Αὐτὴ νῦν κάματόν γε, θεά, καὶ δήνεα κούρης
Κολχίδος ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, Διὸς τέκος· ἦ γὰρ ἐμοί γε
ἀμφασίῃ νόος ἔνδον ἑλίσσεται ὁρμαίνοντι,
ἠέ μιν ἄτης πῆμα δυσίμερον ἦ τό γ᾿ ἐνίσπω
5φύζαν ἀεικελίην, ᾗ κάλλιπεν ἔθνεα Κόλχων.
ἤτοι ὁ μὲν δήμοιο μετ᾿ ἀνδράσιν, ὅσσοι ἄριστοι,
παννύχιος δόλον αἰπὺν ἐπὶ σφίσι μητιάασκεν
οἷσιν ἐνὶ μεγάροις, στυγερῷ ἐπὶ θυμὸν ἀέθλῳ
Αἰήτης ἄμοτον κεχολωμένος, οὐδ᾿ ὅ γε πάμπαν
10θυγατέρων τάδε νόσφιν ἑῶν τελέεσθαι ἐώλπει.
τῇ δ᾿ ἀλεγεινότατον κραδίῃ φόβον ἔμβαλεν Ἥρη·
τρέσσεν δ᾿ ἠύτε τις κούφη κεμάς, ἥν τε βαθείης
τάρφεσιν ἐν ξυλόχοιο κυνῶν ἐφόβησεν ὁμοκλή·
αὐτίκα γὰρ νημερτὲς ὀίσσατο, μή μιν ἀρωγὴν
15ληθέμεν, αἶψα δὲ πᾶσαν ἀναπλήσειν κακότητα.
τάρβει δ᾿ ἀμφιπόλους ἐπιίστορας· ἐν δέ οἱ ὄσσε
πλῆτο πυρός, δεινὸν δὲ περιβρομέεσκον ἀκουαί·
πυκνὰ δὲ λαυκανίης ἐπεμάσσετο, πυκνὰ δὲ κουρὶξ
ἑλκομένη πλοκάμους γοερῇ βρυχήσατ᾿ ἀνίῃ.
20καί νύ κεν αὐτοῦ τῆμος ὑπὲρ μόρον ὤλετο κούρη
φάρμακα πασσαμένη, Ἥρης δ᾿ ἁλίωσε μενοινάς,
εἰ μή μιν Φρίξοιο θεὰ σὺν παισὶ φέβεσθαι
ὦρσεν ἀτυζομένην. πτερόεις δέ οἱ ἐν φρεσὶ θυμὸς
ἰάνθη, μετὰ δ᾿ ἥ γε παλίσσυτος ἀθρόα κόλπῳ
25φάρμακα πάντ᾿ ἄμυδις κατεχεύατο φωριαμοῖο.
κύσσε δ᾿ ἑόν τε λέχος καὶ δικλίδας ἀμφοτέρωθεν
σταθμοὺς καὶ τοίχων ἐπαφήσατο· χερσί τε μακρὸν
ῥηξαμένη πλόκαμον, θαλάμῳ μνημήια μητρὶ
κάλλιπε παρθενίης, ἀδινῇ δ᾿ ὀλοφύρατο φωνῇ·
30“τόνδε τοι ἀντ᾿ ἐμέθεν ταναὸν πλόκον εἶμι
μῆτερ ἐμή· χαίροις δὲ καὶ ἄνδιχα πολλὸν ἰούσῃ·
χαίροις Χαλκιόπη καὶ πᾶς δόμος. αἴθε σε πόντος,
ξεῖνε, διέρραισεν, πρὶν Κολχίδα γαῖαν ἱκέσθαι.”
ὣς ἄρ᾿ ἔφη· βλεφάρων δὲ κατ᾿ ἀθρόα δάκρυα
35οἵη δ᾿ ἀφνειοῖο διειλυσθεῖσα δόμοιο
ληιάς, ἥν τε νέον πάτρης ἀπενόσφισεν αἶσα,
οὐδέ νύ πω μογεροῖο πεπείρηται καμάτοιο,
ἀλλ᾿ ἔτ᾿ ἀηθέσσουσα δύην καὶ δούλια ἔργα
εἶσιν ἀτυζομένη χαλεπὰς ὑπὸ χεῖρας ἀνάσσης·
40τοίη ἄρ᾿ ἱμερόεσσα δόμων ἐξέσσυτο κούρη.
