Rhodius Apollonius.

The Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius online

. (page 6 of 21)
Online LibraryRhodius ApolloniusThe Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius → online text (page 6 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


quickly he noted his rough boxing, to see if he were invin-
cible in his strength or haply his inferior ; so there he stood
continually, 1 and gave him blow for blow. As when car-
penters, urgently laying on, do strike with hammers and
nail together ship-timbers with sharp mortices, while blow
on blow re-echoes round unceasingly ; so their cheeks and
jaws on both sides resounded, and the gnashing of teeth
arose incessantly, and they ceased not to smite each in turn,

1 aporov. A word of uncertain derivation, frequently occurring in
Apollonius in the sense of " insatiably."



56 APOLLONIUS RHODIUS. [BOOK II.

till sore gasping o'ercame them both. Then stood they a
little apart, wiping from their faces great drops of sweat,
with grievous panting and hard breathing the while. Once
more they roused them to the encounter, like two bulls that
furiously battle for a grazing heifer. Then did Amycus,
rising on tiptoe, like a butcher, strain to his full height and
shot forth his heavy fist at him, but he stooped his head
and went under his rush, but caught his blow just on the
shoulder ; then did he come up to Amycus, and advancing
his knee past him dashed in and smote him above the ear,
crashing the bones inward ; and the other fell on his knees
in agony, but the Minyan heroes cheered ; and away sped
his spirit at once.

But the Bebryces, I trow, left not their king thus ; no,
at once they caught up rough clubs and spears and made
straight for Polydeuces. But his comrades drew their keen
swords from the scabbards and stood up before him. 'Twas
Castor first that smote a man upon the head as he rushed
at him, and his skull was cleft in twain on either shoulder.
Likewise he smote the giant Itymoneus and Mimas ; the
one he smote beneath the breast, having rushed on him with
speedy foot, 1 and hurled him in the dust ; the other, as he
drew nigh, he struck with his right hand above the left
eye-brow and tore off the lid, and the eye was left uncovered.
And Oreides too, daring squire of Amycus, wounded Talaus,
the son of Bias, in the loins, but he slew him not, for the
bronze sped beneath his belt merely along the skin, and
touched not his belly. In like manner Aretus sprang at
Iphitus, steadfast son of Eurytus, and smote him with a
seasoned club, not yet doomed to die miserably ; Aretus
indeed was soon to fall beneath the sword of Clytius.

'Twas then that Ancseus, bold son of Lycurgus, uplifted
his great axe right speedily, holding his black bear skin in

1 \d, an adverb, = "with the heel or foot," on the same analogy as
= " with the teeth," from 5aKv<a, with euphon. o.



L. 85-154.] THE ARGONA.UTICA. 57

his left hand, and sprang furiously into the thick of the
Bebryces, and the sou of ^Eacus charged with him, and
Jason too rushed on with them.

As when, on a day in winter, grizzled wolves attack and
terrify countless sheep in the fold without the knowledge
of the keen-scented dogs and the shepherds themselves,
and they seek how they may at once spring on them and
take them, oft peering over the pens withal, while the sheep
from every side huddle as they are, tumbling over one an-
other ; even so, I ween, the heroes grievously affrighted
the overweening Bebryces. As shepherds or bee-keepers
smoke a mighty swarm of bees in a rock, and these the
while, all huddled in their hive, buzz round confusedly ;
and far from the rock they dart, smoked right through by
the sooty fumes ; so these men no longer abode steadfastly,
but fled routed within Bebrycia, carrying the news of the
death of Amycus ; poor fools, for they knew not of another
unseen woe that was very nigh to them. For their orchards
and villages were wasted by the hostile spear of Lycus and
the Mariandyni, now that their king was gone. For there
was ever a feud twixt them about the land that yielded
iron ; for these at once began to pillage the farms and
steadings, while the heroes forthwith plundered and
carried off their countless sheep ; and thus some man
amongst them would say : " Bethink you what they would
have brought upon themselves by their craven deeds, if
haply some god had. brought Heracles too hither. Very sure
am I, had he been here, there would have been not so much
as a trial of boxing ; no, but when he came to tell his ordi-
nances, forthwith the club would have made him forget his
pride and the ordinances too which he declared. Yea, we
have left him yonder on the shore without a thought and
gone our way across the sea, but every man amongst us
shall know that fatal mistake, now that he is far away."

