Argos lies four miles distance from the Argolic gulf,
at the north eastern Peloponnese. It is the second oldest city after
Sikyon and for centuries it was the most important one. Argos became
dependant to the nearby city of Mycenae (six miles distance), under the
descendants of Pelops.
In the twelve century, under Orestes, the son of
Agamemnon, Argos became again the capital of Argolis.
In the eleventh century, Argos fell to the Dorians and their leader Temenos,
made it the base of his operations.
At 750 BC, under the tyrant Pheidon, Argos became the most
important city of Peloponnese.
The first king of Argos was Inachus, the son
of Oceanus and Tethys and god of the river that was
flowing in front of the walls of the city. His reign is placed in 1986
The legend tell us that after the flood of Deukalion, he led the
surviving people down, from the mountains to the plains. When Hera and
Poseidon contended for the possession of the land, Inachus chose Hera
and he was punished from Poseidon, who made the rivers of Argos been
scarce of water. From his name Argians were called also Inachidaes.
His sons were Phoroneus and Aegialus. Phoroneus was the
Argian Prometheus, the hero who gave them the fire and their social
qualities. His tomb at Argos, as well as the whole territory was called Phoronic
city. Phoroneus bore two children by the nymph Teledeke, Apis
The first name of Peloponnese was Apia and took her name from
Apis, who was a harsh ruler. Apis was put to death by Telchin and
Thelxion and Argos, son of his sister Niobe, by the god
Zeus, was succeeded him in the throne.
His wife Evande, the daughter of Strimon, gave him four sons, Ekbasus,
Peiras, Epidaurus, Kriatus.
The son of Ekbasus, Agenor, succeeded him and his child Argos
Panoptes, it is said to have one hundred eyes in all his body.
Argos liberated Peloponnese from many monsters and wild animals.
Inachus, the father of the Argives, had a daughter, named Io.
From her adventures the Attic tragedians took their themes. Io was the
first priestess of Hera at the ancient Heraion, which lied
between Mycenae and Tiryns.
Io was attacked amorously by Zeus and when Hera learned this, Zeus
turned her into a white cow. Hera demanded to bring the cow to her and
put Argos Panoptes as her guardian. Hermes at the
command of Zeus, played his lyre and closed all eyes of Argos and then
killed him. Hera then drove the cow away, by means of stinging god-fly
and forced her to wander in foreign lands. The wandering Io, which gave
the name to the Ionian Gulf, went to Epirus and then to
Illyria and passing the mountains of Caucasus, came to Thrace and
Bosporous. Then went to Skythia, Cimmeria and other Asiatic regions and
arrived in Egypt, where at last Zeus restored her to her original form
and had a black child with her, Epaphos.
Iasus was succeeded by Krotopus and he again by Sthenelas,
followed by Gelanor. In his reign, Danaos and his
fifty daughters came to Argos, from Egypt, in order to escape the
marriages with the fifty sons of his brother, Egyptos. He was
followed by his brother and his sons and was forced to accept the
marriage. On the wedding night, he gave daggers to all his daughters and
told them to kill their husbands during their sleep, something they all
did except Hypermnestra. Her husband Lynkeus later became
king of Argos.
The daughters of Danaos after purification married the victors of a
gymnic contest. It is from the name of Danaos, that the name Danai
derives, which was applied to the inhabitants of Argos and to the
Homeric Greeks. Danaos invented the digging of wells, so water was
raised from the underground resources, in order to irrigate the plain of
The son of Lynkeus, Abas, had twin sons who divided the kingdom
of Argos, with Akrisios ruling at Argos and Proetos at
Tyrins. A fight took place between them for the throne, which ended in a
draw, and afterwards they reconciled. The story is that they and their
hosts were armed with shields, which were first used in this battle.
There are many stories about Proetos, whose wife Stheneboea (Anteia)
fall in love with Bellerophon and his beautiful three daughters, Lysippe,
Iphianassa and Iphinoe afflicted with madness and leprosy,
wandered through Peloponnese. According to Hesiod the reason for their
illness was their refusal to take parts in the Bacchic rites and
according to the Argian Akusilaus and Pherekydes, because
they mocked the wooden statues and other equipment of Hera or stealing
gold from her image.