τῇ δὲ καὶ αὐτόματοι θυρέων ὑπόειξαν ὀχῆες
ὠκείαις ἄψορροι ἀναθρῴσκοντες ἀοιδαῖς.
γυμνοῖσιν δὲ πόδεσσιν ἀνὰ στεινὰς θέεν οἴμους,
λαιῇ μὲν χερὶ πέπλον ἐπ᾿ ὀφρύσιν ἀμφὶ μέτωπα
45στειλαμένη καὶ καλὰ παρήια, δεξιτερῇ δὲ
ἄκρην ὑψόθι πέζαν ἀερτάζουσα χιτῶνος.
καρπαλίμως δ᾿ ἀίδηλον ἀνὰ στίβον ἔκτοθι πύργων
ἄστεος εὐρυχόροιο φόβῳ ἵκετ᾿, οὐδέ τις ἔγνω
τήνδε φυλακτήρων, λάθε δέ σφεας ὁρμηθεῖσα.
50ἔνθεν ἴμεν νηόνδε μάλ᾿ ἐφράσατ᾿· οὐ γὰρ ἄιδρις
ἦεν ὁδῶν, θαμὰ καὶ πρὶν ἀλωμένη ἀμφί τε νεκροὺς
ἀμφί τε δυσπαλέας ῥίζας χθονός, οἷα γυναῖκες
φαρμακίδες· τρομερῷ δ᾿ ὑπὸ δείματι πάλλετο θυμός.
τὴν δὲ νέον Τιτηνὶς ἀνερχομένη περάτηθεν
55φοιταλέην ἐσιδοῦσα θεὰ ἐπεχήρατο Μήνη
ἁρπαλέως, καὶ τοῖα μετὰ φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἔειπεν·
“οὐκ ἄρ᾿ ἐγὼ μούνη μετὰ Λάτμιον ἄντρον
οὐδ᾿ οἴη καλῷ περιδαίομαι Ἐνδυμίωνι.
ἦ θαμὰ δὴ καὶ σεῖο, κύον, δολίῃσιν ἀοιδαῖς
60μνησαμένη φιλότητος, ἵνα σκοτίῃ ἐνὶ νυκτὶ
φαρμάσσῃς εὔκηλος, ἅ τοι φίλα ἔργα τέτυκται.
νῦν δὲ καὶ αὐτὴ δῆθεν ὁμοίης ἔμμορες ἄτης,
δῶκε δ᾿ ἀνιηρόν τοι Ἰήσονα πῆμα γενέσθαι
δαίμων ἀλγινόεις. ἀλλ᾿ ἔρχεο, τέτλαθι δ᾿ ἔμπης,
65καὶ πινυτή περ ἐοῦσα, πολύστονον ἄλγος ἀείρειν.”
References to Hunter are to Hunter, R (2015) Apollonius of Rhodes: Argonautica Book IV (Cambridge).
1–2 αὐτὴ . . . τέκος: The book opens with a strong and solemn imperative (ἔννεπε), which takes a double object (κάματόν . . . καὶ δήνεα), γε emphasising the importance of the former. κούρης / Κολχίδος refers to Medea. The three separate allusions to the Muse (θεά, Μοῦσα, Διὸς τέκος) stress the importance of the moment. The opening words (αὐτὴ νῦν) underline its immediacy.
2–3 ἦ . . . ὁρμαίνοντι: These lines describe the poet’s doubts and thoughts. The subject of the verb ἑλίσσεται is νόος ἔνδον, the owner of which is denoted by ἔμοιγε . . . ὁρμαίνοντι (datives of feeling / agent-Smyth § 1486, 1488), linked with ἀμφασίῃ as a further descriptive dative (Smyth § 1516). The particle ἦ intensifies the excitement of the moment (Smyth § 2864).
