the Argo.
Through the Hellespont they sailed to the southern shores of the Propontis Sea, where the king of Cyzicus welcomed them to his wedding feast. Then resuming their journey, the Argonauts rounded a broad headland, before a storm forced them in to land. In the darkness they were attacked, and a bloody battle left many of their assailants dead. When the weather cleared they discovered the truth. Cyzicus was built on an isthmus, and they had been driven on to its far shore; the attackers were their friends of days before and the newly married king was among the fallen. In grief his young bride hanged herself. Mourning their error, the Argonauts returned to their rowing benches and continued east.