Online Encyclopedia

ARGOS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V02, Page 481 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
ARGOS, the name of several ancient Greek cities or districts, but specially appropriated in historic times to the chief town in eastern Peloponnese, whence the peninsula of Argolis derives its name. The Argeia, or territory of Argos proper, consisted of a shelving plain at the head of the Gulf of Argolis, enclosed between the eastern wall of the Arcadian plateau and the central highlands of Argolis. The waters of this valley (Inachus, Charadrus, Erasinus), when properly regulated, favoured the growth of excellent crops, and the capital standing only 3 M. from the sea was well placed for Levantine trade. Hence Argos was perhaps the earliest town of importance in Greece; the legends indicate its high antiquity and its early intercourse with foreign countries (Egypt, Lycia, &c.). Though eclipsed in the Homeric age, when it appears as the seat of Diomedes, by the later foundation of Mycenae, it regained its predominance after the invasion of the Dorians (q.v.), who seem to have occupied this site in considerable force. In accordance with the tradition which assigned the portion to the eldest-born of the Heracleid conquerors, Argos was for some centuries the leading power in Peloponnesus. There is good evidence that its sway extended originally over the entire Argolis peninsula, the land east of Parnon, Cythera, Aegina and Sicyon. Under King Pheidon the Argive empire embraced all eastern Peloponnesus, and its influence spread even to the western districts. This supremacy was first challenged about the 8th century by Sparta. Though organized on similar lines, with a citizen population divided into three Dorian tribes (and one containing other elements), with a class of Perioeci (neighbouring dependents) and of serfs, the Argives had no more constant foe than their Lacedaemonian kinsmen. In a protracted struggle for the possession of the eastern seaboard of Laconia in spite of the victory at Hysiae (apparently in 669), they were gradually driven back, until by 550 they had lost the whole coast strip of Cynuria. A later attempt to retrieve this loss resulted in a crushing defeat near Tiryns at the hands of King Cleomenes I. (probably in 495), which so weakened the Argives that they had to open the franchise to their Perioeci. By this time they had also lost control over the other cities of Argolis, which they never succeeded in recovering. Partly in consequence of its defeat, partly out of jealousy against Sparta, Argos.took no part in the war against Xerxes. Indeed on this, as on later occasions, its relations with Persia seem to have been friendly. About 470 the conflict with Sparta was renewed in concert with the Arcadians, but all that the,Argives could achieve was to destroy their revolted dependencies of Mycenae and Tiryns (468 or 464). In 461 they contracted an alliance with Athens, thus renewing a connexion established by Peisistratus (q.v.). In spite of this league Argos made no headway against Sparta, and in 451 consented to a truce. A more important result of Athenian intervention was the substitution of the democratic government for the oligarchy which had succeeded the early monarchy; at any rate forty years later we find that Argos possessed complete democratic institutions. During the early Peloponnesian War Argos remained neutral; after the break-up of the Spartan confederacy consequent upon the peace of Nicias the alliance of this state, with its unimpaired resources and flourishing commerce, was courted on all sides. By throwing in her lot with the Peloponnesian democracies and Athens, Argos seriously endangered Sparta's supremacy, but the defeat of Mantineia (418) and a successful rising of the Argive oligarchs spoilt this chance. The speedily restored democracy put little heart into the conflict, and beyond sending mercenary detachments, lent Athens no further help in the war (see PELOPONNESIAN WAR). At the outset of the 4th century, Argos, with a population and resources equalling those of Athens, took a prominent part in the Corinthian League against Sparta. In 394 the Argives helped to garrison Corinth, and the latter state seems for a while to have been annexed by them. But the peace of Antalcidas (q.v.) dissolved this connexion, and barred Argive pretensions to control all Argolis. After the battle of Leuctra Argos experienced a political crisis; the oligarchs attempted a revolution, but were put down by their opponents with such vindictiveness that 1200 of them are said to have been executed (370). The democracy consistently supported the victorious Thebans against Sparta, figuring with a large contingent on the decisive field of Mantineia (362). When pressed in turn by their old foes the Argives were among the first to call in Philip of Macedon, who reinstated them in Cynuria after becoming master of Greece. In the Lamian War Argos was induced to side with the patriots against Macedonia; after its capture by Cassander from Polyperchon (317) it fell in 303 into the hands of Demetrius Poliorcetes. In 272 the Argives joined Sparta in resisting the ambition of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose death ensued in an unsuccessful night attack upon the city. They passed instead into the power of Antigonus Gonatas of Macedonia, who maintained his control by means of tyrants. After several unavailing attempts Aratus (q.v.) contrived to win Argos for the Achaean League (229), in which it remained save during a brief occupation by the Spartans Cleomenes III. (q.v.) and Nabis (224 and 196). The Roman conquest of Achaea enhanced the prosperity of Argos by removing the trade competition of Corinth. Under the Empire, Argos was the headquarters of the Achaean synod, and continued to be a resort of Roman merchants. Though plundered by the Goths in A.D. 267 and 395 it retained some of its commerce and culture in Byzantine days. The town was captured by the Franks in 121o; after 1246 it was held in fief by the rulers of Athens. In later centuries it became the scene of frequent conflicts between the Venetians and the Turks, and on two occasions (1397 and 1500) its population was massacred by the latter. Repeopled with Albanian settlers, Argos was chosen as seat of the Greek national assembly in the wars of independence. Its