Life of ApolloniusFor the meagre details of the life of our poet we are mainly dependent on the two epitomes which are appended to the scholia in the Codex Laurentianus:-- I. Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ τῶν Ἀργοναυτικῶν ποιητὴς τὸ μὲν γένος ἦν Ἀλεξανδρεύς, υἱὸς δὲ Σιλλέως, ὡς δέ τινες Ἰλλέως, φυλῆς Πτολεμαΐδος. ἐγένετο δὲ ἐπὶ τῶν Πτολεμαίων, Καλλιμάχου μαθητής, τὸ μὲν πρῶτον συνὼν Καλλιμάχῳ τῷ ἰδίῳ διδασκάλῳ: ὀψὲ δὲ ἐπὶ τὸ ποιεῖν ποιήματα ἐτρέπετο. τοῦτον λέγεται ἔτι ἔφηβον ὄντα ἐπιδείξασθαι τὰ Ἀργοναυτικὰ καὶ κατεγνῶσθαι, μὴ φέροντα δὲ τὴν αἰσχύνην τῶν πολιτῶν καὶ τὸ ὄνειδος καὶ τὴν διαβολὴν τῶν ἄλλων ποιητῶν καταλιπεῖν τὴν πατρίδα καὶ μετεληλυθέναι εἰς Ῥόδον, κἀκεῖ αὐτὰ ἐπιξέσαι καὶ ὀρθῶσαι καὶ οὕτως ἐπιδείξασθαι καὶ ὑπερευδοκιμῆσαι: διὸ καὶ Ῥόδιον ἑαυτὸν ἐν τοῖς ποιήμασιν ἀναγράφει. ἐπαίδευσε δὲ λαμπρῶς ἐν αὐτῇ καὶ τῆς Ῥοδίων πολιτείας καὶ τιμῆς ἠξιώθη. II. Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ ποιητὴς τὸ μὲν γένος ἦν Ἀλεξανδρεύς, πατρὸς δὲ Σιλλέως, ἤτοι Ἰλλέως, μητρὸς δὲ Ῥόδης. οὗτος ἐμαθήτευσε Καλλιμάχῳ ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ ὄντι γραμματικῷ, καὶ συντάξας ταῦτα τὰ ποιήματα ἐπεδείξατο. σφόδρα δὲ ἀποτυχὼν καὶ ἐρυθριάσας παρεγένετο ἐν τῇ Ῥόδῳ κἀκεῖ ἐπολιτεύσατο καὶ σοφιστεύει ῥητορικοὺς λόγους, ὅθεν αὐτὸν καὶ Ῥόδιον ἀποκαλεῖν βούλονται. ἐνταῦθα τοίνυν διάγων καὶ ἐπιξέσας αὑτοῦ τὰ ποιήματα, εἶτα ἐπιδειξάμενος σφόδρα εὐδοκίμησεν, ὡς καὶ τῆς Ῥοδίων ἀξιωθῆναι πολιτείας καὶ τιμῆς. τινὲς δέ φασιν ὅτι ἐπανῆλθεν ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ καὶ αὖτις ἐκεῖσε ἐπιδειξάμενος εἰς ἄκρον εὐδοκίμησεν, ὡς κὰ τῶν βιβλιοθηκῶν τοῦ μουσείου ἀξιωθῆναι αὐτὸν καὶ ταφῆναι δὲ σὸν αὐτῷ τῷ Καλλιμάχῳ. These two accounts were apparently derived from one common source,1 and seem, in turn, to have been the source of such brief biographies as we find in later mss. We have further the following notice in Suidas:-- Ἀπολλώνιος Ἀλεξανδρεύς, ἐπῶν ποιητής, διατρίψας ἐν Ῥόδῳ υἱὸς Σιλλέως, μαθητὴς Καλλιμάχου, σύγχρονος Ἐρατοσθένους καὶ Τιμάρχου, ἐπὶ Πτολεμαίου τοῦ Εὐεργέτου ἐπικληθέντος, καὶ διάδοχος Ἐρατοσθένους γενόμενος ἐν τῇ προστασίᾳ τῆς ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ βιβλιοθήκης. The date of the birth of Apollonius is quite uncertain. Dates ranging from 296 to 235 b.c. have been assigned by different critics.2 On the whole it is most satisfactory to assume that he was born about 265. We thus allow a sufficient time for the development of the deadly feud which raged between him and Callimachus who died about 240-235. Those who would fix his birth thirty years earlier are prepared to throw over altogether the tradition that he succeeded Eratosthenes as Librarian at Alexandria about 196 b.c. The birthplace of Apollonius is also uncertain. Suidas and Strabo3 describe him as an Alexandrian, whereas Athenaeus4 and Aelian mention also the other tradition that he was a native of Naucratis, a town situated a little to the east of Alexandria. The simplest solution of the difficulty is to assume that he was born at Naucratis, but brought up at Alexandria from his early years. His connexion with Naucratis lends special point to the attack made by Callimachus upon him in the Ibis, as we shall see later. Apollonius attached himself as a pupil to Callimachus, who was the leading literary figure of the day, and Librarian of the great Alexandrian Library. Couat, in his admirable work La poésie Alexandrine, has shown how the Alexandrian savants were divided into the same two classes as the Roman writers in the Augustan epoch, and the French writers in the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. These were the conservatives and the innovators, those who adhered to the ancient poets, and those who sought to introduce newer styles more in accordance with the spirit of the age. Homer was reverenced by all as the greatest of poets, but Homer was imitable by none5; and so the Alexandrian school chose generally as models Hesiod,6 with his didactic style and love of mythological speculation, Antimachus of Colophon, the author of the Lyde,7 with his long-drawn elegies teeming with legends little known, and Mimnermus,8 who had given to elegy its passionate erotic tone. Some preferred the poems of Erinna,9 which combined brevity with perfection of artistic form, to the longer and heavier work of Antimachus. Callimachus, in spite of his erudition, was of the latter class. He censures the Lyde as of coarse texture and wanting in subtle delicacy.10 He exhorts poets who would win success to avoid the beaten track,11 to pursue originality of style and form, to cultivate the poetry which consists in short and flawless pieces--odes, idylls, epigrams, and to shun a big book as a big evil.12 To presume to rival the great epics of the past, to challenge comparison with Homer, was an unpardonable sin in the eyes of Callimachus. So too Theocritus says, "I hate all birds of the Muses that vainly toil with their cackling note against the Minstrel of Chios."13 Yet there were not wanting stubborn spirits who would not yield to the sway of Callimachus, authors who essayed mythological and historical epics. Antagoras of Rhodes produced a Thebais, Rhianus of Crete an epic on the second Messenian war, with Aristomenes as its hero. The youthful Apollonius feared not to break away from his master's doctrines and to take as his theme for a heroic epic the quest of the golden fleece. He was still an ἔφηβος, i.e. between the ages of eighteen and twenty, when he gave the first ἐπίδειξις, or formal recitation, probably not of the whole work, which could hardly have been completed, but of parts thereof. Callimachus and his followers, however, were far too strong for him, and his efforts were greeted with ridicule. Callimachus, we may be sure, treated the youthful epic with the merciless sarcasm which he meted out to 'cyclic poems.'14 How long the mortified poet remained to face the mockery of his triumphant critics we know not. His wounded pride must soon have led him to snake off the dust of Alexandria. It was at Rhodes, that great centre of literary Hellendom, that the Alexandrian exile resolved to settle. With dogged determination and unshaken confidence in his powers he set himself, in the intervals of his duties as a teacher of rhetoric,15 to revise and perfect his poem, and soon his labour met with a rich reward. The second ἐπίδειξις, when he recited his completed work at Rhodes, was as striking a triumph as the first at Alexandria had been a failure. The Rhodians exalted him to offices of honour, enrolling him amongst the citizens, whence he is known as Apollonius 'the Rhodian.' The fame which he had won nerved him with fresh confidence in flinging back with added sting the contemptuous taunts of the Alexandrian dictator. Rage burned unceasingly in his heart against Callimachus, to whose influence he rightly attributed his first disgrace, and the feud between them stands out as the most bitter in the ancient world of letters. Couat16 has attempted to trace the progress of the quarrel, though the data we have to work on are very slender. But, slender as they are, they suffice to give us glimpses of the venom and rancour which prevailed. One biting epigram by Apollonius17 on his master has been preserved:-- In these lines Apollonius expresses his utter contempt for the affectation and sterility of the author of the Αἴτια, a poem in four books treating of the causes of various myths and ceremonies. In one of the books the legend of the Argonauts had been introduced, and Callimachus may have charged his pupil with plagiarism from his work. Apollonius, and probably others to whom the literary autocracy of Callimachus was irksome, imputed Callimachus' dislike of a 'big book' to his inability to produce such. To these insinuations Callimachus triumphantly replies in the famous passage at the close of the hymn to Apollo.18 We may have a parody of the opening of this passage in the third book of the Argonautica.19 But Callimachus gave also a practical refutation of the accusation by writing a long epic which gained immediate favour. This was the Hecale, so called from the aged crone who hospitably entertained the hero Theseus when he was going forth to contend against the Marathonian bull. The choice of such a humble theme was another reproof of the presumption of Apollonius. The fresh laurels which Callimachus thus gained in the field of epic poetry must have rendered his supremacy at Alexandria more indisputable than ever, yet the feud with his unrepentant pupil still went on with unabated fury. The most curious product of the quarrel was the Ibis of Callimachus. The immediate provocation which led to it we know not, but the epigram of Apollonius must still have been rankling in his soul. The work itself has perished, but the poem of Ovid which bears the same name, and which was avowedly an imitation thereof, enables us to judge of the style and contents. Callimachus must have devoted his enemy to destruction in the same way as Ovid does, and we may presume that the whole poem also was obscured with the same mass of caecae historiae drawn from the darkest recesses of the storehouse of legend. Critics have been sorely vexed in trying to determine why Callimachus should have chosen the bird ibis to