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Book 1

The poem begins with an invocation to Apollo and briefly recounts his prophetic warning to Pelias,
king of Iolcus, that his downfall will be the work of a man with only one sandal. Jason has recently
emerged as the man in question, having lost a sandal while crossing a swollen stream. onsequently
Pelias has entrusted him with a suicidal mission to olchis to bring back the !olden "leece. A ship,
the Argo, has already been constructed by Argus, a shipwright working under Athena#s instructions.
$eanwhile a band of heroes have arrived to help in the venture. The locals marvel at such a gathering %
young Jason has been given an impossible mission yet this band of heroes &ust might help him pull it
off. 'is mother fears the worst. 'e bids her to stay strong and calm.
Jason urges the heroes to elect a leader for the voyage. They all nominate 'eracles ('ercules). 'eracles
however insists on Jason as leader and the others submit to this choice. *e&oicing in his election, Jason
orders the crew to haul the ship down to the water. The Argo is then moored for the night so that they
can en&oy a farewell feast. Two bulls are sacrificed to Apollo, wine flows and conversation becomes
animated. Jason however becomes withdrawn and glum. +ne of the heroes, Idas, accuses him of
cowardice, the prophet Idmon in turn accuses Idas of drunken vainglory. A fight almost breaks out
but +rpheus soothes everyone with a song about the cosmos and how the gods and all things were
created. At dawn, Tiphys, the ship#s pilot, rouses the crew. The ship itself calls to them, since its keel
includes a magical beam of -odonianoak. The shore cables are loosed. Jason sheds a tear as they pull
away from his home, Iolcus. The oars churn up the sea, wielded by heroic hands in time to +rpheus#s
stirring music. .oon the eastern coast of Thessaly is left behind.
The first ma&or port they reach is /emnos, where the women, led by their 0ueen 'ypsipyle, have
recently murdered all their menfolk, including husbands, sons, brothers and fathers.1nb 23 The all4
female parliament decides that the heroes should be encouraged to stay. Jason, as leader, is summoned
and he goes to town wrapped in a magnificent cloak made for him by Athena. 'ypsipyle falls in love
on the spot and he settles into the palace. 'is crew is taken home by the other women % all but 'eracles
and some comrades, who prefer to stay with the ship. Thus the voyage is postponed day after day.
"inally 'eracles assembles all the Argonauts for a strong talk. 'e tells them that they are not behaving
like heroes and the !olden "leece won#t bring itself back to !reece. Thus chastised, they immediately
prepare to leave. Jason tells the queen to entrust their son to his parents, if she bears him one. 'e is the
first back on board when the Argo sets sail again.
Traveling through the 'ellespont, they reach an island5peninsula that is home to savage 6arth4born men
(789:;<:=) with si> arms each. Their neighbours are the -oliones, a civili?ed people descended
from Poseidon. The savages are hostile but the Argonauts receive a friendly welcome from y?icus, the
newly wed king of the -oliones, about Jason#s age. 'owever, the Argonauts and -oliones end up
fighting each other in the dark, mistaking one another for enemies. y?icus is killed by Jason. 'is
widow leite hangs herself in despair. .hared grief and a magnificent funeral reconcile the two sides.
$eanwhile the Argonauts are kept there by adverse winds. "inally the seer $opsus learns from omens
that they are meant to establish a cult of the mother of the gods (*hea5ybele).1nb @3 The cult is soon
established, the weather changes for the better and the Argonauts set off again.
