William Morris Archive

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.