CULTURE

Iolcos: Where Jason began his quest

Goritsa Hill, east of Volos in central Greece, commands an impressive view of the Pagasitic Gulf.

King Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, decided that the fortified location was suitable for building a city. Its name remains unknown to this day, although some scholars have associated it with Iolcos — the starting point of the mythical expedition of Jason and the Argonauts to Colchis in the Black Sea to recover the Golden Fleece.

?s with several other locations in the wider area of Volos, Goritsa is an area of great archaeological value, although this remains largely untapped and the place has an unmistakable air of neglect. The city?s walls were most probably built by Cassander, who ascended the Macedonian throne after the death of Alexander, between 316 BC and 298 BC. The city occupied an area of about 1.6 square kilometers, and was laid out according to the Hippodamian grid plan, with broad straight streets that cut one another at angles to form wide central areas or squares. It housed an estimated 3,000 people. The defensive walls had a total length of 2.8 km, reinforced by 33 towers. The most imposing and best-preserved part of the fortification is at the northernmost point, with two U-shape towers. The top of the hill was an acropolis, 135 meters long and 80 m wide, with a temple at the place where the Church of Zoodochos Pigi stands today. By 250 BC, Goritsa had been abandoned for unknown reasons and today it is a popular spot for walks and recreation.

Five kilometers southwest of Volos, near a Neolithic settlement at Dimini, archaeologists have found the remains of a Mycenaean settlement that was inhabited until about 1200 BC and was the most likely location of Iolcos. The myth of Jason and the 50 Argonauts is considered an allegory, alluding to the ancient Greeks? second wave of colonization of the Black Sea coastal regions. Among the finds discovered by archaeologists in two impressive tholos tombs at Dimini were gold jewelry, bronze weapons and ivory artifacts.

Sesklo, the oldest Neolithic settlement in the Balkans, lies 15 km west of Volos.