of Argos, or Hera
’s City, as it was known, is one of the lesser-known Greek
city-states. Although it is not known extensively in our time, in it’s time, it was a great state. This is why.
When researching the government of Argos, the name of one leader comes up quite often. A man named Temenus was largely responsible for the success of Argos. Shortly after, a tyrant known as Pheidon took control of the city-state. Argos continued to flourish under his rule, with advancements in nearly every facet of society. It was the successive leaders that weakened Argos until it was a shadow of how it had once been.
Argos traded extensively with the other city-states. The leading crops grown in Argos were vegetables, tobacco, wheat and corn. These crops were traded to Corinth, for more crops that could support the Argive population.
The economy of Argos was probably the most advanced of its time. In place of using barter to exchange goods, the Argives used coins crafted of silver. These coins were supported by the government, and helped foster a thriving marketplace in Argos.
The social classes of Argos were fairly defined. In order, from people with the most rights to people with the least: Gods and Goddesses, the rich, citizens, non-citizens (women), free slaves, and last, slaves. A citizen was defined as someone who participated in government, and since women were barred from participating in the government, they could not be considered citizens.
The artisans of Argos were quite skilled at what they did, which included metal work, sculpture, pottery, and paintings. They crafted unique armor for the military of the city, and created intricate silver coins for use in trade.
Another art of Greek times, the creation of myths, was also practiced in Argos. The Argives told a story of Argus, a gigantic monster with 100 eyes. Argus was also called Panoptes, which means all-seeing. The goddess Hera assigned Argus to guard her hated rival, the beautiful Princess Lo, a mistress of her husband Zeus. For this reason, the term Argus is still sometimes used to describe a watchful guardian. Acting on orders from Zeus, the god Hermes killed Argus. Hera used Argus’ 100 eyes to decorate the tail of her peacock. This tale was widely known throughout Greece.
ROLE OF WOMEN
Women had no political power in Argos. They had required tasks of burying dead children, taking care of the household for her husband, and bearing more children. This was not uncommon throughout Greece, but things were a little worse for the women of Argos.
Like all of Greece, the people of Argos were polytheistic, believing in flawed human-like gods. A few of the deities were Zeus, Athena and Hermes. The majority of people believed these gods to control nature and fate.
Argos was a city-state more concerned with what went on within Greece, as opposed to looking beyond, to the Persians, for instance. With Athens and Sparta called for help in the fight against the Persians in 480 BC, Argos refused, and for this reason the city-state was disgraced before all of Greece. When battling within Greece’s borders, Argos’ main enemy was Sparta.
Argos had shifting alliances. At times, they were aligned with Arkadia, Sikyon, Pisa and the Messenians. The most significant ally of all was Athens. They aligned with Athens from time to time to keep the city-state of Sparta from becoming too powerful.
Like other city-states, Argive farmers of the city did not grow grain, instead they grew cash-crops such as olives and wine. Argos established colonies in places more suited to growing grain. These colonies sent back a surplus to support Argos.
Argive architecture was as great as any to be found in Greece, with possibly the exception of Athens. Argos is thought to be the oldest city-state in all of Greece, having its roots in the Bronze Age. This long-standing history influenced the architecture of the city. Walking down one of the avenues, one would see architecture old and new alike. The older would be less advanced, of course. The newer would have more of an Athenian influence, using columns and arches.
Science is Argos is not what the city-state is known for. The Argives were more concerned with their military and arts.
CRAFTS AND INDUSTRY
The Argive coins of silver required considerable skill to produce. Artisans created these coins one at a time, a labor-intensive task.
Argos is not known for its great intellect, or its great military. Some historians think of Argos as a mixture of Athens and Sparta. Athens is known for the great thinking of its citizens, but Argos is not. Boys were sent to school, while girls were not. Basically, the more wealthy your parents were, the more schooling you received. The boys were taught by a slave, called a “paedagogus”, to whom the parents paid a fee.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO GREEK CULTURE
There are two things that Argos gave to Greece that are most remembered. The fist is the little-known system of weights and measures that Argos created. This system was used throughout Greece for most of the empire’s existence. The second contribution has already been discussed, the Argive system of currency. Arguably, you could also say that the various alliances in which Argos took part in changed Greek history.
All told, Argos deserves the place it has earned in history. It is a great city-state, but is often over shadowed by the great accomplishments of Athens, Sparta, and Corinth.
node your homework!
Mrs. Judy Spencer
Buena High School
note: I originally wrote this as a sophomore in high school, details and facts should be double checked before use in anything serious. Ever BS a paper? =D