4–5 ἠὲ . . . Κόλχων: A.’s supposed hesitation takes the form of a deliberative, indirect question (ἠὲ . . . ἦ), whose main verb is the aorist subjunctive ἐνίσπω (Smyth §2675). Both μιν and τόγ(ε) function as pronouns referring to the vital question at issue (‘was it X or was it Y’), X being described as ἄτης πῆμα δυσίμερου, the two genitives elegantly depending on the noun that they enfold, and Y as φύζαν ἀεικελίην, where φύζαν might possibly be printed with an uppercase Φ, as it is at at Il. 9.2 Φύζα Φόβου κρυόεντος ἑταίρη, ‘flight, the companion of chilling fear,’ emphasising the dramatic nature of the invocation through personification.
6–9 ἤτοι . . . κεχολωμένος: A. now connects the action about unfold with the end of Book 3 by introductory particles ἤτοι ὁ μὲν. An important feature of this long sentence is the wide separation of ὁ μὲν and Αἰήτης (see further Essay 1–65). The elaborate phrase δήμοιο μετ᾽ ἀνδράσιν, ὅσσοι ἄριστοι refers to Aietes’ councillors. ἐπὶ σφίσι is the object of Aietes’ nocturnal (παννύχιος) plotting (δόλον αἰπὺν . . . μητιάασκεν), Jason and the Argonauts, who have recently thwarted him in the στυγερῷ . . . ἀέθλῳ and because of this have occasioned his raging anger (ἐπὶ θυμὸν . . . ἄμοτον κεχολωμένος).
9–10 οὐδ᾽ ὅγε . . . ἐώλπει: Aietes’ daughters are implicated in the treachery by the intricate syntax. The word that denotes their deeds (τάδε), menacing because of its indefinite nature, is embedded in the phrase (θυγατέρων . . . νόσφιν ἑῶν) that implicates them in Medea’s escape. The Alexandrian poets thought of ἐώλπει as an imperfect; although LSJ9 s.v. ἔλπω ii explains it as 3rd person singular pluperfect. Here it balances μητιάασκεν.
11 τῇ δ᾽ . . . Ἥρη: (6) ἤτοι ὁ μὲν . . . (11) τῇ δ᾽ contrasts the moods of Aietes and his daughter. The use of the superlative (ἀλεγεινότατον) marks the extreme nature of Hera’s intervention. ἔμβαλεν is frequently used of inserting a thought or emotion into the mind.
12–13 τρέσσεν . . . ὁμοκλή: τρεῖν is equivalent to φεύγειν. ἠύτε introduces the simile. The enfolding word order of βαθείης / τάρφεσιν ἐν ξυλόχοιο (lit. ἐν τάρφεσιν βαθείης ξυλόχοιο) perhaps gives a sense that the fawn may be trapped by the dogs in the deep wood. Likewise the unit formed by κυνῶν ἐφόβησεν ὁμοκλή (κυνῶν depending on ὁμοκλή) balances the previous phrase and underlines the fear caused by the dogs’ attack.
14–15 αὐτίκα . . . κακότητα: Medea’s thoughts and fears are reported in a tersely expressed indirect statement, dependent on νημερτὲς ὀΐσσατο, the equivalent of a verb of fearing (Smyth § 2238). There is contrast and balance between the two phrases, μιν ἀρωγὴν / ληθέμεν and πᾶσαν ἀναπλήσειν κακότητα. Aietes is not named (μιν) but the reference to what he may do to Medea gains emphasis from the use of the four syllable abstract noun (κακότητα rather than perhaps κακά).
16–17 τάρβει . . . ἀκουαί: A. shortens his phrases, pointed by the repetition of π and marking the frantic nature of Medea’s mood. The use of the dual (ὄσσε) together with the reflexive personal pronoun (οἱ-Smyth § 1195) and the singular verb (πλῆτο) alludes to Homeric phraseology (Smyth § 959) used by A. to enhance his description of Medea’s emotions. The same is true of the following phrase (περιβρομέεσκον ἀκουαί), based on a famous poem of Sappho. See essay on lines 1–65 for further discussion of this and the part that such allusions play in the poetry of the Argonautica.