Thus spake he; but all these things were wrought by



58 APOLLONIUS BHODIUS. [BOOK II.

the counsels of Zeus. There they abode that night, and
set to curing the wounds of those who were smitten, and
they offered sacrifices to the deathless gods, and made
ready a great supper ; and sleep o'ertook no man beside
the wine-bowls and the blazing sacrifices. And the'y
wreathed their yellow locks with bay that groweth by the
sea, whereto also were fastened the cables, and sang in sweet
harmony to the lyre of Orpheus; and as they sang the
headland round grew calm and still, for their song was of
the son of Zeus, 1 who dwelleth in Therapnse.

Now when the sun, rising from the east, shone upon the
dewy hills, and awoke shepherds, in that hour they loosed
their cables from the stem of the bay-tree, and, putting
their booty on board, even all that they had need to carry,
they steered with the wind along the swirling Bosporus.
Then did a wave like to a steep mountain rush upon them
in front, as though it were charging them, rearing itself
ever above the clouds, and never wouldst thou have said
they would escape a horrid fate, for it hung arching right
over the middle of the ship in all its fury ; but yet even
this grows smooth, if but you possess a clever pilot. So
then they too came forth, unscathed, though much afeard,
through the skill of Tiphys. And on the next day they
anchored over against the Bithynian land.

Here Phineus, son of .Agenor, had his home beside the
sea ; he who, by reason of the divination that the son of
Leto granted him aforetime, suffered most awful woes, far
beyond all men ; for not one jot did he regard even Zeus
himself, in foretelling the sacred purpose to men unerringly.
Wherefore Zeus granted him a weary length of days, but
reft hie eyes of the sweet light, nor suffered him to have
any joy of all the countless gifts, which those, who dwelt
around and sought to him for oracles, were ever bringing to

1 "The Therapnaean son of Zeus," i.e. Apollo, so called from
Therapnse, a part of Sparta, which was sacred to this god.



L. 155-220.] THE ARGONAUTICA. 59

his house. But suddenly through the clouds the Harpies
darted nigh, and kept snatching them from his mouth or
hands in their talons. Sometimes never a morsel of food
was left him, sometimes a scrap, that he might live and
suffer. And upon his food they spread a fetid stench ;
and none could endure to bring food to his mouth, but
stood afar off ; so foul a reek breathed from the remnants
of his meal. At once, when he heard the sound and noise
of a company, he perceived that they were the very men
now passing by, at whose coming an oracle from Zeus had
said that he should enjoy his food. Up from his couch he
rose, as it were, a lifeless phantom, and, leaning on his
staff, came to the door on his wrinkled feet, feeling his
way along the walls ; and, as he went, his limbs trembled
from weakness and age, and his skin was dry and caked
with filth, and nought but the skin held his bones together.
So he came forth from his hall, and sat down with heavy
knees on the threshold of the court, and a dark mantle
wrapped him, and seemed to sweep the ground below all
round ; and there he sank with never a word, in strength-
less lethargy.

But they, when they saw him, gathered round, and were
astonied. And he, drawing a laboured breath from the
bottom of his chest, took up his parable for them and said :
" Hearken, choice sons of all the Hellenes, if 'tis you in
very truth, whom now Jason, at the king's chill bidding, is
leading on the ship Argo to fetch the fleece. 'Tis surely
you. Still doth my mind know each thing by its divining.
Wherefore to thee, my prince, thou son of Leto, do I give
thanks eyen in my cruel sufferings. By Zeus, the god of
suppliants, most awful god to sinful men, for Phoebus' sake
and for the sake of Hera herself, who before all other gods
hath had you in her keeping as ye came, help me, I im-
plore ; rescue a hapless wretch from misery, and do not
heedlessly go hence and leave me thus. .For not only hath



60 APOLLONIUS BHODITJS. [BOOK II.

the avenging fiend set his heel upon my eyes, not only do I
drag out to the end a tedious old age, but yet another most
bitter pain is added to the tale. Harpies, swooping from
some unseen den of destruction, that I see not, do snatch the
food from my mouth. And I have no plan to help me. But
lightly would my mind forget her longing for a meal, or
the thought of them, so quickly fly they through the air.
But if, as happens at times, they leave me some scrap of
food, a noisome stench it hath, and a smell too strong to
bear, nor could any mortal man draw nigh and bear it even
for a little while, no, not though his heart were forged of
adamant. But me, God wot, doth necessity, cruel and in-
satiate, constrain to abide, and abiding to put such food in
my miserable belly. Them 'tis heaven's decree that the
sons of Boreas l shall check ; and they shall ward them off,
for they are my kinsmen, if indeed I am that Phineus, who
in days gone by had a name amongst men for my wealth
and divination, whom Agenor, my sire, begat ; their sister
Cleopatra 2 did I bring to my house as wife with gifts of
wooing, what time I ruled among the Thracians."

