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Apollonius of Rhodes (305– 290 BC - c. 230 BC)

Apollonius of Rhodes (305– 290 BC - c. 230 BC)

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apollonius of rhodes


an allusion to his lost poem on the founding of the place, “long the sole

trading mart of the Greeks in Egypt,”6 or a hostile allusion to his Egyptian

origins. Or was he not born in Africa at all? Mary Lefkowitz suggests that he

may have been a native of, rather than an exile in, Rhodes.7 Her evidence is

his name and the fact that there is no firm factual source for his birth in

Egypt. Her speculation has not persuaded many, though occasionally a

guidebook assumes the poet was one of the island’s “most famous sons.”8

One thing is certain, however: while he was in bright Rhodes, a maritime

republic whose harbour was during his time bestridden by a wonder of the

world, the giant Colossus representing the sun god (built in 304 bc, it fell in

an earthquake after six decades), he acquainted himself in detail with sea

lore. He understood how ships work, how sailors behave, how masts and

sails are raised and lowered, how to navigate by landmarks and by the skies,

and the routes real men took to real as well as to imagined places. He may

have embarked on long literal sea journeys. When he describes the launch

of the Argo, he does so with meticulous particularity. As the Argonauts set

sail, the gods and nymphs view them from different vantage-points, creating a kind of mountain and sky theatre. Cheiron comes down to the shore

with his wife, and they watch and wave the ship off. Cheiron’s wife holds in

her arms the baby Achilles: the hero of Troy, in infancy, witnesses the departure of the Argonauts.9

The technical and detailed account of sailing is either loving or pedantic,

depending on the reader’s interest in boats and the sea. The fish, big and

little, follow the ship in which Orpheus serenades, as (a Homeric simile)

sheep follow the shepherd home at evening.10 Apollonius, a scholar and a

learned poet, was also a man with more than a literary understanding of the

world. No matter how fanciful the plot, the contingent world he depicts is

credible to the senses. The sea is real, though the metaphorical sheep may

have more Theocritus than wool about them.

There are few attestations to his other poetry. He is thought to have written hexameters about Alexandria’s foundation, and after commemorating

the origins of Naucratis, celebrating those of Cnidos, Rhodes and Caunus

as well. In choliambics he wrote about Canopus. He composed scholarly

works on Homer, Hesiod, Archilochus and Antimachus. In youth he published—that is, performed—what is thought to have been an early version

of his Argonautica and it was not a success in Alexandria.11 Humiliated, he

exiled himself in Rhodes. He returned, also voluntarily, to Alexandria with

the scroll of his revised poem tucked under his arm. This time he was applauded. He was “found worthy” of the library.12 He died around 230 bc

and was buried beside Callimachus.

The last detail has given rise to much speculation, some of it touching on

romantic themes: how close were the two men in the first place, during the




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teacher-pupil period, for Callimachus had a pederastic reputation; why did

they fall out, and were they ever truly reconciled (assuming they had actually

become estranged)? Or is the reference to burial merely a way of saying that

Apollonius merited burial in a cemetery reserved for those who, like Callimachus, had served the library and musaion? It is startling once again to see

how much scholarship is generated by an absence of facts. We do not know

anything for certain, and into this ignorance flows a veritable torrent of

opinionation, much of it intemperate.

We do know that Apollonius was not the sole writer of epics in a postepic age. His immediate predecessor was Antimachus of Colophon, about

whom he wrote, and whose Thebaid and elegiac anthology of stories Lydè

(so despised by Callimachus) may have been of use to him in composing his

narrative poems. The hexameter which Homer and Hesiod had deployed

continued to be used for major narratives. But every poet walking in the

shadow of the two founders of the tradition was burdened with an awareness of what had been and what could be done in the medium. Apollonius

exists at a vast imaginative distance from Homer, and only slightly less far

from Hesiod, yet would he have existed without them?

The Argonautica is the only major poem which substantially survives from

the period between the writing-down of Homer and the time of Nonnus,

the fourth-century ad poet and author of an epic based on Dionysian

myths.13 Many conclusions are based narrowly on Apollonius’ poem, as

though it somehow represented all those vanished epics that provided its

context. It is safe to say that in a few respects the Argonautica is typical. It

never loses sight of Homer as source and legitimator, for example, and

every time it stages a simile, it does so imitatively, seeking not so much what

is apposite as what will be perceived to be correct. That correctness is seldom formulaic: the language is Homeric in strategy, but tricked out with

non-Homeric elements in diction and elsewhere. The tradition being literary rather than oral, formulae have no necessary place.

