In Greek mythology, Argos was a hundred-eyed giant, slain by Hermes. After his death, the goddess Hera placed his eyes on a tail of a peacock, her sacred bird. Considering the role of Hera in the Greek pantheon, the eyes of Argos might have been just a poetic way to describe the starry sky.
If this assumption is true, the word Argonaut could also be translated as “the night sky sailor” – as opposed to the widely accepted term “swift-sailing”. In other words, the legend of Jason and the Argonauts could be an astronomical allegory.
Argonauts – the night sky sailors
So who were the Argonauts? In short, it was a dream team of super-heroes and demi-gods of their time. Their exact names vary from source to source but the number is usually 50, including Jason.
Centaurus constellation is also on the Ptolemy’s list. It represents Chiron, Jason’s teacher from the beginning of his journey. But most of the Argonauts can also be related to a specific constellation.
For example, Castor and Pollux twins obviously represent Gemini. Hercules has his own constellation. Orpheus, the lyre player can be related to the constellation of Lyra. Butes is obviously the Bootes constellation. The same goes for Cepheus… Atalanta who took an oath of virginity and was raised by the she-bear is obviously Virgo – a constellation in the near proximity of Ursa Major. And so on, all the way until the famous Medea, represented by Andromeda, and her brother Absyrtus, whom she dismembered – a typical example of Orion starlore…
In conclusion, it seems that most of the characters of this story have earned their place amongst the stars. In this case, we might ask ourselves which came first.
Did the ancient epic become the star lore of a later date, or ancient star lore later became the epic?
Dating of the Argonautica
I believe in the second option, and here is the reason why: The main goal of Jason’s quest was a hunt for the golden fleece. A fleece of a ram. Following the same logic as before, we can easily conclude that this ram is the constellation of Aries.
The story of Jason and the Argonauts happens somewhere around 13th century BC, although it is believed that it was written down sometime around 8th century BC.
On the other hand, the age of Aries lasted from around 2500 – 340BC. (an estimation). In the epic, ram is sacrificed on numerous occasions, an obvious indication of its significance in the story.
The age of Aries was preceded by the age of Taurus – 4,700-2,500BC. And indeed, we see many allusions in the myth to this age. The most obvious is the episode where Jason needs to plow the earth with the fiery bull, before reaching to the golden fleece. But even before reaching Colchis, they face the obstacle of Bosphorus – the bull’s crossing.
As he is getting closer to the golden fleece, he needs to put asleep Ladon, the sleepless dragon. Ladon is identified as the constellation Draco even in Hyginus’s “Astronomy”. This is an obvious allusion to the “Axis Mundi” – the very force that makes the skies move. It needs to be symbolically stopped, in order for a new age to take a turn.
Jason sowing the dragon teeth
But before Jason stops the very source of the movement, he needs to face all of the other zodiac signs. At least this is what I believe to be the meaning of the episode of “sowing the dragon teeth”.
The story goes like this: After plowing the field with a fiery bull, he sowed the teeth of a dragon. From these teeth, an army of skeletons rose from the ground. He knew that they will react to movement, so he threw a rock in between them, and the skeletons killed each other.
What could be a hidden meaning behind this story? I think I might have an idea.
Even today, in Armenia, there are ancient megaliths known under names of “vishap stones” “vishapakar” and… “dragon stones”. It does not take much imagination to see how these stones might have looked like “dragon teeth” to the ancients. Mind you, this region is very close to Colchis, where Jason’s sowing is taking place.
In the really remote of times, these stones have probably been used as celestial markers. And so, Jason throws a rock in between them. This rock might represent the Moon. This would mean that their original purpose has still not been forgotten by the authors of the epic, even though in the imagination of the common people they have already become the “dragon teeth”.
To further support this theory I will add that many of the dragon stones have an image of a bull engraved on them. This means that they are really ancient and belong to the previous age. In that sense, the skeletons can also be seen as the ancestors who are upset that their religious system is being overthrown?
Funny enough, Wikipedia article on the golden fleece, offers 18 different interpretations of this symbol, of which not even one is related to the stars. (?)
Jason or Joshua?
We have determined that Argonautica may indeed be a collection of star lore related to the age of Aries. If this is really the case, it was written down only during the last centuries of this age, but it could have been relevant for some two millennia before the 8th century BC (!)
Another conclusion also imposes itself. Since it is the position of the Sun on the spring equinox that determines the world age – Jason must be the Sun, while his 49 companions are the constellations.
In this case, the etymology of the name Jason is really interesting. Wiktionary states:
From the Ancient Greek Ἰάσων (Iásōn), from ἰάομαι (iáomai, “I heal”). The Jason mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 17:5-9, Romans 16:21) is probably a Greek rendering of Joshua.
And as we know, Joshua is also the name of Jesus… whose symbol will be the Pisces, the following age.
Also, Euphemus, one of the Argonauts, possessed a special gift of walking on water…
Jason in Slovenia
According to the popular myth, Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia has been founded by Jason, on his return voyage. The legend says that he has also slain a dragon over there. This dragon is now one of the most recognizable symbols of the city and the country in general.
The others say that this legend, in fact, relates to the St. George. But is there any difference, if we know that the ancient Colchis lies on the territory of modern Georgia? Isn’t St. George also a relic of an Arius age? Was there, in fact, some kind of fusion of starlore – a fusion between the images of the classical zodiac, and images brought by the nomadic horsemen of the steppes, precisely in this period of history?