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Morris Silver
Economics Department
City College of New York

TOPIC V: The Argonaut Epos and Bronze Age Economic History

Revised October 30, 2004

The first part of this essay seeks to "decipher" the mythical component of the Argonaut epos and lay bare its underlying economic meaning. Stanford (1939: 181-82) makes clear that deciphering is required because:

[N]o genre of Greek poetry is entirely free from deliberate ambiguities, whether trivial puns, superstitious or sophisticated etymologies, cryptic oracles, diplomatic evasions, cunning and deceptive equivocations, humorous or cacemphatic doubles entendres, unconscious foreshadowings of catastrophe, allusive phrases, associative meanings and vagueness, or any other of the manifold devices of ambiguity in its wider sense. Simpler lyric poetry had least of it, drama most.

More specifically, as Bacon (1925: 65) aptly notes: "The Greek fantasy did not scorn the quest for riches or despise economic motives; it dissembled them."

Then, in the second part, attention is given to the question of whether the trade pattern depicted in the epos is consistent with what is known about economic potentialities or, alternatively, is purely fictional. The ultimate objective is to use evidence from literary documents including even mythology to help bridge some of the gaps in our knowledge of commercial life in the second millennium BCE. In brief explanation of this unorthodox, for economists, source of data let me quote the apt remarks of Purcell (1985: 1) in his article about "Wine and Wealth in Ancient Italy":

The nature of our evidence about economic production in the ancient world is such that we usually know far more about the cultural and intellectual repercussions of changes than we do about the changes themselves. So it is perverse to refuse to use the widest range of ancient cultural material in the attempt to shed light on the evolution of economic and social realities.

A bare-bones summary of the epos should suffice for the present. The action is set at a point in time prior to the Trojan War. Jason and his fellow Argonauts (termed "Minyans") receive a commission from Pelias, the ruler of Iolkos (current Volos), in Thessaly (northern Greece) and sail off in the Argo to Kolchis in quest of the "Golden Fleece" (Pi. P. 4.69, 165; Hes. Th. 165). The destination, Kolchis (capital city Aia) is a land located at the extreme eastern shore of the Black Sea in the Georgia region (Boardman 1980: 254). After various adventures, Jason returns to Iolkos, with the Golden Fleece and Medea, the daughter of Aietes, the Kolchian ruler.

There are two rather obvious indications that Jason is a trader on a trading mission. First, Pelias speaks openly of Jason's athlon or (aethlon) whose basic meaning is "activity carried out for a prize" (LSJ s.v.) or, in the language of commerce, a "commission." Second, is the fact that Jason's "son" is a trader. In the Iliad (7.470-73) we find Euneos "Ship-man," the son of Jason and ruler of Lemnos (an island in the northeastern Aegean), selling wine to the Greek army before Troy. Business relationships in the ancient world were often expressed by means of metaphorical extensions of kinship terms. Thus, the word "son" might mean "son" or "servant" or "employee" or "agent" (Silver 1995: 50-3).

The main sources for the epos are brought together in Appendix 1. Several peripheral themes in the epos having economic overtones are discussed in Appendix 2. Note also the References and Abbreviations.

I. Analysis of the Epos

A. Nature of the Golden Fleece

We come immediately to the very heart of the myth: What is a Golden Fleece? The main competing answer to the one I propose below is that, as reported by Strabo, Appian, and several modern observers, gold was obtained from the gold-bearing rivers of Colchis by means of sheepskins. Strabo (11.2.19) maintains that the Kolchians collected gold dust by suspending fine-wooled fleeces in the Phasis; see also Ryder (1983: 146-47). Appian, a Roman historian of the second century CE, suggests that "Many streams issue from Caucasus bearing gold dust so fine as to be invisible. The inhabitants put sheepskins with shaggy fleece into the stream and thus collect the floating particles; and perhaps the golden fleece of Aeetes was of this kind" (quoted by Lordkipanidze 2001: 26). Lordkipanidze (2001: 29) adds the important point that

Furthermore, in the mountain regions of Western Georgia the technique of obtaining gold with the help of sheepskins ... was preserved until recently. According to ethnographers' descriptions, in Svaneti (i.e. a mountain region on the south-western slope of the Greater Caucasus from where the gold-bearing river Inguri flows): "gold is obtained by means of sheepskins. A sheepskin, stretched over a board or flattened in some other way was placed in the river, fixing it so as not to be carried away by the stream, with the fleece on the upper side. The soaked fleece trapped the gold particles... In 1984, the well-known traveller-experimentalist Tim Severin, who retraced the way of the Argonauts in a 20-oar boat, witnessed the obtaining of gold in Svaneti with the help of sheepskins...
This may well be the case but I believe that the argument presented below explains more of the available evidence. The reader must judge for herself.

Hoffman (1994: 36) suggests that "In economic terms 'Golden Fleece' joins wealth in metals (gold) with wealth in flocks (fleece), and these two commodities together constitute the basis of the pre-monetary economy." But the Athenian orator Isocrates (436-338) was struck by the fascination with which men viewed porphyra "purple dye" and gold (Panath. 12.39; cited by Crane 1993: 131). Jenkins (1985: 123-24) adds that

There is, perhaps, no more concrete demonstration of the affinity between the finest textiles and objects of precious metal than in Homer, where time and time again the two commodities are coupled as the status trappings of aristocratic wealth. ... The textile counterpart of gold was purple-dyed cloth. (Emphasis added)

The answer proposed here goes beyond mere commonalities or linkages in arguing that "golden fleece" (chryseion kôas) signifies wool or cloth or woolen garments that are dyed with murex-purple and then exchanged for gold.1 Before defending this proposition, it should be explained that purple dye was obtained from the hypobranchial gland in the mantle cavity of Murex and Thais (or related Purpura and Nucella) marine snails (see Reese 1979-1980: 79). There were, of course, regional differences in the distribution of the different species and, hence, in the local availability of their characteristic dyes. (Reese 1979-1980: 81).

Source: Maitland A. Edey (1974), The Sea Traders, p. 60

The defense of our interpretation of "golden fleece" begins with the report of the first century BCE Roman writer Varro (On Agriculture, II, i, 6) stating that flocks with valuable fleeces "like [those] of Atreus in Argos" were said to have "golden fleeces" (cited by Ryder 1983: 14). Euripides had earlier made this point in more dramatic fashion. When, in the Electra (700-10), Pan brought forth from the flocks of Atreus to the marketplace (agora) "a lamb bright-fleeced with the splendor of gold" the "herald" (keryx), here arguably meaning "auctioneer," cried for all to behold the "awesome portent" (Way 1912; LSJ s.v. keryx).2 Thus, reading between the lines, a portent of wealth was to determine whether Atreus or Thyestes should become king (compare Lordkipanidze 2001: 3-4).3 "The one who holds the golden lamb must hold the kingship," according to a scholia to Il. 2.105 (cited by Faraone 1992: n. 18, 30). Apollodorus (Ep. 2.10-12) adds that Atreus choked the lamb and deposited it in a larnax "coffer, box chest"; the larnax found its way into the hands of Thyestes who produced the golden lamb and was made king (Frazer 1921). One may observe that a larnax was a suitable place for depositing gold!

Handle of mid-6th century Greek bronze amphora. It is suggestive that the Gorgon, a symbol and protector of the treasury, is flanked by two reclining rams with prominent fleeces.

In the Agamemnon of Aeschylus a purple-dyed carpet is considered much too good to walk on for it is argyro_ne_tos (949), meaning "bought with silver" or, better, "worth silver." Reference is also made in the same drama to "juice of purple, worth its weight in silver ... for the dyeing" (959-60; Deniston and Page 1957: 154). Similarly, the fourth century BCE historian Theopompus reported that "purple for dyes fetched its weight in silver at Colophon [in Asia Minor]" (cited by Athenaeus [12.526] in c. 200 BCE; Gulick 1941).

Although this is a matter of dispute among linguists and regarded as not proven,4 it does seem possible that in Ugarit the same word argamannu (alphabetic argmn or irgmn) meant both "purple" and "tribute". (van Soldt [1990: 344] maintains that argmn means only "tribute" in the Ugaritic texts.) It is clear, however, that in the first millennium, in areas of Hittite background, the Akkadian word argamannu means both "red purple wool" and "tribute" (CAD s.v. argamannu). In any event an identification of purple-dyed cloth with precious metal or means of payment generally is not drastically out of line with the "moneyness", to use a term coined by economists, of this commodity. Not only was purple easily transformed into gold via the market, but also, like gold, it was an excellent store of value when embodied in cloth. This is well illustrated in Plutarch's Life of Alexander (36.1) by the report that the Persian ruler Darius' treasury at Susa housed 5,000 talents by weight of purple-dyed cloth, which had lost none of its freshness of color during almost two centuries of storage.5 Purple was (almost) as good as gold!

Medea rejuvenates a ram as Pelias ruler of Iolkos observes, c. 470

With respect to the "golden fleece" of the Argonaut myth, the scholarly commentary on the words "fleece all golden" in Euripides' Medea (5) suggests that while some interpreters described the fleece itself to be of gold, Simonides (sixth to fifth century BCE) said in his Hymn to Poseidon (fr. 21) that "it was dyed with sea-purple" (Edmonds 1924: 2: 273). Apparently the same view was expressed by another writer of the fifth century, Acusilaus as reported in a scholia on Apollonius Rhodius (4.117) (Braund 1994: 23-4; Bacon 1925: 21; cf. Str. 1.2.40). On the other hand, against my interpretation, a fragment of Mimnermus (sixth century BCE) seems to speak of Jason bearing "the fleece away from Aia home". Yet, in another fragment of the same early writer, the description of Aia's treasured asset seems to fit gold better than fleece:

Aietes' city where the swift sun's flame [rays] lies stored within its golden treasury [thalamos]. By Ocean's marge where godlike Jason came. (Both Mimnermus fragments cited by Bacon 1921: 21).

However, another version has the Golden Fleece draped over an oak tree (Ap.R. 4.122-25). (Is this perhaps a recollection of a Hittite festival practice in which the kurša, a container made from the skin of a sheep, is suspended from an eyan-tree [see II.C]?)
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Jason disgorged by serpent in front of hanging Golden Fleece (c. 480). In myth the serpent, like the griffin, was a guardian of treasure.

According to Apollonius Rhodius, Phrixos had journeyed to Aia "bestriding a ram which Hermes had made all of gold" (2.1143-45; Seaton 1912, emphasis added).

Hermes Kriophoros "Bearing a Ram" (Pa. 9.22.1). Bronze c. 530 BCE

Also Apollonius Rhodius (3.586-90) explains that Phrixos would never have been welcomed in Aia had not "Zeus himself sent Hermes his messenger down from heaven, so that he might meet a friendly host" (Seaton 1912: emphasis added). We must keep in mind in interpreting these references to Hermes that he was a god of trade.

In view of this evidence it is possible to entertain the hypothesis that the underlying meaning of the Argonaut myth is that the Argo arrived in Kolchis with a cargo of purple-dyed cloth and returned to Iolkos with their price in gold.6 In this sense, the ship carried the "Golden Fleece" to the Black Sea and returned to Greece with the "Golden Fleece".

Jason himself is directly associated with purple by Pindar. After his father had been deposed as king, Jason was spirited away "swathed in purple" and handed over to the centaur Cheiro_n for rearing (Pi. Pi. 4.113-15; see Appendix 2.d). Jason's royal birth and his claims to kingship at Iolkos might explain the purple. Yet Pindar (N. 4.54) and other early sources including Pherekydes and a Hesiod fragment say that, Akastos, son of Pelias, became the king at Iolcos. Matthew (1977: 205-6) notes this discrepancy and surmises that

it is possible that in the early versions Jason had no claim to the throne at all, but was a mere adventurer or the instrument of an oracle ... Certainly, no source earlier than Pindar (P. 109ff) states explicitly that Jason had a legitimate claim. ... Such a situation would be in keeping with the tradition that Jason did not remain there.

If Pelias was not a usurper and if Jason had no claim to the throne, then Jason "swathed in purple" may well be a clue to the nature of his commission.

B. Centrality of fleece and woolen garments

It is quite clear that wool and woolen garments play a featured role in the version of the Argonaut epos presented by Apollonius Rhodius in the Argonautica:

1. Jason brought with him on the journey a purple cloak of double-width that Pallas Athena had made for him when she was laying down the props for the Argo's keel and showing him how to measure timber for the cross-beams (1.721ff). We may note in this connection that coins of Thessaly depict a riding Jason wearing a petasos, the broad-brimmed hat favored by travelers, and a chalmys, a short fine woolen cloak (Moustaka cited by Metcalf [1985'; LSJ s.vv.).
2. Later on, Jason wore a "dark mantle" given to him by Hypsipyle of Lemnos (3.1205-6).
3. Aboard the Argo on the way to Kolchis, Jason "lay comfortably in fleeces" (1.1089f).
4. Polydeukes, one of the twin sons of Zeus, wore a "light [leptaleon] and closely woven [or well fulled] [eustipton] cloak [theto]" which had been the "friendship gift" [xeine_ion] of a Lemnian woman (2.30-31; Mooney 1912; LSJ s.v. xeine_ion). Note here that in the ancient and preindustrial world generally, "friendship" had the nuance of long-term cooperative exchanges. (See the discussion of "business friendship" in Silver 1995: 49-50.)
5. Medea of Kolchis wore a purple robe (4.1659-63).
6. A purple robe made by the Graces for Dionysus was passed on to Hypsipyle (4.421ff).

It is with good reason that Levin (1971: 69) is struck by the "disproportion between the amount of description assigned to Jason's weapon (almost nil) and to his outerwear (more than forty-five verses)."

Much more can be said about the woolen outerwear motif in the Argonaut myth. Farnell (1932: 147) calls attention to the report in scholia on Pindar that Simonides

in some connection that we cannot guess ... gave an account of the games held in Lemnos by Queen Hupsipule for the Argonauts. And he mentioned the fact that the prize offered was raiment ... (just as a cloak was the prize at Pellene in historical times). (See Pi. O. 9.98; emphasis added)
(Interestingly, prizes of raiment were given to the winners of foot races held in connection with the Old Kingdom Hittite KI.LAM "market" festival [Singer 1983: 103-4; cf II.C below].)

