Sources for Morris’s List of Argonauts

Dr. Peter Wright

It seems reasonable to suppose that the list of Argonauts given by Apollonius Rhodius in his Argonautica, set out below, was the primary source for that in Morris’s Jason, given that the latter matches Apollonius’s one far more closely both in order and in content, than it does the others surviving in ancient poetry and mythography, (or probably any dictionary or other source conflating Apollonius’s list with others), even though Morris may have consulted them directly or indirectly for individual names. He probably either had Apollonius close by him while writing, or else had a compendium of mythology available, if one existed, which followed almost exactly both the personnel and the order of Apollonius’s list. Seeing that Morris could readily translate Homer some twenty years later, he could surely have managed Apollonius’s Greek, a slightly diluted form of Homer’s epic dialect, in the mid 1860s. (Several translations of Apollonius into English had also been published between the 1770s and the 1820s). It would be unlikely that Morris would have chosen to start his list, following Jason and Argus, with such an obscure figure as Asterion unless he was using Apollonius, whose list, after initial variations, he follows almost exactly from the introduction of Iphiclus and Admetus for the next forty or so names, save for occasional reversal of pairs of comrades or brothers, and one or two omissions, before adding a few fresh names at the end.

The main other list in Greek, in Apollodorus’s mythographical handbook, though it contains many of the same people, has a quite different order, starting with the more famous pairs of heroes such as Castor and Pollux, Telamon and Peleus, etc., and ending with several borrowed from the Iliad. The Latin Argonautica, written by Valerius Flaccus in the late 1st Century A. D., whose list, the fullest other one in ancient epic verse (Book I, lines 350-490), setting out the order in which the forty Argonauts sat at their oars, provides a ‘control,’ as the scientists say, having also a quite different order of names (see below).

The number of heroes required by Apollonius to man the Argo was probably determined by the number of oars on early Greek war galleys, which were worked with fifty, 25 each side. (Until after Classical times such Greek ships were apparently, unlike early modern galleys, rowed with only one man to an oar.) Apollonius thus needed a crew of some fifty to keep the ship moving, after allowing for the steersman and for Orpheus whose playing would keep time for the rowing. Morris, with about sixty on board, has somewhat over-manned the boat, unless he was deliberately allowing for men dying or, like Hercules, being left behind during the voyage out.

The earliest surviving list of Argonauts in classical literature, that in Pindar (Pythian Ode 4), only gives a dozen names, (marked P on my list). Some of those mentioned, then and later, as being on board were perhaps originally men with special gifts, such as the far-seeing Lynceus, the shape-changing Periclymenus, or the two winged Boreads, who might have assisted Jason in overcoming the perils of the voyage or fulfilling the tests imposed by King Aeetes. Others were selected from among the fathers of prominent heroes of the Trojan war, reckoned in Greek tradition to have occurred in the next generation. But to make up the full complement of fifty, Apollonius, a learned man who was for a time director of the famous Alexandrian library, probably had recourse to various local Greek traditions that claimed a place on the Argo for the ancestral figures of particular cities and clans; their presence on it was as much of a distinction as having an ancestor on the Mayflower. That is probably why about half of the Argonauts whom he, followed by Morris, includes, are so obscure that they have no other recorded legendary activity. Having assembled so large a cast Apollonius did not find much for most of them to do. Many he does not mention again at all after their appearance in his catalogue. Morris’s narrative has at least provided a good number of the heroes whom he lists with activities suitable to their character, if not with any individual psychology.

In the list set out below, the numbers in the right column indicate the order in which the heroes named in the left one appear in Apollonius’s version. (I have included the few omitted by Morris so as not to lose count). Those underlined are included in Apollodorus’s list. Numbers in square brackets on the right show the very different order in which the same persons are named in Valerius, who however seems to have looked at Apollonius' list and extracted various small groups from it.

I have starred on the list those Argonauts, about half the total, who make even a small appearance in Greek mythological tradition independently of being on the Argo; their deeds will be described in any adequate mythological dictionary. The others, even though some are prominent on the voyage, have effectively no other history of their own. For the right hand list, besides ancestry and origins mentioned by Apollonius, I have added, in square brackets within the list and in some notes at the end, some further identifications beyond those given by Apollonius and some comments and clarifications related to alterations made, and allusions added, by Morris to what he found in Apollonius. He seems either to have retained a good memory of some byways of Greek legend, or had a well-annotated edition of Apollonius to hand, or checked some at least of the Argonauts in some dictionary such as Lemprière for details not included in that primary source.

List of Argonauts in Morris’s Jason compared with that in Apollonius’ Argonautica
Names listed in Apollodorus are underlined.