represent Apollonius. Couat, and Ellis in his Prolegomena to the Ibis of Ovid, have collected the various theories which have been put forward. The ibis, as Plato20 tells us, was sacred to the god Theuth, or Hermes, worshipped originally at Naucratis, which was probably the birthplace of Apollonius. The connexion between the ibis and the god Theuth was very close.21 The god was depicted with the head of the bird, and the bird was regarded as the familiar minister of the god. The filthy peculiarities of the ibis are often mentioned by the ancients,22 and we may be sure that these habits of the bird, a native of Naucratis like Apollonius, were employed by Callimachus as a retort to the scurrilous way in which he had been stigmatized as κάθαρμα. Hermes, amongst his other functions, was the god of thieves, and so Apollonius was probably assailed as a familiar of the god of thieves by reason of his plagiarisms from Homer and Callimachus.23 Conjectures like these are but a groping in the dark, and the key to the riddle has been lost for ever. There can be little doubt that the honours in this literary warfare were regarded as resting with Callimachus. The struggle was brought to a close by his death, 240-235 b.c. In his epitaph written by himself he claims to have triumphed over spite.24 Apollonius did not return to Alexandria immediately on the death of his great antagonist. He remained for many years at Rhodes, ever bringing the fruits of his ripe experience and grammatical studies to bear upon his well-beloved poem. A dense mist envelops the closing period of his life. Did he pass the rest of his days at Rhodes, as Susemihl maintains, or did he return to Alexandria and become Librarian as successor to Eratosthenes? The first of the two lives is silent on this question; the other, in a sentence introduced by τινὲς δέ φασιν,25 mentions his return and the fact that he became Librarian after a third ἐπίδειξις of his poem at Alexandria. We have furthermore the definite statement in the notice in Suidas that he succeeded Eratosthenes as head of the Library. Though this assertion has been disputed by many critics in modern times,26 I see no valid reason for rejecting it. There is nothing improbable in thinking that there may have been a reaction against the theories of Callimachus after his death, and that the favour accorded to the third recitation of the Argonautica and the appointment of its author as Librarian may have been the outcome of this reaction. The whole chronology of the Alexandrian school is in the most hopeless confusion, and no two critics seem able to agree even approximately about the number, order, and dates of the early Librarians.27 We have seen that the dates assigned for the birth of Apollonius vary over a period of more than half a century, so that the arguments, based on so-called chronology, against Suidas and one of the lives deserve but little attention. Assuming, as we have done, that Apollonius was born about 265, he would have been between the ages of sixty-five and seventy when he succeeded Eratosthenes,28 who was born about 278 and lived to the age of eighty or eighty-two. Apollonius was succeeded by Aristophanes of Byzantium, about whom we are definitely told that he became Librarian at the age of sixty-two. He was born about 255, so we may assume that Apollonius' tenure of the office terminated about 193, which we may regard as approximately the year of the poet's death. One last tradition concerning Apollonius, recorded at the end of the second life, is that he was buried with Callimachus. Susemihl unnecessarily impugns this statement as involving a desecration of the tomb of Callimachus.29 There may well have been, as Weichert suggests, a place set apart at Alexandria by the Ptolemies for the burial of those who had filled the honoured post of Librarian.30 And so, after life's fitful fever, master and pupil would rest side by side in the silent fellowship of the grave.
Sources of the Argonautica
To enumerate the probable and possible sources of the poem would be to enumerate the greater part of Greek literature. Nurtured in a literary atmosphere, Apollonius had devoted himself, heart and soul, to the study of all previous writings which could aid him in his work. The rhetor Aelius Theon attributes to him the saying Ἀνάγνωσις τροφὴ λέξεως, and assuredly he must have dipped deeply into the treasures of the great Alexandrian libraries. In trying to sketch briefly the materials at his disposal when he began to write, we must rely, to a very large extent, on the information which has come down to us through the scholia. From them we learn much; but we must remember that they are merely excerpts from the larger works of the grammarians, and, therefore, necessarily imperfect. The sources from which our poet derived materials for his work and the authors whom he imitated may be classified as follows:--(1) The Homeric poems; (2) other ancient epic poems; (3) early logographers and geographers; (4) previous writers of Argonautica; (5) writers who had introduced the story of the Argonauts incidentally; (6) narrators of the deeds of Heracles; (7) authors, most of them little known, to whom Apollonius was indebted on special points; (8) Alexandrian poets.
I. The Homeric poems constitute in the truest sense the πηγὴ καὶ ἀρχή of the Argonautica. Though the matter of the work is not derived from them, yet the diction and the form in which the particular incidents are set forth continually recall to our minds the words of 'the poet,' as the ancients reverently described Homer. Apollonius knew Homer by heart, and one of the chief charms of his work is to come across the familiar phrases reset, some, it may be, dimmed in the process, others shining with added lustre. Our poet was no servile imitator. Nothing could be more erroneous than to regard his work as a mere cento of Homeric phrases. Professor R. Ellis admirably states his position: "For Apollonius the problem was how to write an epic which should be modelled on the Homeric epics, yet be so completely different as to suggest, not resemblance, but contrast. We think no one who has read even a hundred lines of the poem can fail to be struck by this. It is in fact the reason why it is a success. The Argonautica could not have been written without the Iliad and Odyssey, but it is in no sense an echo of either. Nay, we believe that a minute examination of Apollonius' language and rhythm would show that he placed himself under the most rigid laws of intentional dissimilarity."31 In the period between the recensions of Zenodotus and Aristarchus Apollonius had made a critical study of the Homeric poems, as we shall see when we come to consider his other works.
The Argonautica often enables us to infer the meaning which he assigned to doubtful words in Homer and the views which he must have held on disputed passages. This has been worked out with the most painstaking fullness by Merkel in his Prolegomena. Merkel illustrates at length, what F. A. Wolf had already noticed, that many words which occur only once or twice in Homer are only found once or twice in Apollonius, e.g. ἀαγής, ἀβλής, ἀγέραστος, ἅψεα, γαυλός, τρύφος, γλῆνος, κάγκανος, ῥαφαί, μέσφα, ἀμφίδυμος. He also shows that in the case of words like ἀδινός, τηλύγετος, ἀδευκής, αὐτάγρετος, etc., the different views of the ancient grammarians about their meanings are reproduced in different passages of the Argonautica.
II. We may be sure that Apollonius, in cultivating the epic style, had studied the other old epic poems, not merely those belonging to the so-called Epic Cycle, such as the Νόστοι, Θηβαιίς, Ἀλκμαιωνίς, but also works like the Αἰγίμιος (ascribed by some to Hesiod), and the Φορωνίς (a genealogical poem by an unknown poet of Argos), both of which are cited in the scholia for purposes of illustration. We have no evidence that Apollonius derived any of his matter from them. His familiarity with the Homeric hymns is often shown, e.g. in the opening line of the first book.
III. Large use must have been made of the early historians and geographers, especially Herodotus, Hellanicus, Hecataeus, and Acusilaus, whose writings are frequently mentioned in the scholia. Weichert32 shows that Apollonius in all probability studied the λογογράφοι more than the poets, and, in consequence, passed over in silence some things very closely connected with his theme, e.g. a description of the Argo, which must have been given by the earlier poets, while he is very full in dealing with places, peoples, etc. Amongst the old prose writers Simonides of Ceos is often referred to by the scholiasts as agreeing with our poet, e.g. on ii 866, καὶ Σιμωνίδης ὁ γενεαλόγος ὁμοίως τῷ Ἀπολλωνίῳ γενεαλογεῖ. Suidas tells us that he was reputed to be a grandson of the famous lyric poet,33 that he lived before the Peloponnesian War, and that he wrote a Γενεαλογία in three books, and Εὑρήματα, also in three books. He may have introduced the myth of the Argo into the Γενεαλογία. In the schol. on i 763 we find a reference to a work of his, Σύμμικτα, which is not mentioned by Suidas.
IV. Most interest naturally attaches to the writers who had dealt with the voyage of the Argo in special works. Of these the three principal were Cleon, Herodorus, and Dionysius.