Their ne>t landfall is by the river ius, where 'eraclesAs handsome young squire 'ylas is abducted by
a water nymph while filling an urn at her spring. 'eracles and his comrade Polyphemus are still
searching for him when the rest of the Argonauts set sail again. Bhen at last the absences are
noticed, Telamon accuses Jason of leaving 'eracles behind on purpose. Just then the sea
divinity !laucus emerges from the depths, assuring them that the loss of their three crewmen is the
work of the gods. 'e vanishes back into the water and they continue the voyage without their three
Book 2
The Argonauts reach a gulf in the Propontis, home to the Cebrycians, whose king Amycus demands a
bo>ing match with the champion of these Dsea4wanderersD ( EFGEH9IJKL ). 'e does this with all
travellers and he doesn#t even ask who they are. Angered by such disrespect, Polydeukes volunteers and
the fight begins. Amycus is a man4mountain but the young Argonaut is skilled with his fists and
eventually lands a lethal blow. The Cebrycians rush on the victor, weapons drawn, but they are
intercepted and chased off by his rampant crewmates. .ome sheep are herded on board and the Argo
leaves the following day. Their ne>t stop is on the opposite coast, near the home of Phineus, once a
king of the Thynians. 'e too doesn#t ask who these travellers are. 'e already knows. 'is powers of
prophesy are so great that Meus has punished him for giving away divine secrets, afflicting him with
e>treme old age, blindness and daily visits from the harpies. Jason and the Argonauts are destined to
rescue him from the harpies and thus he welcomes them as his deliverers. Metes and alais, sons of the
north wind, duly chase the pests away, and the blind old man gratefully reveals the safest route to
olchis and how best to sail past the lashing *ocks.
Passing through the lashing *ocks (thanks to the advice of Phineus, the pilot skills of Tiphys and the
aid of Athena), they enter the Clack .ea and arrive at a deserted island, Thynias, where they observe
Apollo flying overhead on his way north to visit the 'yperboreans. The island shakes with his passing.
There they build an altar and a shrine (lasting memorials of their voyage). Ne>t stop is an outlet of the
river Acheron, one of the entries to 'ades, where they meet /ycus, king of the $ariandynians and an
enemy to the now defunct king of the Cebrycians. 'e receives them very hospitably. Their departure is
delayed when the prophet Idmon is killed by a wild boar and Tiphys dies of illness. Two tombs are built
(some more lasting memorials of their voyage) and the Argonauts set off again.
Their ne>t two landfalls bring them into contact with some old comrades of 'eracles, left behind after
his campaign against the Ama?ons. +ne is .thenelus, whose ghost beckons to them from his tomb by
the sea, and the others are three men stranded at .inope. The Argonauts pour libations to the ghost of
.thenelus and the three survivors gain places aboard the Argo. They arrive ne>t at the river Thermodon,
where the Ama?ons have their harbour, and they leave the ne>t day before the women can assemble for
battle. The Ama?on influence however reaches even to the deserted Island of Ares, where they have
built a temple to the god of war. Bhen the Argonauts arrive, it is only defended by birds. They fight off
the birds and then chance upon four survivors of a shipwreck. These are the four sons of the e>iled
!reek hero, Phri>us, and they are also grandsons of Aetes, king of olchis. Jason welcomes them as
god4sent allies in his quest for the !olden "leece.
Approaching olchis, the Argonauts see the eagle of Meus flying to and from the aucasus mountains,
where it feeds on the liver of Prometheus. It glides through the air as large as another ship, disturbing
the Argo#s sails as it passes overhead. .oon after, the heroes enter the Phasis, the main river of olchis,
and furtively anchor in a backwater.
Book 3
The third book begins by invoking 6rato, the $use of love poetry. The Argo is still hidden in a olchis
backwater when the goddesses 'era and Athena retire to a private room on +lympus to consider in
secret how best to help Jason. 'era thinks the daughter of the olchian king might prove useful if she
could be made to fall in love with him. .he then suggests enlisting the help of Aphrodite. Athena likes
the plan but, being a virgin conscious of appearances, asks 'era to do all the talking. They find the
goddess of love indolently combing her hair in own apartment. .he has been bickering with her young
son 6ros and doubts if the unruly child will fire any arrows at $edea &ust to please her. 'era, an
e>perienced mother, advises her to avoid quarrels with the boy and Aphrodite subsequently buys his
support with the gift of a fabulous ball, intricately fashioned so as to leave a trail like a falling star.