1. Jason

= 1

2. Argus

= 2 [45]

3. Asterion of Philaeu[s]

= 4 son of Cometes [3]

4. Polyphemus of Thessalian Larissa

= 5 son of Eilatus [38]

5. Erginus of Miletus, (1) son of Neptune

= 44 [29]

6. Theseus [King of Athens]* (2)


7. Pirithous [of Thessaly]* (2)


8. Nauplius son of Neptune

= 30 (3)

9. Idmon son of Apollo and presumably Cyrene

= 31 (4) [6]

10. Iolaus* (5) of Argos

[Not in Apollonius. Presumably Hercules’ nephew of that name.]

11. Atalanta** (6) of Arcadia


12. Oileus of Locris

= 17 [father of the lesser Ajax in the Iliad] [13]

13. Iphiclus*

= 6 Son of Phylacus (7) [44]

14. Admetus** [king] of Pherae

= 7 [36]

15. Echion of Ephesus

= 8 [Mention of Ephesus here anachronistic. cf. below, n. (1)] [35]

16. Eurytus his brother

= 9 (Erytus) [34]

17 Caeneus** of Magnesia

cf. 11 Coronus son of Caenaeus

18 Aetalides of [Thessalian] Larissa

= 10 (Aethalides) [33]

19. Mopsus of Lipara (sic)

= 12 of Titaresia [19]

20. Eurydamas of Xynias

= 13 son of Ctimenus

21. Menoetius** son of Actor, of Opus = 14 [father of Achilles’ friend Patroclus Cf. Iliad, Bk XXIII, ll. 85-90] [26]

22. Eribotes

= 16 Son of Teleon [24]

23. Eurytion son of Iras, of Thebes

= 15 Son of Irus [17]


Canthus son of Canethus, omitted by Morris [37]

24. Clytius of Oechalia

= 18

25. Iphitus his brother*

= 19

26. Telamon** of Aegina

= 20 [father of the Greater Ajax] [1]

27. Peleus, his brother*

= 21 [father of Achilles] [25]

28. Phalerus of Athens

= 23 son of Alcon [23]

29. Butes of Athens

= 22 son of Teleon [22]

30. Tiphys, the steersman of Boeotia

= 24 son of Hagnias [Thespiae is a Boeotian city] [46]

31. Phlias [of Phlia]

= 25 son of Dionysus [27]

Here Morris has skipped a few lines

26 Talaus son of Bias [4]


27 Areius his brother


28 Leodocus [5]

32. Hercules** son of Alcmena [and Jupiter]

= 29 [2]

32A. Hylas son of Theodamas

= 29A

33. Ephebus (8) of Thebes/Argos


34. Castor** sons of Leda [and Tyndarus]

= 33 [31]

35. Pollux**

= 32 [Polydeuces] [30]

36. Lynceus** of Messene

= 34 son of Aphareus [40]

37. Idas, his brother*

= 35 son of Aphareus [39]

38. Periclymenus**

= 36 son of Neleus [21]

39. Ancaeus** of Tegea

= 39 Son of Lycurgus; an Arcadian [in Apollonius the next two are also from Tegea] [16]

40. Amphidamas of Arcadia

= 37 brothers, sons of Aleus, and uncles of Ancaeus [15]

41. Apheus [of Arcadia]

? = 38 Cepheus [14]

42. Augeas** king of Elis = 40 son of the Sun, so a half-brother of King Aeetes [and owner of the notorious stables]


= 41 Asterius, brother of the next. Not in Morris.

43. Amphion of Pellene

= 42 son of Hyperasius [Not the king who bult Thebes with his music.] [10]

44. Euphemus son of Neptune, of Tenarus

= 43 He could run over the sea by his father’s gift. [8]

45. Ancaeus of Samos

= 45 [28]

46. Meleager** of Calydon

= 46 son of Oeneus, king of Aetolia [32]

47. Laocoon, his uncle

= 47 son of Oeneus’ father by a slave girl

48. Iphiclus of Lacedaemon, son of Thestius (9)

= 48

49. Arcas* [Presumably the Arcadian hunter Arcas son of Jupiter and the nymph Callisto. Cf. Ovid. Metamorphoses, Bk. II]  


= 50 Iphitus son of Naubolus, of Phocis [7]



50. Zetes sons of Boreas

= 51 [41]

51. Calais

= 52 [42]

52. Phocus (10) of Magnesia


53. Priasus, of same (10)


54. Palaemonius of Aetolia

= 49

55. Asclepius* son of Apollo and Coronis

= [Later god of healing]

56. Acastus** son of Pelias

= 53 [47]

