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“Argus”, Lewisham: a hundred-eyed giant

“Argus Fire & Security Group” burglar alarm, Lewisham • If the reflected double “a” in this Argus logo is meant to look like two eyes, then it’s 98 short of the legend. Argus is a popular name in Greek mythology, but being a security device, this is surely inspired by the super-watchman Argus Panoptes, an ever-wakeful hundred-eyed giant whose name means “Argus the All-Seeing”. Argus was a servant of Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus – who, as king of the gods, had more nymphs on the side than a premiership footballer. According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses (c.8 AD), the politically-incorrect Zeus disguised one unfortunate floozy, Io, as a cow, but suspicious Hera demanded the beast as a gift and set Argus to guard it. Zeus sent his messenger Hermes to rescue Io, which he managed by telling Argus such boring stories that all his eyes fell asleep at once (I know the feeling), and then beheading him. The giant may have perished, but his hundred eyes lived on in the tail of the peacock, where Hera put them to honour his memory. I haven’t yet found a peacock pictured on a burglar alarm, but there are plenty decorated with eyes; though most, like that other watchful giant Cyclops, sport only one. As will be demonstrated in a later theme… • Spotted: Lewisham High Street, Lewisham, London, SE13, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham Deptford

Above: BC and AD versions of Hermes about to kill Argus and rescue the nymph Io, cunningly disguised as a heifer. Top: pictured millennia before burglar alarms, on an Attic vase (c.500 BC) from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna – love the way he’s grabbing that beard. Bottom: as imagined more serenely over 1000 years later in Diego Velázquez’s “Fábula de Mercurio y Argos”  aka “The Story of Mercury and Argus” (1659), from the magnificent Prado, Madrid.

2 replies »

  1. Ah. No. A S – not reflected a (though partly intended). This was Argus Samaritan – as in the Samaritan Alarms you suggest in another post was guilty of pinching British Steel’s logo (which it was).

    Argus purchased Samaritan which at the time was owned by one Paul Grist and another. It was a Tonbridge, Kent based firm (Samaritan) who sold to Argus who at the time had branches mostly in Surrey. This was back in the mid 90s or so.

    • Yes, I wondered if it was an “s”, and guessed it may have stood for “security”. Glad to find out the true story!

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