So spake the son of Agenor ; and deep sorrow took hold
on each of the heroes, but specially on the two sons of
Boreas. But they wiped away a tear and drew nigh, and
thus spake Zetes, taking in his the hand of the suffering
old man : " Ah ! poor sufferer, methinks there is no other
man more wretched than thee. Why is it that such woes
have fastened on thee ? Is it that thou hast sinned against
the gods in deadly f oily through thy skill in divination ?
Wherefore are they so greatly wroth against thee ? Lo !
our heart within us is sorely bewildered, though, we yearn
to help thee, if in very truth the god hath reserved for us

1 The sons of Boreas were Zetes and Calais.

2 Phineus in his happier days had married Cleopatra, daughter of
Boreas and Orithyia ; he was therefore uncle of Zetes and Calais, his
destined deliverers.



L. 221-284.] THE ABGONAUTICA. 61

twain this honour. For plain to see are the rebukes that
the immortals send on us men of earth. Nor will we check
the coming of the Harpies, for all our eagerness, till that
thou swear that we shall not fall from heaven's favour in
return for this." So spake he, and straight that aged man
opened his sightless eyes and lifted them up, and thus
made answer : " Hush ! remind me not of those things, my
son. The son of Leto be my witness, who of his kindness
taught me divination ; be witness that ill-omened fate, that
is my lot, and this dark cloud upon my eyes, and the gods
below, whose favour may I never find if I die perjured
thus, that there shall come no wrath from heaven on you
by reason of your aid."

Then were those twain eager to help him by reason of
the oath, and quickly did the young men make ready a
feast for the old man, a last booty for the Harpies ; and
the two stood near to strike them with their swords as they
swooped down. Soon as ever that aged man did touch the
food, down rushed those Harpies with whirr of wings at
once, eager for the food, like grievous blasts, or like
lightning darting suddenly from the clouds ; but those
heroes, when they saw them in mid air, shouted ; and they
at the noise sped off afar across the sea after they had
devoured everything, but behind them was left an intoler-
able stench. And the two sons of Boreas started in pur-
suit of them with their swords drawn ; for Zeus inspired
them with tireless courage, and 'twas not without the will
of Zeus that they followed them, for they would dart past
the breath of the west wind, what time they went to and
from Phineus. As when upon the hill-tops dogs skilled
in the chase run on the track of horned goats or deer, and,
straining at full speed just behind, in vain do gnash their
teeth upon their lips ; even so Zetes and Calais, darting
very nigh to them, in vain grazed them with their finger-
tips. And now, I trow, they would have torn them in



62 APOLLONIUS RHODITTS. [BOOK II.

pieces against the will of the gods on the floating islands, 1
after they had come afar, had not swift Iris seen them,
and darting down from the clear heaven above stayed them
with this word of rebuke : " Ye sons of Boreas, 'tis not or-
dained that ye should slay the Harpies, the hounds of
mighty Zeus, with your swords ; but I, even I, will give
you an oath that they will come no more nigh him."

Therewith she sware by the stream of Styx, most dire
and awful oath for all the gods, that these should never
again draw near unto the house of Phineus, son of Agenor,
for even so was it fated. So they yielded to her oath and
turned to hasten back to the ship. And so it is that men
call those isles, " the isles of turning," though aforetime
they called them " the floating isles." And the Harpies
and Iris parted ; they entered their lair in Crete, the land
of Minos, but she sped up to Olympus, soaring on her
swift pinions.

Meantime the chieftains carefully washed the old man's
squalid skin, and chose out and sacrificed sheep, which
they had brought from the booty of Amycus. Now when
they had laid a great supper in his halls, they sat them
down and feasted, and with them Phineus fell afeasting
ravenously, cheering his heart as in a dream. Then when
they had taken their fill of food and drink, they sat up all
night awaiting the sons of Boreas. And in their midst
beside the hearth sat that ancient one himself, telling
them of the ends of their voyage and the fulfilment of
their journey : " Hearken then. All ye may not learn of a
surety, but as much as is heaven's will I will not hide.
Aforetime I went astray in my folly by declaring the mind
of Zeus in order to the end. For he willeth himself to
make plain to men oracles that need divination, to the

" The Floating Isles " in the Sicilian sea. They were supposed to
be capable of movement. After the flight of the Harpies here, they were
called the Strophades, i.e. '' Isles of turning."



L. 285-345.] THE AKGONATTTICA. 63

end that they may have some need of the mind of the
gods.

" First of all, when ye have gone hence from me, ye shall
see the two Cyanean l rocks at the place where two seas
meet. Through these, I trow, none can win a passage.
For they are not fixed on foundations below, but oft they
clash together upon each other, and much salt water boils
up from beneath, rearing its crest, and loud is the roar
round the bluff headland.