- Cleon was a native of Curium in Cyprus. We have no means of determining his date. That Apollonius was indebted to his Ἀργοναυτικά is apparent from the schol. on i 625, ὅτι δὲ ἐνθάδε Θόας ἐσώθη, καὶ Κλέων ὁ Κουριεὺς ἱστορεῖ, καὶ Ἀσκληπιάδης34 ὁ Μυρλεανός, δεικνὺς ὅτι παρὰ Κλέωνος35 τὰ πάντα μετήνεγκεν Ἀπολλώνιος. (b)
- Herodorus was born at Heraclea in Pontus. He seems to have lived in the latter part of the sixth century, and so would be a contemporary of Hecataeus. The erroneous theory that his Ἀργοναυτικά was a poem arose from the schol. on ii 1211 ascribing to him two lines from h. Hom. 34.36 The quotations from the work show that it was written in prose. To judge from our scholia, Apollonius agreed with him on many points, though Herodorus made the Argonauts return by the same route as on the outward voyage. Another important work of his dealt with Heracles, τὰ καθ᾽ Ἡρακλέα, and it is referred to both in our scholia and in those on Pindar. We have a quotation from it in Athenaeus.37 (c)
- The notices in Suidas of the various writers who bore the name of Dionysius are hopelessly confused,38 and it is impossible to determine accurately whether both Dionysius of Miletus and Dionysius of Mitylene wrote Ἀργοναυτικά. Dionysius Μιτυληναῖος is twice mentioned in our scholia and Dionysius Μιλήσιος five or six times, and furthermore we have frequently the vague reference Διονύσιος ἐν τοῖς Ἀργοναύταις. Suidas enumerates amongst the works of Dionysius of Mitylene Ἀργοναύτας ἐν βιβλίοις ἕξ, written in prose, and also attributes to Dionysius of Miletus, a contemporary of Hecataeus, a Κύκλος ἱστορικός, and a Κύκλος μυθικός. The contents of the latter are probably given by Diod. Sic. (iii 66): Οὗτος (sc. Διονύσιος) τὰ περὶ τὸν Διόνυσον, καὶ τὰς Ἀμαζόνας, ἔτι δὲ τοὺς Ἀργοναύτας, καὶ τὰ κατὰ τὸν Ἰλιακὸν πόλεμον πραχθέντα, καὶ πόλλ᾽ ἕτερα συνέταξε.
- Eumelus of Corinth was reckoned by some as belonging to the Epic Cycle. Eusebius makes him contemporary with Arctinus about the fifth olympiad. The cyclic poem on the return of the Greeks from Troy (Νόστοι) is attributed to him by Pausanias. In this poem apparently the story of Jason and Medea was introduced, and from it, according to our scholia, Apollonius took iii 1372 sqq. He also wrote a hymn in honour of the Delian Apollo, Bougonia (a poem on bees, containing the fable of Aristaeus), Europia, Titanomachia, and Corinthiaca. Both the Titanomachia and Corinthiaca are referred to in the scholia on the Argonautica. (b)
- To Hesiod Apollonius seems to have been greatly indebted, though we could better estimate his obligation if the Ἠοῖαι μεγάλαι (or Κατάλογος γυναικῶν）41 had come down to us, for the legend of the Argonauts must have entered largely into it. In several passages our Schol. say that Apollonius directly followed Hesiod (Ἡσιόδῳ ἐπηκολούθησεν), e.g. i 859, iii 311, iv 892. At other times the divergence of Hesiod's views is mentioned, especially about the return voyage of the Argo. In the Theogonia42 Hesiod outlines the whole theme of the Argonautica in a few verses, from the orders of Pelias to the return of Jason to his native land. (c)
- There is no writer more frequently cited by the Scholiasts, and none with whom our poet more often agrees, than Pherecydes of Leros, one of the most celebrated of the early logographers. His chief work was a mythological history in ten books entitled Ἀρχαιολογίαι, Ἱστορίαι, or Αὐτόχθονες. The opening book was a Theogonia, and then followed a description of the heroic age. The legend of the Argonauts and the history of Jason came probably in the sixth and seventh books. Apollonius acquired from Pherecydes not merely details connected with the Argonauts, but also historical and geographical notices which he worked into his poem. (d)
- Another author often mentioned in the scholia is ὁ τὰ Ναυπάκτια πεποιηκώς, once (ii 299)43 expressly called Νεοπτόλεμος ὁ τὰ Ναυπάκτια πεποιηκώς. It has been generally assumed that Neoptolemus of Paros (or Parium in Mysia) either wrote it or commented on it. Pausanias (x 38, 6) agrees with Charon of Lampsacus in attributing it to the cyclic poet Carcinus of Naupactus, the work deriving its name from the birth-place of its author, like the Κύπρια of Stasinus of Cyprus. The subject of the Ναυπάκτια, according to Pausanias, was ἔπη πεποιημένα εἰς γυναῖκας. Amongst the famous heroines we may infer that Medea was introduced, and consequently the story of the golden fleece. Only once44 is the author mentioned as agreeing with Apollonius, in all other cases as differing, the difference being strongly marked with regard to the flight of Medea.45 (e)
- Pindar in his masterpiece the fourth Pythian ode sings of the voyage of the Argo, telling of the foundation of Cyrene by Battus from Thera, and the fate-fraught clod of earth given by the god Triton to Euphemus in Libya.46 The story of Aristaeus and the Etesian winds is derived from Pind. Pyth. ix. According to the Schol. Pindar agreed with Hesiod and differed from our poet about the return of the Argonauts. (f)
- Antimachus of Colophon is another poet whose influence on Apollonius must have been very great. Weichert47 well describes him as "gleich berühmt als Epiker durch seine Thebais, wie als Elegiker durch seine Lyde, und in beiden Gattungen der Poesie das Vorbild der Alexandriner." The love tragedy of Jason and Medea must surely have formed part of his Lyde. On ii 296 we are told that Apollonius took from him the version that the harpies were not slain by the sons of Boreas, and again on iv 156 we find that Apollonius described the drugging of the dragon and the winning of the fleece συμφώνως Ἀντιμάχῳ.48 (g)
- The three great Tragedians must have frequently woven the quest of the Argonauts into their lost plays. Aeschylus' drama Ὑψιπύλη is cited by the Schol. on i 773 as describing the meeting of the heroes with the women of Lemnos, and on i 105 there is a reference to a work of his entitled Ἀργώ. On iv 284 we are told that our poet followed the Προμηθεὺς λυόμενος in making the Ister flow from the land of the Hyperboreans and the Rhipaean Mountains. In another play, the Κάβειροι, we know that Aeschylus brought the Argonauts into contact with those strange divinities49. The plays of Sophocles embracing the legend which are quoted in the scholia are those entitled Κολχίδες, Σκύθαι, Λήμνιαι, Τάλως, Ῥιζοτόμοι, and Φινεύς. In portraying the character of Medea Apollonius must have had ever present to his mind the great tragedy of Euripides, and also the tragedies of lesser writers such as Neophron on the same theme. Another play of Euripides, the Φρίξος, is referred to on ii 382 as describing the birds which discharged their plumes as shafts on the island of Ares.
- Arg. i 30 “ἑξείης στιχόωσιν”, Phaen. 372 “ἑξείης στιχόωντα”
- Arg. i 555 “βαρείῃ χειρὶ κελεύων”, Phaen. 631 “μεγάλῃ ἀνὰ χειρὶ κελεύει”
- Arg. i 1141 “ἐοικότα σήματ᾽ ἔγεντο”, Phaen. 820 “ἐοικότα σήματα κεῖται”
- Arg. i 1201, ii 1253, Phaen. 423 sqq. (quoted in the note on i 1201）
- Arg. iv 984 “ἵλατε Μοῦσαι, οὐκ ἐθέλων ἐνέπω προτέρων ἔπος”, Phaen. 637 “Ἄρτεμις ἱλήκοι: προτέρων λόγος, οἵ μιν ἔφαντο κ.τ.λ.”
- Arg. iv 997 “φαίης κεν ἑοῖς ἐπὶ παισὶ γάνυσθαι”, Phaen. 196 “φαίης κεν ἀνιάζειν ἐπὶ παιδί.”
The writers whom we have enumerated formed part of the broad foundation of literary lore on which Apollonius reared the structure of his poem. We have next to consider the nature of this poem itself, and how our poet employed the mass of materials which he had accumulated.
Apollonius chose for his theme the legend of the Argonauts, the quest of the golden fleece. For the purposes of an epic poem such a theme was well adapted. The voyage of the Argo, the first vessel which ploughed the lonely deep, was placed in a remote past antecedent to the poems of Homer, to the siege of Troy, and the wanderings of Odysseus.58 The origin of the legend is wrapped in the mist of antiquity. Whether there is any historical basis for it or not we cannot say.59 It may have arisen from traders sailing to the eastern boundary of the world, as Colchis was then regarded, and bringing back wondrous tales of the countries they had visited, and the adventures they had encountered on their perilous voyage. Strabo60 held that the myth of the golden fleece was connected with the wealth of gold dust washed down by Colchian rivers rich as the Lydian Pactolus. But, whatever the origin may have been, we know that the legend was one ever dear to the Greeks as a seafaring people, so that in choosing it as his subject Apollonius was assured of the sympathetic interest of his public. The conquest of Alexander and the spread of commerce had turned men's minds to far-off lands, and tales of romantic adventure were becoming an established literary type.
