ARGONAUTS, famous heroes of antiquity, whose names and exploits are celebrated by almost all the an cient historians and poets. The fabulous history of the Argonauts, is shortly this. Athamas, King of Thebes, had two children, Pliryxus and Helle, by his wife Ne phele, whom he afterwards divorced to make room for Ino, the daughter of Cadmus. Nephele, to save her children from the cruelty of their stepmother, brought to them a famous ram, with a fleece of gold, said to have been the son of Neptune, and directed them to mount on his back and pursue their way to /Eetes, King of Col chis. The ram carried them rapidly through the air : but Helle, turning giddy, fell from its back into the strait, which was afterwards called IIellespontus , or the sea of Helle, now the Dardanelles. Phryxus pursued his aerial voyage, and, having arrived at Colchis in safety, sacrificed the ram to Mars, and suspended his golden Acece in the temple of that god. The fleece was guard ed by bulls that breathed fire, and a dragon that never slept. The ram was translated into heaven, and became the constellation Aries, hence called by Lucan, Dclapsx portitor In the mean time, Jason, the son of /Eson, King of lolcos, came to claim his fathers's throne, which had been usurped by his uncle Pelias, who, in order to divert his ambition into a different channel, and to secure his destruction, proposed that he should bring the gold en fleece from Colchis, promising to resign the king dom to him on his return. Jason readily undertook this hazardous enterprise, and was joined by the most illus trious young men of Greece, amounting to the number of forty-four, according to Apollonius Rhodius, or fifty one, according to Valorius Flaccus. Among these were Hercules, Theseus, and Perithous ; Castor and Pollux : Orpheus, Cxneus, Mopsus ; Peleus and Telamon ; Cly tius and 1phitus ; Lymeus and Mae; Meleager, Philoc tetes, Tiphys the pilot, /Esculapius the physician, and, generally, the fathers of those heroes, who figured at the siege of Troy. These were called Argonautm, from the ship Argo, in which they sailed. This ship was the first that ever was built, and had its name from the builder Argus, the son of Danaus.
Jason and his companions stopped for a while at Lem nos, where ambition seems to have given place to love, and where they forgot the perils of their enterprise, in the soft embraces of the Lemnian dames. Hom. II. viii.
fin. Ovid. Ep. vi. They next went to consult Phineus, king of Thrace, famous for his skill in augury, who, as the price of his services, demanded that they should. drive 'away the Harpies, which had been sent by Jupiter to torment him, for his cruelty in putting out the eyes of his two sons, Polydeetor and Polydorus. This ser vice being performed by Zetes and Calais, the sons of Borcas, Phineus instructed them, how they should sail past two islands in the mouth of the Euxine Sea, called Cyanex and Symplegades, which were accustomed to dash together with prodigious violence, to the certain destruction .of such as attempted to pass them. The Argonauts effected this difficult passage by following the flight of a pigeon.
Having escaped from this perilous adventure, other dangers, not less formidable, awaited them on their arri val at Colchis. The conditions on which /Eetes agreed to deliver up the golden fleece were these ; that Jason should force to the yoke the brazen-footed bulls, whose nostrils breathed fire and death, and till with them a field sacred to Mars, which never had been ploughed ; that he should kill the sleepless dragon, and sow his teeth in the ground which he had tilled, which should in stantly spring up into armed men, ready to attack him. All this was achieved by the assistance of Medea, the daughter of /Ectes, a noted enchantress, whose good graces Jason had been fortunate enough to obtain. By her incantations, he was rendered invulnerable against the breath of the bulls ; the watchful dragon was lulled asleep ; and the armed men who sprung up from his teeth, turned their arms against each other, upon Ja son's throwing a stone amongst them, by the direction of Medea. Jason having overcome all these formidable obstables, carried off the golden fleece, and returned in triumph to his native country, carrying along with him Medea, whom he married and then deserted, which drew down upon his house the bloody vengeance of this celebrated sorceress. This part of the story is immor talized in the Medea of Euripides.