Jason and his Argonauts, on their way to get the Golden Fleece, chanced upon the island of Lemnos, where the women “maddened by jealousy, had slain all their men folk, and, now vainly repentant, hailed the newcomers as husbands for their defenceless need.” Quite a problem there. Hercules saved the Argonauts from these desperate women. But the problem remained.

If these women had decided to continue without men, the island would in due course, have been devoid of all human habitation. But if the women had desired not only to live on the island but to perpetuate the human race on it, they needed to have children. But where to find males to help out?

Immigration from other islands was no solution, as the Aegean islands do not have spare land. Ordinary passenger ships visiting Lemnos would not be too frequent and, anyway, travelers do not usually abandon ships to settle on strange islands. Some unmarried men may go ashore looking for entertainment. But the resultant pregnancies were not likely to contribute effectively to raising to male population to a satisfactory level.

Ship-wrecks would be more helpful, provided the men, but not many women, were saved. However, ship-wrecks are not frequent even on very busy shipping lanes. So it appears that these poor women, who had killed all their men in a fit of jealousy, were destined to pass away as vestiges of homo sapiens.

It would appear that the only solution would be the import of male slaves. But slavery had not yet started in that period of pre-Classical Greece, ie, when the ladies of Lemnos committed anthrocide.

Engels marks the beginning of civilization with the introduction of slavery ie following the appearance of a surplus product, when the man began to produce a little more than what was necessary to keep body and soul together, as this made exploitation possible.

Greece, with its constricted valleys, could not have extensive farms. But, through intensive labour, it produced high-value goods like lives and handicraft products however, its internal market was small. So it could realize the surplus value contained in the products only through trade with the Mediterranean’s eastern see board. And, since this sea-board was at the same technological and cultural level as Greece itself, the latter could not obtain slaves from its neighbourhood. They were bought from the northern coast of Black Sea, the modern Ukraine. (Hence the story of the Golden Fleece). This traffic was not developed, as the slave-market had not yet grown around the Aegean. Since the lonely women of Lemnos had neither the economic resources nor the military strength to send an expedition to Ukraine to capture slaves, this commodity was out of their reach.

The lesson is that, whatever the intensity of competition among the women for the available males, they should seek a solution short of their extermination.

The writer is a retired ambassador.