Farnell (1932: 147) continues as follows:

This detail does not seem one that would interest a great lyric poet; but for some reason it interests Pindar and he carefully repeats it [Pi. P. 4.253]. This trifling must be set down as a defect in an almost flawless ode.

But what is "trifling" to a literary scholar only interested in abstract beauty is the heart of the matter for a historical economist and, apparently, for the ancient literati themselves. It is, moreover, of interest that the port of Pellene in Achaia mentioned by Farnell as offering prizes of raiment was called "Aristonautai" (best sailors) because it was said that "the men who sailed on the Argo anchored at their harbor" (Pa. 7.26.7; Levi 1971).

The Argonaut myth even hints at the origin of at least some of the wool and cloth, which so preoccupied the Argonauts and our sources. Pindar (P. 4.80ff) reports that when Jason first appeared at Iolkos' marketplace he was wearing "native Magnesian cloth" (Swanson 1974). Magnetes is the name of a "tribe" that lived near Mount Pelion in eastern Thessaly below which the Argo was built (Hdt. 4.179). (There will be more to say about Magnesia in Part II.) A Hesiod fragment adds the interesting note that Jason's mother was Polymede or Polymele, meaning "with many sheep, rich in sheep" (Matthews 1977: 203; LSJ s.v. polyme_los). Homer (Od.11.256-57) offers the strong testimony that "Pelias lived, rich in sheepflocks, in the wide spaces of Iolkos" (Lattimore 1965).

C. Previous Greek contacts with the Black Sea Region

When the Argonauts landed in the Propontis Cyzicus, son of Aeneus, the ruler of the Doliones (Ap.R. 1.935-1077) greeted them. This Aeneus, according to the scholiast, was a Thessalian king who had settled on the Hellespont and married a Thracian princess (cited by Mooney 1912: 129). The Doliones themselves may have been Thessalian settlers (scholia cited by Bacon 1925: 69). Thus the Argonauts were not the first Greeks, if we may so classify the "Minyans," or, indeed, Thessalians to penetrate the Black Sea region. Beyond this, evidence of earlier wool exports can be found in the myth that a Minyan named Phrixos, the son of Athamas, escaped being sacrificed by fleeing to Kolchis on a winged golden-fleeced ram.7 The ram had been made all gold by Hermes, the god of trade (Ap.R. 2.1143-45). A relief of the mid-fifth century BCE depicts Phrixos mounted on a ram with large wool staples (see Ryder 1983: 146).
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Phrixos carried over the sea by a ram. Melian terracotta plaque ca. 450

In the marriage of Phrixos to a native woman, Chalkiope (the daughter of Aietes), his eventual death and burial in Kolchis, and the (aborted) return journey of his "sons" to Greece (Orchomenos) to claim the wealth of Athamas we are invited to see the outlines of a permanent Minyan trading post.8

That the Argonauts received divine assistance at every stage of their expedition is not only suggestive of their cultic auspices, but of previous Greek contacts with the Black Sea region. Homer has Circe9 tell Odysseus of the difficult flight of "the doves which carry ambrosia to Zeus" through the Planktai ("Roving Rocks"), and Circe also describes how Hera saw Jason and the Argo through these "Rovers" (Od. 12.55-72). (More generally, Circe provides Odysseus with complete instructions for his homeward voyage [Od. 12.39-141]). In Apollonius Rhodius (4.856-60, 922-81), Hera is reinforced by the aid of Athena, Thetis, and the Nereids. "Doves," however, play a central role in the passage of the Argo through the two Petrai Kyaneai ("Blue-Black Rocks")10 (Ap.R. 2.317-40) or through the Symplegades ("Clashing Rocks")(Ap.R. 2.549-61011; Ap. 1.9.22). The safe passage of a dove signaled the Argonauts that they might safely follow. As the dove is well attested as a cult symbol, we may imagine that the Argo's prow or stern was decorated with a dove representing the patronage of Hera, or Athena, or perhaps Peleia, the Minoan-Mycenaean dove goddess (see Palmer 1963: 20, 103).12 Morgan (1988: 67) notes, for the Bronze Aegean, a bird depicted on the prow of Theran Ship 4, on ships represented on a Mycenaean sherd from Phylakopi and elsewhere. Indeed, according to both

Terracotta jug from Cyprus dated to 750-600. Vessel with mast, sail shown furled, pair of steering oars, and bird's head ornament on the stern.

Apollonius Rhodius (1.519-30; 4.579-83) and Apollodorus (1.9.16), Athena, in constructing the Argo, had incorporated within it an oracular timber from Dodona13, a sanctuary of Zeus housing a college of priestesses called "Doves".14

The contribution of Hera and Zeus' "doves" to the success of the Argonauts' expedition arguably reflects a central function of ancient cults: the gathering and dissemination of economically valuable geographic information (see Silver 1995: 25-27). Athena's epithet Keleutheia ("of the path") is suggestive in the present connection (see Pa. 3.12.4).
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Athena stands beside Jason as he seizes the fleece. The stern of the Argo is visible at the right. Attic ca. 470-460

More to the geographic and temporal point of the Argonaut myth is Homer's (Il. 1.69-72) testimony that Kalchas had guided the ships of the Greeks to Troy in Asia Minor, whose gift of seercraft was bestowed by Phoibos Apollo. Elsewhere in Homer (Il. 13.39-45) this Kalchas is the "image" -- that is, agent, as I have elsewhere argued (Silver 1992: chap. 3.A) -- of Poseidon. The name Kalchas is probably related to kalche_ (Chantraine 1968-1980 s.v.), possibly a loanword, which has such meanings as "murex, purple limpet, rosette (on the capitals of columns), and purple flower" (LSJ s.v.; note also kalchaino_ "make purple, make dark and troublous, ponder deeply" LSJ s.v.). Perhaps, and I do not view this to be improbable, Kalchas' expert knowledge of the Troad was gathered by means of commissions in the purple trade. In connection with previous contacts with the Black Sea region mention should be made next of the blind Thracian seer Phineus, a "son" of Poseidon (or Agenor) who received his gift of divination from Apollo. This Phineus advised Phrixos how to sail from Kolchis to Greece. He also told the Argonauts in detail the safe route from Thrace to Kolchis.

Jason places his hand over the eyes of the seer Phineas. Attic 6th century

Again Trioton, the son of Poseidon who had made him "well versed in the sea,", guided Jason out of the Tritonian Lake.15

D. At Kolchis: Was it trade or war?

Standard translations of verse 212 of Pindar's Fourth Pythian Ode have the Argonauts rather mysteriously "joined in battle" with the Kolchians. Farnell (1932: 163), who supports this translation, nevertheless remarks that "The scholiasts, evidently in ignorance of any such tradition [of battle] explained it as meaning 'they in their might [bian] mingled with the Kolchoi; neither Pindar nor any other Greek would use such a phrase." It is difficult to believe, however, that the scholarly commentators were unaware of the limits of Greek usage.

"Mingle" (meignumi) is the word chosen by Pindar and it is so translated by Segal (1986: 64) and Lindsay (1965: 9). Further, verses 257-59 have the sons of Euphamus "mingling with [the homes? ways?] of the men of Lacedaemon" and going on to colonize the island of Thera (see Segal 1986: 64; Sandys 1937). Earlier, in verse 223, Pindar says that Jason and Medea "mingled" (meixai). Swanson (1974) translates as follows: "They [Jason and Medea] exchanged the vows of matrimonial delight." Again, verses 250-51 have the Argonauts "mingling" (migen) "with the Red Sea and with the race of man-killing Lemnian women" (Segal 1986:64).16 (Lemnos is a large island in the northeastern Aegean about which much more shortly.) It is important to note that in the epic literature meignumi "mingle" has the nuance "hold intercourse [in guest friendship]" (LSJ s.v. meignumi B). Mixis "mixing, mingling" has the nuance "intercourse (with others), especially sexual intercourse or commerce" (LSJ s.v. mixis II). Thus the range of meanings of "mingling, mixing" would include virtually any form of interaction, including trade relations.17

"Mingling" for the purpose of trade is well illustrated in the Near Eastern sphere. In the Synchronistic History, an Assyrian chronicle dating from the late second to early first millennium BCE, we find in the latter part of the chronicle the phrase "the people of Assyria and the people of Babylonia mingled (ibballu_)." Akkadian ibballu_ is the third plural masculine preterite N-stem [passive] of bala_lu (Gary Beckman personal correspondence dated November 10, 1998; CAD bala_lu 7). Brinkman (1990: 88) explains that

though we are as yet unable to appreciate all the connotations of this pregnant expression ... No matter where one turns in the text, one is confronted with statements that Assyrians and Babylonians made compacts together, swore oaths together, established comprehensive peace agreements together, and of course mingled together.

The point of "mingling" is made explicit in an inscription of the Assyrian ruler Sargon II (721-705) who boasts that he opened Egypt's sealed ka_ru "embankment, harbor district, trading station" (CAD s.v. ka_ru A) and adds "Assyrians and Egyptians I mingled together and I made them trade" (Elat 1978: 27).

Returning to Pindar, my impression is that he deliberately chose the ambiguous word "mingle" to encode and enliven relations that were at once intimate and prosaic: a voyage followed by athletic contests (ago_nes), rivalrous negotiations, commercial agreements, and trade with the Kolchians (and Lemniads). It is worth noting that among the Hittites festivals might be accompanied by athletic contests no later than the thirteenth century (C. Carter 1988).

I would also risk interpreting Pindar's bian (212) "bodily strength, force" in the senses of "force of argument" (see LSJ s.v. bian I.3.b) and/or "athletics". Perhaps a precedent for this kind of dual interpretation can be found in the Greek word eris "battle, strife" and "contention, rivalry in work or contest" (LSJ s.v).

E. At Lemnos: Was it free trade or free love?

In the Argonaut myth the island of Lemnos is ruled by women who had "murdered" all the men.18 It is possible, however, to link the "murderesses" with the production of woolen cloth. Specifically, there are elements in the myth indicating that the Lemnian women participated in the finishing of Greek ("Minyan") cloth destined for sale in Kolchis. More specifically, they purple-dyed either the wool or the garments themselves. Both practices are attested in the Bronze Age (see 1).

The primary indicator of an industrial role is the bad odor attributed to the Lemnian women. Apollodorus (1.9.7) speaks of the "foul smell" (dysosmia) that drove away the husbands of the Lemniads. The "foul smell" (dyso_dia) of the Lemnian women is also mentioned by Myrsilos of Lesbos, a historian of the third century BCE (cited by Burkert 1970: 7). Apollodorus says Aphrodite inflicted the smell on the women; Myrsilos blames Medea (Burkert 1970: 7). Apollonius Rhodius (1.610ff) only mentions Aphrodite in connection with the fact that the Lemnian men conceived a "loathing" for their wives (Seaton 1912). However, Fränkel (1950: 116) states that verse 1.614 should read apuzen not opazen, hence "Aphrodite's wrath reeked off them." The "foul smell" of the Lemnian women is, I submit, a mythological translation of the repulsive smell of murex-dye factories. A smell described by Jensen (1963: 107) as "a mixture of a whiff of garlic and dilate bromine gas." We may think in this context of a Lemnian cult of Aphrodite Purple or Medea Purple corresponding to Corinth's Athena Purple, who may well have been the patroness of craftsmen engaged in the purple industry (Kardara 1970: 97).19

The hypothesis that the "foul smell" is a coded reference to murex factories finds support in the fact that not only the women were so afflicted on Lemnos. On the way to Troy the Greek expeditionary force abandoned Philoktetes on Lemnos because of the "foul smell" (dyso_de_s) from a snakebite on his foot.20 Apparently, to fall victim to foul smells was an occupational hazard at Lemnos. It is therefore not surprising that this Philoktetes ruled Meliboea (Il. 2.716-18), a coastal city of Magnesia in Thessaly noted for its purple, at least in late antiquity. Our sources for this specialization are two Latin writers of the first century BCE, Lucretius and Virgil. First Lucretius (2.499-500): "Your Meliboean crimsons deeply dyed with color from the shells of Thessaly" (Humphries 1968). In the Aeneid (5.250) Virgil refers to "a golden cloak [chlamyden] with border of Meliboean purple with double wavy lines" (Mantinband 1964). Recall that Jason first appeared at Iolkos wearing "native Magnesian cloth" (Pi. P. 4.80ff).

Yet, Apollonius Rhodius (1.592-93), in a sentence not without difficulties, explicitly notes that the Argonauts sailed past Meliboea when they began their journey to Kolchis. This constitutes a weakness in my interpretation of the role of the Lemnian women in the expedition of the Argonauts. Perhaps there were differences in the types of dyes or in extraction costs or perhaps the Thessalians had not yet mastered the purple extraction and dyeing technologies when the Argonaut epos originated. This line of explanation is at least consistent with the evidence for Lemnian emigration to Greece in the second millennium (see further Part II). It must be reported, however, that there is some archaeological evidence for the production of purple in eastern Crete that has been dated to c. 1800-1600 BCE (Reese 1987: 204; Stieglitz 1994).

Upon the arrival of the Argonauts at Lemnos, the women sponsored an ago_n with prizes of woolen garments. As clarified by the scholiast who refers to Simonides and other writers (see Burkert 1970: 8; Farnell 1932: 147, 165), the sense of P. 4.253, a most convoluted verse, seems to be: "There in athletic contests [contests of limbs] they won garments [displayed a judging over a garment] and syneunasthen." For the time being I leave syneunasthen untranslated.

First note that in the ancient world generally and in Greece specifically, festivals were also commercial and cultural ventures (Silver 1995: 4, 22). LSJ (s.v) renders ago_n as "a gathering, an assembly - especially to see games, a place of contest." However, Fraenkel (1950, II: 260), in discussing verse 513 of Aeschylus' Agamemnon, explains that in the title of some magistrates ago_n means, "market, a place where business is transacted." Evidently prizes of woolen garments were characteristic of the ago_n for, in discussing the Ago_a_lia, a Roman festival honoring the commercially oriented god Janus (Silver 1995: 22), Ovid (43 BCE-17 CE?) speculated that

It may be ... that the day took a Greek name from the games (agones) which were wont to be held in olden time. In the ancient tongue too, agonia meant a sheep, and my judgment is the true reason of the name. (Fasti I.330f; Frazer 1931; emphasis added).

Thus we may surmise that the ago_n was a trade-fair in which wool and cloth played a central role.

