I’m very pleased to be able to read the Argonautica to you. One of my original plans for the podcast was to read this, but I’ve been putting it off for one good reason or another for all this time.
It’s a crime that so many of Western civilization’s founding legends are known to most of us only through a reference work or a Cliff Notes version in one of the many boiled-down books of mythology. Reference works are all very well, but you can’t live on Cliff Notes forever. Nor is it practical to boil down all of Greek epic poetry to Homer alone. I mean, sure, on a desert island you’re good with just Shakespeare and the Bible, but most of us don’t live on desert islands and shouldn’t act like we do.
We are living in the midst of chocolate and steak, and choosing to eat sawdust.
The Argonautica was an epic Greek poem from the Hellenistic period, telling the story of Jason and the Argonauts, and the quest for the Golden Fleece. They say that the poet, Apollonius of Rhodes, also succeeded Erastothenes as head librarian of the famous Library of Alexandria. That’s what I call a career!
Part 1 is mostly a catalog of the heroes who joined Jason, starting with the least famous guys and least god-descended guys, and working its way up. (Warning: I don’t speak Greek, so my pronunciations of the names are not accurate.)
There’s a great image here of the sons of Boreas: “There, they were making their dusky wings quiver upon their ankles on both sides as they rose — a great wonder to behold, wings that gleamed with golden scales: and round their backs from the top of the head and neck, hither and thither, their dark tresses were being shaken by the wind.”