The character of the poetry of the Alexandrian school was to a large extent determined by the character of the age in which they wrote. Whatever the talents of the poet might be, his work must be replete with historical and legendary lore if it was to meet with approval from the literary circles in the days of the Ptolemies. Apollonius, like Catullus, well deserved the title doctus. As Couat61 expresses it, "La véritable difficulté pour Apollonius ne fut pas d'inventer, mais de choisir." To have assimilated materials of such a heterogeneous nature required ability of no mean order. His vast industry would, however, have resulted merely in a rudis indigestaque moles, had it not been for the true poetic genius with which he was endowed.
How far our poet possessed the gift of originality we cannot determine. We are mainly dependent on the evidence of the scholia, and, to judge from them, Apollonius might have truly said with Callimachus62 ἀμᾴρτυρον οὐδὲν ἀείδω. But most of the works to which they refer as agreeing or differing have not come down to us, so that we are unable to decide for ourselves the precise nature of our poet's obligations. However much he may have been indebted to his predecessors for the matter, the form of the poem is his own, and everywhere we find traces of that sense of proportion which ensures the symmetry of the whole.
His work fulfils many of the requirements of epic poetry. Great are the achievements of his heroes--great and wonderful. The mind of the reader is filled with amaze at the recital of their deeds. The understanding is enriched with the tales of diverse lands and diverse peoples. The imagination is stirred by the fabulous and the mystical, by the intercourse of gods with men. The aesthetic sense is awed with the feeling of the sublime, the contrast between divine omnipotence and mortal frailty. Every emotion of the human soul is faithfully reflected in the poem, love and hatred, joy and sorrow, hope and fear. So cunningly are the various episodes woven into the web of the story that our attention seldom flags, our expectation is whetted with the eagerness of anticipation.
With the features of the older epic poetry are blended the graces of the elegy in the romantic loves of Jason and Medea. At times we seem to have a statue or picture reproduced in verse, as in the description of the youthful Eros and Ganymede playing at dice together in the gardens of Olympus63--an exquisite passage which shows in all its fullness our poet's skill in simple word-painting.
One of the most prominent characteristics of the poem is the beauty of the similes, a feature which seems above all others to have attracted Virgil. Apart from their intrinsic charm, they set forth in a brighter light and with a relevancy of detail the incidents to which they refer. There is a special appositeness in their use which at times is not to be found in the similes of Homer. Few who have studied the poem carefully will agree with Dr. Mahaffy's criticism that "the poet's similes are rather introduced for their prettiness than for their aptness." To take but one example from the wealth the poem affords,64 the simile of the bees,65 to which the women of Lemnos are likened as they throng about the departing heroes, is peculiarly happy in every circumstance and every detail. In it Apollonius may be said to have surpassed both Homer and Virgil who employ the same imagery in a different connexion. Beautiful in its freshness is the comparison of the throbbing of Medea's heart to the dancing beams of sunlight reflected from the eddying water:--
Virgil (Aen. 8. 22 sqq.) was not slow to adopt this as his own. Another charm of the Argonautica lies in the grace and vividness of the descriptive passages. Be it the glorious majesty of Apollo or the sufferings of Phineus, the beauty of Jason or the deformity of Polyxo, the o'erweening pride of Aeetes or the love-pangs of Medea, the might of the hero going forth to battle or the weariness of the husbandman returning home at even, the resistless fury of the raging sea or the dreary waste of the Libyan sands, all are set before us with the same realistic power. As the scenes of action unfold themselves, we are no longer readers, we are witnesses. We see, as if we were present, that the rude boxing of Amycus can be of no avail against the skill of Polydeuces. The brazen-hoofed bulls with fiery nostrils, the warriors springing from the furrow, the sleepless dragon which guards the fleece are quickened into life by the poet's pen. Again, in scenes of repose, the spirit of restful calm steals over us as we read the lines depicting the unbroken peacefulness of a stilly night:--
“πυκνὰ δέ οἱ κραδίη στηθέων ἔντοσθεν ἔθυιεν
ἠελίου ὥς τίς τε δόμοις ἐνιπάλλεται αἴγλη
ὕδατος ἐξανιοῦσα, τὸ δὴ νέον ἠὲ λέβητι
ἠέ που ἐν γαυλῷ κέχυται: ἡ δ᾽ ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα
ὠκείῃ στροφάλιγγι τινάσσεται ἀίσσουσα:
ὧς δὲ καὶ ἐν στήθεσσι κέαρ ἐλελίζετο κούρης.
A large part is played by the gods in all epic poetry, and the Argonautica is no exception, though in it their intervention is strangely fitful, and their characterization at times quite un-Homeric.66 Apollonius exercised a certain restraint in introducing them. He seems to have followed the rule which Horace prescribes for the writers of tragedy, “"nec deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus."” Thus it is to Athene that the building of the Argo is ascribed.67 The mortal skill of Argus could never unaided have fashioned a vessel to face the perils of the unknown sea. It is Athene who brings the heroes safely through the clashing of the Cyanean rocks.68 So too it is Hera who stays with her thunderstorms the pursuing forces of the Colchians, and rescues the Argonauts from impending doom as they thread the tortuous channel of the Rhone.69 Zeus, though often mentioned with his various attributes as Ξείνιος, Ἱκέσιος, Ἐπόψιος, and Φύξιος, appears but seldom in the working out of the main theme. We are told of his wrath against the sons of Aeolus, which can only be appeased by the propitiation of Phrixus and the recovery of the fleece.70 His anger is manifested against the heroes after the murder of Absyrtus, and he ordains that Jason and Medea must be purified by Circe.71 Phoebus Apollo is the divinity who inspires the whole adventure. At the opening of the poem we have the oracle which alarms Pelias and makes him send forth Jason on an apparently hopeless quest. Jason comforts his weeping mother by telling her that Phoebus has vouchsafed a prosperous voyage.72 Before entering on the expedition Jason had gone to consult the god at Delphi, and the god had given him two tripods, to be dedicated in places to which they would come on their journey. One of these tripods, Apollonius tells us, was dedicated in the land of the Hyllaeans,73 the other in Libya at Lake Tritonis.74 To Apollo, under the titles of Ἄκτιος and Ἐμβάσιος, they sacrifice ere setting out.75 Altars are raised to him at many places where they land.76 On the isle of Thynias the god appears to them at morn as he is returning from the Lycians to the Hyperboreans, and again they sacrifice and make vows to him as Ἐῶος,77 the god of the dawning day. When they are nearing home again, a dense darkness envelops them on leaving Crete, but Phoebus with his flashing bow illumines for them the island which they name the Isle of the Appearance (Ἀνάφη), and they dedicate an altar to him as Αἰγλήτης.78 The building of the Argo by Athene is not described by Apollonius; only incidentally is it mentioned as her handiwork. Valerius Flaccus has given us a vivid narrative thereof. With Hera Athene watches over the passage of the Argo near Scylla and Charybdis.79 With Hera too she goes to Aphrodite to implore her aid and that of her son Eros in moving Medea's heart to succour Jason.80 The goddess who takes the principal and most direct part in the story is Hera. It is strange that she is not mentioned when our poet is describing the first assembling of the heroes. We are not told how they were brought together. Far more striking is the opening of the poem of Valerius Flaccus, where Jason, hearing the ordeal imposed on him by Pelias, prays to Hera and Athene for their help. The goddesses hear his prayer, and, while Athene builds for him the vessel, Hera goes through Argolis and Macedonia summoning the heroes to take part in the adventure. In the first two books of our poem Hera is passed over almost in silence in the description of the outward voyage, but from the beginning of the third book to the end of the poem her powers are exercised actively and frequently. Two causes are assigned by her for her watchful care of Jason.81 One is her wrath against Pelias for neglecting her in sacrifice; the other is her fondness for Jason from the day when he had borne her over the swollen torrent Anaurus as she roamed the earth making trial of the righteousness of men. Throughout the sojourn in the land of Colchis and on the homeward voyage she shows in manifold ways her lovingkindness towards the hero. Widely different is her rôle in the Aeneid, where, as the vengeful jealous wife of Jove, she thwarts and baffles the stormtossed Aeneas. The fondness of the Greeks for representing the gods as endowed with like forms and like passions with themselves is strikingly illustrated in the famous passage at the beginning of the third book where Cypris is surprised at her toilet by Hera and Athene;82 and the interview which follows between the goddesses is characterized by a polished diplomacy and duplicity, which, as Couat83 well says, is worthy of the court of the Ptolemies, and is far removed from the tumultuous councils of the gods in the Iliad. We hear but little of the other gods and goddesses. Glaucus rises up from the sea to declare that it is the will of heaven that Heracles and Polyphemus should not journey further with the Argonauts.84 Iris comes down from Olympus to stay the sons of Boreas in their pursuit of the harpies.85 The sea-god Triton shows the toil-worn mariners the outlet from Lake Tritonis to the sea.86 The Argonautica cannot be described as a religious poem in the sense in which the Iliad and Odyssey are religious poems. In the Iliad and the Odyssey there is a continuous working out of a divine purpose, and every step in the action is determined thereby. In