Let us now return to Pindar's word syneunasthen. As syn means "together" (LSJ s.v.) and eune_ means "bed" the word is usually translated "had sexual intercourse". The sexual innuendo is well taken. However, eunasthen also means simply "laid down" and "slept" (LSJ s.v. eunazo_/eunadzo_). At the risk of being thought naive or a spoilsport I would suggest that "to lay down (rest) together" after strenuous foot races ("contests of limbs") is intrinsically more likely than "to lay down together in a sex orgy"!

Beyond this a deeper and more significant reference may perhaps be discerned. Besides meaning "bed" eune_ means "place, abode" (LSJ s.v), a usage familiar to Homer (Il. 1.757) and to Pindar (N. 9.41) for that matter. I am not inclined to dismiss as merely coincidental that Apollonius Rhodius (4.116) describes a "grassy area" in Kolchis called kriou eunai "place (abode) of the ram" or "house of the ram" (see LSJ s.v. eune_). This was the place "where it [the ram] first bent its wearied knees in rest, bearing on its back the Minyan son of Athamas [Phrixos]" (Ap.R. 4.117-18; Seaton 1912). I would identify Kolchis' "house of the ram" with Sparta's karneios oiketas (Pa. 3.13.3) and even with the Hittite "house of fleeces" (see Part II). Thus it is possible to conclude that Pindar brilliantly used syneunasthen to draw his audience through the meanings of sexual activity and rest after strenuous activity to the central role of fleece in the Lemnian ago_n.

Pindar was not alone in spicing the Argonaut myth with sexual innuendoes. A fragment of Aeschylus' Hypsipyle reveals that the Lemnian women required the Argonauts by "oath" to have "intercourse" (syggenesthai/syngenesthai with them.21 It is taken as a given by contemporary scholarship that the "intercourse" demanded by the Lemnian women was of a sexual rather than, say, of a commercial nature. However, Aeschylus' insistence on the term "oath" provides the necessary tool for his ancient audience (and for us) to discriminate among the alternative modes of "intercourse". Obviously the Argonauts and Lemnian women were in a face-to-face relationship and therefore had no need of promises to deliver sexual favors -- either the Argonauts would partake of sex with the Lemniads or they wouldn't. As in the economist's "spot market", the quid-pro-quo would be immediate and explicit. Promises are meaningful instruments of personal interaction only in the case of intertemporal relationships such, as are commonplace in commercial intercourse. More concretely, given slow communications and limited public enforcement of contracts, especially in international transactions, business persons in antiquity very much relied on promises witnessed by gods that were, by reason of this witness, largely self-enforcing (Silver 1995: 10-18).22 These promises were and still are called "oaths". Beneath the good joke, Aeschylus is telling us that Argonauts and Lemniads entered into some sort of relatively long-term relationship, possibly of a commercial nature.23

To digress only slightly, a parallel sexual innuendo may be found in Xenophon's report that the queen of Cilicia gave Cyrus of Persia a large sum of money, which he used to pay his troops. Xenophon's next sentence is the following: "The Cilician queen was attended by a body guard of Cilicians and Aspendians; and people said that Cyrus had intimate relations [syggenesthai] with the queen" (An. 1.2.11-12; Brownson 1932). And what people said is true! The "intercourse" consists of a loan! Again, Strabo (11.5.4) says that Alexander had "intercourse for the sake of (making) offspring" (syggenesthai teknopoiias) with Thalestria, queen of the Amazons (H.L. Jones 1932). This report, we may be sure, does not refer to an ancient exercise in eugenics. Note the meanings of poieo_ "make, produce, manufacture, conceive, conceive children, procure for oneself, gain, get (money) (LSJ s.v.) Strabo's "history" is really a play on borrowing at interest, for which intercourse for the purpose of making children is not only an apt metaphor, but also an well-attested one. It should suffice to mention Greek tokos "childbirth, parturition (of women), offspring (of men and animals), (metaphor) produce of money (lent) hence interest, interest" (LSJ s.v.; cf. Silver 1992: 218-21). I believe that the ancient Greek writers would be amazed that twentieth century scholarship is inclined to take such stories literally.

I would suggest that the Lemniads required the Argonauts to swear to return to them on Lemnos with a portion of the gold they would (later on) earn at Kolchis as their payment for dyeing the Argo's cargo of fleeces (and/or making them into garments). This dry and even "trifling" interpretation of the "intercourse" offers the opportunity to resolve an apparent contradiction between different versions of the myth. In Myrsilos of Lesbos (cited by Burkert 1970: 7) and in Pindar (P. 4.250-51), the Argonauts came to Lemnos on the return voyage from Kolchis instead of on the way to Kolchis as in Apollonius Rhodius and Apollodorus. My analysis of the myth's underlying meaning calls for the Argonauts to land twice at Lemnos: first on the way to Kolchis to have their fleeces finished; and second on the return voyage to settle accounts with the Lemniads. Both of the above versions would then be accurate but telescoped, possibly in the interest of variety or moving the action along.

Consistently with the thrust of this argument, Diodorus Sicilus (4.49.1-3) has the Argonauts, on their return journey from Kolchis, landing at the mouth of the Pontos to set up altars at the site of Byzantium and then sailing through the Propontis and Hellespont to the Troad. Then they "set forth from the Troad and arrived at Samothrace, an island northeast of Lemnos, where they again paid their vows to the great gods and dedicated in the sacred precincts the bowls which are preserved there even to this day" (D.S 4.49.3; Oldfather 1933; emphasis added). Note that the Kabeiroi, arguably representing a corporation of artisan-traders, had cults on Lemnos and the island of Samothrace. Apollonius Rhodius (1.913ff) has the Argonauts voyage from Lemnos to Samothrace to be initiated into the mysteries of the Kabeiroi prior to sailing on to Kolchis. Herodotus (2.51) claims that these mysteries were first introduced by the "Pelasgians" (see II.D). Interestingly, in historical times the initiated received a purple scarf to protect them on their travels (Lehmann 1960: 29).24

Consider further that Apollonius Rhodius (4.302) has the Argonauts set a complicated return course to avoid interception by the pursuing Kolchians. This course took them to the island of the Phaeacians, where Alkinoos ruled (see, for example, 4.769, 990-92, 113ff, 120ff). We are further informed that this island once was called Makridie_s (or Makris?) and now is called Drepane_ ("sickle") (Ap.R. 4.990, 1175; 4.540). Homer (Od. 5.34-35; 6.1-12) calls the land (island?25) of Alkinoos and the Phaeacians "Scheria". In Homer's Scheria the women are concerned with weaving purple-dyed cloth: "The queen was sitting by the fireside with her attendant women, turning sea-purple yarn on a distaff" (Od. 6.53; cf. 6.305ff; Lattimore 1965). For their part, the men were expert mariners and navigators (Od. 6.255-73): In the Phaeacian palace

are fifty serving women and of these... there are those who weave the webs and who turn the distaffs, sitting restless as leaves of the tall black poplar, and from the cloths where it is sieved oozes limpid olive oil. As much as the Phaiakian men are expert beyond all others for driving a fast ship on the open sea, so their women are skilled in weaving and dowered with wisdom bestowed by Athene, to be expert in beautiful work... (7.103-11; Lattimore 1965)
Homer (Od. 6.1-10) explains that at one time the Phaeacians lived in "Hyperia next to the Kyklopes who were men too overbearing. ... From here godlike Nasithoos had removed them and led a migration and settled in Scheria" (Lattimore 1965). It occurs to me that Homer's Scheria whose women remained at home weaving purple while the men sailed away and Lemnos with its all-female society might be one and the same place.26 In support of this suggested identification, note Fraser's (1929: 170) remark that
All readers of the Odyssey have been struck with the prominence given to the Phaeacian women. They possess, as one writer put it, something in the way of a monopoly of the brains on the island.

This observation would take on even greater significance if, as I suspect, Pindar's (P. 4.252) androphono_n "man-killing" Lemnian women is a play on or originally read androphro_n or androphrono_n "man-minded, having men's prudence" Lemnian women (LSJ s.vv. androphonos, androphro_n, phroneo_ IV) Another point of resemblance is that the uncertainty concerning the name of the land of the Phaeacians is paralleled by uncertainty concerning the origin of the Lemnians, who "were called Tyrsenoi by the Greeks and thus identified with the Etruscans, or alternatively with the [pre-Greek] Pelasgians ..." (Burkert 1985: 281). Finally, Odysseus was given generous gifts at Scheria including numerous fine cloaks and a large quantity of gold (Od. 5.38-40, 8.390-3).

To close this discussion of a possible second call of the Argo at Lemnos for the purpose of settling accounts, let us take note of one more thing. Apollonius Rhodius (4.1141-42) says that "the [Argonauts and Phaeacians] spread a mighty couch; and thereon they laid [estoresan] the glittering fleece of gold" (Seaton 1912). The explanation for this display (of gold, I submit) is unconvincing: "So the marriage (of Jason and Medea) might be honored and the theme of songs" (Ap.R. 4.1142-43; Seaton 1912). I propose that Apollonius Rhodius changed the name of the island from Lemnos to Drepane_ (Scheria) and had the Argonauts spread out the gold earned at Kolchis for distribution among the cooperating parties, Argonauts and Lemnian women.

II. Epos and Economic Potentialities

For the historical economist the next question is obvious: "Is the trade relationship --purple-dyed Thessalian fleece sold in Kolchis for gold -- more or less consistent with economic potentialities, or is it purely fictional.

A. Did the Kolchians have Gold?

Let us begin by considering whether and when there were "Kolchians" and whether they might have had gold to give to the Greeks.

It is well documented that in the early second millennium BCE Assur in Assyria exported tin and woolens overland to Anatolia and took in return silver and sometimes gold (Silver 1995: 82). In roughly the middle of the second millennium, gold in nontrivial quantities is listed in the Hittite royal inventories (Kempinski and Košak1977: 90). In fact, gold is geologically available in Anatolia (Maxwell-Hyslop cited by Stech and Pigott 1986: 48). Again, in the Iliad (18.268-92), Hektor laments that once, that is before the Greek war of attrition, Troy was spoken of as "a place with much gold and bronze" (Lattimore 1951; Graves 1960, 2:303). Moving closer to Kolchis, Cyzicus, a city situated on a large island close to the southern shore of the Propontis, had access to gold, as is demonstrated by its famous "white gold" coinage of the later sixth century BCE (Wallace 1987)

Strabo (11.2.19) says that Colchis possessed gold mines in the course of suggesting a motive for the mythical voyage of the Argonauts but, as Braund (1994:62) points out, "he seems to have in mind the mineral wealth of Colchis is his own day." However, modern scholars inform us that according to the geology of the region Kolchis itself did not have rich gold deposits (Tsetskhladze and Treister cited by Muhly 1998: 321). Braund (1994: 24) adds that "Colchian gold is only found in any quantity from the fifth century BC: before the seventh century there is almost nothing." In the fifth century BCE Greek goldsmiths became very active in the area. Indeed we have frequent mention in Greek literature of the second half of the first millennium BCE of "Golden Kolchis" (Lordkipanidze cited by Tuplin 1987: 35). But if, contrary to Strabo, Kolchis did not have gold mines of its own, where did the Colchian goldsmiths get their gold? Surely gold must have been near at hand.

Boardman (1980: 245) notes that

The search for metals had probably inspired the [Greek] foundations along the southern shores of the Black Sea and in the east, where the resources of the Caucasus and of Armenia might be tapped. ... There was gold at Phasis, and remoter sources might also have been exploited.27

There does seem to be direct evidence of gold mining in the Caucasus. Strabo mentions the existence in his own day of gold mines in Iberia in eastern Georgia. Pliny, indeed, makes a royal descendant of Aietes responsible for the beginning of mining in western Georgia; he is said to have extracted a large quantity of gold and silver in the land of the Suani, that is, the mountains of Svaneti [in northwest Georgia]" (Braund 1994: 61, citing Pliny NH. 33.52). Barnett (1956: 221) reports that the ninth- to sixth-century inscriptions from Urartu (central Armenia)

frequently refer to the kingdom of Kulhai. This is the land of Kolchis and the recent Russian excavation of burials rich in gold and silver at Trialeti in central Caucasus, belonging to the late Bronze Age, shows that the Golden Fleece need not be considered all a figment of the imagination.[Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Del Monte informs me (ANE, January 28, 1999) that the identification of Qulha (modern reading) with Kolchis seems sound.]

Hittite tablets of the fourteenth century BCE mention wars with peoples inhabiting the Armenian plateau (Suny 1988: 7). In the thirteenth century an Assyrian inscription records a campaign in the highlands around Lake Van against peoples designated collectively as Uruatri (Urartu). Somewhat later the population of this region are referred to as Nairi. Then, in the later twelfth century, an inscription of Tiglath-Pileser I (1115-1077) records a campaign in the lands of the Nairi which, Piotrovsky (1969: 43-4) explains:

was directed not against the region to the southeast of Lake Van ... but against the whole western part of the Armenian highland area, from north to south. ... The Assyrian annals describe the campaign in the following words: "The god Ashur, my lord and master, sent me against the lands of the distant kings who dwell on the shore of the Upper Sea (i.e., the Black Sea), owning no master; and thither I went. ... Sixty kings of the lands of Nairi, together with those who came to their aid, did I drive my spear as far as the Upper Sea, I captured their great cities, I carried off their riches and spoils. (Emphasis added)
Among the peoples defeated by the Assyrians are two, Mushki and Tabal, known for their metallurgy (Suny 1988: 6).

So it clear enough that the Black Sea region possessed ample gold and a significant urban civilization no later than the twelfth century BCE. It seems clear that "Kolchis" was the name of a significant civilization in the Black Sea region no later than the early first millennium.

B. When did the Greeks have gold?

Next, was there a time when the Greeks accumulated relatively large stocks of gold from unaccounted for sources? The Mycenaean era comes immediately to mind. The Iliad 7.180; 11.46) describes Mycenae as "rich in gold" and, despite centuries of looting, the graves are justly famous since Schliemann for gold objects of all kinds.

One of more than 700 gold roundels from the "Women's Grave" at Mycenae

The Linear B tablets from Pylos in Messenia mention gold relatively frequently and in significant quantities. Orchomenos in northern Boeotia is, of course, famous for its so-called "Treasury of Minyas" and Homer (Il. 9.379ff) compares it to Thebes in Egypt as a city "where the greatest possessions lie up in the houses" (Lattimore 1951). Nilsson (1932: 137-38) takes note of the

rich finds from the Mycenaean age in the neighborhood of Iolcos. At Kapakli quite near Iolcos Dr. Kuruniotes excavated a tholos tomb which was almost untouched and yielded rich finds, especially gold objects.

