Modern Greek Argonauts: What is Fated is Impossible to Escape 

Modern Greek Argonauts
Artist’s impression of the new museum on Argonauts in Volos, Greece. Credit: Municipality of Volos

The modern Greek Argonauts are the Diaspora, following the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts to retrieve the Golden Fleece from remote Colchis.

By Steve Bakalis

In antiquity, many Greeks migrated to new Hellenistic cities founded in Alexander the Great’s wake.

The power of these cities was based on the spirit of Alexander’s Oath at Opis, as it was based on their ability to be connected more by language, culture, and history than by law or a hierarchical relationship.

Homonoia, the pursuit of order and unity, which had been a growing preoccupation among the Greeks for some time, is the central axon of Alexander’s Oath at Opis.

Xenophon’s statement that Homonoia was the greatest virtue inside a City is known to have prompted Isocrates to use the word to urge Philip of Macedonia to unite the Greeks against the barbarians (De Mauriac, 1949).

Alexander, Philip’s son, universalized the meaning of the word Homonoia by acting on his Oath at Opis. This approach was a significant contributor to Hellenistic cities in ancient times for the creation of social cohesion and the mobilization of diversity and paved the way for globalization.

Contemporary migration stories of the Greeks transcend antiquity, including setting foot in Antipodean Australia, and from a mythology perspective they resemble Homer’s Argonautica and Odyssey travels.  Jason set sail from his birthplace Iolcos as the leader of the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece.

“The only coarser ship that ever passed this way was Argo, famed of all, when voyaging from Aeëtes: and her waves would soon have dashed on the great rocks, but Here [Hera] brought her through from love of Jason.” – Homer, Odyssey 12.69-72 (Trans. Palmer)

The capital of modern Greek Argonauts

Except that myth and reality in our times become one, and Melbourne (my city) is a case in point being the capital of the New Greek Argonauts.

Indeed, gold was again the initial stimulus for the first real wave of Greek migration dating back to the 1850s and 1890s during the gold rush era in Australia, which encouraged and shaped the Australian colonies’ progress towards nationhood, with the Greek diaspora as an integral part of the nation’s future, one that was to be founded on the spirit of entrepreneurship as the golden pursuit of wealth.

Consistent with what is fated, it became impossible to escape the travel from the Pagasetic Bay to Port Phillip Bay which bore similarities, the departure and destination points, consistent with the theory of fractals.

The universe follows mathematical geometric patterns that are similar to each other in their implementation; they are patterns that have been observed to repeat themselves from the structure of a leaf to the structure of gulfs, and the structure of the galaxy, that is, repeated structures that are strong in their preservation.

I’ve always cherished this quote “Home is not where you are born, it’s where all your attempts to escape come to an end” attributed to Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz.

Year after year, ever since I moved from Volos (ancient Iolkos) in the Pagasetic Bay to Melbourne adjacent Port Phillip Bay, its meaning and relevance have become ever more acute for me.

Argonaut’s boat in Volos

Modern Greek Argonauts
Artist’s impression of the new museum on Argonauts in Volos, Greece. Credit: Municipality of Volos

Coincidentally, the construction of a  museum to showcase the  “Argo” boat in Volos is currently underway, which will exhibit the restored model of the legendary ship and present the journey, with the crew of Argonauts.

The reconstruction of Argo and the emulation of its spirit will shape a vision for the city of Volos, allowing for great prospects of development, in the aftermath of the destruction caused by the recent heavy storms. It would be appropriate for the city of Port Phillip to host a replica of Argo as it happened with the recreation of the Parthenon on the Acropolis as the Temple of Boom in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Like the Greeks who sailed with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece, the new Greek Argonauts travel back and forth between the host and their home countries—seeking their fortune in distant lands by launching companies far from established centers of skill and technology.

Today, important centers of the Greek Diaspora exist in New York, Chicago, London, Melbourne, Toronto, and other parts of the world. Their story illuminates profound transformations in the global economy.

Economic geographer Anna Lee Saxenian has followed this transformation, exploring one of its great paradoxes: how the “brain drain” has become “brain circulation” a powerful economic force for the development of formerly peripheral regions.

From a diaspora policy perspective, it is best to cultivate the “brain circulation” dimension: the new Argonauts—armed with host nation experience and relationships and the ability to operate in two countries simultaneously—quickly identify market opportunities, locate foreign partners, and manage cross-border business operations.

Finally, the potential of these diaspora entrepreneurial networks is encapsulated by Canada’s former Governor General Michaëlle Jean comments on Canadians of Greek origin, which also hold true for Greek-Australians.

“We see them active in every sector of the society: in research, new technologies, we have many Canadians of Greek origin who are parliamentarians, businesspeople, and teachers. They are presented and well-integrated in every field. And it’s been so for generations. They are the perfect and natural bridge between our two countries. But we are still too comfortable about our good relations. We need to be more aggressive, more creative and more innovative. We must diversify our partnerships and our cooperation. ” (Athens Plus, 6 November 2009).

These poignant points have the same currency in our times.

Dr Steve Bakalis is an expert on international business economics and management, he has held adjunct appointments with the Australian National University and the University of Adelaide, and appointments in universities of the Asia Pacific and the Gulf regions.

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