This leads to a movement towards particularity of detail, place, time and

emotion, away from characteristic (or formulaic) to specific detail, from

classical to romantic perspectives. An epic poem was now to be of use, like

the epinicean ode: it could focus on particular cities, peoples and persons.14

Hellenistic epic had been transformed by the drama, too, Euripides’ in particular: “The effective portrayal of an individual emotion is more important

than a completely drawn picture of a character.”15 This does not mean that

the poet writes dramatically: he focuses on the same kinds of moment, the

same occasions, which arrested the dramatic writer, but his work is different

in kind. Some descriptions are poised and poetic in ways unthinkable in the

old poetry but also unavailable to the drama. Oliver Taplin translates a scrap



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of an epic by Choirilos of Samos about the Persians. Nothing is new, the

poet says: What can he do?

Ah, happy he who in that era was expert in poetry,

a servant of the Muses, when the meadow was still unscythed.

But now when everything has been apportioned out,

and the crafts all have their own spheres, we are left behind,

like the last off the starting-grid. And though

I glance all round, I cannot light on any new chariot to harness.

The poet seeking the new, or to make the familiar new, could have recourse to allegory, taking the old stories and finding in them indicative

rather than literal truth, and then unpacking them as though they were a

Christmas hamper of double meanings. Peter Green, Apollonius’ most inventive modern translator, insists that in the Argonautica the poet writes virtually without allegory, believing in the story as history. He stresses how, at

the time, the growth of knowledge (logos) was taking place at the expense of

story (mythos). The poet was on the side of mythos: it was his end and his

means, a way of seeing and of showing the world. It had to absorb logos to

justify itself. Allegory bowdlerises myth, depriving it of its actuality in the

interests of oblique moral instruction. Rationalism, on the other hand, historicises it, which is equally reductive because it cuts away the elements of

legend and myth which reason cannot abide. The Argonautica, says Green, is

free of allegory and historicism.16 It does draw a large quantity of logos into

the net of mythos, however.

It shares with Callimachus’ poetry a fascination with origins, aetiologies,

the births of cities, customs, traditions. The “and then . . . and then . . . and

then” travelogue puts us in mind of Callimachus’ fragmentary Iambus VI,

but here stretched out, it can seem, to the edge of doom. Indeed it shares

specific aetiologies with Callimachus’ writings and occasionally, in phrase

and form, echoes the master rather closely, though the general texture of

Apollonius’ poem is loose and un-Callimachean. The age of the heroes,

Apollonius’ poem seems to argue, is an “age of origins.” Exploring origins

is a way of exploring identities, histories and through them the present.17

No less than the Aetia, the Argonautica is a “systematic aetiological enquiry.”18 Aetiologies are a core element in Hellenistic writing, perhaps because the further the Greek language and Greek men and women got from

Greece itself, the more they needed to understand and affirm their roots.

By the time Apollonius composed the Argonautica, the imagined geography of earlier poets had been explored and charted. Invention gave way to

uneasy description; there was still hyperbole, there were blank zones on the

maps, but the borders of the known had been rolled far back into the Black




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Sea. Many a monster and many unusual peoples had either been tamed by

colonists or erased by explorers. In part, this knowledge is what the poem is

about, reconciling legend and fact, explaining or adding to the explanations

of origins. The gods have become bourgeois, their interventions infrequent, calculated and more selfish than ever. Lesky sees them almost as ornamental. But then the heroes, too, have by Homeric standards become

singularly unheroic. The imaginative world is different, even if the scene

Apollonius is trying to paint pre-dates the Trojan War by a score of years.

Language is used in a different way and to different ends. It is no longer

transparent, a lens, but opaque, an element in itself, so much so that it is in a

sense the subject of the poem. There is no longer a feeling of necessity in

the connection between divine and human, Lesky says; in fact, the connection between the heroic, as conceived by Homer, and the human is no

longer tenable. The heroic must be reconceived in a scaled-down version.

The structure of Apollonius’ poem is simple: plot and story are hardly

differentiated. Compared with Homer’s subtle scheme for unifying the action of the Iliad, Apollonius is crude, his merely linear narrative at odds

with the elaborated surface and texture of the poem. He achieves wonderful local scenes and effects but lacks the larger, integrating formal sense of a

less self-conscious epic writer.