In Thessaly the excavations (presumably) at Iolkos in Magnesia, the city where the Argonauts received their commission, revealed, indeed, a Mycenaean palace:

It lies on a 25-acre hill within the periphery of modern Volos, its site marked by twenty feet of deposit. It flourished from 2500 to 1200 B.C. ... The excavators note a copper crucible of 2200. Iolkos increased in importance in Late Helladic I and II (1500-1400), perhaps under Minoan influence or at any rate through sea-borne commerce: vessels are figured on the pottery. In Late Helladic III (1400-1200) kylikes, many local, some from the Peloponnese [Mycenae?] abound, bespeaking a palace, as at Pylos. (MacKendrick 1981: 30).

[We may site here a report in The Timesof May 16, 2001 that Greek archaeologists have, they believe, found the site of Iolcos: "The archaeologists found the remains of two parts of a building, covering about 7,000 square yards, and traces of a wide thoroughfare, during excavations on the purported site of the city, a promontory opposite the modern port of Volos. Vasiliki Ardymi-Sismani, of the Ministry of Cuture, said: 'We believe that this building was a palace, not only because of its size, but also its complexity.' The palace appears to have been a manufacturing and trading centre, with areas for the storage of food, pottery making, a jeweller’s workshop and a weapons factory."] In a recent article in the Athens Annals of Archaeology (Vol. 32-34, 1999-2001), Dr. Adrymi-Sismani illustrates Linear B signs on a stone object and a kylix sherd from Iolcos.
Note (below) the gold flower from Volos.

Mycenaean sherds depicting ships with many rows. From the archaeological museum of Volos. Some believe that a fish is depicted, not the bow of a ship. I cannot see a fish here, however.

Where did the Mycenaean gold come from? In the absence of significant production within Greece, it must have been of foreign origin (see Chadwick 1976: 45). However, neither the Linear B texts nor archaeology pinpoint the foreign source(s). However, it is reported that about 20 percent of the analyzed Mycenaean gold is of the tin-and platinum-free type also found in the rich gold found at Varna on the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea (Muhly 1983: 3-4, citing Hartmann). Outright plunder no doubt made a contribution, but more or less peaceful trade cannot be excluded as a major source. Specifically, Thessaly's exports of cloth to the Black Sea region (Kolchis) may have made a significant contribution. Perhaps Pylos earned a share of the Kolchian gold by exporting oil to Thessaly.28 Mycenaean interconnections are demonstrated by finds of labeled Cretan stirrup jars at Mycenae, Tiryns, Thebes, Eleusis, Kreusis and Orchomenos (Hallager 1987: 179).

C. Did the Kolchians Value Purple-dyed Fleece?

The best that can be done in answering this question is to examine the preferences of their neighbors, including the Hittites. Cultural connections and similarities between the Hittites and the peoples of the Black Sea region are at least hinted by the excavation of Hittite-style pottery at various sites including Dundartepe near Samsun on the Black Sea (Macqueen 1986: 104). Rubinson (1977: 241-43) has noted several parallels between the metalwork of central Anatolia and objects found at Trialeti in Georgia.

The texts of the Hittites are not silent concerning the "fleece". At their religions center Zipplanda they celebrated a "Voyage of the 'Sacred Fleece' (kuškuršaš) in the Winter" (Singer 1984: 108, 120). "In the myth of the god who disappears [Telipinu] the kursa of a sheep is hanging from an evergreen tree [eyan-tree or pole] filled with all good things like 'sheep's fat, (abundance of) grain, (wild) animals, and wine, cattle and sheep, long lifetime, and progeny'" (Güterbock 1989: 115; cf. Hoffner and Beckman 1990: 17). (We also find "the gentle message (sound) of the lamb" [Watkins 2002: 171]). Clearly, the eyan-tree is a symbol of wealth/prosperity (Westbrook and Woodard 1990: 649).

A scene depicted on a Hittite silver rhyton in the Metropolitan Museum depicts a seated deity and a bag suspended by a loop from a tree. The
bag has been identified with the kurša.

(Recall that in one version of the Argonaut Epos the Golden Fleece is draped over an (evergreen?) oak tree [Ap.R. 4.122-25].) Hittite texts disclose the existence of a spring festival in which the kurša or "Sacred Fleece" was carried from one city to another (Haas 1975: 228). We also find the phrase "the fleece of Inara". This Inara, the mistress of waters, was the possessor of a "house" or "house of the wave[?]" (Haas 1975: 229-30; Puhvel 1981: 354).

Morris (2001: 431) takes the kurša to be a kind of bag and she adds that "In etymology and in meaning its relatives include the Greek word bursa [my transliteration], both a leather bag and a source of wealth, and the modern purse, French 'bourse', or Italian 'borsa'." She relates the kurša not only to the Golden Fleece but to "the device which decorates the breast of Artemis as a series of leather bags, and Athena, in the shape of a scaly aegis" (Morris 2001: 431). In this connection Watkins (2002: 172) cites the formulaic similarity between Iliad 2.447 wherein Athena is pictured "holding the precious aegis, unaging, undying, whose 100 tassels all in gold flutter in the wind" and Pindar (Pyth. 4.230-231): "Let him bring the imperishable coverlet, the gleaming fleece tasseled in gold."

Hittite administrative texts refer to a "house of fleeces" (Mendenhall 1973: n. 35, 43), delivery of a "ball of red wool and a ball of blue" by the "man of the storehouse" (Singer 1984: 113), and "blue purple (ZA.GÌN, Hittite andara-, amdaramt-) (woolen) garments of the finest quality" (Finkelstein 1956: 103). Unfortunately, the texts do not disclose the origin of these precious commodities. However, I am informed by Itamar Singer (personal correspondence dated October 30, 2004) that Hittite texts refer to purple-dye industries in western Anatolia and Lesbos, an archeologically attested center for murex processing (see below).

It is not known whether the sheep of Hittite Anatolia and the Black Sea region had the fine white fleece suitable for purple-dyeing (H.B. Carter 1969: 15). Carter (1969: 15) surmises that the appropriate breed of sheep "may have been known in some early form to the Minoan civilization of Crete or Mycenaean cities of pre-Achaean Greece." In fact, the purple dyeing of wool (or cloth) is mentioned in the Linear B texts. It is known of course that Anatolia imported woolen garments and mašku_ šapa_tim "woolen fleeces" (literally "hides with wool") or mašku_ šapi_u_tim ["hides thick (with wool)"] from Assur in Assyria in the early second millennium (Veenhof 1972: 132). Moreover, the documents of this Old Assyrian trade refer to sa_mun "red" and šinu_m "dyed" wool and cloth (Veenhof 1972: 131-33, 188).
Click here for full size image

Roof of Assyrian model house dated to the second half of the third millennium. The seated animal is a sheep with a heavy fleece.

It may be assumed that the Hittite festivals noted above served as markets (ancient religious festivals were at the same time trade fairs) and quite possibly sanctified the trade channels which brought them the mundane counterparts of the "Sacred Fleece"--that is, wool, cloth, and garments--especially purple dyed. We know that in the Hittite Old Kingdom the opening ceremonies of the KI.LAM festival included a procession of various cult symbols, including the "Fleeces" (kuršaš (Singer 1983: 89-91). (There is no definitive evidence regarding the season of the festival.) Now in Mesopotamian texts KI.LAM equates with Akkadian machi_ru "market." In Hittite texts KI.LAM is a "pseudo-ideogram" standing for Hittite [c]hilammar "gate building" (Gary Beckman, ANE "Hittite KI.LAM festival," May 12, 1999; cf. Singer 1983: 121-4). Nevertheless, Singer (1975: 93) does cite two combinations in which "it is not clear whether KI.LAM should be translated as 'market' or 'gate-house'" and, in one of these combinations, "The context in which GAL KI.LAM occurs in Bo 73/173 -- with the merchants of Kaniš(!)-- might point to a connection with the market."

In any event, the connection between markets and gates (Akkadian ba_bu_ or abulla_ti) is well established. Moreover, in the Cappadocian texts ba_b machi_ri has the meaning "market gate." Singer notes that

K.R. Veenhof brought together the evidence for ba_b machi_rim in the Cappadocian texts. He also adduced a Nuzi text where the term ašar machi_ri ina Nuzi ("on the market in Nuzi") replaces the usual formula that a document has been drawn up ina ba_abullim ("at/in the entrance of the city-gate"). He concludes: "This underlines the role played by the city-gate not only in juridical, but also in economic matters."
To complete the circle we should note that the Hittite "House of Fleeces" has a (c)hilammar! (Singer 1975: 79)

Based on this indirect evidence it seems reasonable to conclude that the Kolchians would have placed a significant value on purple-dyed fleece.

D. How ancient is the connection between Greece and the Black Sea region?

There is a good deal of evidence of Greek contacts with Anatolia. Note first that

place names with non-Indo-European terminations in -ssos or -ttos, in -inthos or -indos and in the plural -enai (e.g. Parnassos, Hymettos, Cnossos, Corinth, Tiryns, Athenai and Mycenai) ... are found most thickly in western and southern Asia Minor, the Aegean islands, and eastern peninsular Greece, but rarely in Macedonia and Epirus. (Hammond 1986: 38-9)
More recent research suggests that the place name endings are in fact Indo-European and "can be accounted for as typically Anatolian or, to be more precise, Luwian" (Finkelberg 1997: 7).

Hammond (1986: 38-9) believes that "this pattern of distribution [of place name endings] is an indication of settlement". We may certainly agree that is an indication of early interaction between Greece and Anatolia. In this connection it is well to note that Homer (Il.4.681) speaks of a "Pelasgian Argos" in Thessaly which Kirk (1985: 228-29) explains

must be the region of the Sperkheios River and the Malian plain. The Pelasgoi were thought of as prehistoric inhabitants of Greece. ... There were Pelasgoi in Crete according to Od. 19.177 ... [and] there were Pelasgoi in Asia Minor too. (See Il. 2.840)

Hittite texts of (roughly) the fourteenth to thirteenth century mention the countries of Ahhiyava and Lazpa and someone named Tavakavalas is termed an Ayavalash king and a "brother" of the ruler of Ahhiyava. In discussing these references Hammond (1986: 51-2) maintains that

The word "Ahhiyava" (or in an earlier form "Ahhayiva") is clearly a transcription of the Greek word "Akhaïa," just as "Ayavalash" (of which the ending is a Hittite ethnic) is a transcription of "Akhaïos" ... "Lazpa" was doubtless the island Lesbos, and "Tariosa" (in another Hittite document) was Troy.

With respect to the linguistic difficulties in identifying the ethnikon Ahhiyawa with Greek Achaioi, Finkelberg (1988) has argued that the Greek can be derived from the Hittite by means of the application of phonetic developments operative in Greek between the fourteenth and eighth centuries, the time of Homer.

Hiller (1991: 214) notes a "striking correspondence" between names in the Argonaut epos and names in Mycenaean Linear B, especially from Pylos: He lists Aiaia (the island of Aia), Aites (the Lord of Aia), Athamas (father of Phrixos), Kretheus (brother of Athamas), Amythaon (son of Kretheus), Iason (leader of the Argonauts), Mopsos (seer of Argonauts), and Lynkeus (spy of Argonauts). Hiller (1991: 214) concludes most significantly that

These names (for some of which it has to be admitted that they can be transliterated also in other ways) cannot, of course, prove anything else but their mere existence already in the Mycenaean period. It could, however, be of some importance that for the greater part they are attested in the Pylos tablets. The Argonauts are traditionally regarded as Minyans who were at home in Southern Thessaly and Northern Boeotia; the same is true for the Pylian Neleides. As has been recognized long ago, there is a remarkable coincidence of river names both in Thessaly and in the Thessalian offspring of the Neleid dynasty. For the same reason a clustering of heroic personal names, originally at home in Thessaly, could be expected to reappear in Mycenaean Pylos. That this is really the case, lends further confidence to the assumption of a Mycenaean origin of the Argonaut epos (Emphasis added).

Certainly this kind of evidence does on balance favor the idea that mainland Greece was involved in Anatolian and Pontic affairs no later than the second half of the second millennium (see Gütterbock 1983; Bryce 1989).

Turning to archaeological evidence, let us first of all note the important evidence from Samothrace. (It will be remembered [see I.E] that the Argonauts voyaged from Lemnos to nearby Samothrace to be initiated in the mysteries of the Kabeiroi.)

Drawing of Linear A Inscription from Samothrace (Source: Matsas 1995: Pl. XXXVIIc)

Dimitri Matsas (1995) published a Linear A inscription--in fact, one in the series of five finds inscribed in Cretan Hieroglyphic and Linear A--which was unearthed in Samothrace in the northeastern Aegean. The archaeological context suggests that these finds--two roundels, two noduli and a nodule--should be dated as early as MM II/MM IIIA (the second half of the 18th century BC).(I thank Margalit Finkelberg for calling this reference to my attention.)

Moving from a coastal island to the continent, J. Warner (1979: 146) suggests that "The West Anatolian building tradition of the Early Bronze Age seems most closely related to the architecture of Thessaly and SE Europe where both the megaron and aspidal plans appear in the Early Bronze Age and before; the relationship is particularly close between the Anatolian and Thracian examples." Vase shapes (the kantharos with crinkled rim) believed to be of Anatolian origin have been discovered at Crete and dated to the early second millennium (Watrous 1987:67, 70, citing E. Davis). Indeed, Pefkakia (ancient Neleia?), a port on the coast of Thessaly near Volos (Iolkos) was receiving pottery linked to western Anatolia as early as the end of the third millennium (Warren 1989: 7). Figurines attributed to the Hittites have been found in Tiryns and Nezero in Thessaly (Yakar 1976: 126, citing Canby).

In 1978 and 1998 Mee surveyed the archaeological indications of Aegean trade/settlement in Anatolia. He cites the finding of: (1) Mycenaean pottery sherds in central and coastal sites, especially Troy; (2) Minoan style pottery at Akbük, Didyma, Iasos (also Minoan style architecture) and, especially, Miletus (together with Minoan architecture, frescoes and jewellery); and (3) Middle Minoan pottery linking Caria with the Cyclades in the third millennium.