" Wherefore now give heed to my exhorting, if in sooth ye
make this voyage with cautious mind and due regard for
the blessed gods ; perish not then senselessly by a death
of your own choosing, nor rush on at the heels of youthful
rashness. First I bid you let loose from the ship a dove,
and send her forth before you to try the way. And if she
fly safely on her wings through those rocks to the sea, no
longer do ye delay your voyage for any time, but stoutly
ply the oars in your hands and cleave through the strait
of sea, for now your life will depend, not so much on your
prayers, as on your stalwart arms. Wherefore leave all
other things alone and exert 2 yourselves bravely to the
utmost ; yet ere you start, I do not forbid you to entreat
the gods. But if the dove be slain right in mid passage,
fare ye back again, for far better it is to yield to the death-
less gods. For then could ye not escape an evil doom at
the rocks, no, not if Argo were made of iron. Ah ! hapless
wights ! dare not to go beyond my warning, although ye
think me thrice as much the foe of the lords of heaven,
aye and even more hateful to them than I really am ; dare
not to sail yet further against the omen. And these things
shall be even as they may. But if ye escape the clashing

1 irirpag, i.e. the Symplegades, or " dashers,' 3 stood at the mouth of
Pontus.

2 i.e. do not think prayers alone will save you, but, on the other
hand, do not neglect to pray as well as to do your utmost as men.



64 APOLLONIUS RHODIUS. [BOOK II.

of the rocks and come scatheless inside Pontus, forthwith
keep the Bithynian l land upon your right, and sail cautiously
amid the breakers, till that ye round the swift current of
the river Rhebas and the Black headland, and be come to a
haven in the Thynian isle. Thence return a short stretch
across the sea, and beach your ship on the opposite shore
of the Mariandyni. There is a path down to Hades, and
the headland 2 of Acherusia juts out and stretches itself on
high, and swirling Acheron, cutting through the foot of
the cliff, pours itself forth from a mighty ravine. Very
nigh to it shall ye pass by many hills of the Paphlagonians,
over whom Pelops first held sway in Enete, 3 of whose blood
they avow them to be. Now there is a certain cliff that
fronts the circling 4 Bear, on all sides steep ; men call it
Carambis ; above it the gusty north is parted in twain ; in
such wise is it turned toward the sea, towering to heaven.
At once when a man hath rounded it a wide beach stretches
before him, and at the end of that wide beach nigh to a
jutting cliff the stream of the river Halys 5 terribly dis-
charges, and after him, but flowing near, the Iris rolls into
the sea, a lesser stream with clear ripples. Here in front
a great and towering bend stands out 6 ; next, Thermodon's
mouth flows into a sleeping bay near the Themiscyrean
headland, from its meandering through a wide continent.

1 The Bosporus is bounded on the right by Bithynia, on the left by
the Thracian land. Rhebas is a river of Bithynia.

2 This headland was near Heraclea,

3 'Evtrfjiof, so called from Enete, a city of Paphlagonia, the native
place of Pelops.

4 "EXi'oj, another name for "the Bear," i.e. the North, so called be-
cause the Bear was supposed to be ever wheeling round so as to escape
Orion, who was in pursuit.

6 The Halys is a river of Paphlagonia, falling into the Pontus near
the city Sinope.

6 i.e. stands up high from the surrounding land and juts out into the
sea, forming an angle. " The mouth of the Thermodon " is only a pre-
cise way of saying " the Thermodon."



L. 346-395.] THE ARGONAUTICA. 65

There is the plain of Doias, and hard by are the triple
cities of the Amazons ; and after them the Chalybes : in-
habit a rough and stubborn land, of all men most wretched,
labourers they, busied with working of iron. Near them
dwell the Tibareni, rich in sheep, beyond the G-enetaean head-
land, where is a temple of Zeus, lord of hospitality. Next
beyond this, but nigh thereto, the Mossynceci 2 hold the
woody mainland and the foot of the mountain, men that
have builded houses of timber with wooden battlements
and chambers deftly finished, which they call ' Mossynse,'
and hence they have their name. Coast on past them, and
anchor at a smooth isle, 3 after ye have driven off with all
the skill ye may those ravening birds, which, men say, do
roost upon this desert isle in countless numbers. Therein
the queens of the Amazons builded a temple of stone to
Ares, even Otrere and Antiope, what time they went forth
to battle. Now here shall there come to you from out the
bitter sea a help 4 ye looked not for, wherefore of good will I
bid you there to stay. But hold ; why should I once more
offend by telling everything from beginning to end in my
divining ? In front of the island, on the mainland oppo-
site, dwell the Philyres ; 5 higher up, beyond them, are the

1 The Chalybes, a Scythian race, so called from Chalybs, a son of
Ares, great workers in iron. The Amazons, a warlike and savage race
of women, living near the Doian plain in three separate cities, Lycastia,
Themiscyra, and Chalybia. Their queens were Otrere and Antiope.