Jason sets out to take back the throne of which he has been unjustly deprived. He arrives at Iolcus having lost a sandal fording a river, and the omen

identifies him to the usurping King Pelias, who promises to give him back

the throne if Jason will first undertake a heroic, and Pelias hopes an impossible, challenge. A stiff politeness prevails between pretender and usurper.

Jason accepts Pelias’ challenge and sets out for Colchis to bring back the

Golden Fleece. Two long books trace, settlement by settlement, headland

by headland, the trip of the Argo to Colchis. Book III comes alive because it

belongs to Medea and borrows some of her magic and charm. Then in

Book IV the Fleece is taken, and the heroes flee back by seaways still belonging to myth. They return via a series of hardships to their point of departure, Iolcus, aided by and finally dependent upon Medea’s subtle sorcery.

The pace of the poem is uneven. What makes it readable is the oddity

and definition of the detail and the occasional blinding beauty of some passages. Apollonius is fascinated by certain details, peculiarities, exoticisms;

then he seems bored by a series of possible stops and possible epiphanies,

until again his eye is arrested by something which demands to be described

and explained. This verse is a kind of stuttering catalogue, in which some

items are passed over and many lovingly defined.

If we list the things that do detain him, we can detect a kind of pattern. It

may well be that Apollonius lingers instinctively rather than by deliberate

design, but we can, I believe, see into the artist through the kinds of win-



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dows he shapes in his poem. Starting with the gods, it is not Apollo, his

namesake, whom the poet invokes at the outset, or Zeus, who intervenes

briefly and grumpily, but Hera who governs the action, seconded by

Athena. Hera is the schemer whose scheming goes largely unopposed. She

likes Jason because once, when she was disguised as an old woman, he carried her across a raging torrent.19 This passage—and in Book I the presentation of frail Iphias, the priestess of Artemis who wishes to speak to and

bless Jason, but only manages to kiss his hand—puts us in mind of Callimachus’ Hecale, not because of the imagery of crones but because of what

those crones do and what they will to happen.

Hera is Jason’s and Apollonius’ tutelary spirit and the first of many feminising elements, some structural, some metaphorical, that make the poem

unique. At the level of plot and character, it is Hera and not Zeus, Medea

and not Jason who cause things to happen. Athena and Aphrodite (with her

hair down) play major parts too. Goddesses and women, and the feelings

and concerns of women, are privileged, and the masculine is ironised and

reduced, the traditional heroic scaled right back.

The good ship Argo itself had nominally been designed by Argos, but his

hand was guided at every stage by Athena. The ship is virtually her own invention, a fact repeated by the poet.20

When Jason is about to go down to the Argo and depart on his journey,

his mother, Alkimede, clings to him. Apollonius likens her to a girl persecuted by an evil stepmother, clinging on to her nanny for comfort. Where

does this elaborate simile come from? How apposite is it? How proper is it

to see Jason, ostensibly the hero and subject of the poem, pressed to his

mother’s bosom, without any indication of his feelings, but a total concentration on hers? She never makes a second appearance. Jason tells her not to

inflict pain on him, she is pressing him too hard. His consolation is cold,

conventional: you stay here and wait; that’s the lot of women.

Then comes an extended episode with the women of Lemnos. Their

conduct is not judged, and the stud-farm morality of the Argonauts goes

morally unquestioned as well. We will remember, from Callimachus’ telling

of the story,21 how the Lemnian women, having failed in their duties to

Aphrodite, began to stink. Their husbands turned to the girls of nearby

Thrace. The Lemnian women killed the menfolk and their lovers and set up

a matriarchy, more or less democratic in structure and successful except

that, without men, they began to die out. Cue the Argo bound for Colchis

and crewed by handsome gene-rich heroes. After initial Lemnian misgivings, there is universal copulation until Heracles, whose affections are

bound up with the boy Hylas and who with a few companions has stayed on

the ship, calls everyone to order and the heroes depart, having sowed their

seed to repopulate Lemnos.




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Jason’s robe, when he visits the Lemnian leader Hipsypile, is described in

detail, like Achilles’ shield in the Iliad. It is covered with legends, not least

(self-referentially) the ram whose Golden Fleece he is on his way to steal.