Mention should be made of a Mycenaean-type sword found accidentally at the Hittite capital, Hattushas (Cline 1996). Lightfoot (1998: 47-8) reports the find of two relief vases in northern central Anatolia which are tentatively dated to the seventeenth century BCE:

The smaller of the two vases bears one particularly striking and significant scene, for it depicts a bull above which there are two somersaulting acrobats. Since the vase would seem to predate the famous bull fresco found in the Minoan Palace at Knossos in Crete, the discovery provides new evidence for cross-cultural links and, possibly, for Anatolian influences on Minoan civilization.

Several caveats must be kept in mind, however. Maria C. Shaw points to the remains in Crete of bull-leaping frescoes that are earlier than the "famous" example and, more importantly, that

we need to see illustrations of this vase before we can from an opinion on the question of interconnections and transmissions of themes. There is no reason why bull leaping may not have been practiced both in the Aegean and the Near East. When it comes to representations in art, however, that is a much more complex issue. So far "bull leaping" representations I have seen in Near Eastern scenes are idiosyncratic; they look different from those in the Minoan frescoes of the theme. (AEGEANET, February 6, 1998)
Before we can be sure we must see a more official publication of the vase.

Niemeier (1998) reports strong evidence, in the form of masonry techniques, pottery, fragments of wall-frescoes, of Minoan and Mycenaean influences at Miletus and other sites in western Anatolia. He concludes that the Miletus evidence favors an actual Minoan settlement possibly as early as the mid-seventeenth century and, somewhat later, settlement by Mycenaeans. Further, the excavators of Miletus found two fragments of local pithoi each bearing a sign that was incised before firing. Both are regarded as Linear B signs "but this identification is not completely unequivocal" (Niemeier 1998: 37). Most dramatically, Niemeier (1996; 1998:28) reports the find in a secure deposit dated to c. 1425 (Aegean low chronology) or c. 1490/70 (Aegean high chronology) of three joined fragments of a local clay vessel bearing three signs, incised before firing, in the Linear A script. There are also "claimed Linear A inscribed 'spindle whorls' from Troy" (Godart, cited by John Younger, AEGEANET, November 29, 1998). Tom Palaima writes: "The Linear A on spindle whorls is pure fantasy. These aree spindle whorls with abstract patterns, nothing more (AEGEANET April 25, 2004).

With respect to the Miletus Linear A inscription, Palaima suggests that

Sign no. 1 (L 1/AB 56) occurs infrequently also in Mycenaean Greek Linear B, but in a pattern of alternative spellings that clearly shows that the sign was retained by the Mycenaean scribes to render in precise spellings Minoan anthroponyms, theonyms, toponyms, and two Minoan loan words for a special kind of vessel and a particular color used in dyeing textiles. As such AB 56 (along with AB 22 and AB 29) are closely connected with the phonological peculiarities of the Minoan language. This makes it nearly certain that the Linear A MIL Zb 1 represents a Minoan word. (AEGEANET, July 25, 1996)
I understand that other interpretations of AB 56 have been advanced and I will look into them as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I am struck by any possible relationship, however ambiguous, between the Linear A inscription and the dyeing of cloth.

Margalit Finkelberg notes that "most of the hypotheses circulating today claim that the Minoan language is somehow related to ANATOLIAN" and she cites new evidence that may point in this direction (AEGEANET, March 8, 1998). Issues of this kind are, however, beyond the scope of this essay.

For the present study of course evidence of interactions in the Pontic area are of the greatest importance. Rubinson (1991: 283-85) reports that

Some kind of contact, either direct or indirect must have existed between Transcaucasia and Mycenae during the mid-second millennium B.C.E. ... The primary evidence comes from the site of Trialeti ... located on the Tsalk Plateau in the southern Georgian SSR. It is the burials belonging to the last phase, Middle Bronze III, ca, 1600 to ca. 1450 B.C.E. from which the materials with Aegean parallels are found. ... In light of the close technical and stylistic similarities of the cauldrons [the Trialeti cauldron and one found in Shaft Grave 4 at Mycenae], the features of the spear points and other weapons shared between Trialeti and the Aegean may be considered possible influences, rather than accidental similarities. ... [D]ating to slightly later, the thirteenth century B.C.E., Mycenaean IIIB ceramics were found at Mashat in Anatolia, not far from the Black Sea Coast. These may have arrived there via the Black Sea rather than overland as the excavator suggests.

Harding (1984: 49) mentions that "two {copper] ingots, one allegedly bearing Aegean signs ["stamped or incised Linear A or Cypro-Minoan signs"], have been recovered from the Black Sea off Bulgaria" (Emphasis added). My understanding is that one ox-hide(??) ingot, without incised signs, was found in the Black Sea by underwater archaeology near Cape Kaliakra, in the region of Balchik on the northern Bulgarian coast. [J.G. de Boer (2002: 444), however, states flatly that the description of this ingot "as an ox-hide ingot is a pure invention on the part of the excavator".] The second, more standard looking copper ox-hide ingot, lacking only the four carrying handles, does bear Linear script. It comes from the Bulgarian village of Cherkovo in the Bourgas region (Petya Hristova, AEGEANET, January 21, 1999). Hiller (1991: 209-10) states that "The ingot from Cerkovo (near Karnobat) - it seems to be of copper - bears an incised mark comparable to Aegean Linear signs."

Cherkovo ingot with incised mark. (Source: Hiller 1991: Pl. LV, b)

Brendan McDermott cautiously suggests that the incised mark looks like a plus sign (AEGEANET, January 21, 1999). I cannot help recalling in this connection Robert Drew's suggestion (in personal correspondence dated August 22, 1989) that "A Golden Fleece does suggest an imaginary ingot of gold (analogous to the 'ox-hide ingots of copper that have turned up in so many places)." The ox-hide ingots of copper date from the period 1500 to 1100 (see Silver 1995: 142). Yet another Bulgarian find is a clay object in the form of a prism bearing a Linear inscription and a pictograph, possibly of a metal ingot. This object comes from the surface of a pre-historic settlement near Bourgas. There is also a clay tablet with Linear script which was found in the pre-historic settlement at Drama in Iambol. The analysis and evaluation of these objects is apparently nearing completion (Petya Hristova. AEGEANET, January 21, 1999).

Mellink (1988: 115-16) adds that Lévèque "confidently" lists several indications of Aegean-Pontic contacts:

One is the silver "Vaphio cup" [Vaphio lies to the south of Sparta] from Kirovakan in Soviet Armenia. ... It dates to the 15th or 16th century B.C. ... The other reference is to the ingot found near Cape Kaliakra [noted above], and several anchors of East Mediterranean type

Mention should also be made of some very insecure evidence in the form of a terra cotta ram or horned sheep with a supposed Linear A inscription. Nothing is known about the

"Samsun" ram

circumstances of the find except that the ram is supposed to be "from Samsun," a port on the Black Sea which could have served as a maritime outlet for the Hittites. Sayce acquired the object and a line drawing was published by Evans (1964: 768) in 1935 and reproduced by Bossert (1942). It is now in the Ashmolean Museum. I understand that the Ashmolean dated the ram to the mid-late first millennium CE, which makes the Linear A inscription a fake. Here is the strange part of the story. Evans (1964: 768) says that "a careful examination of the graffiti has assured me that the bulk of the signs represent recognizable form of the Minoan linear Class A" and he adds in footnote 3:

Obviously the votive figure had been acquired by Professor Sayce in pre-Minoan days [that is, prior to the discovery of Linear A inscriptions]. In his MS. description it appears as a "graffito inscription in an unknown script".

Assuming that (1) the inscription is really Linear A and that (2) Sayce would have recognized the inscription as Linear A once that script had been discovered in the Aegean, we are left with the conclusion that someone forged a Linear A inscription before Linear A was known!

In summary, there is certainly evidence suggesting the existence in the second millennium of Greek contacts with Anatolia generally and specifically with the Pontic region. Of course it may be objected that nothing unquestionably Greek dating from much earlier than the seventh century BCE has been excavated at the Black Sea and its approaches, including Cyzicus. I suppose that this must be granted. On the other hand, as Boardman (1980: 239) has noted, the archaeological evidence is hardly exhaustive (cf. Drews 1976: 19) and, in any event, cloth exports, unlike the pottery containers of wine and oil, rarely leave a trace in the archaeological record. Niemeier's striking results for Miletus and the Bulgarian copper ingot and clay prism finds give us hope that the best is yet to come. By way of conclusion it may be stated with confidence that early merchants were capable of negotiating the difficult corridor (Propontis) from the Aegean through the Dardenelles (Hellespont) and the Bosporus into the Black Sea.29

E. Does Homer provide evidence of Bronze Age Greek contacts with Anatolia and the Pontos?

Homer is conventionally dated to the eighth century. However, a passage in the Odyssey (12.70) refers to the Argo as being "in all men's minds" (Lattimore 1965). As Hiller (1991: 213, citing Lesky) points out, the implication of this clearly intended quotation is that there existed a still earlier version of the Argonaut myth. More concretely, the Iliad (2.851-77; especially 853-55) displays a considerable knowledge of the southern coast of the Black Sea. Beyond Homer's surviving "Catalogue of Trojan Allies," Strabo (1.1.10) maintains that Homer mentioned "the Propontis and the Euxine Sea as far as Colchis and the limits of Jason's expedition" (H.L. Jones 1932). Drews (1976: 20-1) argues that there is no basis for the argument that the material in the Iliad represents a late interpolation and he goes on to reason that

If one accepts the conventional date for the Iliad and ascribes the Catalogue of Trojan Allies to the poet of the Iliad one must conclude that by the late eighth-century some Greeks, at least, knew about a number of native settlements on the Paphlogonian coast. ... If, on the other hand, one believes (with Allen, Page, Lazenby and R.H. Simpson) that the Catalogue of Trojan Allies was passed down from the end of the Bronze Age, one must assume that the Mycenaean Greeks were familiar with the Paphlagonian coast, and that the native settlements on that coast retained their identity through the troubled Iron Age. (Drews 1976: 21-2)

It is of interest in this connection that, according to a geological study, Homer's description of the geography of the area around Troy is consistent with the sediment record of the Dardanelles coastline in c. 3000 BCE (see

Of course this constancy of identity over so long a period is troubling. On the other hand, it would not be unprecedented historically and, as the remarks of Hammond (1986: 63) demonstrate, the Iliad does preserve Bronze Age data:

[A] number of names in the Trojan catalogue recur in Hittite and Egyptian documents of the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries: Ilioi (Iliunna), Dardanoi (Dardenui), Lukie and Lukioi (Luka), Pedasos (Pidasa), Asios (Asuva), Musoi (Musa), while Troia (Tariosa), Lesbos (Lazpa) and Kilikes (Kilikisha) occur elsewhere in the Iliad.

To Hammond's report we may append that "a Luvian text, more or less contemporary with the Mycenaean period identifies the city as Ilium and even employs a popular formula in the Iliad: 'steep Ilium'" (Scully 1990: 7, citing Watkins; compare Kullman 1999: 108). (Bennet [1997: 524-26], indeed, has pointed out several features of epic language that take us back to the period of Linear B.) Morris (2001: 425-6) notes the identification of Homer's "Asia" (Il. 2.461) with Hittite Aššuwa and Linear B Aswiyos.

Kullman (1999: 108) notes that "there exists a conspicuous onomastic parallel between a certain vassal of the Hittite king, Alaksandus by name, ruling at the beginning of the 13th century BC in a city called Wilusa, and Alexandros as the name of a prince of Ilion." Kullman (1999: n. 42, 108) is not convinced by Starke's identification of Ilion with Wilusa. However, his objection is not linguistic but rather seems to be of an a priori kind: "there is an enormous chronological gap between the Anatolian texts and the tradition of the Greek singers." Kullman (1999: 108), similarly, rules out the possibility that the name Alaksandus was transmitted from the Bronze Age to Homer. However, he admits that "we have no evidence that the name of a King Alaksandus was current among the Anatolian population at the time of the Greek singers and could therefore have been borrowed by them."

A related problem is whether Homer's (Od. 12.60f) Planktai "Roving Rocks" correspond to the Symplegades "Clashing Rocks" of the later Greek writes Apollodorus (1.9.22) and Apollonius Rhodius (2.549-610). Graham (1958: 37-8) notes that for the later Greeks the "Clashing Rocks" unquestionably refer to the entrance to the Pontus and he goes on to maintain that

In the areas of Greek navigation there is no place more suited to give rise to the myth of the moving or clashing rocks than the Bosporus. Ancient geographers were right to point out in explanation of the myth that the strait seems closed from afar, and as you come nearer and move from one side to the other, it seems to open and close. When one adds to the appearance the formidable current, one sees that the Bosporus provides a very suggestive factual basis for the Symplegades myth. And if the myth arose from the passage of the Bosporus, then the Odyssey's reference be it, however vague, shows that Greek sailors had penetrated into the Black Sea before the Odyssey was composed.30

In conclusion, the geographic data found in Homer serve to reinforce the view that the Argonaut epos provides invaluable evidence of regular Greek contacts with the Black Sea region prior to the eighth century BCE and even as early as the second half of the second millennium. (See Kullman [1999: 102-3] for some contrary arguments.) If Homer really wrote in the eighth century it appears that he had access to records of the Bronze Age which might have been maintained by temples.31 The role of Egyptian temples as repositories of economically valuable geographic information is reasonably well-attested (Silver 1995: 25-27).

F. Did Lemnos have purple?

Lemnos, as we have seen, plays a central role in the Argonaut epos. Given the evidence for early Greek contacts with Troy, Miletus, central Anatolia, and the Black Sea region, it is not really surprising that Lemnos with its good harbors and strategic position with respect to the Hellespont has yielded Mycenaean pottery to the excavators (Desborough cited by Mee 1978: 148). Moreover, at Poliochni on the east coast of the island, archaeologists found the remains of a very large Neolithic and Bronze Age town with definite cultural links to Troy (MacKendrick 1981: 21-3; Stillwell et al. 1976: s.v. Lemnos). Doumas (1983: 23) explains further that:

Outside Crete two island cultures evolved in the Aegean region during the Early Bronze Age: the Cycladic and the Troadic. The island group of the northeast Aegean (Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios, and others) was the cradle of the culture which created the prehistoric cities of Polichne on Lemnos and Therme on Lesbos, both of which may be considered the earliest urban centres in Europe. Their origins can be traced back as far as the end of the fourth millennium B.C.. ... The origins of these "urban" settlements, at least in the case of Poliochne, may be traced back much further than the time of the founding of Troy. ... Troy with its long-lived occupation, is but a small fortified village in comparison with Poliochne or Therme.
So the archaeological evidence demonstrates that Lemnos had a significant trade-oriented civilization in the second millennium.

