Author: Apollonius Rhodius

Lines 1053-1258

(ll. 1053-1067) Thus she spake, beseeching; and to whomsoever she bowed in prayer, that man tried to give her heart and to check her anguish. And in their hands they shook their sharp pointed spears, and drew the swords from their sheaths; and they swore they would not hold back from giving succour, if she should meet with an unrighteous judgement. And the host were all wearied and Night came on them, Night that puts to rest the works of men, and lulled all the earth to sleep; but to the maid no sleep brought rest, but in her bosom her heart was wrung with anguish. Even as when a toiling woman turns her spindle through the night, and round her moan her orphan children, for she is a widow, and down her cheeks fall the tears, as she bethinks her how dreary a lot hath seized her; so Medea’s cheeks were wet; and her heart within her was in agony, pierced with sharp pain.

(ll. 1068-1072) Now within the palace in the city, as aforetime, lay lordly Alcinous and Arete, the revered wife of Alcinous, and on their couch through the night they were devising plans about the maiden; and him, as her wedded husband, the wife addressed with loving words:

(ll. 1073-1095) "Yea, my friend, come, save the woe-stricken maid from the Colchians and show grace to the Minyae. Argos is near our isle and the men of Haemonia; but Aeetes dwells not near, nor do we know of Aeetes one whit: we hear but his name; but this maiden of dread suffering hath broken my heart by her prayers. O king, give her not up to the Colchians to be borne back to her father’s home. She was distraught when first she gave him the drugs to charm the oxen; and next, to cure one ill by another, as in our sinning we do often, she fled from her haughty sire’s heavy wrath. But Jason, as I hear, is bound to her by mighty oaths that he will make her his wedded wife within his halls. Wherefore, my friend, make not, of thy will, Aeson’s son to be forsworn, nor let the father, if thou canst help, work with angry heart some intolerable mischief on his child. For fathers are all too jealous against their children; what wrong did Nycteus devise against Antiope, fair of face! What woes did Danae endure on the wide sea through her sire’s mad rage! Of late, and not far away, Echetus in wanton cruelty thrust spikes of bronze in his daughter’s eyes; and by a grievous fate is she wasting away, grinding grains of bronze in a dungeon’s gloom."

(ll. 1096-1097) Thus she spake, beseeching; and by his wife’s words his heart was softened, and thus he spake:

(ll. 1098-1109) "Arete, with arms I could drive forth the Colchians, showing grace to the heroes for the maiden’s sake. But I fear to set at nought the righteous judgment of Zeus. Nor is it well to take no thought of Aeetes, as thou sayest: for none is more lordly than Aeetes. And, if he willed, he might bring war upon Hellas, though he dwell afar. Wherefore it is right for me to deliver the judgement that in all men’s eyes shall be best; and I will not hide it from thee. If she be yet a maid I decree that they carry her back to her father; but if she shares a husband’s bed, I will not separate her from her lord; nor, if she bear a child beneath her breast, will I give it up to an enemy."

(ll. 1110-1120) Thus he spake, and at once sleep laid him to rest. And she stored up in her heart the word of wisdom, and straightway rose from her couch and went through the palace; and her handmaids came hasting together, eagerly tending their mistress. But quietly she summoned her herald and addressed him, in her prudence urging Aeson’s son to wed the maiden, and not to implore Alcinous; for he himself, she said, will decree to the Colchians that if she is still a maid he will deliver her up to be borne to her father’s house, but that if she shares a husband’s bed he will not sever her from wedded love.

(ll. 1121-1127) Thus she spake, and quickly from the hall his feet bore him, that he might declare to Jason the fair-omened speech of Arete and the counsel of godfearing Alcinous. And he found the heroes watching in full armour in the haven of Hyllus, near the city; and out he spake the whole message; and each hero’s heart rejoiced; for the word that he spake was welcome.

(ll. 1128-1169) And straightway they mingled a bowl to the blessed ones, as is right, and reverently led sheep to the altar, and for that very night prepared for the maiden the bridal couch in the sacred cave, where once dwelt Macris, the daughter of Aristaeus, lord of honey, who discovered the works of bees and the fatness of the olive, the fruit of labour. She it was that first received in her bosom the Nysean son of Zeus in Abantian Euboea, and with honey moistened his parched lips when Hermes bore him out of the flame. And Hera beheld it, and in wrath drove her from the whole island. And she accordingly came to dwell far off, in the sacred cave of the Phaeacians, and granted boundless wealth to the inhabitants. There at that time did they spread a mighty couch; and thereon they laid the glittering fleece of gold, that so the marriage might be made honoured and the theme of song. And for them nymphs gathered flowers of varied hue and bore them thither in their white bosoms; and a splendour as of flame played round them all, such a light gleamed from the golden tufts. And in their eyes it kindled a sweet longing; yet for all her desire, awe withheld each one from laying her hand thereon. Some were called daughters of the river Aegaeus; others dwelt round the crests of the Meliteian mount; and others were woodland nymphs from the plains. For Hera herself, the spouse of Zeus, had sent them to do honour to Jason. That cave is to this day called the sacred cave of Medea, where they spread the fine and fragrant linen and brought these two together. And the heroes in their hands wielded their spears for war, lest first a host of foes should burst upon them for battle unawares, and, their heads enwreathed with leafy sprays, all in harmony, while Orpheus’ harp rang clear, sang the marriage song at the entrance to the bridal chamber. Yet not in the house of Alcinous was the hero, Aeson’s son, minded to complete his marriage, but in his father’s hall when he had returned home to Ioleus; and such was the mind of Medea herself; but necessity led them to wed at this time. For never in truth do we tribes of woe-stricken mortals tread the path of delight with sure foot; but still some bitter affliction keeps pace with our joy. Wherefore they too, though their souls were melted with sweet love, were held by fear, whether the sentence of Alcinous would be fulfilled.

