Author: Apollonius Rhodius

Lines 206-409

(ll. 206-211) Thus he spake, and donned his armour of war; and they cried aloud, wondrously eager. And he drew his sword from the sheath and cut the hawsers at the stern. And near the maiden he took his stand ready armed by the steersman Aneaeus, and with their rowing the ship sped on as they strained desperately to drive her clear of the river.

(ll. 212-235) By this time Medea’s love and deeds had become known to haughty Aeetes and to all the Colchians. And they thronged to the assembly in arms; and countless as the waves of the stormy sea when they rise crested by the wind, or as the leaves that fall to the ground from the wood with its myriad branches in the month when the leaves fall—who could reckon their tale?—so they in countless number poured along the banks of the river shouting in frenzy; and in his shapely chariot Aeetes shone forth above all with his steeds, the gift of Helios, swift as the blasts of the wind. In his left hand he raised his curved shield, and in his right a huge pine-torch, and near him in front stood up his mighty spear. And Apsyrtus held in his hands the reins of the steeds. But already the ship was cleaving the sea before her, urged on by stalwart oarsmen, and the stream of the mighty river rushing down. But the king in grievous anguish lifted his hands and called on Helios and Zeus to bear witness to their evil deeds; and terrible threats he uttered against all his people, that unless they should with their own hands seize the maiden, either on the land or still finding the ship on the swell of the open sea, and bring her back, that so he might satisfy his eager soul with vengeance for all those deeds, at the cost of their own lives they should learn and abide all his rage and revenge.

(ll. 236-240) Thus spake Aeetes; and on that same day the Colchians launched their ships and cast the tackle on board, and on that same day sailed forth on the sea; thou wouldst not say so mighty a host was a fleet of ships, but that a countless flight of birds, swarm on swarm, was clamouring over the sea.

(ll. 241-252) Swiftly the wind blew, as the goddess Hera planned, so that most quickly Aeaean Medea might reach the Pelasgian land, a bane to the house of Pelias, and on the third morn they bound the ship’s stern cables to the shores of the Paphlagonians, at the mouth of the river Halys. For Medea bade them land and propitiate Hecate with sacrifice. Now all that the maiden prepared for offering the sacrifice may no man know, and may my soul not urge me to sing thereof. Awe restrains my lips, yet from that time the altar which the heroes raised on the beach to the goddess remains till now, a sight to men of a later day.

(ll. 253-256) And straightway Aeson’s son and the rest of the heroes bethought them of Phineus, how that he had said that their course from Aea should be different, but to all alike his meaning was dim. Then Argus spake, and they eagerly hearkened:

(ll. 257-293) "We go to Orchomenus, whither that unerring seer, whom ye met aforetime, foretold your voyage. For there is another course, signified by those priests of the immortal gods, who have sprung from Tritonian Thebes. As yet all the stars that wheel in the heaven were not, nor yet, though one should inquire, could aught be heard of the sacred race of the Danai. Apidanean Arcadians alone existed, Arcadians who lived even before the moon, it is said, eating acorns on the hills; nor at that time was the Pelasgian land ruled by the glorious sons of Deucalion, in the days when Egypt, mother of men of an older time, was called the fertile Morning-land, and the river fair-flowing Triton, by which all the Morning-land is watered; and never does the rain from Zeus moisten the earth; but from the flooding of the river abundant crops spring up. From this land, it is said, a king (1) made his way all round through the whole of Europe and Asia, trusting in the might and strength and courage of his people; and countless cities did he found wherever he came, whereof some are still inhabited and some not; many an age hath passed since then. But Aea abides unshaken even now and the sons of those men whom that king settled to dwell in Aea. They preserve the writings of their fathers, graven on pillars, whereon are marked all the ways and the limits of sea and land as ye journey on all sides round. There is a river, the uttermost horn of Ocean, broad and exceeding deep, that a merchant ship may traverse; they call it Ister and have marked it far off; and for a while it cleaves the boundless tilth alone in one stream; for beyond the blasts of the north wind, far off in the Rhipaean mountains, its springs burst forth with a roar. But when it enters the boundaries of the Thracians and Scythians, here, dividing its stream into two, it sends its waters partly into the Ionian sea, (2) and partly to the south into a deep gulf that bends upwards from the Trinaerian sea, that sea which lies along your land, if indeed Achelous flows forth from your land."

(ll. 204-302) Thus he spake, and to them the goddess granted a happy portent, and all at the sight shouted approval, that this was their appointed path. For before them appeared a trail of heavenly light, a sign where they might pass. And gladly they left behind there the son of Lyeus and with canvas outspread sailed over the sea, with their eyes on the Paphlagonian mountains. But they did not round Carambis, for the winds and the gleam of the heavenly fire stayed with them till they reached Ister’s mighty stream.

