Diomedes was regarded as the second best warrior of all the Achaians after Akhilleus and just as fearsome on the battlefield as Aiax. Favoured by Athene much like his close friend Odysseus, she protected and encouraged him during the Trojan War. Diomedes, ‘god-like cunning’ was the King of Argos and led a fleet of 80 ships, only second to Agamemnon’s 100 strong flotilla to the shores of Ilios.
Diomedes slaughters sleeping Thracians:
‘So Odysseus spoke, and grey-eyed Athene breathed strength into Diomedes, who laid about him with his sword, this way and that. Hideous groans rose from the dying men, and the earth ran red with blood.’
Homer, The Iliad, Book 10: lines 483-487
The youngest king amongst the Achaians was depicted as the most valiant of warriors and a powerful fighter. Diomedes was a humble hero and despite his youth considered wise, which earned him the respect from his much older companions. In Book 9 Nestor praises Diomedes for speaking with wisdom in spite of the fact he was the same age as the elderly king’s youngest son.
Diomedes features in many battle-scenes where his prowess as a fighter is highlighted and in one particular instance, incurs the wrath of Aphrodite when he injures the goddess. He was one of the few heroes granted a safe journey home. When he arrives back at Argos he learns his wife Aegiale, who under the influence of Aphrodite, married another man and now ruled in his stead. Never a good idea to wound an immortal, you just never know what they may do! Instead of killing his wife and her new man, he sets off with his army to Italy and founded the cities of Brindisium and Arpus Hippium.
Homer in his ‘catalogue of ships’, Book 2 of The Iliad, lists the armada from Argos:
‘The contingent from Argos contained men from the towns of Argos and well-walled Tiryns… They were commanded by Diomedes, master of the battle-cry… was in charge of the whole force.’
Argos was one of the many city-states in the Argolid region which included the famous sites: Tiryns, Mykenai, Epidauros, Aegina. The area was settled during the prehistoric times and inhabited ever since. It’s location by the Gulf of Argolis made it a major centre during the Mykenaean period. The Goddess Hera was the patron goddess of the city and a huge temple called the Heraion was built in her honour and possibly dates back to 10th century BCE. Every year they held an annual festival and according to Pausanias a plant called Asterion is offered to Hera and a garland made from the leaves.
Most of the ancient city of Argos remains unexcavated and only temples of Apollo and Athene, the theatre, odeum (built during Roman occupation) and sanctuary of Aphrodite have been uncovered. The Heraion has been excavated as the site was outside the township and shared by other city-states. If you read the book by archaeologist, Nicos Papahatzis, which I purchased while in Nauflia, it provides a detailed account of what the city would have looked like.
Thank you for visiting and reading. I look forward to your comments.
Hall, Jonathan M., Heraion Sanctuary, Online Library Wiley.
Papahatzis, Nicos. Mycenae-Epidaurus-Tiryns-Nauplion, (1978) Hesperos Editions, Aharnes, Atttica.
Pausanias. Guide to Greece 2: Southern Greece, (1971), Penguin Books, London.