57. Neleus* of Pylos, brother of Pelias


58. Nestor* his son [Later the very ancient wise counsellor of the Greeks in the Iliad]


59. Laertes** king of Ithaca [father of Odysseus]


60. Almenus (11) [Ialmenus]


61. Orpheus** son of Oeagrus

= 3 by Calliope [43]

(1) At the imagined time of the Argonauts Miletus was still in the hands of non-Greek Carians. See Iliad, Bk. II, lines 861-70. According to Greek tradition the Greeks did not begin to settle on the mainland of Asia Minor until after the Trojan War. It is not surprising that a Milesian was included in the Argo’s crew, since the city of Miletus was a pioneer in exploring and settling the Black Sea from the 8th century B. C. Many of its seamen’s discoveries were probably used in the description of that sea’s southern coasts as set out in Apollonius’ and later Greek accounts of the Argo’s voyage.

(2) Apollonius specifically states, in relation to the Athenians below, Morris nos. 28-29, that neither Theseus nor Pirithous were on the Argo, being detained in the Underworld after trying to abduct Proserpina.

(3) Morris has substituted for Apollonius’ Nauplius son of Clytoneus the latter’s distant ancestor and namesake, son of Poseidon, mentioned at the end of his pedigree in Apollonius.

(4) Morris has assumed that the Cyrene whom he found in one of his sources as mother of Idmon is the same as the heroine of Pindar’s odes, Pythian 9, a maiden huntress whom Apollo admires and loves when he sees her wrestling with a lion. There, however, their child was not Idmon but Aristaeus, the man who was chasing Eurydice when the snake bit her: see the myth of Orpheus in Virgil, Georgics, Book IV.

(5) Iolaus, son of Hercules’ mortal half-brother Iphiclus/es was Hercules’ charioteer and assisted in some of his labours, especially killing the Hydra. In some sources he competes in the funeral games held for King Pelias after Medea killed him, and his presence here, when most others involved were Argonauts, may have persuaded the compiler of some list of them that he had been on board. Really he should have come with Hercules.

Hercules’ apparent implication (lines 293-300) that Iphiclus was ruling at Thebes while he was toiling at his labours is a innovation by Morris: their father Amphitryon was war leader, not king, at Thebes in the traditional Hercules legend. The Theban king in those stories was a Creon, who married his two daughters to Hercules and Iphiclus. (He should not be confused with the Creon who was Oedipus’s brother-in-law and successor as ruler at Thebes. The name, Kreion or Kreon, meaning ‘lord’ or ‘ruler,’ derived from a root, Kr--, meaning mighty, was used in heroic legends for kings who had no traditional name of their own; cf. the anonymous kings whose daughters are married to the heroes of folktales. Hence its use later for the Corinthian king whose daughter Jason wanted as his second spouse.)

(6) Apollonius says later (Book I, lines 769-72) that Atalanta had hoped to come on the Argo, but Jason turned her down because he feared her presence would cause sexual rivalry. She had not yet, in the usual Greek tradition, become involved with Meleager, whose attraction to her, so prominent in Swinburne’s play, only arose later, at the Hunt of the Calydonian Boar. Her presence in other lists of Argonauts suggests that some earlier versions may have included her, so that Apollonius had to explain her absence.

(7) This Iphiclus or his father Phylacus owned a famous herd of cattle, which the seer Melampus unsuccessfully tried to steal, as mentioned below by Apollonius under nos. 26-27, omitted by Morris.

(8) Morris has probably invented this man, perhaps misunderstanding a statement by Apollonius that Hylas was ‘prothebes’: in the flower of his youth.

(9) This other Iphiclus was son of Thestius, cousin of Oeneus and father of Meleager’s fatal mother Althaea. Another daughter of Thestius was Leda who married Tyndareus king of Sparta/Lacedaemon and became the mother of Helen, Castor, Pollux, etc. Morris has apparently assumed, what I suspect no ancient author states, that this obscure Iphiclus of Aetolian ancestry accompanied his sister from Aetolia to Sparta.

(10) This pair Morris may also have invented. I have not so far been able to trace them: the only Phocus I have found is a younger brother of Telamon and Peleus, whom they murdered out of jealousy, but he like them came from Aegina and later settled in Phocis near Delphi, not in Thessaly.

Note: Magnesia here and elsewhere in this list is a mountainous district on the eastern, coastal side of Thessaly, inhabited by the tribe of Magnetes, and is to be distinguished from the two Ionian cities of Magnesia-under-Sypilus and Magnesia-on-the-Maeander, on or near the west coast of Asia Minor.

