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published: 1/20/05

Argos was an ancient Greek city in the department (nomos) of Argolis (or Argolid), a rich agricultural plain in the easternmost Peloponnesian peninsula. It is among the oldest cities in Greece. In ancient times, the Heraeum temple, six miles north of Argos, was the center for worship of the goddess Hera. Modern-day Argos, a small market town on the Corinth-Nauplia rail line, is built on the site of the ancient city.

History of Argos

The site on which Argos would later be built was probably occupied since the early Bronze Age, and it was prominent in Mycenaean times (c. 1300-1200 BCE). From about 1100 BCE, Argos was a base of Dorian operations in the Peloponnese; from the seventh century until the rise of the Spartans, it was the dominant city-state in all the Peloponnese.

The Argives defeated Sparta in 669 BCE, but Sparta defeated Argos in 550 and again in 454. As Spartan power grew, Argos allied itself with Athens, but then allied with Sparta after the defeat of the Athenian League in 418. In the fourth century BCE, Argos allied itself with Thebes and participated in Theban victories over Sparta. In 229 BCE, Argos joined the Achaean League.

After the Roman destruction and conquest of Corinth in 146 BCE, Argos rose in importance and became the center of the Achaean League. The city flourished under the Roman and Byzantine empires, but declined after the Fourth Crusade when the Frankish kingdom of Achaea was established (1204 CE) with Nauplia as its capital.

In 1397 the Turks captured Argos, massacring its inhabitants and replacing them with Albanians. It was a part of the Ottoman Empire from 1460 to 1830. During the War of Greek Independence (1821-29), the first free Greek Parliament was convened at Argos.

Modern Argos

The modern city of Argos is a prosperous agricultural town based on the sale of its local produce, especially citrus fruits, and related food-processing industries. For tourists, it is an important railway junction and notable for its ruins of an ancient temple to the goddess Hera. Findings from local excavations can be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Argos. In 1991, its population was 22,256.

Argos and Greek Religion

The site that came to be known as Argos was a sacred place for thousands of years. Recent archaeological excavations on the site have uncovered a cemetary with graves dating to as early as 2000 BCE, and the Heraeum was sacred to the mother-goddess Hera long before the arrival of the Dorians (c. 1100 BC).

After the Dorian invasion, a large temple was built on the Heraeum, probably in the late seventh century BCE. Only the limestone platform survives today; a Greek geographer records that the temple was burned (423 BCE) due to the negligence of the priestess. A more impressive temple was later built in its place.

In the early classical period, prominent Argive sculptors created a colossal gold and ivory statue of Hera in the Heraeum temple. None of the statue remains, but its head is depicted on coins of this period. Archaeologists have also uncovered in the region a hero-cult shrine (Heroon) dating to Roman times and a later temple to Apollo.

Some of the major heroes of Homer's Iliad, including Agammemon and Diomedes, hail from the region of Argolis.

Further Reading on Argos

Athens - city sacred to the goddess Athena

Corinth - city sacred to the god Poseidon and the goddess Aphrodite

Cythera - sacred to the goddess Aphrodite

Delos - sacred to the god Apollo

Delphi - Oracle of Apollo

Dodona - Oracle of Zeus

Ephesus - city sacred to the goddess Artemis

Rhodes - sacred to the god Helios

Samos - sacred to the goddess Hera

Sparta - city sacred to the Dioscuri (Castor and Polydeuces)


Argos, Greece

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