May is for a special dog of the month. Argos, the faithful dog of mystical Odysseus
Argos, the dog of ancient Greece
Hunting was one of the favourite pastimes of the ancient Greeks ‘upper class’, and a good hunt required well-bred hunting dogs. Watchdogs were also used to guard the lonely farmsteads that dotted the countryside in many parts of Greece from the Classical period onwards. Wealthy men therefore, took great pride in their dogs and regarded them as an important part of their household. It’s not surprising that dogs make some appearances in Greek literature and that many of their names survived until to these days. One of the most famous dogs in Greek literature is Argo, the faithful and loving dog of Odysseus. Argos came to Odysseus when he was still a pup and was famous for his speed, strength and superior tracking skills. One day however, Odysseus – the king of Ithaca, had to leave his homeland and his dear companion to go and fight in the Troyan War. He was gone for twenty years – ten years fighting the war and ten more years on his long journey back home. During this time, Odysseus fought sirens, cyclops and angry gods who conspired to keep him and his men from home.
While Odysseus battled mystical creatures and faced the rage of the gods, his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus remained in Ithaca, trying to keep strong and protecting the kingdom from suitors looking for Penelope’s hand and Ithaca’s throne. Most people in Ithaca assumed that Odysseus was dead and Ithaca slowly fell into a saddened place. By now Argos himself was already twenty years old and was living in terrible conditions, given the challenging times of war. Nevertheless, Argos never gave up hoping that his ‘master’ (daddy) Odysseus would return home one day.
After twenty years, Odysseus braved the high seas, and his determination was finally rewarded. Odysseus returned to his home disguised as a beggar to see how things stood. No one recognized him — neither his son, nor his wife or any of his servants, but his loyal dog knew right away and both connected immediately: Argos, very old and weak now had just enough forces to drop his ears, wag his tail and gave a final whimper as he died, in peace after seeing his beloved Odysseus once again.
This heartbreaking scene in the Odyssey underlines the connectiveness and devotion that many of us – lucky owners – experience every day. Argos became a symbolism of fidelity and dedication. May we all be able to correspond the loyalty that our furry friends dedicate to us and love them back !
PS: My mommy was crying when reading about sweet Argos.