(11) The list in Apollodorus is padded at the end with several heroes drawn anachronistically from the list of those Greek leaders who brought ships to attack Troy, in Iliad Book II. Morris has apparently derived this name from one of them, Ialmenus son of Ares. See Iliad, Book II, line 512.


The Route of the Argonauts: Getting the Argo Home

Dr. Peter Wright

When the Argo legend was first developed the Greeks still had a simplified view of geography, in which the inhabited world consisted basically of a round disc with the Ocean, thought of as a river rather than a salt-water sea, flowing round the outside. Accordingly in the first continuous poetic account of the Argonauts, in Pindar’s Pythian Odes, no. 4, they apparently returned to Greece, having probably as in most later accounts including Morris’s been cut off from the Bosphorus by the Colchian fleet which had pursued them, by sailing up the river Phasis, which runs east from the Black Sea’s south-east end, presumably into that fabulous river Ocean.

They then went round the outside of the world, probably its south-east quadrant, past the Red Sea to the south side of Libya/Africa, returning to the Mediterranean either carried over the desert by helpful nymphs, or in another version, sailing down the Nile. (That theory was perhaps encouraged by a dim knowledge of the Caspian Sea, which some Greek geographers believed even later to be a gulf of the outer Ocean Sea.) The influence of that early version was still powerful enough to induce Apollonius to bring his storm-driven Argonauts to the north coast of the Libyan desert.

After it was learnt that Colchis and the Phasis were separated from any edge of the world by extensive mountains and deserts to their east, another route had to be found for Argo’s return. This new one, used by Apollonius, was based on a theory of the flow of the northern Balkan rivers, developed in the century before he wrote. The Greeks thought that somewhere in the Central Balkans the Istros or Danube divided into two streams, one of which, the actual one, flowed east to the Black Sea. Another supposedly ran westward towards the north end of the Adriatic. (That was probably derived from an uncertain knowledge of the river Save, running into the Danube a little west of Belgrade, which does rise east of Istria, quite close to the Adriatic’s north end.)

Apollonius therefore takes the Argo up the Danube and down its imagined western branch into the Adriatic, where Jason and Medea have her brother Absyrtus killed on an island apparently imagined to lie at its western mouth. To be purified from that killing they have then to go to her aunt Circe, in her by then traditional position on the west coast of Italy. (See below). To get Argo to Circe’s home, Apollonius indulges in more fanciful geography, taking it up the Po, identified with the mythical river Eridanus, and, ignoring the Alps, down the Rhone.

Morris would have learnt of the pre-classical condition of the lands around the northern Black Sea from the detailed account of the peoples and rivers of Scythia in Book IV of Herodotus’s History, one of his favourite books. He begins with the Argonauts being directed (X, lines 50-51) toward the Sarmatians who then lived around the river Tanais, now the Don, to the north, indeed almost the north-east, of the Black Sea. (Herodotus, Book IV, c. 110 seqq.) They then sail toward its northern side, reaching a great river, some of whose characteristics Morris has taken from those of the Dnieper, anciently the Borysthenes. That river does have, on the large-scale maps that Morris would most likely have seen, a peninsula running westwards across its southern mouth (if that is what X. 63-65 mean) and further upstream the notorious Rapids a little below Kiev which long obstructed navigation on it, for instance by the Varangians trading from the 9th century A. D. with Byzantium: cf. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. V [pt. III]. Like them the Argonauts have to carry their ship around those Rapids by a portage. (X. 430 seqq.)

We usually suppose most of Southern Russia to have been occupied by bare steppe pastures such as are suggested in XI. 10-12, 150. It would seem, however, that at least near the mouth of the Dnieper it had once been relatively well wooded. Herodotus (IV, c. 18), describes the land east of that river’s mouth as Woody (Hylaea) Scythia, and Rawlinson in his notes to Herodotus (vol. III, p. 16) cites travellers who report forests there in modern times. Even the lions (Jason, X, 205-10), though one would not expect them nowadays in Russia, are not entirely implausible. Herodotus (VII, ch. 128-29) reports lions about 500 B. C. in Macedonia and northern Greece. (After all there are still -- a few -- tigers in Siberia.) Although Morris has presented the inhabitants of his river lands as thoroughly primitive, with at best a Stone Age technology, he may in describing their religion (X, 400-408), to which some Argonauts almost fall victim, be recalling the practice of the Taurians (in the modern Crimea) reported by Herodotus (Book IV, ch. 103) of sacrificing strangers, as they had done in the days of Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigeneia.

