Rhodius Apollonius.

The Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius online

. (page 17 of 21)
Online LibraryRhodius ApolloniusThe Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius → online text (page 17 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

maidens ; and with light hand they drew aside my robe
and uncovered my head, bidding me rise up myself, and
go rouse you ; and they bid us pay bounteous recom-
pense unto our mother for all her travail in carrying us
this long time in her womb, whenso Amphitrite shall
loose the smooth-running car of Poseidon. Now I cannot
wholly understand this message divine. They said, in-
deed, that they were heroines, daughters of Libya and
warders of her land. Yea, and they declared that full well
they knew everything that we ourselves had endured ere
this on land and sea. Then I saw them no more in their
place, but some mist or cloud came betwixt us and veiled
their brightness."

So spake he, and they were all astonied as they lis-
tened. Then came unto the Minyae this wonder passing
strange.' From out the sea toward the land leapt forth a
monster horse ; a mighty 2 steed was he, with mane of gold
floating in the wind; lightly he spurned the salt foam
from his legs and started on his course with legs that
matched the wind. Then up spake Peleus with a cry of
joy among his comrades gathered there : " Verily I do

1 i.e. Medea and her twelve Phseacian handmaids, given her by

2 ap(t>iXa<pt)c either = " vast, huge," its usual meaning in Herodotus,
or " having hair on both sides," i.e. " shaggy." Probably the former,
as the mane of the horse is also definitely mentioned, and to add another
similar epithet would be redundant.

I,. 1341-1395.] THE ARGONATJTICA. 195

think that Poseidon's chariot hath already been loosed by
the hands of his dear wife, and I deem that our mother is
no other than the ship herself ; for surely she doth bear
us in her womb and groaneth unceasingly in hard travail.
Come, we will lift her up with unshaken might and tireless
shoulders and carry her within this sandy country, whither
yon swift steed is gone before us. For he, brave beast,
will not plunge beneath the dry ground, and I trow his
tracks will show us some bay of the sea far inland."

So spake he ; and his ready counsel pleased them all.
This is the tale the Muses told ; and I, the servant of the
Pierian maidens, do sing it ; and this is what I heard
in all honesty, that ye, brave sons of kings, exceeding
bold, did lift your ship and all ye took therein high
upon your shoulders and carried her in your might and
manhood o'er the desert sandhills of Libya twelve whole
days and as many nights. Yet who can tell the pain and
anguish these men endured in that toil ? Surely they were
of the blood of the immortals, so great was the work they
took upon them under the stress of need. Now when they
had carried her right gladly far to the waters of the lake
Tritonis, 1 straightway they waded in and set her down from
their stalwart shoulders.

Then like hounds, mad with thirst, they darted forth to
find a spring ; for to their misery and suffering was added
parching drought. But not in vain did they wander ; and
they came to the sacred plain,'where but yesterday Ladon, 2

1 A lake in Libya.

* Ladon was the huge serpent which guarded the apples of the Hes-
perides, and was slain by Heracles a few days before the arrival of the
Argonauts in Libya. The Hesperides were nymphs, daughters of
Phorcus and Ceto, who ministered to the wants of the guardian snake.
On the appearance of the Argonauts they changed into dust and ashes,
until Orpheus besought their aid, when they resumed their original
forms under the names Hespere, Erytheis, arid ./Egle, and showed the
Argonauts where to find water.


a serpent of that land, did guard the golden apples in the
place of 'Atlas, while about him the Hesperides used to
busy themselves, singing their lovely song. But now, lo !
he was fallen against the trunk of the apple-tree from the
wound that Heracles had given him ; only with the tip of
his tail was he still writhing, but from his head unto the
end of his dark spine lifeless he lay ; and where the arrows
had left their bitter gall in the blood of the Lernaean snake
flies were busy at his festering wounds. And near him
the Hesperides raised their loud lament, their fair white
arms clasped about their golden hair ; when on a sudden
came the heroes nigh to them, and lo ! at once those maidens
turned, as they stood, to dust and ashes, even while the
men came hasting on. But Orpheus was ware of the
divine marvel, and for his comrades' sake he lifted up a
prayer to the maidens: "Ye queens divine, so fair and
kind, be gracious, whether ye are counted amongst the
goddesses of heaven, or those of earth, or are called the
nymphs that tend the sheep-fold ; come, maidens, holy
race of Oceanus, appear to us face to face, and show us at
our desire some fount of water gushing from the rock, or
some holy stream bubbling up from the earth, whereat,
goddesses, to quench the thirst, that parches us un-
ceasingly. And if we come again some day o'er the sea to
the land of Achsea, then will we offer you gladly countless
gifts amongst the first of goddesses, with drink-offerings
and rich feasts."