Proetos, in order to cure his daughters, asked the help of the Pylian
prophet Melampus, who demanded the one third of his kingdom.
Proetos refused, but when madness afflicted many other Argian women, he
again asked his help, but Melampus increased his fees, asking an
additional third for his brother, Bias. This time Proetos
accepted and Melampus appeased the wrath of Hera by prayers and
sacrifices, and at the head of a company of youths, after an ecstatic
dance and shouts, according to the Bacchic rites of Dionysos, he brought
the women down from the mountains to Sikyon and there purified them in a
holy well and cured them.
Not finding the daughters of Proetos between the women, Melampus
returned to the mountains and chased them to Luci in Arcadia.
At the Cave of Lakes
overlooking the river Styx, the two daughters, Lysippe and Iphianassa
were cured, the third one, Iphinoe, had died on the way. Melampus
married Lysippe and his brother Bias married Iphianassa and ruled as
kings, in their parts of Argos.
The daughter of Akrisios, Danae, had been imprisoned by
her father in a underground chamber with a brass door, who had been
given an oracle, that he will die from the hand of her child. Zeus, in
the form of a shower of gold, entered her prison and had a child with
Akrisios discovered this, he did not believe her and put mother and
child in a chest and cast it into the sea. At the isle of Sheriphos, the
brother of king Polydektes found the ark and rescued them.
After many exploits Perseus returned to Argos and without intention
killed his grandfather at Thessaly, where he had retired to avoid him.
(Early 13th century
A legendary king of Sikyon and Argos. He was grandson of Bias
and son of Talaos and Lysimache. After a quarrel
between the three houses of Melampus, Bias and Proetos that governed
Argos, he fled to Sikyon to his mother's father king Polybos,
from whom he inherited the kingdom. He later reconciled with his enemy Amphiaraos (who had killed his
father), by giving his sister Eriphyle to him, and returned to
Legend says that in a stormy night he heard loud sounds and coming
outside his court, he saw two men fighting, one carried on his shield a
lion and the other a boar. He immediately recognized the fulfillment of
a strange oracle that had been given to him, to marry his daughters to a
lion and a boar. The fighting men were Polyneikes son of Oedipus,
king of Thebes, and Tydeus
son of Eneus of Calydon. Adrastos
pacified and married them with his daughters Argeia and Deipyle.
In order to reinstate Polyneikes to his throne, he opened war against
Thus begun the famed and fatal expedition of the Seven
against Thebes, from which he alone survived by
escaping with the help of his divine steed Arion.
He begun a new expedition, when the sons of the slain had grown up, with
his son Aigialeos and the Epigonoi
marched against Thebes, captured and destroyed the city. Having lost his
son, he died from grief on his way home. He later was worshipped as a
hero both at Argos and at Sikyon, but with especially solemnity in the
last, where his Heroon stood in the Sikyonian Agora, as
Herodotus himself saw, and where his exploits as well as his sufferings
were celebrated in lyric tragedies. (Herodotus: History)
The grandson of Adrastos Diomedes, son of Tydeus and Deipyle,
king of Argos, led 80 ships against Troy, accompanied by his trusted
friends Sthenalus and Euryalus. His heroic exploits in
Troy were many. Next to Achilleus, Diomedes was the bravest hero in the
Greek army. Returning from Troy to Argos, he fled his home and settled
for many years in Italy. He was worshiped as a great hero not only in
Greece but also in the Italian coast of the Adriatic.
The city of Argos who had lost its power in the Mycenaean times, became
the son of Agamemnon, again the capital of Argolis. Orestes with the
help of his friend Pylades and his sister Elektra, slew his mother
Klytaemnestra and her lover, Aegisthos, avenging the murder of his
father. He reigned Argos until the age of ninety.
Around 1100 BC, the Dorians came and conquered the territory. After the
destruction of Mycenae and Tyrins by the invading Dorians, Argos became
the base of the legendary Dorian leader Temenos, the descendant
of Herakles, eldest of the three brothers, Kresphontes, and Aristodemos,
who conquered Peloponnese.