18–19 πυκνὰ . . . ἀνίῃ: Medea doesn’t know which course of action to take. The anaphora of πυκνὰ must mark the rapidity with which she flits from one possibility to another. Pulling out the hair is a demonstration of grief from Homer onwards. A. describes this action with the help of an Homeric hapax legomenon, κουρίξ (Od. 22.188). The meaning of this was disputed among ancient critics: some thought it meant ‘by the hair, by the roots’, others connected it with νεανικῶς or κουρικῶς, ‘like a young man, i.e. vigorously’ (Hunter’s translation ad loc., mentioning νεανικῶς, ‘strongly, vigorously’ does not give the correct nuance). Here, while the word plainly alludes to the fact that Medea is tearing out her own hair as part of her personal grief, the use of κούρη (20) may be an indirect allusion to the other interpretation. This constant reference to contemporary scholarly discussion, even at a moment of high drama, is a pervasive feature of A.’s writing. It creates an enriched reading experience both for us and ancient readers, more closely involving us in the text that our poet is presenting to us and our own interpretation of it. Even at this micro-level it demonstrates the importance of Argonautica in the creation of literary epic.
There also early evidence from Geometric art: the Dipylon krater (c. 750–35 B.C., Accession number: 14.130.14, Metropolitan Museum, New York) shows women (left side of illustration) tearing out their hair in grief. βρυχήσατ(ο) also marks the strength of Medea’s emotion. It is used to liken Ajax to a bull at Soph. Aj. 322 ὑπεστέναζε ταῦρος ὣς βρυχώμενος, ‘he was groaning like a bellowing bull’, and in the Iliad mostly of the death-cry of wounded men (13.392–3 κεῖτο τανυσθεὶς / βεβρυχώς, ‘he lay stretched out, bellowing like a bull’). However, Deianeira, the wronged wife of Heracles, about to commit suicide and in the same frame of mind as Medea is described thus at Tr. 904: βρυχᾶτο μὲν βωμοῖσι προσπίπτουσ’, ‘falling near the altar, she bellowed aloud’. Sophocles’ audience must have been shocked to hear the word used of a woman and possibly A. has this moment in mind.
20–1 καί νύ κεν . . .πασσαμένη: These lines give a twist to a familiar epic scenario. At Od. 5.436–7 ἔνθα κε δὴ δύστηνος ὑπὲρ μόρον ὤλετ᾽ Ὀδυσσεύς, / εἰ μὴ ἐπιφροσύνην δῶκε γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη, ‘Then indeed would wretched Odysseus have perished, had not flashing-eyed Athena given him prudence,’ Odysseus is saved by the intervention of Athene and likewise Aeneas at Il. 5.311–2 καί νύ κεν ἔνθ᾽ ἀπόλοιτο . . . Αἰνείας, / εἰ μὴ ἄρ’ ὀξὺ νόησε . . . Ἀφροδίτη, ‘then Aeneas would have perished had not Aphrodite quickly noticed . . .’, where the use of the same particles (καί νύ κεν with optative; see Smyth § 2311) is striking. The suspense of this part of the conditional is heightened by its rhetoric and word order (Φρίξοιο θεὰ σὺν παισί literally implicates the sons of Phrixos in the goddess’s machinations). The sentence structure previously used to describe the preservation of such heroes as Aeneas and Odysseus on the battlefield (see above) is now used of a panic-stricken girl. For a heroine in Greek mythology contemplating or committing suicide, a rope or sword is a more common method. However Medea, as a woman skilled in drugs, contemplates poison as means of taking her life.
23–4 πτερόεις . . . ἰάνθη: Usually the adjective πτερόεις denotes something moving quickly in a definite direction, such as an arrow or a word (Homer’s ‘winged words’) but here A. seems to be thinking of ἀναπτερόω which can mean metaphorically ‘excite’ or ‘make agitated’ (Eur. Supp. 89 ὡς φόβος μ᾽ ἀναπτεροῖ, ‘how fluttering fear disquiets me’). οἱ is the possessive dative (Smyth § 1195), the enfolding order elegantly emphasising the meaning. ἡ φρήν originally denoted the chest or midriff and later came to mean ‘mind’. It is the centre of thought and emotion and this is reflected in A.’s word order. Although φρεσὶ θυμὸς ἰάνθη and its variations occur in Homer at the end of the verse (Il. 23.600, 24.321, Od. 15.165), the only place with matching metrical quantity and enjambment is Il. 23.597–8 τοῖο δὲ θυμὸς / ἰάνθη, which must constitute some proof of an ancient reader’s knowledge of the Homeric poems. The rhythm is striking: a molossus (– – –) followed by dactyls in line 24 to denote the speed with which she transfers the drugs.
