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
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).
"A smooth-running and highly readable verse translation of Apollonios's epic tale of the voyage of the Argonauts from the pen of a writer whose elegant verse translations of Ovid's Erotic Poems and Juvenal's Satires have long been justly admired by scholars and the general public alike. The introduction, written with Green's customary verve and wit, locates Apollonios in his Alexandrian world and proposes a new understanding of his poetic purpose and achievement. But that is not all. The translation is followed by a detailed commentary that explains difficulties and mythical allusions. The commentary will be helpful for Greek-less readers, but it will also command the attention of scholars. Though there are many commentaries available for the third book of the poem, there is nothing else in print in English that covers all four. Peter Green's Argonautika is, quite simply, invaluable."—Bernard Knox, author of Backing into the Future
"Peter Green turns his formidable classical learning and his finely nuanced sense of English verse to bear on the challenge of restoring Apollonios to his true place—on a par with the best modern poetic versions of Homer and Virgil."—Robert Fagles, translator of Homer's Iliad
"The style is crisp, energetic, and masculine in the narrative, but not unsympathetic to the love-suffering of Medeia."—Jasper Griffin, Oxford University