He walks into town not like Apollo, with whom he has previously been

compared, but like the bright star that brides-to-be observe and pray to.

Hipsypile, whose feelings, like those of her people, are identified, asks him

to accept the Lemnian crown, but he declines.

Later in Book I there are serious storms. Rhea, the mother god, requires

propitiation. Argos, master craftsman and ship-builder, sculpts her image

and Orpheus choreographs a mollifying ritual. The task is undertaken more

seriously, one is tempted to say more sincerely, than the propitiatory ceremonies dedicated to Apollo before the heroes set sail. Indeed, a literal

Apollo passes through the poem at one point. He is colossally striding

home to Olympus at dawn, returning from his annual vacation among the

Hyperboreans. The Argonauts avert their terrified gazes, Orpheus sings, an

altar is built and they name the place for the dawn Apollo, but he has very

little impact on events.

Apollonius is a sort of ur-Levi-Strauss, registering odd customs. When

he gets to Colchis, he tells us an interesting fact which has no bearing at all

on the plot: the people of Colchis have the custom of “burying” dead men

in the trees, wrapped in untanned ox hides, a kind of Zoroastrian rite.

Women are buried in the ground. Briefly puzzled, he soon returns to his

story. Long before Colchis, back in Book II, the Argo sights the land of the

Tibareni of Pontus. Among them, the men “do” childbirth. That is to say,

when a woman goes into labour, her husband takes to his bed and moans

and groans while the woman applies poultices to his head and cooks him a

meal and heats up a post partum bath. The man thus draws off the pain from

the woman. Again, the female experience focuses his attention, as it does

elsewhere in the catalogue of curious customs that accompanies the catalogue of places sighted as the ship makes its way towards the Fleece. It is a

relief when the navigator declares at the end of Book II, “We have reached

the land of Colchis and the river Phasis.”22 The human drama can begin.

Apollonius invokes the Muse Erato, conventionally associated less with

epic poetry than with the lyre and lyric. It is dawn, and the tone of the poem

changes from the dogged and scholarly. There is a sudden focussed brightness about the narrative, as we enter boldly for the first time into the world

of the gods—or rather, into the world of goddesses, because the conversation is between Athena and Hera, who then visit Aphrodite, a single parent

with an unruly child in the form of Eros, whom she must bribe and beguile

to get him to do her bidding. Much of the impact of the scene is that, after

the stuttering itinerary of Books I and II, which at times give the impression of being mere decorated lists, we linger, characters grow from dia-



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logue, rooms fill with voices and movement. There is leisure, hair is being

brushed, a day—albeit a divine one—is being prepared for. Goddesses

have preserved the Argo and will now preserve the heroes in their quest.

They will use wiles, of course: the irresistible magic of love secretly administered as an arrow by Eros, and administered to a powerful young woman

with deep magical skills of her own. There is tension and jealousy between

the goddesses, but their common interests override their bitchiness.

Eros shoots his arrow into the already predisposed Medea. The moment

when is recounted exhaustively. Apollonius, with his insistence on detail

(which here descends unarguably into pedantry) takes us through every

stage of the act of erotic archery. When at last the missile is discharged,

love laboriously blazes up in Medea’s heart. She witnesses Jason accepting

Aeetes’ challenge: the hero looks so handsome that her stimulated love

bubbles dangerously and threatens to dislodge the lid of decorum.

One of the heroes is a good old-fashioned Homeric sort who objects to

the Argonauts depending on women. What has happened to traditional

male heroism? Idas demands:

“What, is it with women that we’ve voyaged hither,

the way we’re begging Kypris to be our saviour?

No longer do you look at the war god’s might . . .

Begone with you, take no thought for deeds of warfare,

but plan to cajole weak girls with supplication . . .”23

Idas realises, as we cannot fail to do, that we are so many miles from the

world of Homer that the word “epic” is a ghost of itself, the word “romance” is nearly on our lips. Idas signals the generic transformation. In this

post-heroic world, which still uses the rhetoric of heroism and Homer, he is

naturally overruled.

Close upon the heels of the Idas passage we come upon Medea in an

agony of love and confusion. She is likened to a widow, deserted and miserable, falling passionately, helplessly on her bed. Just then sister Chalciope

arrives: the Argonauts beg Medea’s assistance. Here begin her recovery and

transformation. Oppressed with guilt and doubt at her intended treachery,

she nonetheless resolves to act, the way a Homeric hero might, but Medea

is a woman: something fundamental has changed.