24–5 μετὰ . . . φωριαμοῖο: Here, μετά is used absolutely as an adverb (Smyth § 1641). παλίσσυτος (‘in sudden rush’) must denote the sudden fresh burst of activity on Medea’s part. Under Hera’s prompting, she makes her mind up and empties the drugs from the casket into the fold of her robe. It is not easy to agree with Hunter’s translation ad loc., ‘changing her mind’. Bearing in mind the adjective’s connection with σεύω, ἔσσυμαι, ‘put in motion, run or rush’, it should be understood as denoting hurried physical activity on Medea’s part. Similarly she rushes (40 δόμων ἐξέσσυτο) from the palace when she makes her final departure.
The box is left behind, in the same way as the lock of hair (line 28). The separation of drugs from their coffer is a metaphor for the separation of magician from her native land. It is not surprising (pace Hunter) that there is a stress on her taking all the drugs together (ἀθρόα . . . φάρμακα πάντ᾽ ἄμυδις) from the coffer. She is going to need all her resources in the new life to which she is committing herself. The phrase emphasises that, as she prepares for flight, she is taking all her most precious possessions, packed into the capacious pocket of her chiton.
Read κόλπῳ for transmitted κόλπων and understand φωριαμοῖο as a genitive of origin / separation (Smyth §1392).
26–7 κύσσε . . . ἐπαφήσατο: Two main verbs (κύσσε and ἐπαφήσατο) enclose the significant objects (possibly four-see below) which receive attention from Medea as she moves about her room. The placing of the words creates a chiasmus which emphasises the ritualistic feel about these lines, as Medea goes from one part of the room to another, bidding a formal farewell to her life as a young girl. Τhe idea, however, that shre kisses the ‘double door posts’ presents a problem. In the transmitted text δικλίδας must agree with the σταθμούς. In this context, σταθμός apart from a reference in the Septuagint (LXX 4 Ki.12.9) always means ‘doorpost’. Homer always uses δικλίδες with words like θύραι (Od. 17.268, Arg. 1.786–7), πύλαι (Il. 12.455), σανίδες (Od. 2.345) to mean ‘double doors’. δικλίς, singular or plural, with or without a noun, is used of ‘a double or folding door’ Although A. takes a delight in varying Homeric phraseology, it seems foreign to his practice to create a formula so different from the Homeric context. A possible solution to this problem would to be to emend the text and read δικλίδας· ἀμφοτέρων τε / σταθμῶν. The enjambment which this alteration creates helps to heighten the drama of the scene, breaking the description up into three phrases articulated by emphatic main verbs, the culminating colon being dramatically connected by τε (χερσί τε . . .).
27–9 χερσί . . . φωνῇ: An agonised cry (ἀδινῇ δ᾽ ὀλοφύρατο φωνῇ) to accompany a violent action (μακρὸν / ῥηξαμένη πλόκαμον)! Although the background to this scene is traditional, that of a young girl leaving the family home and making a ritual dedication, Medea’s gesture is more violent because she is a bride embarking on a formal ceremony against her will, as the words of her farewell show. Her dedication of the lock to her mother, rather than to a deity, provides a dramatic subject for her first reported words. The word θάλαμος often denotes the bedroom of the lady of the house and, as such, is an important place in a woman’s life. It is dramatically appropriate that Medea’s last farewells should take place there and that she should leave the memorial of her maidenhood (μνημήια μητρὶ . . . παρθενίης ) there.
30–2 τόνδε . . . δόμος: The demonstrative τόνδε, in an emphatic position at the beginning of the sentence combined with the interlaced phrasing of the opening clause (τόνδε agrees with πλόκον and encloses ἀντ᾿ ἐμέθεν) enhances the impact of Medea’s first directly reported words. This impact is further strengthened by the enjambment of μῆτερ ἐμή and the repetition of χαίροις (optative instead of the more usual χαῖρε, perhaps introducing an added note uncertainty about her personal future and that of her family. The mention of Chalciope-there has been complex interplay between the two sisters in Book3-and the use of the phrase πᾶς δόμος (‘all my house’) mark Medea’s intention to split from her entire family.