But David S. Reese (personal correspondence dated June 9, 1989) informs me that there is no evidence, textual or archaeological, for shell purple-dye production in Lemnos. I have not seen any later evidence demonstrating production there. Obviously this represents a problem for my interpretation of the Argonaut epos. Nevertheless, it is well known that the waters of the Troad region had extensive beds of murex (Hammond 1962: 281) and purple-dye production is amply attested in the immediate neighborhood of Lemnos. Close to Lemnos we may cite the discovery of crushed murex shells32 representing murex extraction in a Hellenistic industrial district in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos (Williams and Williams 1987: 11). There is Iron Age textual evidence for purple production at Chios, Cos, Amorgos, and Rhodes (Reese, personal correspondence dated September 6, 1989). Jackson (1916: 11), citing Greek and Latin writers reports that

Shells were fished at Lectum [Hdt. 9.114] and Sigeum [Hdt. 5.95], and one of the islands of the Propontis (Sea of Marmora) was known as Porphyrione. Vitruvius [first century B.C.E.] mentions the purple of Pontus.

Aristotle (Historia Animalium 5.15.547) noted the Troad tradition of purple manufacture (cited by Stieglitz 1994:53) The presence of a "purple industry" is confirmed at Troy by the excavation of several layers "composed almost exclusively of crushed murex shells by the thousands" (Blegen 1937: 582; cf. Reese 1987: 205). In this connection we might mention Homer's (Il. 22.440-42) picture of Andromache_, wife of Hektor, in her house weaving purple cloth of double-fold and thereon embroidering flowers of various hues. Homer (Il. 23.740-46) also mentions a mixing-bowl of silver, which was manufactured in Sidon and carried to Lemnos as a "gift" to its ruler Thoas, a "son" of Jason. One may speculate that ample supplies of good murex attracted Phoenicians to Lemnos, as elsewhere.33

Additional evidence bearing on the possible role of Lemnos and Lemnian women in purple-dyeing cloth is available in Bronze Age Greek sources. Linear B texts from Pylos and Knossos dealing with cloth and wool sometimes refer to working women by "ethnics," some of which refer to foreign lands including places in the eastern Aegean: Knidos (ki-ni-di-ja), Miletus (mi-ra-ti-ja), and Lemnos (ra-mi-ni-ja; probably La_mniai).34 Possibly the "ethnics" refer to characteristic occupations of the places named or, more likely, to immigrants pursuing these crafts. In connection with the presence of immigrant craft workers, note that the Pylos texts dealing with "rowers" erata mention me-ta-ki-ti-ta meaning "migrants, new settlers, transported population, metics" (Lindgren 1973: 97). Sometimes the crafts of the "ethnic" women are mentioned, mostly they are not.

Thus Aswian and Zephyrian women were known as flax-workers and ..., Khians as o-nu-ke-ja ..., Milesians as spinners, and Tinwasians as weavers ... These women - or their forebears - would have been drawn to Pylos by its emergence as a textile-making center. (Billigmeier and Turner 1981: 5)
For the possible immigration of Cretan wool workers to Egypt, see Burke (1999, 78).

There may well be evidence of purple extraction at Kommos, a port in southern Crete. Maria C. Shaw reports that

I have excavated part of what seems to be an installation for extracting purple in a MMIIB context at Kommos ... In the area involved I found crushed murex and some channels carved in the ground filled with murex shells. -... [T]he material will be published by ... Debora Ruscillo. Her study will appear in vol. V, the Minoan Civic Centre at Kommos. (AEGEANET, Maria C. Shaw, "Murex," May 13, 1999)
In fact, the Knossos tablets refer to po-pu-ro2 "(murex?) purple" and to po-pu-re-ja "female purple dyers" (Palmer 1963: 292, 297, 447). Palaima (1991: 277-78) says that these are loan words of unknown or debated origin. Nevertheless, it is of interest that the Mycenaean word po-ni-ki "crimson color" suggests to Mylonas (1966: 210) that the dye-extraction process originated in the East. Further, when Homer (Il. 4.140ff) wishes to illustrate expert purple dyeing he refers to women of Asia Minor:

From the cut there gushed a cloud of dark blood, as when some Maionian woman, or Karian, with purple colors ivory, to make it a cheek piece for horses; it lies away in an inner room, and many a rider longs to have it, but it is laid up to be a king's treasure. (Lattimore 1951)

Admittedly, while we find (Near Eastern) female purple-dyers and Lemnian cloth workers, neither the Mycenaean texts nor Homer specifically connect the two. (One tablet from Knossos refers to female purple dyers of the place name da-*83-ja [Killen cited by Burke 1998: 115].)All we can claim is that such a connection is certainly not excluded by the evidence. A Lemnian connection does surface, however, in the report of Herodotus (4.145) that "the descendants of those who were aboard the ship Argo [who] were driven out of their country by ... [the] Pelasgians" settled in Lakedaimo_n in Greece (Grene 1987). The alleged kinship of the Lemnian immigrants with the Greeks need not be taken literally as the ancients made frequent and effective use of fictional biological (and national) relationships to build trust or commercium among strangers (Silver 1995: 50-4). The main point is that the Lemnian settlement is later than the establishment of the trade relationship between Greece and Lemnos. The area in which the Lemnians are supposed to have settled is not very distant from Pylos, whose Mycenaean texts record the employment of Lemnian women. Homer (Il. 2.581; Od. 4.1) speaks of koile_n Lakedaimona ke_to_essan "hollow (or deep) Lakedaimon full of (large?) sea-creatures" (deriving ke_to_essan from ke_tos; see Morris 1984: 4, 9). Morris (1984: 6-7) argues that this description must apply to the Lakonian Gulf, not the Eurotas Valley. Focus seems to be provided by Pausanias' (3.21.6) report that "the Lakonian coast has the best sea-shells in the world for purple dye, excepting only the Phoenician Sea" (Levi 1971; cf. the sources cited by Morris 1984: n. 23, 9). Were the Lemnian immigrants perhaps attracted to Lakedaimo_n by the availability of purple?

To further pursue the Lemnian trail, some of the settlers from Lemnos later took part in the Greek settlement of the island of Kalliste (current Thera) in the Cyclades, according to Pindar (P. 4.1-69) and Herodotus (4.148). It is not clear whether Thera was or became a center for murex processing. Doumas (1983: 117) in reporting on the excavations at the Bronze Age town of Akrotiri was able to cite in this connection only "the discovery ... of crushed murex shells used secondarily to strengthen earthen floors." It does seem possible that the Lemnians were specialists who played a key role in opening new sources of purple-dye.

G. Did Bronze Age Greece have the capacity to export woolen textiles?

The Linear B texts from Knossos show that the palace was very much involved in the production of wool and woolen textiles (see e.g. Ventris and Chadwick 1955: 263; Burke 1998: ch. 3). The Linear B ideogram for CLOTH (Latin TELA = *159) appears in Hieroglyphic Minoan, Linear A and Linear B, a finding that, as Burke (1998: 111) points out, is indicative of a continuing Aegean interest in textile production. About 100,000 sheep are attested in the tablets for central Crete (Bennet 1985). Moreover, the numbers of sheep (estimated at some 60,000) are often explicitly connected with quantities of wool and there are "store records" of finished cloths (Hooker 1987: 313-15: Burke 1998: 120). The concern with wool production is probably reflected in a distaff represented over the "queen's" doorway in the palace and the many weights of spindles and looms recovered in a first-floor workroom (Glotz 1925: 177). Distaff-women" (a_lakateiai) are

Two terracotta spindle whorls from Cyprus datted to 2000-1800.

mentioned in a textile context in the tablets (Ventris and Chadwick 1956: 388 s.v. a-ra-ka-te-ja).35

Click here for full size image
Mycenaean terra cotta vessel in form of ram or wether with wool staples clearly indicated (cf. Melena 1987a: 407)

Certainly the ample supplies of wool and textiles at Knossos were prime candidates for export (Killen 1964: n. 67, 14). Indeed, this expectation finds support in the classification of finished cloths as either e-qe-si-ja or ke-se-mu-wi-ja (i.e. xenwia). The xenwia-cloths may well have been destined for export (Halstead 1988: 526; Hooker 1987: 315). Exports of cloth to Egypt are attested by Egyptian frescoes of the Eighteenth Dynasty which list "cloth" among the "gifts" received and represent Cretans, referred to as "the Keftiu lands," carrying folded cloths (Merrillees 1972). Although Finley (1980: 38) cautions that the Keftiu "also carried gold, silver, ivory, and other things which are not Cretan products, so that this bit of evidence for wool as a major trading commodity is somewhat weakened." Perhaps a hint of cloth exports may be found in a Minoan (Hieroglyphic and/or Linear A) graffito drawn on a pithos, from Tel Haror in the western Negev. The potsherd is dated by archaeological context to the 17th-16th centuries. One of the three logograms of this Canaanite potsherd, according to Olivier (in Oren et al., 1996: 104), represents "the logogram for CLOTH, but also a specific sort of cloth," namely "te-pa, certainly not of Greek origin" (emphasis added). The composition of the sherd matches neither Cretan nor local ceramics (Oren et al. 1996:113, 116-17). Note should also be taken here of a Linear A inscription from Tel Lachish, a major site located on a main road leading from Israel's coastal plain to the Hebron hills. The inscription on a large limestone vessel, which has been tentatively dated to the 12th century, seems to refer to the "ridau" (liquid) commodity (Finkelberg, Uchitel, and Ussishkin 1996).

There is also some evidence suggesting that Pylos and Thebes may have exported wool and cloth to Cyprus (see Shelmerdine 1998a: 295-96). Finally, note should be taken of the Linear A inscription from Miletus (see II.D), whose first sign may have a connection, among other possibilities, to "a special kind of vessel and a particular color used in dyeing textiles" (Palaima: AEGEANET July 25, 1996; cf. Melena 1987b: esp. 216-18). The meaning of the sign AB 56, which resembles a ladder with three rungs, is still the subject of dispute and discussion.

The Pylos texts also reflect the presence of many sheep but, unlike those from Knossos, the linkage with wool is not made explicit (Hooker 1987: 313). A Linear B tablet mentions a ko-wo "sheepskin, fleece" which corresponds to Homeric ko_as, according to Ventris and Chadwick (1955: 283). It is reasonable to assume that Pylos, with its outstanding harbor, exported wool and textiles. We should perhaps add here the recent discovery of an artificial port basin at Romanou (Zangger 1998). Our literary sources claim that Pylos, the "mother of sheep" (Od. 15.226), was the site of a Thessalian settlement. Homer (Od. 11.254-57) says that Ne_leus, the brother of Iolkos' Pelias who commissioned Jason, was king in "sandy Pylos" (Lattimore 1965). Pausanias (4.2.5; 36.1) adds details:

Aphareus founded a city in Messenia, which was Arene, and received and entertained his cousin Neleus, the son of Aiolus's son Kreutheus, and called a son of Poseidon, a fugitive from Iolkos because of Pelias. Aphareus gave Neleus the seacoast and its cities including Pylos, where Neleus settled and built his palace. ... [Pylos] was built by Pylos, son of Kleson, who brought the Lelegai from the Megarid, which they occupied then. But he never enjoyed it, because Neleus and the Pelasgians threw him out ... Neleus as king made Pylos so important that even Homer [Il. 11.681; Od. 3.4] in his epic calls it the city of Neleus. (Levi 1971; emphasis added)

I understand that the "fugitive" Ne_leus represents a Thessalian trading colony at Pylos by means of which "Pelias" sought to supplement his fleeces or, possibly extend his textile trade to the West.

But the Argonauts departed Greece from Thessaly with, or so it has been argued, a cargo of textiles. Hence the economic potentialities of this region must be our center of focus. For Thessaly there are (as yet) no Linear B (or Linear A) tablets. We can say, however, that the sheltered Gulf of Pagasae with its relatively easy access to inland Thessaly and its excellent port at Iolkos, a Mycenaean site, was admirably placed for exporting wool and cloth to Asia Minor. The wool would have originated in Magnesia and the large Thessalian plain. In addition, wool and cloth from Crete, Pylos, and from the flocks grazing the lush water-meadows reclaimed in a major hydraulic engineering project from Boeotia's Lake Kopais in Mycenaean times, might have found an outlet at a Thessalian port. 36

Dickinson (1977: 99) explains that Thessaly possessed the densest concentration of Neolithic communities in the Aegean and

Indeed, Thessaly was never as important a region in the Aegean world later as in the Neolithic period. Relative ignorance of the Thessalian Bronze Age is partly due to erosion, which at many sites has reduced the Bronze Age strata to a single layer at or near the surface, partly to lack of excavation and publication.

Volos and Pefkakia have, however, rewarded excavators with a "wide range of imported pottery, coming from southern Greece and the Aegean" (Dickinson 1977: 99). "[W]hat commodity brought foreign traders to the area [Volos district] is unknown ..." (Dickinson 1977: 100). The reader will anticipate that my candidate for this foreign interest is cloth.

The literary sources, on which we must rely, seem to point to the importance of wool in the economy of Thessaly. We are informed that "Pelias lived, rich in sheepflocks, in the wide spaces of Iolkos" (Hom. Od. 11.256-57; Lattimore 1965). Diodorus Siculus (4.18.6-7) credits Herakles with an important reclamation project in northern Thessaly at Tempe_: "In the region which is called Tempè, where the country is like a plain and was largely covered with marshes, he cut a channel carrying off through this ditch all the water of the marsh he caused the plains to appear which are now Thessaly along the Peneus river" (Oldfather 1933). Pherae, a town in the plain with rich mythological roots and Mycenaean remains, is termed "rich in sheep" by Apollonius Rhodius (1.49-50).37 Indeed, in Euripides' Alcestis (570ff), Apollo shepherds the sheep of Admetus, son of Pheres, in Pherae (cf. Ap. 3.10.4). Homer (Il. 2.711-15) places both Pherae and Iolkos under the rule of Eume_los, the son of Admetus, whose very name means "rich in flocks" (LSJ s.v. eume_los). More significantly, Homer (Od. 11.256-57) tells that "Pelias lived rich in sheepflocks in the wide spaces of Iolkos" (Lattimore 1965). Ito_n, located in southern Thessaly not very distant from the Gulf, is called "mother of sheepflocks" (Il. 2.696). Perhaps Ito_n can be identified with Zerelia, where remains of the second millennium have been found (R.H. Simpson and Lazenby 1970: 132-33). This town was under Pro_tesilaos of Phylake_, who is "credited" with being the first Greek killed by the Trojans, whose brother Phylakos, the founder of Phylake_, was "rich in flocks" (Il. 2.705-6).