His sons and sons in law successively (Deiphontes, Phalkes
and Keisus) occupied Troezen, Epidaurus, Aegina, Sikyon and
Phlius, which became Doric states.
One of the most celebrated Doric migrations was the one headed by the
Argive Althaemenes, a descendant of Temenos, who after leaving
some of his followers at Crete, proceeded with the rest to the island of
Rhodes, where he founded the three cities of Lindus, Lalysus
The city, at the times of Temenos, prospered.
Argians from early on were excellent metal workers and at the 10th
century possessed their own silver refinery. Argos was the first city to
learn the protogeometric style from Athens, developing later their own
school of geometric pottery, equal to Athens.
After 800 BC, they developed their own characteristic style of rustic
panels with figure scenes.
Around 720 BC the Spartan army under the king Nikadros with the
help of township Asine, ravaged Argolis. Argives did not forget
this and not much later took revenge destroying totally Asine.
In their turn the Spartans annexed Kynouria, which formed part of the
dominion of Argos.
(7th century BC)
Pheidon was a hereditary king of Argos descendant of Temenos, who
amassed such an absolute power and named tyrant. He unified and expanded
the territory of Argos greatly.
In 669 BC, he defeated the Lacedaemonians at Hysiae, which lied in the
plain of Thyreas, at the borders between Lacedaemon and Argos and took
control of the valley, regaining thus the lot of Temenos.
The next year in 668 BC, he intervened at Olympia and supported the
Pisatans to take control of the Games from the Elians.
Pheidon had an enormous influence not only in Peloponnese but in the
whole Greece. He introduced standard measures of capacity and weights,
which many cities, among them Athens, adopted, the so-called Pheidonian
At the same time, when he determined the talent, mina and drachm,
he fixed the dry and liquid measures, medimnus and metretes,
with their parts and multiples.
According to Aristotele, he invented also the coinage striking the first
coins at the occupied by him island of Aigina.
Meltas, grandson of Pheidon, was driven out of the city, because
he gave Argian land to Arcadians. He was the last king, descendant of
Temenos, to rule Argos.
The battle at
In 547 BC, the Argives attempted to recover the territory, but instead
of a full combat they agreed with the Lacedaemonians, to decide the
outcome of the war and the annexation of Kynouria, with three hundred
men each. The conflict of the six hundred chosen soldiers was so fierce,
that only two Argives survived and one seriously wounded
Spartan. The two Argive hoplites, Alcenor and Chromios,
left to give the news of their victory to Argos, but the Spartan Othryades
managed to spoil the dead bodies of the enemy and then killed himself,
being ashamed to return to Sparta. Both sides claimed the victory and a
full battle took place not much later, in which the Argives were
According to Herodotus, the Argives as a sign of mourning, cut their
hair short and forbade the women to wear gold ornaments, while the
Spartans from that time started to wear their hair long.
Around 505 BC, a war between Sparta and Argos took place, but the
reasons are unknown.
In 494 BC, Kleomenes advanced into Argolis, but he failed to take Argos.
He then asked ships from Sikyon and Aigina which unwillingly gave them
and landed near Tyrinth. There he found, at a place called Sepea,
which was between Argos and the sea, the Argive army. By gross
carelessness of the Argives, he surprised them and defeated them. The
Argives then tried to find refuge in the sacred grove of the Hero Argos.
Kleomenes surrounded them and in a unthinkable for the Greek customs
action, he set fire to the grove. Six thousand Argives lost their lives
at that day, almost two thirds of the whole army.
Kleomenes then with a thousand men went to the temenos of Hera, Heraion,
to offer sacrifice. The priest did not let him, on the grounds that
foreigners were not allowed to sacrifice. Kleomenes then ordered his
helots to whip him out from the altar and after made the sacrifice
himself, he returned home.
After the massacre in the grove of Argos, Telesila, a renown
Argive poetess, gather the women, children and the old men and gave them
weapons from the sanctuaries, and placed them in positions where the
Spartans would attack. The Spartans however, thinking that would be
disgrace to attack old women and children, withdrew.