Dawn comes. She puts on her make-up and preparation for the first trial

commences. She meets Jason in a flurry of similes: he is an ascending bright

star (as before, with Hipsypile); they stand silently facing one another like

oaks. Jason at no point responds to her beauty: it is his beauty that the poem

celebrates. Jason at no point shows sexual desire: it is her desire that the

poem emphasises. Medea’s perspective is our perspective. Jason’s lack of interest, or vision, is part of his neutrality as the central “heroic” figure. He




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does not have the energy, intelligence or passion to hold the poem together.

Medea does. The poet alludes to another enabling woman, Ariadne, a sinister precedent from Medea’s point of view.

Decisively Medea instructs the blank-faced, blank-hearted hero what to

do with the bulls and the dragon teeth. The magic she prescribes (including

an unguent to make him invulnerable) has elements of other legends mixed

in with it, not least an echo of the instructions to Orpheus when attempting

to rescue his Eurydice. Jason will follow instructions. That much we can depend on. He thanks Medea by proposing to her. He declares that he is—

grateful. There is no declaration of love, but then Eros has not struck him

under the left pap. He says that if he gets back to Iolcus (that means, he will

need a lot more magic, not just this first instalment), he will make an honest

sorceress of her. She weeps and is passionate, he receives her thanks with

guile. Now she is silent, he is voluble.

When the trials begin, Aeetes arrives like Poseidon in his chariot, and

Jason stamps the ground like a war horse. Then, as he strips to the waist for

battle, he resembles first Ares, then Apollo. The male gods are presented in

the postures and movements of the protagonists, but they are not there as

presences. Apollonius recounts the taming of the fiery-breathed bulls and

the sowing of the dragon teeth that grow into hostile warriors with a continuing abundance of metaphor. The account is exciting in the way that a

great tapestry is exciting, entertaining the eye but not speeding the pulse.

For the fourth book Apollonius invokes the aid of Athena as his Muse. He

describes Jason’s theft of the Fleece and the Argonauts’ much-interrupted

return, and the book belongs to Medea in more ways than one. The Colchians wanted to retrieve the Golden Fleece, but they would not have pursued

so hotly had Medea not fled with the heroes. They intended to capture and

punish her.

When Medea fled, driven by Hera, she left a long lock of her hair behind

for her mother as a memento that she is still a virgin, an important point to

remember: her sexual virtue is intact, there was no Lemnian looseness about

her. Apollonius goes out of his way to clear Medea of the various charges

usually laid at her door. Her love was divinely caused, not chosen, and her

actions throughout are marked by an instinct to virtue, a habit of probity.

Her magic remains potent. She makes the dragon guarding the Fleece fall

asleep, and Jason performs the theft. The simile Apollonius uses is at once

powerful in itself and strange in context, feminising the hero who has, in

any case, sold out to the female:

As a full moon climbs the sky, and its risen brightness

shimmers down on the garret bedroom of some young creature

who catches it on her fine dress, and the heart within her



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lifts at the sight of that pure radiance, so now Jason

was filled with joy as he hefted the great Fleece in his hands,

and over his fair cheeks and brow the bright glint of its texture

cast a ruddy blush like a flame.24

The Argonauts flee, followed by a flotilla of Colchians. After the eventful

escape, aided time after time by Medea’s magic rather than heroic prowess,

Idas must have been really out of sorts. The Argonauts were intended to be

heroes, but apart from a few vivid battles en route to Colchis and some narrow escapes on the way home, heroism is precisely what they lack. They are

even tempted to abandon Medea on the way home so as to curb the pursuit

of the Colchians. It is not Jason who saves her. She saves herself, threatening revenge if she is abandoned, and the men are cowed and compliant.

It is Jason who plots the death of Medea’s brother. Apollonius lets

Medea off that hook as well. They murder him and his crew; the other pursuing Colchians are furious but Hera keeps them at bay. Zeus takes their

part angrily and at last makes a brief intervention, condemning the Argonauts to a series of serious setbacks before they get home, but get home

they will. Circe, Aeetes’ sister, absolves but does not welcome Jason or

Medea. This Circe has none of the passionate charm and seduction of the

one who snares Odysseus.

Hera eases the way so that the Argo can get through the mysterious geography of the western passages. We meet Thetis attempting to make Achilles

invulnerable; we meet the sirens and hear Orpheus’ counter-melody.