Continuing our literary survey of the economic geography of Thessaly, Pyrasos (contemporary Nea Anchialos), a harbor-town of Thessalian Thebes overlooking the Bay of Volos, is described by Homer (Il. 2.695) as "Pyrasos the flowery [anthemoenta], the precinct of Demeter." The reference to "flowers" is not innocuous, as may be discerned from a passage in the Agamemnon (197-98), wherein Aeschylus speaks of the anthos "flower" of the Argives being "carded by rubbing" (tribo_ katexaino_n) (LSJ s.vv. tribo_, kataxaino_). Borthwick (1976: 1-2) calls attention to this peculiar formulation and offers the following explanation:

Although this sense is not well attested, nor recognized in the lexica, it seems that anthos might be used of the flock or nap on wool, like ao_tos. As Buttman (most notably) pointed out -- referring to linoio ao_tos ... ao_tos is often taken to be merely "a more poetical word for anthos" (i.e. flower, blossom), but without doubt was used to mean also the downy pile or nap of cloth, that delicate lakne_ which constitutes the fineness and beauty of cloth, and which proves its newness, as on the other hand defloccatae vestes in Latin are the same with de_tri_ae, clothes which in wear have lost their nap and consequently their freshness and beauty." ... A cloak which has lost its nap through rubbing (or, because it was a cheap garment, was not characterized by a full nap in the first place) is called a tribo_n.

Raman (1975: 204) explains further that it may well be the case that the basic or original meaning of anthos is "'that which grows' or 'comes to, is on the surface', and only secondarily assumed the special sense of 'flower'." Thus anthos (and ao_tos) may refer to the nap of woolen cloth and also to the fleece of sheep (Raman 1975: 198) In conclusion, it is quite possible that Homer's "Pyrasos the flowery" was a place in Thessaly noted for numerous choice fleeces suitable for making attractive, warm, purple-dyed cloaks.

Concluding Remarks

The Argonaut epos has been interpreted here as meaning that the Thessalians produced wool and cloth which they had purple-dyed at Lemnos in the northeastern Aegean and then carried to the Black Sea and exchanged for Kolchian gold. I do not claim to have proven that this is what really happened. However, I have presented grounds for believing that this commodity composition of trade is at least consistent with the available evidence for the economic potentialities of Bronze Age Greece. The main difficulties, as I see them, are the availability of purple in Meliboea and the absence of direct evidence, literary or archaeological, for murex working in Lemnos. However, there is circumstantial evidence that is at least consistent with a Lemnian connection with purple dyeing. My interpretation of the Argonaut epos replaces a nearly total vacuum in our knowledge of commercial relations between Bronze Age Greece and Asia Minor. More generally, this essay represents one more small step in solving the mysteries of ancient economic life.

Appendix 1
Sources for the Argonaut Epos

Homer, conventionally dated to the eighth century, refers to the homeward voyage of the Argo from Aietes Od. 12.69ff) and describes the dangers of the Planktai (Roving Rocks) (Od. 12.59ff). In the Iliad (7.470-73; cf. 21.40-1), Homer tells that wine was brought from Lemnos and sold to the Greek army before Troy by Euneos who is called "son of Jason". Iolkos and Pelias are also mentioned by Homer (Od. 11.254-58). Hesiod, also dated to the eighth century, mentions the river Phasis (Th. 340) and speaks more expansively of Jason's return to Iolkos with the "daughter of Aietes" aboard a "swift ship" after he had completed the aethlon "commission" for Pelias Th. 956-69, 992-1002; cf. 956-61).

Fragments of the late seventh-century poet Mimnermus identify Aietes' city with the land of Aia, refer to tasks demanded by Pelias, and, most importantly, link Jason explicitly with the quest for the "fleece" (cited by Bacon 1925: 21). Kolchis is first mentioned in the later eighth century by the Corinthian Eume_los (cited by Graham 1958: n. 31, 41; cf. Braund 1994: 15). Epimenides of Crete is said to have written in the early sixth century mentioning the building of the Argo and Jason's voyage to the Kolchians (Diog. Laert. 1.111, cited by Braund 1994: 15-16). Early in the fifth century Pindar brought several key motifs together in his Fourth Pythian Ode: the Minyans (69) and the aethlon from Pelias (165); they depart for Kolchis and the Golden Fleece (69); and the daughter of Aites is named Medea (218). Pindar (Pi. 4.10ff, 210ff) and, somewhat later in the fifth century, Herodotus (1.2) identify Aia with Kolchis and locate it on the banks of the Phasis River (current Rion River) (see also Th. 340). The fifth century writer Xenophon (An. 5.6.37) points out that Aites was a patronymic of a dynasty of Kolchian kings (see also Str. 1.2.39). Again in the fifth century, fragments of Sophocles' Kolchides have Jason in Kolchis carrying out tasks assigned by Aietes, including a battle with brazen bulls (cited by Bacon 1925: 26). Aeschylus (fifth century) mentions Kolchis in the same context with Scythia (north of the Black Sea), Lake Maeotis (current Sea of Azov), the Caucasian Mountains, and "Arabia" (Pr. 414-24). Herodotus (1.104) explains that

From the Maeotic lake to the river Phasis and the territory of the Kolchians is a thirty days' journey for the active traveler. From Kolchis it is no great distance to cross over into Media; in between there is only one nation, the Saspires. (Grene 1987)

Additional details are provided by two fragmentary sixth century sources: Pherekydes and Simonides; the fifth century dramatists; Apollonius Rhodius and Eratosthenes in the third century; Apollodorus in the second century; the learned commentaries; Pausanias and Hyginus in the second century CE; and in the fifth century CE (?) by Stephanus of Byzantium.

Appendix 2
Notes on Additional Economic Themes in the Argonaut Epos

a. Monosandalos Theme

A faint clue to the financial background of Jason's commission from Pelias of Iolkos may be found in the man-with-one-shoe or monosandalos theme. Jason arrived at Pelias' sacrifice to Poseidon wearing only one sandal. (Mentioned by Pherekydes in the earlier 6th century BCE, cited by Bacon 1925: 32; Pi. P.4.74ff, 4.92ff; Ap.R.1.5-14; Ap. 1.9.16 Near Eastern evidence may cast light on this theme. In the Bible's book of Ruth (4.7-8) the passing of one's shoe, like the passing to the straw (festuca) among the Romans, appears to be a conventional ritual which serves t bind an individual (the passer) to make delivery, repay a debt or the like. Lipinski (1982: 177) notices a similar practice in an Akkadian language letter from Ugarit dating from the fourteenth-thirteenth century. I suspect that the meaning is that Jason had pledged his services or a tithe to cult (see I.C on the cultic auspices of the expedition.)

According to Kingsley (1995: 250), "the single bronze sandal -- symbol of Hecate--[served as the] magical sign of the ability to descend into the underworld." (I owe this reference to P. Ashcroft.) Hekate, who counted Medea among her votaries, was worshipped in many places including Thessaly, Lemnos, Samothrace, and Caria in Asia Minor (Peck 1896: s.v. Hecate). Hekate plays a not unimportant role in Apollonius Rhodius' version of the epos (see 3.477-78; 842, 1035, 1211). Thucydides (3.22) tells that in c. 427 several hundred members of the garrison in Plataea, including most of the Athenians, crossed the Spartan lines wearing only their left shoe "to stop them slipping in the mud" (R. Warner 1954). This seems, pardon the pun, a rather lame excuse. I find it more likely that the "escapees" gained their freedom by promising to pay ransom to the Spartans. That is, they passed their sandals to their captors.

It is of some interest that Jason's sandal is pictured on coins of Larissa dating to about 480 BCE

b. Aphetai Theme

The above interpretation finds support in the aphetai theme. The Argonauts began their voyage at a port in Magnesia called Aphetai. (fragment of Hes. cited by Huxley 1969: 107; Pherekydes cited by Ap. 1.9.19; Ap.R. 1.591; Str. 9.5.15) Lindsay (1965: 88) explains that "Aphetai was the ritual name given to animals set free for consecration to a god, or to men liberated by the gods for certain earthly servitudes or as a result of carrying out their wills" (for the passive use, see LSJ s.v. aphetos; cf. Dominique Thillaud, AEGEANET, September 26, 1998). Huxley (1969: 107) adds that the name Aphetai means "place of quittance." This would refer to the drawing up of contracts and the settlement of accounts at the completion of a long-distance trading mission, probably at a temple-gate where oaths were sworn and documents deposited (see Silver 1995: 18-25). With respect to the binding/liberation theme suggested by aphetai, note may be taken of reports that the settlers of various Greek colonies had first been dedicated to Apollo at Delphi and then sent abroad by the god (Burkert 1985: 84). Thus, after they had been defeated by Herakles and dedicated to Apollo, the Dryopes, a "Pelasgic" people, were sent off to the Peloponnesus (Pa. 4.34.9).

c. Meaning of Jason (Iaso_n)

The name Iaso_n is from iaomai "to heal" (Astour 1967: 276) and may be translated "Healer" or One Who Heals" (Swanson 1974: 273). Again we glimpse an economic aspect. Herakles was "healed" (hygiastheis) when he sold himself into slavery and gave the purchase price as compensation to the sons of a man (Iphitos) he had murdered (D.S. 4.31.4-6). That something of this kind underlies Jason's name is suggested by the observations in Pindar (P. 4.159-62) and Apollonius Rhodius (2.1190-5, 3.330-9) that Jason had performed a "healing act" --i.e. made good on a debt-- by returning the "Golden Fleece" to Iolkos (see Astour 1967: 208).
For the, not very convincing, suggestion that Jason also healed physical ailments, see Mackie, C.J. (2001). "The Earliest Jason. What's in a Name?". Greece & Rome, 48, 1-17.

d. Role of Cheiro_n

Click here for full size image

Man-horse from Lefkandi, c. 900 BCE

Jason tells Pelias that he was apprenticed to Cheiro_n, a Centaur (Pi. P. 4.10ff; cf. N. 3.53; Hom. Il.) 1.268, 2.743, 11.832; Od.21.295f); Ap. 1.2.4; Frazer 1921: 1. n.6, 12-13.) The Centaurs (Kentauroi), a Magnesian race (Pi. Pi., 2.78ff) are half-man and half-horse, man above and horse below. This mingled form certainly goes back to the early first millennium BCE as is illustrated by a terra cotta figurine from Euboea at Lefkandi, a wealthy international center in the 11th-9th centuries (OCCC 1998: s.vv. Centaurs, Lefkandi). Apparently, it is also found in Mycenaean times, where we find men joined at the waist to horses' bodies engraved on a gem from the Heraeum at Argos and on a Cretan bead-seal (Graves 1960: 1.209). These examples have been questioned but we also have the finding of Mycenaean terracotta centaurs at Ugarit (Shear 2002).

In the Greek world, among other meanings, the horse certainly symbolized transport. To cite one example, in the Odyssey (4.708-9) Penelope notes the "fast-running ships which serve as horses for men on the salt sea" (Lattimore 1965; cf. Silver 1992: 98, 128; Braarvig 1997).

Horses as Ships(?). (Left) Sealing from Knossos. (Right) Vase in form of ship with horsemen. Cyprus, c. 2100-2000

Mention should also be made of a Hebrew seal of the eighth century depicting a merchant ship with a horse-headed prow. Avigad, Nachman. (1982). "A Hebrew Seal Depicting a Sailing Ship." BASOR, 246, 59-62.

I would suggest that the mingled form of the Centaur represents the caravanner or long-distance transporter. This, I think, would be clearer if the animal half of the Centaur belonged to a donkey rather than a horse.
In Genesis 16.12, the angel of the Lord, says that Ishmael will be a "pere' 'adam. His hand against everyone, and everyone's hand against him; and in defiance of all his kinsman he shall camp." The phrase pere' 'adam is usually translated "donkey of a man." The translation "donkey-man is also possible. (See the miqra list posts of Chaim Cohen [January 29, January 30 and January 31, 1999] and of Reinhard G. Lehmann [February 1, 1999]). Genesis 37.25 reports on "a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels bearing gum, balm, and ladanum to be taken to Egypt." In the light of the connection between Ishmael and trading caravans, I prefer the translation "donkey-man".

It is generally accepted that the name Cheiro_n is derived from cheir whose primary meaning is "hand" (Robbins 1975: 211; LSJ s.v.). However, LSJ takes note of numerous special usages of cheir including "(signs) given by (my) hand" (s.v. II.6.m). In the Bible also the word "hand" may refer to a signpost on a highway. Thus the Lord commands the prophet Ezekiel (21.24, 26) to erect a "hand" at the crossroad to mark the way to the city (see P.A.H. de Boer 1960: 59-60). Gernet (1981: 164-5) notes as nuances for "hand": "contract, agreement" and "deliver, grant". Thus, in addition to his other areas of expertise, including "healing" (Il. 4.217-19; Pi. Pi3.1-9), Cheiro_n might be expert in transportation and well versed in geography. (Note in this connection his "prophecy" regarding the economic potential of the Libyan port Cyrene (Shahat) [Graves 1960:1. 277]). Jason certainly required support in both of these areas to complete his commission to the Black Sea. That Jason may have received this support is suggested by the report that his original name was Diome_de_s, not "Healer" (Graves 1960:2.215, with note 1; Pi. P. 4.119-20; Ap.R. 1.1207ff; Ap.1.9.19 ). LSJ renders Diome_de_s as "Jove-counselled."

e. Significance of the bo_los

When the Argonauts neared the Libyan shore Eurypylos, "son" of Poseidon, received a bolo_s "clod of earth" signifying his future title to Cyrene (P. Pi. 4.37; Gernet 1981: 89-90, 166). (For the "clod of earth" in Plutarch, see Halliday 1928: 76). In this case also there is a relationship between Greek and Near Eastern contractual symbolism and ritual. This is illustrated by a will of the mid-second millennium from Nuzi in northeastern Iraq:

If there is any one among my sons who does not obey Tieshnaya or fails to show respect for her, then Tieshnaya may put fetters upon him, apply the slave mark to him, put him in jail, or, if it pleases her, break the clump of clay to disinherit him: she may act as though she were I. (Speiser 1963: 70)

Cyrene is traditionally regarded as a foundation of Dorians from Thera in the mid-seventh century. However, Libya's relations with the Aegean are much earlier as attested by Cretan sherds (MacKendrick 1980: 113). Moreover, the form of the silphium plant, grown only in Cyrenaica, appears as a hieroglyph in second millennium Crete (Glotz 1925: 197-8).