Jason advises his comrades that they should try persuasion before attempting to take the !olden "leece
by force and then he leads Phri>us# sons home to the palace of Aetes. Their une>pected arrival is
greeted by $edea with a cry that brings everyone running, including her sister halciope (mother of
the four castaways) and Aetes, the king. $eanwhile 6ros invisibly &oins the throng, squats at Jason#s
feet and fires off the fateful arrow, departing then with a laugh. $edea#s heart floods with sweet pain.
Aetes however is filled with rage when his grandsons ask him to hand the !olden "leece to Jason for
return to Iolcus. 'e accuses them of conspiring with foreigners to steal away his kingdom. Jason
delivers a soothing speech and Aetes responds with a mock compromise % he can have what he came
for if he first ploughs the Plain of Ares with fire4breathing o>en, ne>t sows four acres with dragon#s
teeth and finally cuts down the crop of armed men before they can cut him down. It#s a task that Aetes,
son of the .un, has often performed. Jason accepts the challenge reluctantly. 'e sets off for the ship to
inform his crew and $edea#s thoughts flutter at his departing heels (;OK= ... PGQRS; G:GOJ8JK T:J#
U;LH ), torn between love and anguish.
That night, in a dream, she envisions herself performing Jason#s task for him. .he wakes fearing the
wrath of Aetes and the danger to her reputation if she helps Jason without good cause. The safety of her
sister#s four sons depends on his success. .he wonders if halciope can be enticed into asking her to
help Jason for their sake. 6ven this seems too bold for a young virgin and finally she surrenders to sobs
of dismay. 'er sister comes in response to the noise. $edea tells her that she is worried about her
nephews, since they are doomed if the stranger fails. halciope then asks her to help Jason and $edea
gladly agrees. Alone in her room again, she continues to be torn between hope and fear. .he
contemplates suicide, opens her chest of drugs looking for poison but instead selects a drug that will
help Jason in his trial of strength.
Arrangements for a secret meeting are made. The tryst is outside a temple of 'ecate, where $edea is
the priestess. At first they are as speechless as lofty pines rooted together on a mountain4side, until the
force of love comes like a sudden gust of wind. 'e reminds her that he is utterly at her mercy and he
promises to make her famous throughout !reece if she assists him. .he draws the drug out from
between her breasts and hands it to him. If he ever forgets her kindness, she warns him, she will fly to
!reece on the wind and there rebuke him to his face. 'e urges her to forget the wind and sail back with
him instead, as his future wife. .he doesn#t commit herself to anything and returns home as if in a
dream. 'e returns to the crew, welcomed by all but Idas, who considers his reliance on a woman#s help
to be unheroic.
The day of trial arrives and so do the people of olchis, gathering on the hillsides as spectators. Aetes
rides about in his chariot, glorying in his own magnificence. The Argo comes upstream and moors by
the river#s edge. Jason steps forward. .ecretly fortified by $edea#s spells, he manhandles the monstrous
o>en and sows the deadly field with teeth. 'e pauses briefly for a drink then, cheered on by his
comrades, returns to the scene of action, where an army of men is springing from the broken soil, ready
to attack him. These he routs single4handedly, relying on a trick taught him by $edea. -umbfounded,
Aetes returns to the palace, all the while wondering how best to cheat Jason of his promised reward.
Book 4
The poet calls upon the $use to describe $edeaAs state of mindV is it shame, alarm or love that leads
her to flee olchisW 'er treason is already known to her father and self4poisoning seems like an option
again. .he decides instead to flee olchis with her nephews, the sons of Phri>us, camped with the
Argonauts by the river. -oors open for her by magic as she hurries barefoot though the palace, and the
moon laughs at her outdoors, recalling the many times that she was captured and brought to earth by
$edeaAs cruel love spells (a reference to the moonAs passion for 6ndymion). Arriving at the camp,
$edea warns the others about her fatherAs treachery and offers to help steal the !olden "leece from its
guardian serpent. Jason solemnly pledges to marry her, she puts the snake to sleep with a spell and then
the hero takes the "leece back to the Argo, e>ulting in its sheen like a young girl who has caught
moonbeams in the folds of her gown.