So prayed he aloud ; and the goddesses from their sta-
tion nigh had pity on their suffering, and first of all they
made grass spring up from the earth, and above the grass
tall shoots sprang up ; and next young trees in bloom shot
high o'er the ground and stood upright. Hespere became
a poplar, Erytheis an elm, and JEgle a willow with sacred
trunk. And from these trees their forms looked out, even
as they were before, a wonder passing strange ; then spake

L. 1396-1459.] THE A.RGONAUTICA. 197

to their longing ears a gentle answer, " Yea, verily
there hath come hither one that can succour your troubles
full well, that man accursed, 1 who robbed our guardian
snake of life, and is gone taking with him the golden
apples of the goddesses ; and grievous woe is left to us.
Yestreen there came a man, a very fiend in form and
wanton violence ; his eyes gleamed from under his grim 2
forehead ; a ruthless wretch ; and he was girt about with
the skin of a huge lion, rough and untanned, and he bare
a heavy bough of olive, and a bow, wherewith he shot to
death yon monster-snake. And he too came all parched with
thirst, as a wayfarer might ; and wildly he rushed about
this place in quest of water, but none was he likely to see,
I trow. Now here stood a rock nigh to the lake Tritonis,
which he, strong giant, smote with his foot below, on pur-
pose or mayhap by some god's prompting; and yonder
spring gushed out at once. Then did he, sprawling with
hands and chest upon the ground, drink a mighty draught
from the cleft in the rock, till, like a beast with head
thrown forward, he had filled his deep belly."

So spake she ; and gladly they hasted with joyful steps,
until they found the spot where ^Egle had told them of
the spring. As when burrowing ants crawl in swarms
about a narrow hole, or as when flies, lighting about a
tiny drop of sweet honey, do throng there in terrible
eagerness ; even so the Minyse then were thronging around
the spring in the rock ; and thus would one say in his
gladness as he moistened his lips, " Lo ! you now ; in very
sooth, Heracles, though far away, hath saved his comrades
dying of thirst. Aye, would that we might find him on
his way, as we pass through the mainland ! "

Therewith, when such as were ready for this work,

1 i.e. Heracles, who had slain the snake.

2 /3\offvpoG, a word of uncertain etymology with two meanings,
(1) grim, stern, (2) burly, manly.


had answered ; they started up and parted, hither and
thither, to search ; for on the night- wind a sound of steps
had come rolling to their ears, as the sand was stirred.
Forth sped the two sons of Boreas, trusting to their wings ;
and Euphemus, relying on his fleetness of foot ; and
Lynceus too, to cast his keen glance far and wide ; and
yet a fifth hurried to their side, even Canthus. Him, I
trow, did heaven's high will and his brave soul send forth
upon that journey, that he might learn for certain from
Heracles, where he had left Polyphemus, son of Elatus ;
for he was minded to question him on every point about
his comrade. But Polyphemus had founded a famous
town among the Mysians, and then, anxious to return, had
gone in quest of Argo afar across the mainland ; and he
came meantime to the land of the Chalybes, that live
beside the sea ; there did his fate o'ertake him. And his
tomb lieth beneath a tall poplar, facing the sea, a little
space therefrom. But now Lynceus thought he saw
Heracles alone, far away over the boundless shore, just as
a man seeth, or thinks he seeth, the new moon through a
mist. So he came, and told his companions, that no one
could ever track him further and o'ertake ' him on his way ;
and back those others also came, Euphemus, fleet of foot,
and the two sons of Thracian Boreas, after fruitless toil.

But on thee, Canthus, fate laid her deadly hold. Thou
didst come upon flocks at pasture ; but the man that did
shepherd them slew thee with the blow of a stone for sake
of his sheep to prevent thee from carrying them off to thy
needy comrades ; for Caphaurus was no feeble foe, that
grandson of Lycorean 2 Phoebus, and of the chaste maid
Acacallis, the daughter whom Minos on a day did bring to

1 fjifi . . . Ki\r}aifitv, i.e. no one would overtake him now at that

8 AvKwpttoto = AtX^DcoC, for the Delphians were originally called
Lycorians, from Lycoreia, a town in the neighbourhood of Delphi.