2 The Mossynceci, or dwellers in wooden houses, fioaavvat being =
wooden houses. Some account of their curious customs is given infra,
bk. ii. 1. 1016, sqq.

3 vr}ff(fi, the isle of Ares, on which were the terrible Stymphalian birds
with feathers which could be shot by the birds themselves like arrows.

4 i.e. just when you are becoming desperate and sick of your enter-
prise, there shall come to you an unexpected relief from the sea in the
shape of shipwrecked mariners, viz., the sons of Chalciope, who had
lately left JEa, but had been wrecked on the isle of Ares ; they shall
serve to guide you on your voyage to Colchis. Cf. infra, bk. ii. 1. 1090, sqq.

6 The various tribes now mentioned are Scythian, then comes Sar-

F



66 APOLLONIUS RHODITTS. [BOOK II.

Macrones ; and yet beyond these, the countless tribes of
the Becheiri. Next to them dwell the Sapeires, and their
neighbours are the Byzeres, and right beyond them come
next the warlike Colchians themselves. But cleave on your
way, until ye come nigh to the inmost sea. There across
the Cytaean 1 mainland, from the Amarantian hills afar, and
the plain of Circe, 2 the swirling Phasis rolls his broad
stream into the sea. Drive your ship into the mouth of
that river, and ye shall see the towers of Cytaean ^Eetes
and the shady grove of Ares, where a dragon, dire monster
to behold, watches from his ambush round the fleece as it
hangs on the top of an oak ; nor night nor day doth sweet
sleep o'ercome his restless eyes."

So spake he ; and as they hearkened, fear fell on them
forthwith. Long were they struck with speechlessness ; at
last spake the hero, the son of JSson, sorely at a loss, " Old
man, lo ! now hast thou rehearsed the end of our toilsome
voyage, and the sure sign, which if we obey we shall pass
through those loathed rocks to Pontus ; but whether there
shall be a return again to Hellas for us, if we do escape
them, this too would I fain learn of thee. How am I to
act, how shall I come again over so wide a path of sea, in
ignorance myself and with a crew alike ignorant ? for
Colchian M& lieth at the uttermost end of Pontus and the
earth."

So spake he, and to him did that old man make answer,
" My child, as soon as thou hast escaped through those
rocks of death, be of good cheer, for a god will guide thee
on a different route from J3a; and toward JEa, there
shall be plenty to guide thee. Yea, friends, bethink you of
the crafty aid of the Cyprian goddess. For by her is pre-

matia about the lake Maeotis, while beyond this lies the Arctic
Ocean.

1 Colchian, Cytaea being a city in Colchis.

a Circe was sister of -ffietes.



I.. 396-454.] THE ARGONATJTICA. 67

pared a glorious end to your toils. But question me no
further of these matters."

So spake the son of Agenor, and the two sons of
Thracian Boreas came glancing down from heaven, and
set their rushing feet upon the threshold beside them. Up
sprang the heroes from their seats, when they saw them
corning near. And among the eager throng Zetes made
harangue, drawing great gasps for breath after his toil, and
told them how far they had journeyed, and how Iris pre-
vented them from slaying the Harpies, and how the
goddess in her favour gave them an oath, and those others
slunk away in terror 'neath the vast cavern of the cliff of
Dicte. Glad then were all their comrades in the house,
.and Phineus himself, at the news. And quickly did the
son of jJEson address the old man with right good will : " It
iseems then, Phineus, some god there was who pitied thy
grievous misery, and brought us, too, hither from afar, that
the sons of Boreas might help thee ; if but he would grant
the light unto thine eyes, methinks I would be even as glad
as if I were on my homeward way."

So spake he ; but the other, with downcast face, answered
him : " Ah ! son of JBson, that may never be recalled, nor
is there any remedy for that hereafter ; for blasted l are my
sightless eyes. Instead thereof God grant me death 2 at
once, and after death shall I share in all festive joys."

Thus these twain held converse together. And anon, in
no long space, as they talked, the dawn appeared ; and the
neighbouring folk came round Phineus, they who even
aforetime gathered thither day by day, ever bringing a



ai literally = are smouldering away, a forcible word to


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryRhodius ApolloniusThe Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius → online text (page 6 of 21)