The fugitive Argo is pursued by two olchian fleets, ships numerous as flocking birds. +ne of the
fleets sails into the Propontis through the now4motionless lashing *ocks. The second is led by
$edea#s half4brother, Apsyrtus, and it takes the same route as the Argo, up the river Ister (-anube). A
distant branch of the river eventually leads the Argonauts into the .ea of ronus (Adriatic), where
Apsyrtus finally corners them on the Crygean Islands. Peace talks result in a deal % Jason can keep the
fleece, since he won it after all, but $edeaAs fate must be decided by a mediator chosen from the
neighbouring kings. "earing the worst, $edea comes up with an alternative plan. .he lures Apsyrtus
into a trap with promises of rewards. Jason murders him and the body is dismembered to avoid
retribution from the 6rinyes. The leaderless olchians are easily outwitted and, rather than return home
empty4handed to a wrathful Aetes, they disperse and settle around the nearby coast.
Indignant at the brutal murder, Meus condemns the Argonauts to wander homeless for a longer term. A
gale blows them back north and they enter the river 6ridanus (Po), whose different branches eventually
bring them into The .ardinian .ea (!ulf of /yons), on the western side of Ausonia (Italy). 'ere the
enchantress irce absolves the lovers of blood4guilt. $eanwhile 'era has a friendly chat with the sea
nymph Thetis. The goddess advises the nymph that her infant son Achilles is destined to marry $edea
in the 6lysian fields and then she sends her on an errand to secure the ArgoAs passage south. The
Argonauts safely pass the .irens, whose music however causes Cutes to fall overboard, they get past
the Bandering *ocks, from which Argo is saved by the Nereids, like girls on the beach passing a ball to
and fro. Thus the Argonauts arrive at -repane (orfu) off the western coast of !reece. It is here they
encounter the other olchian fleet. Alcinous, the virtuous king of -repane, offers to mediate between
the two sides, later confiding in his virtous wife, Arete, that he means to surrender $edea to the
olchians, unless she happens to be married. The queen reveals this to the lovers and they are duly
married in a sacred cave on the island, where the bridal bed is draped with the !olden "leece.
-isappointed, the olchians follow the e>ample of the first fleet and settle nearby rather than return
The Argonauts can#t return home eitherV another gale drives them off course, this time south towards
the .yrtes, an interminable sandbank off /ibya. 'ere they can see no means of escape and they resign
themselves to an inglorious end, parting from each other to die in private, while $edea and her maids
lament their fate in a forlorn group. Jason#s isolation soon ends with a visit by three nymphs, the
guardians of /ibya, with mysterious instructions about how to survive. Peleus interprets the
instructions on his behalfV they must carry the Argo across the desert. Twelve days later, their ship on
their shoulders, they arrive at /ake Triton and the garden of the'esperides. They receive some
astonishing news from the 'esperidesV 'eracles raided the garden &ust the day before. 'e has already
vanished into the distance and so they must depart without him yet again. $eanwhile they lose another
two comrades, $opsus and anthus, one dying from snake bite, the other from a wound inflicted by a
local shepherd belonging to the ancestral family of the native !aramantes and Nasamones. .hortly
afterwards, Triton reveals a route from the lake to the open sea and entrusts 6uphemus with a magical
clod of earth that is destined to become the island of Thera, from which /ibya would later be settled by
!reek colonists. Triton carries off a tripod, as an offering of thanks. The story ends with a visit to the
island of Anaphe, where the Argonauts institute rites in honour of Apollo, and Aegina (not far from
Jason#s home), where they establish a festival competition, fetching water and racing one another with
full amphoras on their shoulders.