the Argonautica, on the other hand, the religious motive is present, but this motive is rather in the poem than of it; it fills the mind neither of the poet nor his readers, and Jason, though nominally the instrument chosen to fulfil a divine mission, in reality plays the part of a leader of adventurers. At times we find a tinge of scepticism when the poet is recounting some wondrous legend concerning the gods. "Withhold not your favour, O goddesses of song," he cries, "unwillingly I tell the tale our fathers told."87 Such wavering faith in venerable tradition is characteristic of the Alexandrian school. Throughout the whole poem we detect an undercurrent of sadness, of that pessimism which was peculiarly Greek, the realization of the inevitableness of doom,88 the feeling that the cup of happiness must ever be embittered with an admixture of sorrow.89 In estimating the worth of a narrative poem a question of paramount importance is the poet's power of delineating character (ἠθοποιία). Judged from this standpoint we can only attribute to Apollonius a very partial success. Of the multitude of figures which fill the canvas one, and one only, stands out in bold relief; the others are sketched in vague and shadowy outline. The poet lavished all his colours on the portraiture of the wonder-working Medea. Her varying moods enthral us from the moment when first she beholds the godlike Jason as he enters her father's court90 until their nuptials are consummated on the isle of the Phaeacians.91 Her inmost feelings are laid bare to us with a psychological subtlety strangely modern and unknown to Homer. Impulsive, passionate with the passionateness of the East, torn at first by the conflict betwixt love and duty, gradually she yields to the overmastering sway of Eros. Duty and honour are flung to the winds. She steals forth at night from her father's home. For Jason alone she lives. The ties of kin no longer bind her. Cunningly and remorselessly she plots her brother's death. Woe unto Jason if he should prove false to her! Fickle and faithless he proved himself in after years, and Euripides has shown us that "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." In his wondrous drama the intensity of Medea's hate is only equalled by the intensity of her love as depicted in our poem. The third book, in which the love interest is introduced, is incomparably superior to the other three.92 The passage93 where Medea would end the turmoil of her soul by self-destruction, but shrinks from death as she reflects that life is sweet and that she is still in the morning of life, is one of the great things in Greek literature, and has been compared with the splendid scene near the opening of Goethe's Faust.94 As we read of this hapless maiden, daughter of a savage sire, priestess of the weird goddess Hecate in her lonely temple on the plain, and see her suddenly called by fate to a new and strange destiny, made the instrument for the fulfilment of the purposes of gods and men, smitten by a love which her young heart cannot understand, though it obeys its impulses, we are moved in a way in which the widowed Dido with her mad infatuation, amid the hum and bustle of rising Carthage, moves us not. Compared with Medea the character of Jason is tame and insipid. Endowed with the radiant beauty of Apollo95 he is brave and gallant as heroes are wont to be, and steadfastly fulfils his task of recovering the golden fleece. He is tactful, lovable, and urbane in his dealings with his comrades, and is slow to wrath even when provoked by the taunting words of the Colchian king. He is prone to exhibit a soft sentimentality, seen also in the character of Aeneas which is largely modelled on that of Jason.96 In his intercourse with Medea he displays a calculating and deliberate selfishness which reappears as the dominant note in his character in the play of Euripides. We cannot discern in him the qualities of a leader of men. We feel that he is but one of the four-and-fifty heroes, many of them riper in years and more famous for their doughty deeds than he. Upon the shore at Pagasae Jason bids them choose out a leader from among their number, and with one accord they acclaim Heracles.97 Heracles will not take command, and persuades the others to acknowledge Jason as their chief. Such is the position of Jason, a leader chosen by his comrades against their own better judgment. Nominally he is first and foremost, in reality he is but primus inter pares. So it is throughout the poem. On the outward voyage the only prominent part he plays is in the love-adventures with Hypsipyle on the island of Lemnos.98 At the opening of the second book it is Polydeuces who flings back the haughty challenge of Amycus, while Jason takes but little part even in the slaughter of the Bebrycians which follows the downfall of their champion. Again and again when a crisis arises we find him sorely perplexed. When Idmon and Tiphys are stricken by death, Jason, like the rest, throws himself down with muffled head on the seashore in the anguish of despair, until Ancaeus, ignoring him, declares to Peleus his willingness to take the helmsman's post.99 It is Amphidamas, not Jason, who bethinks himself how to ward off the birds of the brazen plumes on the isle of Ares.100 On that same isle the shipwrecked sons of Phrixus reveal to the heroes the implacable nature of the Colchian king and the dangers which lie before them. It is Peleus, not Jason, who revives their drooping spirits when dismayed at this recital.101 At last they reach the realms of Aeetes. Jason bears the petulant insults of the incensed monarch102 with a forbearance, wise, perhaps, but with the wisdom of a later age. The ordeal of yoking the fire-breathing bulls and sowing the dragon's teeth is appointed. How does Jason meet it? Gladly he has recourse to the magic drugs of Medea, and his achievements are shorn of half their greatness. To Medea, not to his own right hand, he owes the winning of the golden fleece. Now begins the flight from Colchis with the Colchians in close pursuit. When the Argonauts are sorely pressed, Jason makes a treacherous truce,103 and, with Medea's aid, compasses the murder of the Colchian chief, Medea's brother, Absyrtus. Purified from this foul deed by Circe, anon they reach Phaeacia.104 Thither come the Colchian forces demanding the surrender of Medea. Now at length it seems as if a deadly contest must ensue, in which the heroes may prove their prowess in the face of fearful odds, but Jason avoids the struggle by putting himself and Medea under the protection of the Phaeacian king, Alcinous, and fulfilling the conditions which he prescribes. From this to the end of the poem we hear little of Jason save when the Libyan goddesses appear to him to deliver him and his comrades from death,105 and when he sacrifices thank-offerings to Triton at Lake Tritonis and to Apollo at the Isle of the Appearance.106 It is in his delineation of Jason that Valerius Flaccus far surpasses our poet. In reading the poem of the Roman writer we feel that Jason has a part assigned to him worthy of a leader, and that he stands out unmistakably in the forefront of his comrades. Among the other Argonauts only two can be said to have any distinctive personality, Orpheus and Peleus. Orpheus, with his wondrous lyre, whose music charmed rocks, streams, and trees, is the first to be mentioned in the catalogue of heroes. His minstrelsy holds as with a spell the rowers of the Argo. Their oars dip rhythmically to his melodious strains.107 When angry feelings would rage tumultuously he soothes them with a lay whose burden is that Earth's fair harmony arose from discord at the first.108 He cheers his comrades when downhearted, and brings them safely past the temptings of the Sirens with a chant surpassing in sweetness even their alluring notes.109 Peleus, the noble father of a nobler son, acts the part of the wise counsellor to his fellow-Argonauts.110 To him, rather than to Jason, they turn for guidance in times of doubt and difficulty. His confidence gives confidence to them. Fatherly love dwells strong within him. One of the most touching passages in the poem is the description of the wife of Chiron holding up the babe Achilles in her arms in fond farewell to Peleus as the Argo passes along the coast of Thessaly.111 Heracles is left behind in Mysia early in the voyage, a version of the legend which must have been well-pleasing to our poet, avoiding, as it does, the difficulty of subordinating his dominant individuality to the weakness of Jason throughout the adventure. During the brief period for which he journeyed with the other heroes we see him as the man of mighty physical strength and restless energy. The bench in the centre of the vessel, which required the rowers with the stoutest thews, is given without lot to him and Ancaeus.112 He will have no part in the revellings in Lemnos, and in tones of bitter irony he utters his contempt for Jason's dalliance with Hypsipyle.113 His club deals out destruction to the giants in the island of Cyzicus.114 The breaking of his oar115 beneath the strain of his sinewy arms leads to his going on shore to replace it and to the loss of Hylas. Terrible in its intensity is his grief for the well-beloved youth,116 and roaming distractedly in search of him he passes from our view. Of the minor characters little need be said. The brutal Amycus,117 the hot-headed arrogant Idas118 are well depicted. In Telamon we recognize some of the traits of his son Ajax. He is a blunt outspoken warrior, staunch to his friends, quick to quarrel, but generous in admitting his faults.119 Two famous criticisms on Apollonius have come down to us from ancient times, the one by a Greek, the other by a Latin writer, and both when examined are found to express practically the same view. [Longinus], in his treatise περὶ ὕψους (33, 4), says ἐπείτοιγε καὶ ἄπτωτος ὁ Ἀπολλώνιος ἐν τοῖς Ἀργοναύταις ποιητὴς … ἆρ᾽ οὖν Ὄμηρος ἂν μᾶλλον ἢ Ἀπολλώνιος ἐθέλοις γενέσθαι; The writer is contrasting two classes of poets, the brilliant genius whose very brilliancy makes him at times careless and negligent in detail, and the author possessed of less natural talent who, by that genius which consists in the infinite capacity for taking pains, avoids the slips to which the other is prone. Homer, who, as Horace says, sometimes