Pandora’s stories: The Argo

Of all ships, the Argo is most famous. Named after her builder, Argus, Argo (meaning ‘swift’) was the ship on which Jason and the Argonauts (the heroes who joined him on the expedition) sailed from Iolcos to Colchis to retrieve the Golden Fleece. She was like a Greek warship, a galley propelled by oars, and was the first ship of this type that went out on a voyage across the high seas.

The Argonauts were sometimes called Minyans, after some of Jason’s relatives who were descended from a prehistoric tribe in the area. Many claimed to have sailed on the Argo alongside Jason, including Bellerophon, Heracles, Nestor, Orpheus, Peleus, Perseus, and Philoctetes.

Her crew were specially protected by the goddess Hera, and she was planned and constructed with the help of Athena. She contained in her prow a magical piece of timber from the sacred forest of Dodona, which could speak and give prophecies. After her successful return with the Golden Fleece, Argo was consecrated to Poseidon in the Isthmus of Corinth. When Jason visited the wreck of Argo, one of her beams fell and killed him. She was then translated into the sky and turned into the constellation Argo Navis.

Coin of Iolcos showing Argo

Coin of Iolcos showing Argo

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