The city lies at the
foot of two hills a few km from the sea, dominating
the Argive plain. Described by Pausanias, it has been
cited many times by historians and orators, as well as
by epic and tragic poets.
The earliest of the Pelasgian settlements, it was also
the most important. Legend very soon associated it with
a goddess (Hera), the cow (Io), and the wolf (Danaos).
The Danaans were portrayed as invaders, succeeded in
their turn by the Achaians possibly at the beginning of
the second millennium. In any event, the region was already divided at the time of Perseus the Danaid. Argos
still played a major role in the two campaigns of the
Achaians against Thebes; however, the Trojan expedition was led by Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. The
rivalry with Sparta, which was to dominate the next
centuries, may go back to Orestes.
After the Dorian invasions Argos once again flourished under the tyrant Pheidon; it may have been he
who introduced into Greece a sort of money in the
form of spits, or obeloi (second half of the 8th c.).
Then when Sparta eclipsed Argos and grew at its expense, it joined almost every one of the anti-Lakonian
leagues until Flaminus rescued it from Nabis (195 B.C.).
Argos does not seem to have suffered under the Romans,
and in spite of the pillaging of the Goths the life of the
city never stopped.
We know nothing of how the city was laid out in any
period of antiquity. There is evidence of a Neolithic
settlement in the S region, and of one from the Early
Helladic period on the Aspis (to the N). This hill most
probably was the Middle Helladic acropolis. The Larissa, which dominates the site to the NW, apparently was
fortified only in the Mycenaean period. The only other
finds from the 2d millennium are a few remains of dwellings at the foot of the hills and some tombs, many of
them cut in the rock and particularly rich in Late Helladic III B.
Grave-offerings, the chief evidence of the next centuries, once again become extremely plentiful about
Pheidon's time; the museum has a unique collection of
the original Geometric ware of Argos as well as a cuirass
found beside a helmet with a crest shaped like a crescent,
both exceptionally well preserved. On the other hand,
the sculpture schocls of archaic and classical Argos, so
renowned in antiquity, have left practically no trace
on the site.
Some topographical locations can be determined: that
of the Temple of Pythian Apollo, with its manteion,
and the Temple of Athena Oxyderkes, on the W flank
of the Aspis; that of the temples and citadel of the Larissa; hewn in the E side of that hill, one of the finest theaters in Greece (end of the 4th c.); farther S, under a
Roman odeum, the remains of a theater with straight
banks of seats, built before the 4th c., perhaps as a
meeting place for the assembly. The discovery of an
Aphrodision next to the odeum enables us to interpret
Pausanias' description and to presume that the foundations of a square hypostyle hall (the boule?) and a long
5th c. portico almost opposite the theater belong to the
agora. Changes made to the theater, the odeum, the
building of great baths as well as villas (mosaics are
in the museum) point to sustained activity in the 1st-2d and 4th-5th c. A.D.
Reports of annual excavations in BCH
77-83 (1953-59); 91-93 (1967-69)PI
; 94-96 (1970-73)P
; A. Boëthius, Zur Topographie des dorischen Argos, Strena P. Persson
, 248-89 (1922); W. Vollgraff, Le
sanctuaire d'Apollon Pythéen à Argos
(1956); G. Roux,
L'architecture de l'Argolide aux IVe et IIIes
. (1961); P. Courbin, La céamique géométrique de l'Argolide
; J. Deshayes, Argos: les fouilles de la Deiras
(1966); R. A. Tomlinson, Argos and the Argolid
R. Ginouvès, Le theatron à gradins droits et l'Odéon
Pausanias, Description of Greece
J. F. BOMMELAER