Abraham Bloemaert - Mercury, Argus and Io - Google Art Project

16th century painting by Abraham Bloemaert which depicts Mercury (Hermes), Argus Panoptes and Io as a heifer.

In Greek mythology, Argus Panoptes (Greek: Ἄργος Πανόπτης) or Argos, guardian of the heifer-nymph Io and son of Arestor,[1] was a primordial giant whose epithet "Panoptes", "all-seeing", led to his being described with multiple, often one hundred, eyes. The epithet Panoptes was applied to the Titan of the Sun, Helios, and was taken up as an epithet by Zeus, Zeus Panoptes. "In a way," Walter Burkert observes, "the power and order of Argos the city are embodied in Argos the neatherd, lord of the herd and lord of the land, whose name itself is the name of the land."[2]

The epithet Panoptes, reflecting his mythic role, set by Hera as a very effective watchman of Io, was described in a fragment of a lost poem Aigimios, attributed to Hesiod[3]:

"And set a watcher upon her, great and strong Argos, who with four eyes looks every way. And the goddess stirred in him unwearying strength: sleep never fell upon his eyes; but he kept sure watch always."

In the 5th century and later, Argus' wakeful alertness was explained for an increasingly literal culture as his having so many eyes that only a few of the eyes would sleep at a time: there were always eyes still awake. In the 2nd century CE Pausanias noted at Argos, in the temple of Zeus Larissaios, an archaic image of Zeus with a third eye in the center of his forehead, allegedly Priam's Zeus Herkeios purloined from Troy.[4] According to Ovid, to commemorate her faithful watchman, Hera had the hundred eyes of Argus preserved forever, in a peacock's tail.[5]

Argus was Hera's servant. His great service to the Olympian pantheon was to slay the chthonic serpent-legged monster Echidna as she slept in her cave.[6] Hera's defining task for Argus was to guard the white heifer Io from Zeus, keeping her chained to the sacred olive tree at the Argive Heraion.[7] She charged him to "Tether this cow safely to an olive-tree at Nemea". Hera knew that the heifer was in reality Io, one of the many nymphs Zeus was coupling with to establish a new order. To free Io, Zeus had Argus slain by Hermes. Hermes, disguised as a shepherd, first put all of Argus's eyes asleep with spoken charms, then slew him by hitting him with a stone, the first stain of bloodshed among the new generation of gods.[8]

The myth makes the closest connection of Argos, the neatherd, with the bull. In the Library of pseudo-Apollodorus, "Argos killed the bull that ravaged Arcadia, then clothed himself in its skin."[9]

The sacrifice of Argos liberated Io to wander the earth distracted by a gadfly sent by Hera.

In popular culture

  • Argus is featured in the Percy Jackson series of books as Camp Half-Blood's security guard.
  • J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, gave the name Argus Filch to the caretaker of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He is all-seeing with the help of his cat Mrs. Norris.[10]
  • "The Argus" is a song by the band Ween and refers to the Argus' many eyes.
  • The fifteenth colossus from the video game Shadow of the Colossus is called Argus and nicknamed "The Sentinel" and "Vigilant Guard". The hundreds of eyes carved into the temple that he resides in refers to the omnividence (all-seeing ability) of Argus Panoptes and the watchful colossus himself.[11]
  • One of the monsters from from Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger and its American counterpart Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is based on Argos. It is called "Dora Argos" in Japanese, in Power Rangers it is called "Eye Guy",and is a creature composed entirely of eyeballs.


  1. Therefore called Arestorides (Apollodorus ii.1.3, Apollonius Rhodius i.112, Ovid Metamorphoses i.624). According to Pausanias (ii.16.3), Arestor was the consort of Mycene, the eponymous nymph of nearby Mycenae.
  2. Walter Burkert, Homo Necans (1972) 1983:166-67.
  3. Hesiodic Aigimios, fragment 294, reproduced in Merkelbach and West 1967 and noted in Burkert 1983:167 note 28.
  4. Pausanias, 2.24.3. (noted by Burkert 1983:168 note 28).
  5. Ovid I, 625. The peacock is an Eastern bird, unknown to Greeks before the time of Alexander the Great.
  6. Homer, Iliad ii.783; Hesiod, Theogony, 295ff; Apollodorus, ii.i.2).
  7. Bibliotheke, 2.6.
  8. Hermes was tried, exonerated, and earned the epithet Argeiphontes, "killer of Argos".
  9. Bibliotheke, 2.4.
  10. Rowling, J.K. (1997). Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. 
  11. Argus on Icopedia, the wikia dedicated to the games produced by development team Team Ico.

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Argus Panoptes. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.