(ll. 1170-1227) Now dawn returning with her beams divine scattered the gloomy night through the sky; and the island beaches laughed out and the paths over the plains far off, drenched with dew, and there was a din in the streets; the people were astir throughout the city, and far away the Colchians were astir at the bounds of the isle of Macris. And straightway to them went Alcinous, by reason of his covenant, to declare his purpose concerning the maiden, and in his hand he held a golden staff, his staff of justice, whereby the people had righteous judgments meted out to them throughout the city. And with him in order due and arrayed in their harness of war went marching, band by band, the chiefs of the Phaeacians. And from the towers came forth the women in crowds to gaze upon the heroes; and the country folk came to meet them when they heard the news, for Hera had sent forth a true report. And one led the chosen ram of his flock, and another a heifer that had never toiled; and others set hard by jars of wine for mixing; and the smoke of sacrifice leapt up far away. And women bore fine linen, the fruit of much toil, as women will, and gifts of gold and varied ornaments as well, such as are brought to newly-wedded brides; and they marvelled when they saw the shapely forms and beauty of the gallant heroes, and among them the son of Oeagrus, oft beating the ground with gleaming sandal, to the time of his loud-ringing lyre and song. And all the nymphs together, whenever he recalled the marriage, uplifted the lovely bridal-chant; and at times again they sang alone as they circled in the dance, Hera, in thy honour; for it was thou that didst put it into the heart of Arete to proclaim the wise word of Alcinous. And as soon as he had uttered the decree of his righteous judgement, and the completion of the marriage had been proclaimed, he took care that thus it should abide fixed; and no deadly fear touched him nor Aeetes’ grievous wrath, but he kept his judgement fast bound by unbroken oaths. So when the Colchians learnt that they were beseeching in vain and he bade them either observe his judgements or hold their ships away from his harbours and land, then they began to dread the threats of their own king and besought Alcinous to receive them as comrades; and there in the island long time they dwelt with the Phaeacians, until in the course of years, the Bacchiadae, a race sprung from Ephyra, (10) settled among them; and the Colchians passed to an island opposite; and thence they were destined to reach the Ceraunian hills of the Abantes, and the Nestaeans and Oricum; but all this was fulfilled after long ages had passed. And still the altars which Medea built on the spot sacred to Apollo, god of shepherds, receive yearly sacrifices in honour of the Fates and the Nymphs. And when the Minyae departed many gifts of friendship did Alcinous bestow, and many Arete; moreover she gave Medea twelve Phaeacian handmaids from the palace, to bear her company. And on the seventh day they left Drepane; and at dawn came a fresh breeze from Zeus. And onward they sped borne along by the wind’s breath. Howbeit not yet was it ordained for the heroes to set foot on Achaea, until they had toiled even in the furthest bounds of Libya.

(ll. 1228-1250) Now had they left behind the gulf named after the Ambracians, now with sails wide spread the land of the Curetes, and next in order the narrow islands with the Echinades, and the land of Pelops was just descried; even then a baleful blast of the north wind seized them in mid-course and swept them towards the Libyan sea nine nights and as many days, until they came far within Syrtis, wherefrom is no return for ships, when they are once forced into that gulf. For on every hand are shoals, on every hand masses of seaweed from the depths; and over them the light foam of the wave washes without noise; and there is a stretch of sand to the dim horizon; and there moveth nothing that creeps or flies. Here accordingly the flood-tide—for this tide often retreats from the land and bursts back again over the beach coming on with a rush and roar—thrust them suddenly on to the innermost shore, and but little of the keel was left in the water. And they leapt forth from the ship, and sorrow seized them when they gazed on the mist and the levels of vast land stretching far like a mist and continuous into the distance; no spot for water, no path, no steading of herdsmen did they descry afar off, but all the scene was possessed by a dead calm. And thus did one hero, vexed in spirit, ask another:

(ll. 1251-1258) "What land is this? Whither has the tempest hurled us? Would that, reckless of deadly fear, we had dared to rush on by that same path between the clashing rocks! Better were it to have overleapt the will of Zeus and perished in venturing some mighty deed. But now what should we do, held back by the winds to stay here, if ever so short a time? How desolate looms before us the edge of the limitless land!"


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Chicago: Apollonius Rhodius, "Lines 1053-1258," Argonautica, trans. Weber, Gottfried in Argonautica Original Sources, accessed December 10, 2023,

MLA: Rhodius, Apollonius. "Lines 1053-1258." Argonautica, translted by Weber, Gottfried, in Argonautica, Original Sources. 10 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Rhodius, A, 'Lines 1053-1258' in Argonautica, trans. . cited in , Argonautica. Original Sources, retrieved 10 December 2023, from