citadel was courageously defended by the patriots (1822); in 1825 the city was burnt to the ground by Ibrahim Pasha. The present town of ro,000 inhabitants is a purely agricultural settlement. The Argive plain, though not yet sufficiently reclaimed, yields good crops of corn, rice and tobacco. In the early days of Greece the Argives enjoyed high repute for their musical talent. Their school of bronze sculpture, whose first famous exponent was Ageladas (Hagelaidas), the reputed master of Pheidias, reached its climax towards the end of the 5th century in the atelier of Polyclitus (q.v.) and his pupils. To this period also belongs the new Heraeum (see below), one of the most splendid temples of Greece. Remains of the early city are still visible on the Larissa acropolis, which towers 900 ft. high to the north-west of the town. A few courses of the ancient ramparts appear under the double enceinte of the surviving medieval fortress. An aqueduct of Greek times is represented by some fragments on the south-western edge. In the slope above the town was hewn a theatre equalling that of Athens in size. The Aspis or smaller citadel to the north-east has revealed traces of an earlyMycenaean settlement; the Deiras or ridge connecting the two heights contains a prehistoric cemetery. The Ar give Heraeum.—Since 1892 investigation has added considerably to our knowledge concerning the Argive Heraeum or Heraion, the temple of Hera, which stood, according to Pausanias, " on one of the lower slopes of Euboea." The term Euboea did not designate the eminence upon which the Heraeum is placed, or the mountain-top behind the Heraeum only, but, as Pausanias distinctly indicates, the group of foothills of the hilly district adjoining the mountain. When once we admit that this designated not only the mountain, which is 173o ft. high, but also the hilly district adjoining it, the general scale of distance for this site grows larger. The territory of the Heraeum was divided into three parts, namely Euboea, Acraea and Prosymna: Pausanias tells us that the Heraeum is 15 stadia from Mycenae. Strabo, on the other hand, says that the Heraeum was 40 stadia from Argos and to from Mycenae. Both authors underestimate the distance from Mycenae, which is about 25 stadia, or a little more than 3 m., while the distance from Argos is 45 stadia, or a little more than 5 M. The distance from the Heraeum to the ancient Midea is slightly greater than to Mycenae, while that from the Heraeum to Tiryns is about 6 m. The Argive Heraeum was the most important centre of Hera and Juno worship in the ancient world; it always remained the chief sanctuary of the Argive district, and was in all probability the earliest site of civilized life in the country inhabited by the Argive people. In fact, whereas the site of Hissarlik, the ancient Troy, is not in Greece proper, but in Asia Minor, and can thus not furnish the most direct evidence for the earliest Hellenic civilization as such; and whereas Tiryns, Mycenae, and the city of Argos, each represent only one definite period in the successive stages of civilization, the Argive Heraeum, holding the central site of early civilization in Greece proper, not only retained its importance during the three periods marked by the supremacy of Tiryns, Mycenae and the city of Argos, but in all probability antedated them as a centre of civilized Argive life. These conditions alone account for the extreme archaeological importance of this ancient sanctuary. According to tradition the Heraeum was founded by Phoroneus at least thirteen generations before Agamemnon and the Achaeans ruled. It is highly probable that before it became important merely as a temple, it was the fortified centre uniting the Argive people dwelling in the plain, the citadel which was superseded in this function by Tiryns. There is ample evidence to show that it was the chief sanctuary during the Tirynthian period. When Mycenae was built under the Perseids it was still the chief sanctuary for that.centre, which superseded Tiryns in its dominance over the district, and which this temple clearly antedated in construction. According to the Dictys Crelensis, it was at this Heraeum that Agamemnon assembled the leaders before setting out for Troy. In the period of Dorian supremacy, in spite of the new cults which were introduced by these people, the Heraeum maintained its supreme importance: it was here that the tablets recording the succession of priestesses were kept which served as a chronological standard for the Argive people, and even far beyond their borders; and it was here that Pheidon deposited the O3eXtcnw6 when he introduced coinage into Greece. We learn from Strabo that the Heraeum was the joint sanctuary for Mycenae and Argos. But in the 5th century the city of Argos vanquished the Mycenaeans, and from that time onwards the city of Argos becomes the political centre of the district, while the Heraeum remains the religious centre. And when in the year 423 B.C., through the negligence of the priestess Chryseis. the old temple was burnt down, the Argives erected a splendid new temple, built by Eupolemos, in which was placed the great gold and ivory statue of Hera, by the sculptor Polyclitus,the Cyclopean wall and below it were found traces of small houses of the rudest, earliest masonry which are pre-Mycenaean, if not pre-Cyclopean. We then descend to the second terrace, in the centre of which the' substructure of the great second temple was revealed, together with so much of the walls, as well as the several architectural members forming the superstructure, that it has been possible for E. L. Tilton to design a complete restoration of the temple. On the northern side of this terrace, between the second temple and the Cyclopean supporting wall, a long stoa or colonnade runs from east to west abutting at the west end in structures which evidently contained a well-house and waterworks; while at the eastern end of this stoa a number of chambers were erected against the hill, in front of which were placed statues and inscriptions, the bases for which are still extant. At the eastern-most end of this second terrace a large hall with three rows of columns in the interior, with a porch and entrance at the west
End of Article: ARGOS
[back]
ARGONNE
[next]
ARGOSTOLI (anc. Cephallenia)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.