L. 1460-1514.] THE ABGONAUTICA. 199

dwell in Libya, bearing in her womb a heavy load l from
the god ; and she bare a noble son to Phoebus, whom men
call Amphithemis, or Garamas. And Amphithemis in his
turn lay with a Tritonian nymph, who bare to him Nasa-
mon and strong Caphaurus ; he it was, who now slew
Canthus, in defence of his sheep. Yet was not he, strong
warrior, to escape the stern hands of the heroes, when they
learnt what he had done. For the Minyse, when they
knew it, took up his corpse and brought it back and buried
him ; but those sheep the heroes took unto themselves,
mourning the while.

There too upon the self -same day relentless Fate laid her
hand upon Mopsus, son of Ampycus, nor could his divina-
tion save him from his bitter doom. For there is no way
to hinder death. Now there was lying on the sand a fear-
some snake, seeking to avoid the noontide heat, too sluggish
indeed purposely to wound an unwitting foe, nor yet would
it have darted at one who shrunk from meeting it. But
on whomsoever it once should dart its black venom of all
living creatures that have breath, whom Earth the life-
giver doth nurture, for him is his road to Hades not so
much as a span long ; no, not even if the healing god 2
should be his leech (if I may speak openly), when that
snake hath but grazed him with its fangs. For when god-
like Perseus, whom his mother also called Eurymedon,
flew over Libya, carrying to king Polydectes the Gorgon's
head just severed, 3 all the drops of dark blood, that fell to

1 ia>na, by syncope for Kvq/jia.

* nairjwv, Ionic for Tlaiav, the physician of the gods. Later the
name was transferred to Apollo, who was invoked by the cry if]u

3 Perseus, called also Eurymedon, was commanded by Polydectes,
king of Seriphos, to bring to him the head of Medusa the Gorgon,
which had the power of turning all who gazed on it into stone. Perseus,
however, by the aid of Hermes and Athene, who gave him winged
sandals, a cap to render him invisible, and a bright shield in which he


the ground, did breed a race of those serpents. Now Mopsus
trod upon the reptile's back with the sole of his left foot ;
but the snake, writhing round in pain, bit and tore the
flesh 'twixt his shin and calf. And Medea and the other
women, her handmaids, fled in terror ; but he bravely
handled the bleeding wound, for it did not vex him very
much, poor wretch ! Verily even now beneath the skin a
lethargy, that looseth the limbs, was spreading, and o'er
his eyes fell a thick mist. Anon his heavy limbs sank
upon the ground, and he grew cold and helpless ; and his
comrades gathered round him, and the hero son of JSson,
sore dismayed at this chain of disasters. Not even, when
dead, might he lie ever so short a time in the sun ; for the
venom at once began to rot the flesh within, and the hair
decayed and fell from the skin. So, quickly and in haste,
they dug a deep grave with brazen picks ; and themselves
and the maidens likewise tore their hair, bewailing the
dead man's piteous fate ; and thrice, in harness clad, they
marched round him, when he had gotten his fair meed of
burial ; and then heaped up the earth above him.

But when they were gone aboard, for the south wind
blew across the sea, and were determined to go on their
way across the lake Tritonis, no longer had they any plan,
and so were driven at random the livelong day. As a
serpent creeps along his crooked path, when the sun's
piercing heat doth scorch him, and twists his head from
side to side, hissing the while, and his eyes withal flash
like sparks of fire in his fury, till he hath crept to his

might see the Gorgon's reflection without meeting the monster face to
face and so being turned into stone, accomplished his quest. Then he
brought the head to Polydectes, and turned him and his people into
stone, because they had formerly refused him hospitality. After this,
Athene took the head, and placed it as a blazon on her shield. Legend
said that as Perseus flew over Libya with his spoil, the blood which
fell from the freshly -severed head turned into the most venomous

L. 1515-1573.] THE ARGONAUTICA. 201

hole through a cleft ; even so Argo long time was busy
seeking an outlet for ships from the lake. Anon Orpheus
bade bring out from the hold Apollo's mighty tripod, and
set it up before the gods of that land to be a propitiation
for their return. So they went and set up on the shore
the gift of Phoebus, and mighty Triton met them in the
semblance of a young man, and taking up a clod of earth
he offered it unto the chieftains as a stranger's gift with
these words, " Take this, good friends ; for no great gift have
I here by me to give to strangers at their request. But if ye
desire to know aught of the ways of this sea, as men oft
crave, when voyaging over strange waters, I will tell you.
For lo ! my father Poseidon made me very knowing in this
sea, and I am king of the sea-coast, if haply in your distant
home ye ever hear of Eurypylus, 1 born in Libya, home of
wild beasts."