(ll. 303-337) Now some of the Colchians, in a vain search, passed out from Pontus through the Cyanean rocks; but the rest went to the river, and them Apsyrtus led, and, turning aside, he entered the mouth called Fair. Wherefore he outstripped the heroes by crossing a neck of land into the furthest gulf of the Ionian sea. For a certain island is enclosed by Ister, by name Peuee, three-cornered, its base stretching along the coast, and with a sharp angle towards the river; and round it the outfall is cleft in two. One mouth they call the mouth of Narex, and the other, at the lower end, the Fair mouth. And through this Apsyrtus and his Colchians rushed with all speed; but the heroes went upwards far away towards the highest part of the island. And in the meadows the country shepherds left their countless flocks for dread of the ships, for they deemed that they were beasts coming forth from the monster-teeming sea. For never yet before had they seen seafaring ships, neither the Scythians mingled with the Thracians, nor the Sigynni, nor yet the Graucenii, nor the Sindi that now inhabit the vast desert plain of Laurium. But when they had passed near the mount Angurum, and the cliff of Cauliacus, far from the mount Angurum, round which Ister, dividing his stream, falls into the sea on this side and on that, and the Laurian plain, then indeed the Colchians went forth into the Cronian sea and cut off all the ways, to prevent their foes’ escape. And the heroes came down the river behind and reached the two Brygean isles of Artemis near at hand. Now in one of them was a sacred temple; and on the other they landed, avoiding the host of Apsyrtus; for the Colchians had left these islands out of many within the river, just as they were, through reverence for the daughter of Zeus; but the rest, thronged by the Colchians, barred the ways to the sea. And so on other islands too, close by, Apsyrtus left his host as far as the river Salangon and the Nestian land.

(ll. 338-349) There the Minyae would at that time have yielded in grim fight, a few to many; but ere then they made a covenant, shunning a dire quarrel; as to the golden fleece, that since Aeetes himself had so promised them if they should fulfill the contests, they should keep it as justly won, whether they carried it off by craft or even openly in the king’s despite; but as to Medea—for that was the cause of strife—that they should give her in ward to Leto’s daughter apart from the throng, until some one of the kings that dispense justice should utter his doom, whether she must return to her father’s home or follow the chieftains to the land of Hellas.

(ll. 350-354) Now when the maiden had mused upon all this, sharp anguish shook her heart unceasingly; and quickly she called forth Jason alone apart from his comrades, and led him aside until they were far away, and before his face uttered her speech all broken with sobs:

(ll. 355-390) "What is this purpose that ye are now devising about me, O son of Aeson? Has thy triumph utterly cast forgetfulness upon thee, and reekest thou nothing of all that thou spakest when held fast by necessity? Whither are fled the oaths by Zeus the suppliants’ god, whither are fled thy honied promises? For which in no seemly wise, with shameless will, I have left my country, the glories of my home and even my parents — things that were dearest to me; and far away all alone I am borne over the sea with the plaintive kingfishers because of thy trouble, in order that I might save thy life in fulfilling the contests with the oxen and the earthborn men. Last of all the fleece—when the matter became known, it was by my folly thou didst win it; and a foul reproach have I poured on womankind. Wherefore I say that as thy child, thy bride and thy sister, I follow thee to the land of Hellas. Be ready to stand by me to the end, abandon me not left forlorn of thee when thou dost visit the kings. But only save me; let justice and right, to which we have both agreed, stand firm; or else do thou at once shear through this neck with the sword, that I may gain the guerdon due to my mad passion. Poor wretch! if the king, to whom you both commit your cruel covenant, doom me to belong to my brother. How shall I come to my father’s sight? Will it be with a good name? What revenge, what heavy calamity shall I not endure in agony for the terrible deeds I have done? And wilt thou win the return that thy heart desires? Never may Zeus’ bride, the queen of all, in whom thou dost glory, bring that to pass. Mayst thou some time remember me when thou art racked with anguish; may the fleece like a dream vanish into the nether darkness on the wings of the wind! And may my avenging Furies forthwith drive thee from thy country, for all that I have suffered through thy cruelty! These curses will not be allowed to fall unaccomplished to the ground. A mighty oath hast thou transgressed, ruthless one; but not long shalt thou and thy comrades sit at ease casting eyes of mockery upon me, for all your covenants."

(ll. 391-394) Thus she spake, seething with fierce wrath; and she longed to set fire to the ship and to hew it utterly in pieces, and herself to fall into the raging flame. But Jason, half afraid, thus addressed her with gentle words:

(ll. 395-409) "Forbear, lady; me too this pleases not. But we seek some respite from battle, for such a cloud of hostile men, like to a fire, surrounds us, on thy account. For all that inhabit this land are eager to aid Apsyrtus, that they may lead thee back home to thy father, like some captured maid. And all of us would perish in hateful destruction, if we closed with them in fight; and bitterer still will be the pain, if we are slain and leave thee to be their prey. But this covenant will weave a web of guile to lead him to ruin. Nor will the people of the land for thy sake oppose us, to favour the Colchians, when their prince is no longer with them, who is thy champion and thy brother; nor will I shrink from matching myself in fight with the Colchians, if they bar my way homeward."


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Chicago: Apollonius Rhodius, "Lines 206-409," Argonautica, trans. Weber, Gottfried in Argonautica Original Sources, accessed July 24, 2024,

MLA: Rhodius, Apollonius. "Lines 206-409." Argonautica, translted by Weber, Gottfried, in Argonautica, Original Sources. 24 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Rhodius, A, 'Lines 206-409' in Argonautica, trans. . cited in , Argonautica. Original Sources, retrieved 24 July 2024, from