Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
When we think of Greek epic, our minds generally fly at once to the great poems attributed to Homer, or perhaps to the works of the Epic Cycle, standing in the shadows of the Homeric poems. Similarly, when we consider the great stories of Greek epic, we immediately think of the Trojan War, the Wanderings of Odysseus, and the Voyage of the Argonauts. A comparison of these two casual impressions reveals one strange feature: while the standard versions of the tales of the Trojan War and its aftermath are known to us from the Homeric poems and the Cyclic epics, our fullest and most definitive version of the myth of the Argo comes from the pen of the third century B.C. Alexandrian writer, Apollonios Rhodios.
The fact that Apollonios chose the legend for his subject would seem to indicate that no previous author had made it his own, as Homer had done with the story of Odysseus. But in spite of this, the story of the Argo was a popular and very old myth, as is indicated by Euripides' tragedy Medea, and by the Homeric reference to Αργω πασμελoυσα , παρ' 'Αηταο πλεουσα (Odyss. XII, 70). Clearly the subject had been treated by authors previous to Apollonios, and the myth was well-known to the poet of the Odyssey.
The myth has been investigated by Miss J. R. Bacon (The Voyage of the Argonauts, Methuen, London 1925), but the object of our study will be to examine the treatment of the myth in the early literary sources, and to attempt some reconstruction of the versions which they presented. This approach will lead us into areas which were not fully examined by Miss Bacon, notably the treatment of the myth in early epic. The examination of the different versions should enable Us to see more clearly the development of the myth. It is hoped that this study may enable us to discover the character of the myth in Homeric times and earlier, and perhaps also to trace it to its ultimate source. In view of this, it will be best to work back through the several authors in an approximately chronological order (as far as this can be determined).
Of the authors to be examined, two will come readily . to mind. first there is Pindar, whose Fourth Pythian Ode provides us with our most complete surviving account of the myth before Apollonios, and which, therefore, will be the best place to begin our researches. Secondly, no examination of an early epic subject can be made without reference to the works of Homer, to whom, as we have already noticed, the Argo was wellknown.
For other sources to be considered, we shall be guided by the Scholia to Apollonios Rhodios, which often cite the versions given by other authors. Since we have decided to restrict our examination to the work of Pindar and authors previous to him, four sources would seem to be worthy of consideration. These are the genealogist, Pherekydes of Athens, the Boiotian poet, Hesiod, and two early epic poets, Eumelos of Corinth, and the author of the epic called the Naupactia. A chapter will be devoted to the treatment of the myth by each of these authors in turn. Finally, we shall examine the possible origins of the story, and end by outlining the development of some aspects of the myth from the earliest versions up until that of Apollonios.
For those of our authors whose work survives only in fragments, references will be given as follows: for Pherekydes they will be to F. Jacoby's Die Fragmente delr griechischen Historiker. Pherekydes is the third author listed by Jacoby, so references will be in the form e.g. 3 F 30 J, meaning the thirtieth fragment of Pherekydes in Jacoby's FGH. References to other authors in FGH will be given in a similar manner. For Hesiod, references are to Carmina Hesiodi (second edit. Teubner, 1902), by Rzach, and will be in the form e.g. F 50 Rz2, meaning the fiftieth fragment in Rzach's second edition. For the two early epic writers, references will be to Epicorum Graecorum Fragmenta (Leipzig, 1877), edited by Kinkel, e.g. Eumel. F 2 K; Naup. F 10 K. The edition of the Scholia to Apollonios will be Scholia in Apollonium Rhodium Vetera (recens. C. Wendel, Berol. 1935).
A map is provided illustrating most of the places mentioned in the text.
Mathhews, Victor John, "THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE MYTH OF THE ARGONAUTS" (1965). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4648.
McMaster University Library