So spake he ; and gladly Euphemus held out his hands
for the clod, and thus addressed him in reply, " Hero, if
haply thou knowest aught of Apis 2 and the sea of Minos,
tell us truly at our asking. For hither we are come, not of
our own will ; but, brought nigh to the bounds of this
land by tempestuous winds, we did carry our ship shoulder-
high to the waters of this lake across the mainland, groan-
ing 'neath the weight ; but we know not at all, where lies
the route for coming to the land of Pelops."

So spake he ; and the other stretched out his hand and
showed them far away the sea and the lake's deep mouth,
and thus he said, " Lo ! yonder is the outlet to the sea, just
where the deep water lies black and still, and on either side
white breakers seethe 3 with crests transparent ; betwixt the

1 Son of Poseidon and Celaeno, king of Gyrene in Libya.

2 An island off Crete, i. e. Mare Creticum, so called from Minos, a
legendary king of Crete, who had put down piracy and organized a naval

3 <f>p'uroovffi, etym. <f>pi%, i.e. the ruffling of a smooth surface the


breakers there is l your course, a narrow one to sail outside.
And yonder sea, that spreads to the horizon, 2 reaches above
Crete to the sacred land of Pelops ; but steer 3 toward the
right hand when ye enter the gulf of sea from the lake, keep-
ing close the while along the shore, till it extends inland ;
but when the coast-line bends the other way, then your
course lies safe and straight before you, starting from that
projecting angle. Now go in joy ; and as for toil let none
repine that limbs, still in their youthful vigour, have to

So spake he with good will ; and they went aboarcTquickly,
eager to row out from the lake. And on they sped in
their haste ; but he meantime, even Triton, took up the
mighty tripod and was seen to enter the lake, but after
that no man saw him, how he vanished so near them,
tripod and all. And their heart was cheered, for that one
of the blessed gods had met them in kindly mood. And
they bade the son of ^Eson offer in his honour the choicest
of their remaining sheep, and raise the song of praise,
when he had taken him. Quickly that hero chose him
out with haste, and, having taken him up to the stern,
there sacrificed him, and prayed, " God, who didst appear
upon the bounds of this lake, whether the daughters of

ruffling or ripple caused by a gust of wind sweeping over a smooth sea.
Qpiffotiv is also used of any rough appearance (cf. Lat horrescere), e.g.
of corn-fields, of a body of spearmen. Hence the meaning " to shudder
with fear, to dread a person," also " to thrill " with strong emotion,
e.g. i(f>pi' ifxitn.

1 TtXiGti merely = lari.

3 vTHitptov, i.e. with nothing but sky around : you lose sight of the
land altogether.

3 After leaving the Tritonian lake and making the sea, they are to
coast closely along the shore till they come to a gulf; then sail across
its mouth to a headland opposite ; after which they can make a straight
course across the ^Egaean. (A glance at a map will best explain the
directions here given ; they seem fairly accurate, and are not difficult to

-L. 1574-1621.] THE AKOONATJTICA. 203

ocean 1 call thee Triton, wonder of the deep, or Phorcys, or
Nereus, be favourable and grant the accomplishment of
our return, as we desire."

Therewith and as he prayed, he cut the throat of the
sheep and cast him from the stern into the water. And
lo ! the god appeared from out the deep in his own true
form. As when a man will train a fleet horse for the
wide race-course, holding the obedient creature by his
bushy mane, and running the while beside him, and the
horse, with proud arching neck, follows his guide, and in
his mouth the bright bit rattles in answer as he champs it
this way and that ; even so that strong god laid his hand
on the keel of hollow Argo and guided her seaward. Now
from the top of his head and about his back and waist as
far as the belly, he was wondrous like the blessed gods in
form ; but below the loins stretched the tail of a sea-
monster, forked this way and that, and with the spines
thereof he cleft the surface of the water, for these parted
below into two curved fins, like to the horns of the moon.
On he led the ship, till he brought her on her way into the
sea, and then suddenly he plunged beneath the mighty
depths ; and those heroes cried out, when they saw the
strange marvel with their eyes. There is the harbour of
Argo, and signs 2 left by the ship, and altars to Poseidon
and Triton ; for they stopped there that day. But at dawn
they set sail, keeping that desert land upon the right ; and

1 aXoffvSvcu, " children of the sea," a name mostly applied to Thetis
and Amphitrite. Etym. a\c ii^vjjc,-.