Morris in the route he gives for the Argo’s return has discarded almost all Apollonius's incorrect geography and apparently set out one across the river systems of Western Russia and round the north of the European mainland, plausible, except in one respect, in terms of the actual map of
Europe. He might have been guided toward this change, supposing he had known of them even indirectly, by two other Classical versions of the Argo’s travels: one, reported in the scholia on Apollonius, takes it up the Don into the Outer Ocean; the other, in an 'Argonautica' ascribed to Orpheus (part of the ‘scripture’ composed for the Orphic mystery cult) brings it up the Danube, then (?down the Rhine) to the northern seas and around Britain, Gaul, and Spain.

The details of Morris’s account of the lands that Argo passed through till it again reached the sea are largely his own invention, although they do roughly reflect, as the Argonauts go northward, the transition from the steppe zone to the forest zone of Eastern Europe. I will not, however, try to locate Morris’s range of mountains with the river running under them for four days of rowing. They may possibly be derived from the legendary Rhiphean mountains, which ancient geographers, perhaps misunderstanding the size and extent of the Carpathians, supposed to run east-west across most of Central and Eastern Europe. The Argonauts then draw their ship across from one river to another north-flowing one, --the headwaters of the Dnieper system are not far from those of such rivers as the Vistula, whose lower course (cf. XII, line 96) does at least run north-eastward, -- and after enduring a thoroughly Russian winter beside it are able to row down it into the Baltic Sea.

They probably then sail westward along the southern coast of the Baltic -- ‘the amber-bearing shore’ (XII, 166) -- from which amber was intermittently exported southward overland to the Mediterranean lands throughout ancient times, (cf. Tacitus, Germania, ch. 45) before turning north to pass the straits now dividing Denmark and Sweden (XII. 173-74). Survivors of the ‘Cimbrian folk’ named by Medea still occupied the northern part of Jutland in Denmark about 100 A. D. Others had emigrated southwards 200 years earlier, eventually to fight and be destroyed by the Romans, an event perhaps alluded to in House of the Wolfings, ch. VI. The fierce people whom the Argonauts meet are presumably ancestors of the Vikings, and the invulnerability of their red-haired chieftain possibly recalls characters in the Sagas (perhaps berserks) ‘upon whom iron would not bite’.

After apparently narrowly escaping being blown northwest towards the Arctic Ocean, the Argonauts pass westward through the Straits of Dover, seeing their White Cliffs with the French coast dimly visible on the other side (XII, 290-300), and sail for four days along the south coast of Britain, noticing as they do so the change from white chalk cliffs to red sandstone ones, as in Devon and Cornwall (XII, 301-304). Here Morris patriotically manages to smuggle his homeland into the poem. Then, after a trouble-free voyage out of sight of the coasts of Gaul and Spain -- one that a real ancient oared ship would not have attempted, preferring, for safety and drinking water, to keep in sight of land --they see the Pillars of Hercules with Iberia to the north and re-enter the Mediterranean (XII, 413 seqq.).

This enables Morris to bring them to several of the sites traditionally seen by his heroes in earlier versions. The Greeks, exploring the Western Mediterranean from the 8th century, had identified various places as those visited by Argo or by Odysseus in his fabulous wanderings: thus the Cyclops Polyphemus was placed in Sicily, and Scylla and Charybdis in the Straits of Messina. (Cf. Virgil, Aeneid, Book III). Circe was eventually located, as in Virgil, Aeneid, VI, 10-24, on an Italian promontory called Circeii, almost halfway between the Tiber and Naples. Accordingly the Argo, having sailed away from the north coast of Africa, the ‘lion-haunted land’ with its nomadic tribes (XIII. 1-14), also described by Herodotus (Book IV, chapter 168--196), finds the land where Circe dwells lying right across their way.

From her dreadful house they sail south again towards Sicily (XIV, 1 seqq.), whose three corners and capes (akroi) had led to the Greeks sometimes calling it Trinacria, after the legendary island where in Homer, Odyssey, Book XII, the Sun god kept his cattle. They apparently find the Sirens on the Sicilian coast, perhaps the southwest one. There Butes, enchanted by them, is rescued by Venus (XIV, 458-63), flying eastward from Cyprus, where she had an important shrine at Paphos, towards Lilybaeum, a city south of the west end of the island, near which a famous temple to her stood on Mount Eryx (XIV, 458-79).

Morris apparently here puts the Garden of the Hesperides, towards which Argo sails a little southward, on the north coast of Africa (? in Cyrenaica), rather further east than is suggested by his account of Hercules’ voyage to it in the “Golden Apples,” where it seems to be below the Atlas mountains. (In Apollonius the Argo reaches the Hesperides only after Hercules has killed their dragon). Then after passing north to Cape Malea, at the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese, celebrated in ancient times for the contrary winds which made its passage difficult for sailing ships, Argo is back in home waters.


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