nods, is the type of the former, Apollonius of the latter. The question which Longinus asks carries, of course, its own answer with it. It is true that Apollonius was the greatest Greek writer of epic poetry after Homer--proximus sed longo intervallo, but to compare him with Homer is to apply to him a test which no ancient poet will stand, not even Virgil himself. We should bear in mind the words of Cicero, “"in poetis non Homero soli locus est, aut Archilocho, aut Sophocli, aut Pindaro, sed horum vel secundis vel etiam infra secundos."”120 Quintilian's estimate harmonizes with that of the Greek critic. His words are: “"Apollonius in ordinem a grammaticis datum non venit, quia Aristarchus atque Aristophanes poetarum iudices neminem sui temporis in numerum redigerunt; non tamen contemnendum reddidit ['produced'] opus aequali quadam mediocritate."”121 Peterson, in his note ad loc., says justly: "No disparagement is implied: the meaning is that Apollonius keeps pretty uniformly to the genus medium, neither rising on the one hand to the genus grande nor on the other descending to the genus subtile. So in the περὶ ὕψους he receives the epithet ἄπτωτος." Mediocritas thus expresses what Cicero calls the modicum or temperatum dicendi genus, and it is to be observed that this mediocritas was according to Varro the characteristic of Terence. Weichert122 argues, though I think it is possibly straining the words of Quintilian, that in accordance with the ancient use of litotes we are justified in translating 'non contemnendum opus' not merely as 'ein schätzbares' but even as 'ein sehr schätzbares Werk.' In spite of the obvious meaning of Quintilian's judgment many critics perversely hold that he is sneering at Apollonius as a poet of respectable mediocrity. A sufficient answer to this is furnished by his explaining why Apollonius was not admitted to the canon of Greek poets by the Alexandrian critics, and also by his own words in introducing the list of authors whom he discusses, “'paucos qui sunt eminentissimi excerpere in animo est.'” The one testimony to the poetic worth of Apollonius which outweighs all others is that of Virgil. With the exception of Homer there is no Greek writer from whom Virgil drew so largely. The fourth book of the Aeneid owes much of its ineffable charm to the romantic loves of Jason and Medea. Conington, though he consistently disparages Apollonius in order to exalt Virgil, has summed up some of the principal obligations of the Latin poet to his Alexandrian predecessor:--"Not only is the passion of Medea confessedly the counterpart of the passion of Dido, but the instances are far from few where Virgil has conveyed an incident from his Alexandrian predecessor, altering and adapting, but not wholly disguising it. The departure of Jason from his father and mother resembles the departure of Pallas from Evander; the song of Orpheus is contracted into the song of Iopas, as it had already been expanded into the song of Silenus; the reception of the Argonauts by Hypsipyle is like the reception of the Trojans by Dido, and the parting of Jason from the Lemnian princess reappears, though in very different colours, in the parting of Aeneas from the queen of Carthage; the mythical representations in Jason's scarf answer to the historical representations which distinguish the shield of Aeneas from that of Achilles; the combat of Pollux with Amycus is reproduced in the combat of Entellus with Dares; the harpies of Virgil are the harpies of Apollonius, while the deliverance of Phineus by the Argonauts may have furnished a hint for the deliverance of Achemenides by the Trojans, an act of mercy which has another parallel in the deliverance of the sons of Phrixus; Phineus' predictions are like the predictions of Helenus; the cave of Acheron in Asia Minor suggests the cave of Avernus in Italy; Evander and Pallas appear once more in Lycus and Dascylus; Hera addresses Thetis as Juno addresses Juturna; Triton gives the same vigorous aid in launching the Argo that he gives to the stranded vessels of Aeneas, or that Portunus gives to the ship of Cloanthus in the Sicilian race."123 These are but a few of the resemblances which strike us again and again in reading the Aeneid. To many at the present day the work of Apollonius is only known by the references of the commentators on Virgil. When discussing the unfair treatment which our poet has received at the hands of the moderns, Preston124 says: Even when Apollonius is remembered among the learned, he is usually introduced in the degrading attitude of a captive, bound to the chariot and following the triumphal pomp of Virgil, who has literally fulfilled in the person of the poet his own prediction in the third Georgic, Aonio rediens deducam vertice Musas. Thus is the name of Apollonius lost and absorbed in that of his conqueror. His poetical beauties are all hung up as trophies to decorate the shrine of Virgil. His primary and original claims on our attention, in his own right, are forgotten; and he is honoured only with the derivative and subordinate praise of having supplied to the Mantuan bard the crude materials and unformed elements from whence some of his beauties have been wrought and fashioned." The influence of Apollonius at Rome was by no means confined to Virgil. The Argonautica was translated with some freedom into Latin by Varro, a native of Atax in Insubrian Gaul (82-37 b.c.). This version was highly esteemed by the ancients,125 and some fragments of it are still extant. Catullus, Propertius, and especially Ovid126 afford evidence in their poetry of their familiarity with the work of Apollonius. Lucan imitates him in his description of Africa and the deadly serpents which infest it.127 In the days of Vespasian and Domitian Valerius Flaccus wrote an epic poem on the Argonauts which has come down to us. It is largely borrowed from the work of Apollonius, though there are many differences from the Greek original.128 As Apollonius imitated Homer's style and language, so Valerius Flaccus imitated Virgil. The work is incomplete, the story of the return voyage being left untold, but the merit of the eight completed books was recognized by Quintilian, who says of him, "multum in Valerio Flacco nuper amisimus."129 How favourite a theme the legend of the Argonauts had become at Rome amongst rhetorical poets of this age is shown by Juvenal's well-known lines in the first Satire.130 The chief cause of the neglect with which the work of Apollonius has been treated in modern times is to be found in its form. Apollonius chose the historical form for his poem, a choice which was largely determined by his theme, and we cannot help feeling how vastly superior is Homer's method of plunging the reader in medias res non secus ac notas. The catalogue of the heroes with which the work opens, after a brief preface, is apt to repel us before our sympathies are elicited, though catalogues of this kind form a traditional part of all great epics, as Homer, Virgil, and Milton show. The geographical minuteness with which the outward voyage is described contrasts unfavourably with the delightfully vague and imaginary geography of the Homeric poems, and when in narrating the return of the heroes from the land of Colchis all geographical probability, or even possibility, is ignored, the resulting compound is unpalatable. When we read the fourth book we wish in vain that our poet had shaken himself loose from the coils of legendary tradition and given free play to his inventive talent. But, in whatever way the poet might best have treated the return voyage, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to remove the impression of anti-climax which the greater portion of the last book produces on us. The second part of the story, all that follows after the taking of the fleece, the fresh dangers faced, the fresh privations endured, does not heighten the effect but rather diminishes it. Another cause of the unpopularity of the Argonautica is that it is a learned work, and those who love the direct simplicity of the earlier epic are prone to turn aloof from such. This learning, as we have seen, was demanded from the poet by the age in which he lived, but, with few exceptions, he makes no ostentatious display of his learning in the way Callimachus or Propertius would have done if treating of the same theme. In the description of men and places, in the various incidents of the poem, there is a studied moderation. Apollonius knew how essential to a poet is the precept μηδὲν ἄγαν. Rarely does the language of extravagant hyperbole strike a jarring note.131 The versification of the poem is remarkably smooth and harmonious, and the diction, as a rule, simple and unaffected, rare and obsolete words occurring but seldom. The most noticeable affectation is in the use or abuse of the pronouns. One misses naturally the freshness and charm of the language of Homer, the living appreciation of earlier ages being replaced by a merely literary and imitative interest. The old order had changed. The minds of men had developed far beyond the stage when speech is the artless childlike overflow of feeling. A literary atmosphere had come into being. Little wonder that Apollonius, strive as he might to relive the past, could not "set his soul to the same key Of the remembered melody." Such are some of the characteristics of a poem at once so Homeric and so un-Homeric. Taken as a whole it may be justly said to be deficient in epic unity and inspiration. The unity which it possesses is mainly that of chronological sequence. It is a mosaic, but a mosaic fashioned and put together with artistic skill. The tempering of the stricter epic with the charm of elegy and romance constitutes the strength and weakness of the work. It would be manifestly unjust to apply to Apollonius Ovid's criticism on Callimachus “"quamvis ingenio non valet, arte valet"”;132 rather would I adopt Cicero's judgment of the work of Lucretius and say of the Argonautica “"multis luminibus ingenii, multae tamen artis."”133
“Νὺξ μὲν ἔπειτ᾽ ἐπὶ γαῖαν ἄγεν κνέφας: οἱ δ᾽ ἐνὶ πόντῳ
ναῦται εἰς Ἑλίκην τε καὶ ἀστέρας Ὠρίωνος
ἔδρακον ἐκ νηῶν: ὕπνοιο δὲ καί τις ὁδίτης
ἤδη καὶ πυλαωρὸς ἐέλδετο: καί τινα παίδων
μητέρα τεθνεώτων ἀδινὸν περὶ κῶμ᾽ ἐκάλυπτεν:
οὐδὲ κυνῶν ὑλακὴ ἔτ᾽ ἀνὰ πτόλιν, οὐ θρόος ἦεν
ἠχήεις: σιγὴ δὲ μελαινομένην ἔχεν ὄρφνην.
