The Argonautika: The Story of Jason and the Quest for the Golden Fleece

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Overview


The Argonautika, the only surviving epic of the Hellenistic era, is a retelling of the tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece, probably the oldest extant Greek myth. Jason, a young prince, is sent on a perilous expedition but comes through various ordeals with the aid of the king's daughter, Medeia, winning the golden fleece and carrying off Medeia herself. He is a very modern figure, not at all Achillean: almost an anti-hero. Along the way, the story incorporates vivid accounts of early exploration and colonizing ventures. Peter Green's lively, readable verse translation captures the swift narrative movement of Apollonios's epic Greek.

Apollonios Rhodios (c. 305-235 B.C.), the author of the Argonautika, was appointed Chief Librarian in the legendary library at Alexandria around 265 B.C. His first draft of this poem, composed when he was a very young man, drew scornful reactions from the literati of the day, Kallimachos in particular, who thought epic passé and long poems vulgar. Apollonios withdrew to the maritime island of Rhodes (his work is notable for its nautical expertise), where he hammered out the text as we know it today, returning to eventual success in the city that had rejected him. The compromise that resulted is a fascinating combination of age-old myth and modern treatment that produces a gripping and unforgettable narrative. Peter Green has translated this renowned poem with skill and wit, offering a refreshing interpretation of a timeless story.

The cloth edition of the Argonautika includes Peter Green's lively and incisive commentary, the first on all four books since Mooney's in 1912. While clarifying text and background, the commentary takes full advantage throughout of the recent upsurge of scholarly interest in Apollonios.

Alternate spelling: Argonautica, Apollonius Rhodius

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
While Apollonios's long verse romance was originally scorned, it has grown in stature and remains the fullest account of the story of Jason, Medea, and the quest for the golden fleece and the only surviving epic of the Hellenistic period. This new translation joins that of F.V. Rieu (Penguin, 1959). Green (classics, Univ. of Texas), the author of a number of books on Alexander the Great and Hellenistic culture, as well as The Laughter of Aphrodite (Univ. of California, 1993), a novel about Sappho, translates Apollonios's Greek into fluent English verse while preserving his stateliness. The cloth version includes comprehensive notes and commentary. Green's efforts represent both fine literature and scholarship, making this book appropriate for public and academic libraries.Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, Ga.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520076860
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/1997
  • Series: Hellenistic Culture and Society Series
  • Pages: 500
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.38 (d)

Meet the Author


Peter Green is Dougherty Centennial Professor of Classics at the University of Texas, Austin. His other books available from California include Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age (1990), Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography (1991), The Laughter of Aphrodite: A Novel about Sappho of Lesbos (1993), and The Greco-Persian Wars (1996).
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