The preservation of Medea’s virginity continues well into Book IV

(l. 1024). In Phaiakia, where they land a generation before Odysseus (stormtossed, he finds lovely young Nausicaa playing on the beach), they are well

received. Queen Arete pleads Medea’s cause to her husband, Alcinous, hugging him in wifely arms in bed, a woman arguing the case for another and

using not only words but loving persuasion. He judges that Medea, to be

saved from the pursuing Colchians, must wed Jason. The ceremony is conducted, Jason obedient as usual, and they consummate their union bedded

on the Golden Fleece itself.

It is a goddess who rouses the heroes later, during the parched Libyan interlude when they expect to perish under the sun’s unremitting disc. This

touch of geography would have brought the poem home to Apollonius’

Egyptian audiences. There were further obstacles, some serious but none

dramatic. They meet with the sea god Triton, who is suptuously described,

especially his tail. When the heroes get home, the poem is over. They step

ashore and Apollonius abandons them and us on the beach. The usurper is

not overthrown, Jason’s mother is not allowed her moment of relief and

joy. The trip is finished, and that’s that.




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Medea is a character: she has motives, she acts, her actions have consequences, she changes. In this, she is alone in a poem that consists largely of

cardboard figures. Only Heracles is a proper hero, and he is removed from

the poem early on. His beloved Hylas is drawn by a lusty nymph into a pool

and drowned. The heroes set sail without noticing that Heracles is missing,

even though his seat was at the very heart of the ship.

As soon as the morning star rose clear above the topmost

peaks, the wind gusted down, and Tiphys quickly

urged them aboard, to make good use of the land breeze;

then straight away they embarked with a will, and raised the

ship’s anchor stones, and hauled hard on the sheet-lines,

the sail bellied out in the wind, and they, rejoicing,

were borne away from shore, past Poseidon’s headland.

At the hour when dawn’s grey half-light first shines in the heavens,

rising from the horizon, and paths become visible,

and dew-pointed meadows glitter brightly, then they

perceived that, all unknowing, they’d left those two ashore.25

With so unobservant a captain and crew, the success of the enterprise is

little short of miraculous.

At times Jason reminds us of Telemachus, at times of Agamemnon at his

most trying, when he is testing his comrades to see if they want to go home

(and suddenly they do). He never calls to mind the serious heroes. At the

conclave before the Argo sets sail in Book I, Jason speaks like a company director. It is time to elect a chairman. Heracles? He declines, and the task

falls to Jason, whose quest in any case it is.

He broods. Old-fashioned, hot-blooded Idas confronts him, asking if he

is afraid. Idmon remonstrates with Idas for taking this tack with the

thoughtful young leader and an argument ensues which Orpheus calms

with a song. He sings a creation myth, theogonies, aetiologies. But the question, “Is Jason scared?” is never answered. When the ship departs, Jason

weeps to be leaving home. Another argument blows up and Jason, still depressed, says nothing. Attacked for his silence, he does not explain himself.

It is Glaucus the sea spirit who comes up out of the depths and with a little

emollient prophecy brings things back to calm.

In Book II Jason and the heroes are actually described as afraid and

weak-willed.26 Jason suffers from overwhelming fear and in an Agamemnonish spirit suggests retreat. “So he / spoke, making trial of the heroes,

but they shouted / bold words of encouragement.”27

Reciting his poem a second time in Alexandria, if we are to believe the

lives and legends, Apollonius was greeted with “bold words of encouragement” and stayed, to become librarian and to be honoured, esteemed and



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buried with pomp. His surviving work is a storehouse of stories and similes.

It may be rather more radical in outlook than it is in form. To call it an epic

poem because it is written in hexameters and belongs to a Homeric tradition is to sell the idea of epic short. It has elements of epic, deliberately cultivated. It has something else that anachronistic critics call romance.

Certainly from Book III through the first two thirds of Book IV an amazing and coherent narrative unfolds and, as in some of the drama, the character of a woman in love and in danger is presented with, as a larger

context, more about woman and women, their circumstances and perspectives, than we expect from non-dramatic Greek poetry. It would be fanciful

to suggest that it was to this that Callimachus objected. What he didn’t like,

if he didn’t like it, was the sheer volubility of Apollonius, the degree to

which the language exceeded its occasions, the degree to which the poem

fell short of Homer.

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