Other works of ApolloniusThe literary activity of Apollonius was not exclusively confined to the Argonautica, as we find references to various other writings which are attributed to him with more or less probability.134 (1) The Epigrams of Apollonius are mentioned by Antonius Liberalis: ἱστορεῖ Νίκανδρος καὶ Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Ῥόδιος ἐν τοῖς ἐπιγράμμασιν.135 The only epigram of his which has been preserved is that on Callimachus already quoted in connexion with the quarrel between the two poets. (2) His Κτίσεις, which are frequently cited, were poetical works describing the history, antiquities, and characteristics, either of whole regions or of special cities. We hear of works of this kind written by him on Alexandria,136 Canopus,137 Caunus,138 Cnidus,139 Naucratis,140 and Rhodes.141 These were probably all separate works, and not parts of one larger whole, as the metres vary, the fragments from the Κτίσις Κανώπου being scazons, while the fragments of the other Κτίσεις are all hexameters. Suidas tells us that Callimachus also wrote Κτίσεις Νήσων καὶ Πόλεων. (3) As a Homeric critic Apollonius acquired a considerable reputation, though he does not seem to have published any edition of the Iliad or Odyssey. We read of a work of his, πρὸς Ζηνόδοτον,142 in which he criticized the readings defended by Zenodotus in his edition. The loss of this work is greatly to be deplored, as the knowledge we possess from other sources of the views of Zenodotus on Homeric questions is fragmentary and unreliable. Only in a few instances143 do we find the full title, Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Ῥόδιος, given in the scholia on the Iliad, but in many other cases144 where simply Ἀπολλώνιος is found, a comparison of the usages in the Argonautica shows that it is our poet whose views are cited. Often, where we have no direct evidence, we can judge indirectly of the attitude of Apollonius to Zenodotus by a consideration of forms adopted or rejected in the Argonautica, which the Scholiasts on Homer tell us were read by Zenodotus in the Homeric text. Amongst the Zenodotean forms which Apollonius adopts are τεθνειώς, θέλω, ἥδυμος, μόλις, πασσυδίῃ, δυσάσχετος, Γοργόνος, Ῥείην, ἤμελλε, κἀκεῖνος (Aristarchus καὶ κεῖνος), ἐπιμάρτυρες, Μίνω, and χρώς. On the other hand, while Zenodotus wrote in Homer the forms δένδρος, εὐποιητῇσι, ἀγχιάλην, ἔηξεν, ἀναπτάς, δεδάασθαι, στεναχή, Ἀριήδνη, πολυπιδάκου, ἐυστρόφῳ, Apollonius uses δένδρεον, εὐποίητον ἱμάσθλην, ἀγχιάλου ἀκτῆς (Ἀγχιάλη as prop. name), ἆξεν (or ἔαξε), ἀμπετάσας, δεδαῆσθαι, στοναχή, Ἀριάδνη, πολυπίδακος, ἐυστρεφεῖ. Apollonius seems to have agreed with Zenodotus' views on many points, especially in the use of the pronouns (e.g. οὗ, εἷο, ἑοῖο: μιν as acc. pl.: the extended application of ὅς, ἑός, σφωίτερος, etc.), though, on the whole, he conforms rather to the principles of Aristarchus, as Merkel shows in his Prolegomena by a minute examination of the relations between Apollonius, Zenodotus, Aristophanes, and Aristarchus. (4) Apollonius is also mentioned as a critic of the Hesiodic poems.145 The author of Argument III to the Scutum Herculis tells us that Apollonius maintained the genuineness of this work, the authenticity of which was disputed by Aristophanes of Byzantium amongst others. (5) Athenaeus refers to a work of our poet περὶ Ἀρχιλόχου,146 but the precise nature of this cannot be determined. It may have formed part of a more general work comprising ὑπομνήματα or commentaries on the ancient poets.147 (6) To a general work of this kind might also be referred the views in the scholia148 on Aristophanes which are ascribed to an Apollonius who is supposed to be our poet. It is a very much disputed point, however, whether this Apollonius is the Rhodian, or one of the hundred other grammarians who bore the name.149 (7) Lastly, there are two works of Apollonius mentioned by Athenaeus, one dealing with the Egyptians150 (though Athenaeus may be referring merely to some of the Κτίσεις such as those of Alexandria or Naucratis), the other entitled Τριηρικός,151 which probably dealt with the technical terms employed in describing a trireme.
MSS. of the Argonautica
The principal ms. of the Argonautica is the Laurentianus xxxii, 9, in the Laurentian Library at Florence, dating from the tenth century. This famous ms. contains also the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles. It is adopted by Merkel as his basis in constituting the text of the Argonautica. Of its importance for the text of Sophocles, Jebb says: "With L safe, the loss of our other mss. would have been a comparatively light misfortune."152
Three centuries later than L we have three other mss. of Apollonius: (1) Vaticanus 280, in the Palatine Library, collated by Flangini. (2) Guelferbytanus, the ms. of Wolfenbüttel. This ms., known as G, ranks next in importance to L. (3) Laurentianus xxxii, 16. Keil regarded this ms. as transcribed either from L or a copy of L, but Ziegler and Merkel have shown from its frequent and striking agreements with G that both it and G are from a common archetype.
All other mss. are of the fifteenth or sixteenth century. They are classified by Merkel as follows:
- Membranacei--Ambrosianus B 98; Laurentianus xxxi, 26; Laurentianus xxxi, 11; Laurentianus xxxii, 35. (b)
- Chartacei--Ambrosianus 22, containing the first two books; Ambrosianus 37; Ambrosianus 64, ending at iii, 1306; Laurentianus xxxi, 29; Vaticanus 150, containing the first three books; Vaticanus 36; Vaticanus 37; Vaticanus 146; Vaticanus 1358; Ottobonensis 306; Ricardianus 35; Parisienses 2727, 2846, 2728, 2729, 1845; Vindobonensis and Wratislavensis, both collated by Wellauer.
Scholia on the Argonautica
The scholia on the Argonautica are generally known as the Florentine and the Parisian. The Florentine scholia are those first published by Ioannes Lascaris, who supervised the Editio Princeps of the poem at Florence in 1496 a.d. For the next three centuries editors simply republished the scholia as given by him. Then Ruhnken discovered scholia in Codex Parisinus 2727, of the fifteenth century, which seemed to him better than those previously known. These new scholia were published along with the old by Schaefer in his revision of Brunck's edition in 1813. The relative value of the two sets of scholia was long a moot point, but Keil has shown that they are both to be referred to a common source, namely the scholia contained in Codex Laurentianus xxxii, 9. From it 'addendo, detrahendo, immutando,' the different copies of scholia were derived. There is only one ms., Parisinus 2846, containing part of the scholia on the first and fourth books, in which the Laurentian version is completely followed. In discussing the relation between the Florentine and Parisian scholia Keil points out that the Florentine reproduce the form of the archetype more accurately than the Parisian, yet in several cases the Parisian preserve what had been carelessly omitted or rashly altered in the Florentine. However, there is such unanimity between them in many cases where they both depart from their common source, that it it is plain that both recensions were derived, not from the archetype itself directly, but through the medium of a more recent source which itself was derived from the archetype.
The additions made to the original stock preserved in the Laurentian archetype consist of grammatical notes on forms and structures, statements of the poet's purpose, quotations of parallel passages from ancient writers, and conjectures as to the derivations of words. Keil, who edited the scholia in Merkel's edition, reproduces them as they are found in the Codex Laurentianus (with the exception of a few obvious interpolations of recent date), distinguishing them according as they are written on the outer margin of the ms., or between the lines, or on the inner margin as the glosses on individual words and the shorter explanations generally are. He also notes all important variations from the archetype in the Florentine and Parisian scholia. He concludes that the scholia in L were written by the same hand as the text and the lives which are appended. Wellauer combines both the Florentine and Parisian scholia, which renders his edition in some ways the most convenient for consulting, as one can see at a glance how much was common to the two. Though, as we have said, the Parisian scholia often supply what is omitted in the Florentine, yet, on the whole, they are less full and less reliable. The corruptions in the Parisian are greater, especially in proper names, while they omit the names of the authorities for certain interpretations which are preserved in the Florentine. Often the two sets of scholia agree almost verbally, except that what is stated directly in the Florentine is introduced by λέγει or φησί in the Parisian.
An interesting feature in the Florentine scholia is that in four places (i 543, 725, 788, 801) they have recorded the readings of the προέκδοσις or earlier edition (v. App. I) where they are omitted in the Parisian. In two places only (i 285, 515) do the Parisian mention the differences in the προέκδοσις noticed in the Florentine.
The scholia which have come down to us are probably merely extracts compiled from the fuller works of grammarians and commentators. The names of the three principal commentators known to us are Lucillus, Sophocles, and Theon. The three are mentioned at the end of the scholia on the fourth book,157 and are also referred to by the Scholiast on Aristophanes, Nub. 397, who, commenting on the word βεκκεσέληνε, quotes Arg. iv 264, and gives the explanation which is found in our scholia, prefaced by the words τοῦτο δὲ τοὖπος οἱ περὶ τὸν Λούκιλλον τὸν Ταρραῖον καὶ Σοφόκλειον （̣） καὶ Θέωνα ἑρμηνεύοντες τάδε φασίν.
