The Argonauts were a crew of heroes who helped Jason sail the ship Argo in search of the Golden Fleece in Greek mythology. Along the way, Jason and the Argonauts ran into a number of interesting, thrilling, and sometimes dangerous adventures which have been told in various Greek myths for centuries. The Argonauts can be seen on Greek vases and in other works of art from Ancient Greece, and they also appear in many Greek plays, both as part of the crew of the Argo and as individuals.
According to legend, Jason was ordered to retrieve the Golden Fleece to reclaim his rightful throne after is was usurped. The challenge was actually supposed to be impossible, and it certainly turned out to be difficult, as Jason had to contend with all sorts of threats from wars to Sirens on his way to get the Golden Fleece. Upon returning, Jason ultimately reclaimed his throne, after going through several trials, but he died miserable and alone when part of the then greatly decayed Argo collapsed on him.
Descriptions of the number of Argonauts varies, although most accounts seem to describe around 50 men and women, including some famous figures from Greek mythology like Medea, Bellerophon, Heracles, Laertes, Iolaus, Orpheus, Theseus, and Polydeuces. Descriptions of the Argo often include the fact that the ship had fifty oars, so the crew likely included at least 50 people, if not more.
After assembling his crew of Argonauts, Jason had to sail to Colchis, where the Golden Fleece allegedly resided in the Grove of Ares. As the Argonauts journeyed through the Aegean, their numbers waxed and waned, with some going off on private quests while others joined up and some died in combat. The Argonauts were also forced to contend with hazards like the Sirens, who attempted to lure the ship onto a rocky shoreline, as they navigated the sometimes treacherous waters of the Aegean.
The term “Argonauts” literally translates as “Argo sailors,” but the Argonauts were much more than sailors. They were some of the finest and most renowned heroes of Ancient Greece, and their deeds both before and after their journey with Jason were notable enough to be enshrined in a number of myths and legends. You may also see the Argonauts referred to as the Minyans, referencing a tribe which lived in the region Jason came from, although the Argonauts came from all over Greece.