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The Argonautica

Apollonius of Rhodes


The Argonautica is an epic mythical poem by Apollonius of Rhodes. The myth tells of how Jason and his crew of Argonauts sail to Kolchis at the far end of the world to retrieve the Golden Fleece. They face many dangers and ask the favor of the Greek gods to help them along the way. These gods induce Medea, a daughter of the king of Kolchis, to fall in love with Jason so that she will be bound to help him win the Fleece. The voyage takes the crew through the Hellespont to the Black Sea, and back out to further adventures around the Mediterranean. While the characters were already known to ancient audiences, this is the first known work to tell this particular story in full.

This edition was translated into English verse from ancient Greek by Arthur S. Way. Way states in his epilogue that this poem, written in the third century BC, is the one great epic between Homer and Virgil. When Apollonius wrote this story, it was thought by the literary elites in Alexandria that the era of epic poetry was over, and there was nothing left to write except for short, carefully polished works—certainly no attempt should be made to improve or expand on Homer. Yet this work became well known in the ancient world, and was used as inspiration by the later Latin writers.

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