Lucillus was a native of Tarrha in Crete, and in our schol. is called simply ὁ Ταρραῖος. Sophocles is twice mentioned as a commentator on Apollonius by Steph. Byz. (s.v. Ἄβαρνος and Κάναστρον). It is not possible to identify Theon with certainty. In all probability he was the Alexandrian sophist and rhetorician Aelius Theon, to whom the scholia on Aratus are attributed, and who wrote, as Suidas tells us, commentaries on Xenophon, Isocrates, and Demosthenes. Theon is not mentioned by name in our scholia, and Sophocles only once. Stender158 tries to separate the part of the scholia due to Theon and Sophocles, but the scanty evidence on which he works renders his conclusions at best only remotely probable.
We learn from our scholia the names of two other commentators on the works of Apollonius, Chares and Irenaeus. Chares (or Charon) was probably the historian of Naucratis mentioned by Suidas. In the schol. on ii 1054 we find Οὕτω (sc. πλωίδας) δὲ αὐτὰς ὀνομάζει καὶ Σέλευκος ἐν Συμμίκτοις καὶ Χάρης, αὐτοῦ τοῦ Ἀπολλωνίου γνώριμος, ἐν τῷ περὶ ἱστοριῶν τοῦ Ἀπολλωνίου. The title ἱστορίαι would seem to refer to the Κτίσεις, the lost work of our poet, not to the Argonautica. Irenaeus is mentioned in the schol. on λαῖτμα (i 1299), Σιληνὸς δὲ ἐν Γλώσσαις πέλαγος εἶναι, καὶ Εἰρηναῖος ἐν πρώτῳ Ἀπολλωνίου (i.e. in his commentary on Bk. i of the Argonautica) ἀποδεδώκασιν. Again, in the schol. on ἐπιπαμφαλόωντες (ii 127), we find παραιτητέον δὲ Εἰρηναιο̂ν ἀμφανόωντες γράφοντα καὶ ἐξηγούμενον κτείνοντες. οὔτε γὰρ κέχρηταί τις οὕτως τῇ λέξει, οὔτε ἐστὶν ἁπαξαπλῶς ἡ γραφὴ τοῦ ποιητοῦ. Irenaeus was also known under the Latin name of Minucius Pacatus, and lived about the age of Augustus. Suidas enumerates several works of his dealing with the Alexandrian and Attic dialects.
Merkel would also include Methodius among the first Scholiasts on Apollonius. He was the principal redactor of the Et. Mag. Merkel's argument is based on the fact that the frequent citations of the scholia on the Argonautica in the Et. Mag.159 differ considerably from those we know, and point to a recension anterior to that of the Laurentian ms., and so he regards Methodius either as being one of the first Scholiasts on Apollonius, or else as reproducing more faithfully than the compiler of the Laurentian the tradition of the older Scholiasts on the Argonautica.
In the commentary I have generally cited the Laurentian scholia as given by Keil, employing the others whenever they served to throw light on the dark places of the poem. They are often a confused medley, but still they abound with indispensable information, which would have been lost to us without their aid. Like most scholia they furnish us with the most desperate etymologies, e.g. i 292, κινύρετο: ἐθρήνει. κυρίως … ἐπὶ βοός, παρὰ τὸ κινεῖν τὴν οὐρὰν ἐν τῷ μυκᾶσθαι: i 401, οἰήια: τὰ πηδάλια, οἷον οἰήσια, ἐπειδὴ οἰήσεως χρεία τῷ κυβερνήτῃ. Defects of this kind are, however, of minor importance, and we may regard ourselves as fortunate in possessing a mass of scholia as valuable as those which have come down to us on any ancient author. To the industry of our Scholiasts we owe the preservation of many lines of Hesiod and other poets which would otherwise have perished, as well as many curious and interesting fragments of old Greek writers on history, geography, and mythology.
Editions and translations of the Argonautica
- The Editio Princeps, edited by Lascaris, published by Alopa at Florence in 1496. The text is printed in uncials with accents, the scholia in cursive minuscules on the margin of the text. II.
- The Aldine edition, published at Venice in 1521. This contains the text followed by the scholia. The Preface is due to Franciscus Asulanus, who mentions as collaborator Hercules Mantuanus. III.
- The Paris edition of 1541, more accurate than the two preceding, containing only the Greek text without the scholia. IV.
- The Frankfort edition, published by Petrus Brubachius in 1546. It is a reproduction of the Aldine. V.
- The Basle edition, with the scholia at the end of the text, published by Oporinus in 1550. This is the first edition with a Latin translation, the translation being that of Hartung. This work was republished in the same town in 1570 and 1572, with a translation in Latin verse by Rotmar. VI.
- The edition of Henricus Stephanus, with scholia on the margin of the text, published at Geneva in 1574. In the Preface are discussed various questions with regard to the poem and the scholia, and at the end there are some conjectures. VII.
- Beck mentions a Corpus Poetarum Graecorum, published at Geneva in 1606, in which Jacobus Lectius inserted the text of the Argonautica with the Latin translation by Hartung. VIII.
- Hoelzlin's edition, with Latin translation, commentary, and scholia, published by Elzevir at Leyden in 1641. IX.
- Shaw's edition, based on that of Hoelzlin, published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford, in 1777. This sumptuously printed quarto includes what professes to be an almost entirely new Latin version, the scholia, indices, notes selected from previous editions, and a few original remarks. It was reprinted two years afterwards as an octavo volume. In it we find repeated most of the errors contained in Hoelzlin's edition, and it was attacked by Brunck with a vehemence which has become proverbial amongst scholars. X.
- Brunck's edition, published at Argentoratum (Strassburg) in 1780. This was the first attempt at a really critical edition, the Codices Parisini being taken as the foundation in constituting the text. It contains no Latin translation. XI.
- Flangini's edition, published at Rome in 1791-1794. The text is a reprint of that of Brunck, and there is an Italian translation by Cardinal Flangini, who also added notes and recorded the variants of four Vatican mss. XII.
- Beck's edition, published at Leipzig in 1797. The text is that of Brunck with slight variations, generally improvements. There is also a Latin translation. The second volume, which was to contain the revised scholia and commentary, was never published. XIII.
- Hoerstel's edition, published at Brunswick in 1807. XIV.
- Schaefer's revision of Brunck's edition, published at Leipzig in 1810-1813. The second volume is valuable as it contains for the first time the Parisian scholia. XV.
- Wellauer's edition, published by Teubner, Leipzig, in 1828. It consists of two volumes, the first containing the text with full critical and occasional explanatory notes, the second containing the scholia, both Florentine and Parisian, and indices which are useful, though often most inaccurate. XVI.
- Lehrs' edition, published by Didot, Paris, in 1840. The text is a reproduction of Wellauer's, with slight alterations, and the Latin translation is closely modelled on that of Beck. XVII.
- Merkel's smaller edition, published at Leipzig in 1852. It is a text based on the Codex Laurentianus, and is familiar as being still the ordinary Teubner text. XVIII.
- Merkel's larger edition, published by Teubner, Leipzig, in 1853. The text in this invaluable edition is a marked improvement on the earlier one. The work includes a full apparatus criticus, the readings of L and G being recorded with most minute accuracy, while those of the other mss. are noticed where necessary. The second volume contains, in addition to Merkel's Prolegomena, the scholia from the Codex Laurentianus edited by Keil. XIX.
- Seaton's edition, with brief critical notes, published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford, in 1901.
- The first Latin translation was that by Hartung, published in the Basle edition of 1550. In addition to that by Rotmar (Salzburg, 1570), which was incorporated in the later Basle editions, we have those of Hoelzlin, Shaw, Beck, and Lehrs, already mentioned in connexion with their editions of the poem. English.
- E. B. Green and F. Fawkes (London, 1780), W. Preston (Dublin, 1803), E. P. Coleridge (London, 1889), A. S. Way (London, 1910). French.
- Caussin (Paris, 1796), H. de la Ville de Mirmont (Bordeaux and Paris, 1892). There is also a translation of a part of the poem entitled: "Apollonius de Rhodes, Jason et Médée. Traduction et notices d'A. Pons. Paris, 1882." German.
- Bodmer (Zürich, 1779), Wilmann (Cologne, 1832), C. N. v. Osiander (Stuttgart, 1837). Italian.
- Subsequent to Flangini's, which we have already mentioned, there are those of Rota (3rd ed., Milan, 1864) and Bellotti (Florence, 1873). Swedish.
- Palmblad (Upsala, 1836). Danish.
- Christensen-Schmidt (Kjobenhavn, 1897).
|G||= Codex Guelferbytanus|
|L||= Codex Laurentianus xxxii, 9|
|L 16||= Codex Laurentianus xxxii, 16|
|Pariss.||= Codices quinque Parisini|
|Vatt.||= Codices quattuor Vaticani|
|Vind.||= Codex Vindobonensis|
|Vrat.||= Codex Vratislaviensis|
|schol.||= scholia Laurentiana|
|schol. Flor.||= scholia Florentina|
|schol. Par.||= scholia Parisina|
|schol. utraque||= schol. Flor. et schol. Par.|