One thousand Argian volunteers headed by Eurybates, a
distinguished champion of the pentathlon, helped the Aeginetan citizen Nikodromos
to take control of the government in Aegina, during the long war (488 -
481 BC) of the island with Athens, but they failed. Very few of the
Eurybates challenged the best of the Athenian warriors in single combat.
He slew three of them in succession, but then he was killed by Sophanes
After 460 BC, the Argians deprived the Kleonaeans the administration of
the Nemean Games and took control of the games (the first Nemean Games
started around 572 - 568 BC).
During the Nikias peace between Sparta and Athens matters were
far from being satisfactory. Her allies, Boeotians and Corinthians never
accepted the peace and Athens refused to evacuate Pylos. Alkibiades of
Athens persuaded both Achaea and Patrae to ally with Athens and helped
Argos in the attack upon Epidauros, which they ravaged. Spartans could
not accept all these and assembling a large army in which her allies
were participating, invaded Argos and surrounded the Argive army. A
battle was ready to start when two Argive oligarch leaders came to king
Agis of Sparta and persuaded him to sign a truce for four months. A
little later Alkibiades leading a force of one thousand hoplites and
four hundred cavalry came to assist Argives and persuaded them to attack
the city of Orchomenos in Arcadia. After they conquered Orchomenos they
marched against Tegea. In the meantime king Agis, who had being blamed
for the truce with the Argives, marched with a large force in the
territory of Mantinea and positioned himself near the temple of
Hercules. The Argives and their allies left the city of Mantinea
and in a well chosen ground offered battle. King Agis was ready to
attack them at this advantageous for the Argives ground, but when the
Spartans came close, an old Spartan warrior told him, that with his act
was trying "to heal one mischief by another". These
words made him to withdraw his men. After this, the Argives took
position in the plain and tried to attack them by surprise. The right
section of the Argive army, which was consisted from the flower of
aristocracy, a permanent body of one thousand chosen soldiers drilled
and maintained by the city of Argos, were successful to route the
Lacedaemonians, but Agis with the rest of his army which was more
successful, he managed to win the battle (June 418 BC). Athenians lost
two hundred hoplites included the generals Laches and Nikostratos, the
Argives and their allies lost another nine hundred men. From the
Lacedaemonian army only three hundred men lost. Even after all these,
the peace of Nikias typically was still in existence.
After the defeat of Athenian league, 418 BC, the oligarchs who took
control of Argos government, made truce for the first time with Sparta.
But the peace was short lived, democrats took again control and joined
forces with the Athenians, in 392 BC.
Argos was an ally of Corinth in the Corinthian war, 395 - 386 BC.
During the Corinthian war in Coronea, in 394 BC, they were defeated, but
in the battle of Leuktra in 371 BC and of Mantinea in 362 BC, Argos
helped Thebes to defeat the Spartans.
When Thebes lost power and the Spartan aggression restarted, Argos
appealed to the king Phillip of Macedon, who restored to them their lost
province of Kynouria.
In later times, Argos was subjected to Kassandros, Demetrios
Poliorketes and Antigonos and resisted the invasion of king Pyrros
of Epiros, who was killed there, in 272 BC, by a tile thrown from an
In 229 BC, Argos joined the Achaean League and remained an active member
until 146 BC, with the exception of a brief occupation of the city by
the Spartans in 225 BC and 196 BC.
After the destruction of Corinth by the Romans in 146 BC, Argos was
included in the Roman province of Achaia and became the center of the
In 267 AD and 305 AD, Argos suffered greatly from the Goths.
In Byzantine times, the city was flourished, becoming metropolis in 1088
The city resisted the Franks for seven years, before it surrendered in
From 1246 until 1261 AD belonged to the Duke of Athens.
Argos was captured by the Turks, in 1397 AD and ravaged.
In 1500 AD, Argos was captured again and the inhabitants were massacred
and replaced by Albanians.
In 1821 through 1829 AD, the first free Greek parliament took place in