The foundation legend of Argos was the myth of Danaus. Argos is one of the headmost Mycenaean cities of Peloponnesus. Danaus had fifty daughters, the Danaides, and his twin brother, Aegyptus, had fifty sons. Aegyptus commanded his sons to marry the Danaides, Danaus daughters. Knowing this, Danaus decided to flee instead, and he decided to build a ship, the very first ship that was ever made. He is found on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History around 1500 BC
Tracing the Lineage of Danaus
With the use of this ship, Danaus fled to Argos. In Egypt, Io gave birth to the son of Zeus, Epaphus. Epaphus became the father of Libya. After collaborating with Poseidon, he gave birth, among the others, to Belus. The kingdom of Egypt was inherited by Belus and he married Anchione and had many children. Among their children is Danaus and Aegyptus. That’s why it has been proposed that the figure Danaus represents an actual Egyptian monarch.
Danaus found the Citadel of Argos
Io was the maid pursued by Zeus and turned into a heifer who was pursued by Hera. In conclusion, this was a homecoming for the sailor from Egypt. During that time, King Pelasgus, who was also called Gelanor that means “he who laughs”, ruled Argos. The Danaides begged the King to provide them protection when they arrive in the land. As a result, the King granted their request after a vote by the Argives. Thus, protection was given to the Danaides.
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During the 2nd century, Pausanias visited Argos and he related the succession of Danaus to the throne, as judged by the Argives, who was described as “from the earliest times …have loved freedom and self-government, and they limited to the utmost the authority of their kings”.
“On coming to Argos he claimed the kingdom against Gelanor, the son of Sthenelas. Both parties brought many plausible arguments forward, and those of Sthenelas were considered as fair as those of his opponent; so the people, who were sitting in judgment, put off, they say, the decision to the following day. At dawn, a wolf fell upon a herd of oxen that was pasturing before the wall, and attacked and fought with the bull that was the leader of the herd. It occurred to the Argives that Gelanor was like the bull and Danaus like the wolf, for as the wolf will not live with men, so Danaus up to that time had not lived with them. It was because the wolf overcame the bull that Danaus won the kingdom. Accordingly, believing that Apollo had brought the wolf on the herd, he founded a sanctuary of Apollo Lycius.”
—Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.19.3-4
Danaides & Danaus Downfall
The time has come when Aegyptus and his fifty sons arrived to take the Danaides. In order to spare the Argives from the pain of a battle that could possibly happen, Danaus gave his daughters to the sons of Aegyptus. However, he instructed his daughters to kill their husbands on their wedding night. Among the fifty daughters, forty-nine followed the order, except for one, Hypermnestra refused because her husband respected her wish to remain virgin. Danaus was very disappointed and angry with the disobedience of his daughter and he decided to throw her to the Argive courts. Aphrodite then came, intervened and saved the life of Hypermnestra. As a punishment for the crime committed by the forty-nine Danaides, they were condemned to the endless task of filling with a water vessel that had no bottom. The murder of the sons of Aegyptus is thought to represent the drying up of the rivers and springs of Argolis in summer. Lynceus, the only son of Aegyptus who was left alive, took revenge for his brothers’ death and killed Danaus. Lynceus and Hypermnestra then started with the Argive kings, the Danaan Dynasty. Lynceus and Hypermnestra became the ancestors of the royal
lone of Argos.
The other daughters of Danaus, the remaining forty-nine Danaides had their grooms chosen by a common mythic competition: a foot race was held and the order in which the potential Argive grooms finished decided their brides. It has been proposed that the figure Danaus represents an actual Egyptian monarch.
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