1 Frayn (1984: 153) cites Pliny's statement (NH. 8.197) that wool was sometimes dyed "on the hoof" and adds that "The Romans usually seem to have dyed the fleece not the woven material." Pliny (NH. 35.150) describes a special process used by the Egyptians to dye cloth; but this occurs in a section devoted to art, not to trade or farming. The texts from Ugarit (fourteenth-thirteenth century) mention dyed wools of various kinds (Heltzer 1978: 75). According to Melena (1975: 109, 114), the Linear B texts from Knossos, about which much more in Part II, attest to garments made of dyed wool called pa-we-a and to a more numerous class of garments, called pu-ka-ta-ri-ja, that were dyed purple after weaving.

I leave aside the possibility that "golden fleece" represents purple-dyed wool into which gold thread has been woven (see Jenkins 1985: 21).

2For a somewhat related theme, see D.S. (4.27.1) on the "golden sheep" (me_la).

3On the connections between wealth and eligibility for kingship in antiquity, see Silver (1995: 76).

4See Mankowski (2000: 38-9); Pardee (1987: esp. 375); van Soldt (1990: 344 with n. 164).

5The dye was produced at Hermione in the Argolis; the type of cloth is not mentioned.

6That the Argonauts sought metals is suggested by Bury (1951: 48). Barnett (1956: 221, 228) stresses the acquisition of gold and silver.

7Pi. (P. 4.159-62); Ap.R. (1.225-56, 290-91, 763-64; 2.1140-47); 3.189-93); Ap. (1.9.1).

8Ap.R. (2.1093-1171; 3.260-67, 304-16); Ap. (1.9.1).

9Circe, "sister" of Aietes, resides in the extreme east ("where Helios, the sun makes his uprising") on an island called Aiaie_ (Hom. Od. 10.135-37; 12.1-4; compare Hes. Th. 1011-16). Aiaie_ means, Hunter (1989: 14) explains, something like "'associated with' the land of Aia". Apparently Aia (Kolchis) had its own, possibly commercial, outposts.

10Hdt. (4.85) places the "Blue-Black Rocks" at the entrance of the Euxine and suggests that in earlier times the Greeks called them the "Wandering Rocks" (Grene 1987).

11Ap.R. does not actually use the name "Symplegades".

12Note also the famous wall painting in Mari's Ishtar temple in Mari of a dove over a palm, which is the tree of the goddess (cited by Weinfeld 1991: 101). Mari (Tell Hariri) is a north Syrian center of the east-west transit trade on the middle Euphrates.

13Pa. (7.21.15; 10.12.5) and Burkert (1985: 114). The earliest reference to the oracular timber is in a fragment of Aeschylus (Parke 1967: 13). Parke explores the ancient links between Dodona and Thessaly (1967: esp. 36).

14Why a dove? It is well understood that the habits of an animal may explain its role in myth and ritual. Now the Columbidae with their soft cooing calls are with good reason termed "amorous," but they are monogamous, a trait of which ancient breeders could not help being aware, which hardly qualifies them for their reputation among scholars for "eroticism" or "promiscuity" (compare S. West 1986).

Surely, the characteristic of this family which would have most impressed the ancients is their homing capacity. This capacity is, of course, attested in the story of Noah's ark (Genesis 8.6-12). However, it is attested in a much earlier Near Eastern text of the middle of the third millennium which relates that after two Sumerian cities, Lagash and Umma, had pledged to uphold the provisions of a border agreement they dispatched doves to the temple of the oath deity (Begg 1987: 79-80, citing J.S. Cooper). For the Greek world we have the word of a scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius that ancient mariners took doves along on their voyages (cited by Lindsay 1965: 34; cf. Detienne and Vernant 1978: 221).

The very frequency of the dove as a cult symbol suggests that the priestesses so designated made circuits form one cult center to another. Delphi's doves, no doubt, accompanied Apollo during his periodic sojourns in Hyperborea. More concretely, we have the testimony of Herodotus (2.55) concerning what he learned from the priestesses of Dodona:

There were they said, two black doves that flew from Thebes in Egypt, and the one of the them came to Libya and the other to themselves at Dodona, and the latter one settled upon an oak tree and with a human voice proclaimed that there should be there, in that place an oracle of Zeus ... The dove that flew to Libya they say, bade the Libyans make them the oracle of Ammon there ... The latter is also an oracle of Zeus. (Grene 1987)

15Ap.R. (2.178-407; 4.1537-85, ); Ap. (1.9.21); D.S. (4.43ff); Grimal 1986: s.v. Phineus.

16The Argonauts also "mingle" (mige_sthai) with the Lemniads in a fragment of Aeschylus' Hypsipyle (Radt 1985: 352).

17This line of interpretation is reinforced by the nuances of Latin misceo "mingle": "to unite or attach as allies or associates, to combine (resources etc.) in a single enterprise or common cause, to cement (a relationship), to give and take, exchange" (OLD s.v. 5, 10).

18That the Lemniads murdered their men is stated by Hdt. (6.138); Ap.R. (1.610ff); and Ap. (1.9.17; 3.6.4).

19Graves (1960: 2.227) suggests that "Perhaps the Lemnian women were said to have stunk because they worked in woad--used by their Thracian neighbors for tattooing--which was so nauseous and lingering a smell that Norfolk woad-making families have always been obliged to intermarry." Forsyth (1984: 14) surmises that "the foul smell connected not only with the Lemnian women but also with the wound of Philoctetes may be tied to the presence of sofataras once on the island."

20For the abandonment on Lemnos, see Hom. (Il. 2.721ff); and S. (Ph. 1-14). The "foul smell" was noted by S. (Ph. 1031-34) and in various later sources cited by Grimal (1986: s.v. Philoctetes) and Kerényi (1959: n. 369: 410). Graves (1960: 2. index s.v.) renders Philoktetes as "love of possessions".

21Radt (1985: 352) and Burkert 1970: 9) and personal correspondence from Burkert, dated July 26, 1987). For the various nuances of "intercourse," see LSJ s.v. syggignomai/syngignomai.

22Indeed, the Latin word religio_ refers to the property of binding (Culham 1989: 119; OLD s.v.).

23Note that Pindar (e.g., N. 4.75) uses syntithe_mi "place or put together" with the meaning of binding oneself to a contract (Gold 1987: n. 69, 190; LSJ s.v. B.3).

24The Kabeiroi were associated with navigation and the artisan-god Hephaestus (Burkert 1985: 281-86; Grimal (1985: s.v. Cabiri).

25Most scholars believe that Scheria is an island, although Homer never applies the term ne_sos. It has been observed, however, that "the Homeric island is always one which can be seem at a glance to be such" (Shewan 1918: 324, citing Hayman). An island of large size is a gaia as in the case of Crete, which is never called ne_sos. In (Il. 6.204-5) Homer we find the residents of Scheria "live far apart ... in the wash of the great sea" (Lattimore 1965). The reference to being "in the sea" sounds like an island, although P.V. Jones (1988: 56) says, "the description at 263-4, describing harbours on either side of a narrow causeway, suggests the town as a peninsula.

We do have some concrete geographical information regarding the location of the supposed "never-never land" Scheria. The Scheria's ruler considers that the island of Euboea, along the coasts of Attica, Boeotia, Locris, and southern Thessaly, is very far from Scheria (Od. 320-24). 26There is yet one more geographic name to take into account, In classical times Phaeacia was identified with Korcyra/Kercyra (current Corfu). This island which was rich in wine and oil but mainly important as a jumping-off place for voyages up the Adriatic or across to Italy was occupied by Corinth's ruling oligarchy, the Bacchiads, in c. 733 BCE (see Cary 1949: 59-60). The difficulties of the account of Apollonius Rhodius (4.1206-16) which has Kolchians settling on Phaeacia or Korcyra (Corfu) are intensified by the fact hat Homer hints that his Scheria is located not to the west of Greece but to its east (see Fraser 1929: 160-63).

27Besides gold the only significant product ascribed to Kolchis in the ancient literature is linen, worked in Egyptian style. According to Herodotus (2.105): "The Colchian linen is called by the Greeks Sardonian [from Sardina?] but that which comes from Egypt is called Egyptian" (Grene 1987). Strabo (11.2.17) adds, "Their linen industry has been found far and wide; for they used to export linen to outside places" (H.L. Jones 1932).

28For the little that is known about the Pylian involvement in the oil trade, see Shelmerdine (1985: 148-53; 1998b).

29See Boardman (1980: 239); Drews (1976: 19); and, especially, Graham (1958: 26-31) and Labaree (1957).

30R.H. Simpson (1976: 63) maintains that the Planktai should be located at the Straits of Messina or in the Lipari Island.

31 Bonfante (1996) has presented linguistic arguments that the "Homer Text is Mycenaean". There is an additional, more concrete, connection between Homer and the Bronze Age. In the Iliad (6.168-9) there is a reference to signs written on a folded tablet that was carried from Greece to Lycia by Bellerophon. The similarity between Bellerophon's tablet and the folded wooden writing-tablet found in a Bronze Age shipwreck at Ulu Burun off the coast of Turkey has been noted. Bronze hinges with traces of burned wood were found together with Linear B tablets in both Pylos and Knossos. In opposition to the prevailing view, Shear (1998) points out that these hinges are neither sufficiently numerous nor sufficiently large to have come from boxes for storing the tablets.

Some other type of wooden object associated with writing now seems indicated. The wooden writing tablet from Uluburun immediately comes to mind as a possible parallel. The seven corroded hinges found at Pylos, corresponding to the seven partially preserved hinges found at Knossos, can be compared to the exterior closing attachment and the six wooden nails used with the ivory hinge on the tablet from Uluburun.

If it is correct to associate the two groups of seven bronze hinges from Knossos and Pylos with the writing tablet found in the Late Bronze Age shipwreck off Uluburun, then the existence of Mycenaean writing tablests suggests the possibility that the Bellerophon Tablet mentioned in the Iliad is also Mycenaean in origin. (Shear 1998: 189)

Ample evidence of Greek literacy is provided by the Linear B tablets and labels on Cretan stirrup jars found at various sites (Hallager 1987).

32The crushing of the shells served to extract the dye sac and would be redundant and counterproductive if one intended to eat the shellfish. The earliest chemical confirmation of the dye (as of 1984) is from a Late Bronze Age sherd from Sarepta in Lebanon (McGovern and Michel 1984).

33Interestingly, in the Bible, Ezekiel (27.7) reports on the export to Tyre of "blue and purple" from the "isles of Elishah." Elishah is mentioned in Genesis (10.4) as the descendant of Javan (Ionia?) together with Tarshish (Spain? Tarsus in Cilicia?) and the Dodanim (Rhodians?) or, in some versions, Dordanim (Dardania near Troy?) (see Plaut 1974: 91; Silver 1983: 59-64). Might Elishah be an island off Asia Minor, even Lemnos? E. Lipinski (personal correspondence, dated July 9, 1987) has kindly informed me of his proposal to read Elishah ('lšyh as "Ulysses" and to identify the "isles of Elishah" with the Ionian islands, the homeland of Ulysses (Hom. Od. 13.107-8).

34Billigmeier and Turner (1981: 4-5); Chadwick (1973: 410); Palmer (1963: 113-19); and Uchitel (1984: 275, 278-79).

35The Linear B tablets from Thebes mention women with textile interests called ma-ri-ne-we-ja. The latter designation has been associated with the name of the god ma-ri-ne-u and the later Greek word mallos "flock of wool" (Billigmeier and Turner 1981: 23, citing Palmer).

36For discussions of the drainage project in the Lake Kopais area, see Str. (9.2.40); Pa. (9.38.2); MacKendrick (1981: 95-6); Nilsson (1932: 144-47); R.H. Simpson (1981: 59-61, 66-9); Stubbings (1973: 644). Note further an early Delphic oracle describing the region between Tiryns and Arkadia as "rich in flocks" (cited by Drews 1979: 118). This line of specialization might help to explain the proverbial wealth of Orchomenos. See, most recently, Knauss (1996).

37On the antiquity of Pherae: R.H. Simpson and Lazenby (1970: 135); R.H. Simpson (1981: 161, 165); Stillwell et al. (1976: s.v. Pherai); Cary (1949: 71). On the mythology of Pherae, see: Hom. (Il. 2.711), Od. 4.798), Ap. (1.8.2; 1.9.14-15; 3.10.4). At Petra, a hill on the western shore of Lake Boibe (current Karla) about five miles from Pherae, the excavators discovered a Mycenaean settlement with circuit-walls running for about five miles. It is estimated to be Greece's largest known Mycenaean walled site (Stillwell et al. 1976: s.v. Petra).


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An. Anabasis of Xenophon

Ap.: Apollodorus

Ap.R.: Apollonius Rhodius

D.S.: Diodorus Siculus

Hdt.: Herodotus

Hes.: Hesiod

Hom.: Homer

Il.: Iliad of Homer

LSJ.: Liddell-Scott-Jones, Greek-English Lexicon

Med.: Medea of Euripides

N.: Nemean Ode of Pindar

NH.: Natural History of Pliny O.: Olympian Ode of Pindar

OCCC.: Hornblower and Spawforth, The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature Od.: Odyssey of Homer

OLD: P.G.W. Glare, Oxford Latin Dictionary

P.: Pythian Ode of Pindar

Pa.: Pausanias

Pi.: Pindar

Pr.: Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus

S.: Sophocles

Str.: Strabo

Th.: Theogony of Hesiod