2 It is not clear what these signs were, possibly a pictorial design, or
a model of the ship, or some ship implement such as an oar, set up to
commemorate the coming of Argo to the place. We have frequent
mention made of ar\pa.ra. placed on the barrows of heroes' tombs, gene-
rally their weapons, or something that they prized in life, which should
tell their story to future ages. The phrase tr/j/wira vr\6^ occurs supra
1. 552, where possibly it means either the flag of Argo or her figure-


on they sped before the breath of the west wind. And on
the next morning they saw a projecting tongue of land
and an inland sea lying beyond it. Anon the west wind
ceased, and the breath of the clear south came on, and
they were glad at heart for the wind. But when the sun
sank, and rose the star, that bids the shepherd fold l and
stays the ploughman from his toil ; in that hour of pitchy
night the wind fell ; so they furled the sails and stooped
the tall mast, and took to their polished oars lustily all
night and day and the next night as well. And in the
distance craggy Carpathus 2 welcomed them ; thence were
they, strong rowers, soon to cross to Crete, which standeth
out above all other isles upon the sea.

But brazen Talos prevented them from mooring, when
they came to the roadstead of the Dictaean haven, by
breaking off rocks from the hard cliff. He was a descen-
dant of the brazen stock of men, who sprung from ash
trees, 3 ranking among demi-gods ; him the son of Cronos
gave to Europa, to be the warder of the island of Crete,
whereabouts he roameth with those brazen feet. Now
truly he is made of brass, unbreakable, in his limbs and
all the rest of his body ; only beneath the tendon by the
ancle was a vein 4 of blood, and thin was the skin that

avXiof, i.e. Hesperus, the evening star, aviiravatv oi
The adjective is perhaps predicative, so that the expression means
'' stays the ploughman from being wretched," i.e. by ending his toil.
a KapvaBoQ, one of the Sporades, not far from Cos.

3 After the golden age and the silver age came the brazen age. The
race of men then born were so hard, says Hesiod, that they were said
to have sprung from ash-trees (fieXia ylyvofiai). To this age belonged
Talos, the brazen giant who kept guard over Crete, and was absolutely
invulnerable save in one spot, where a vein of blood near the ancle held
all that was mortal in him.

4 m>piy is anything shaped like a pipe ; here a vein, o, Ionic for
t>C, demonstr. pronoun. The o XtTrroc iifiijv is only an expansion of
trvpiyZ, i.e. that one vein with its thin covering of skin held the issues of
life and death.

L. 1622-1672.] THE AKGONAUTICA. 205

covered it with its issues of life and death. So the heroes,
though sore foredone with toil, quickly backed from the
land in grievous fear. And now would they have got them,
far from Crete sorrowfully, suffering both from thirst and
pain, had not Medea hailed them as they drew away :
" Hearken to me. For methinks I can by myself master
yon man for you, whoever he is, even though he hath his
body all of brass, seeing that his life is not to last for ever.
But keep the ship here, nothing loth, out of stone-throw, 1
till he yield himself my victim."

Thus spake she, and they held the ship out of range,
waiting to see what plan she would bring to work unex-
pectedly. Then did she wrap the folds of a dark cloak
about both her cheeks and went upon the deck ; and the
son of jEson, taking her hand in his, guided her steps
along the benches. Then did she make use of witching
spells, invoking the goddesses of death, 2 that gnaw the
heart, the fleet hounds of Hades, who hover all through
the air and settle on living men. Thrice with spells she
invoked their aid with suppliant voice, and thrice with
prayers; and, having framed her mind to evil, she be-
witched 3 the sight of brazen Talos with her hostile glance,,
and against him she gnashed 4 grievous fury and sent forth
fearful phantoms in the hotness of her rage.

father Zeus, verily my heart within me is moved with
amaze to see, how death o'ertakes us not merely by disease

1 pwj. ipwjj = any quick violent motion, e.g. the flight of a spear
and, as here, the rush of a missile stone.

2 K>jpa. Kjjp is the goddess of fate or death, usually employed in
the plural, for there were three Kijpf in ancient mythology, who ap-
peared to men on the eve of their death.

3 ifiiyrjptv b-jruitaQ literally := grudged him the sight of his eyes, so
that he was unable to see where he was going.

4 Ttpliv xo\ov, i.e. gnashed her teeth in her fury against Talos. Cf.
Lat. " stridere (or) frendere dentibus." vpita literally = " I saw, cut
in twain."


and wounds, but lo ! even from a distance a man may
harass us ; just as that giant, for all his brazen frame,
yielded himself a victim to the might of Medea, the
sorceress ; for, as he did heave great heavy stones to pre-
vent their coming to the haven, he scratched his ancle
against a sharp point of rock, and forth gushed the stream
of life like molten lead, nor could he stand any longer on
his pinnacle of jutting rock. But like some towering pine,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21

Online LibraryRhodius ApolloniusThe Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius → online text (page 17 of 21)