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.
32: αἴθε: “Would that. . .“ An Unattainable wish (Smyth § 1781) : This is an echo of the ‘might-have-been’ thought from the opening of the Medea (Eur. Med. 1–15) which has its origin in Od. 18.401–2(the suitors discussing Odysseus in disguise as a beggar) αἴθ᾽ ὤφελλ᾽ ὁ ξεῖνος ἀλώμενος ἄλλοθ᾽ ὀλέσθαι / πρὶν ἐλθεῖν. Medea’s words are an expression of the common ancient wish to trace the origin of troubles back to an archē kakōn, “beginning of evil” (e.g. the Judgment of Paris).
33: ξεῖνε: Medea mentions Jason for the first time in Book 4, addresses him as ξεῖνε
and curses him. Her first appeal for help is to the sons of Phrixos (4.71–2)
to whom she is related. The arrival of a ‘stranger’ in Colchis perhaps reflects the
contacts that had taken place in the eastern Mediterranean over a period of three
hundred years in which encounters between native women and Greek men must have
been frequent. διέρραισεν: is a forceful word used of a shipwreck at Od.12.290(Eurylochus giving a forceful answer to Odysseus) νέμοιο θύελλα, ἢ Νότου ἢ Ζεφύροιο, οἵ τε μάλιστα νῆα διαρραίουσι. For πρὶν . . . ἱκέσθαι: Smyth § 2431.
34: κατ᾿ . . . χεῦεν: Perhaps the verb is in tmesisbut on the basis of parallels such as Il. 17.437–8δάκρυα δέ σφι / θερμὰ κατὰ βλεφάρων,s,κατάalso governs βλεφάρων in anastrophe.
35–6: οἵη . . . ληιάς: “Just like a female prisoner-of-war”, introducing a simile that vividly portrays Medea’s state-of-mind but which contains some difficult points of interpretation. The slave-girl unwillingly goes to face an immediate harsh fate, as Medea unwillingly (cf. 32–3) goes to find Jason and throw in her lot with him. ἀφνειοῖο. . . δόμοιο: “from a rich house.” The two words agree and, in some way, depend on διειλυσθεῖσα, which looks like an aorist passive participle which may be connected with εἰλύω. Nowhere, however,does εἰλύω(which in A. and late epic generally can equal ἐλύω) bear any meaning denoting motion, undertaken by Medea. διειλυσθεῖσα: Emend to διειρυσθεῖσα (my emendation for mss. διειλυσθεῖσα) which makes clearer the point of the simile that both girls go unwillingly to their respective fates. The slave-girl is “dragged through the rich house” to meet her mistress, after separation from her homeland. Medea leaves the house to find Jason. Medea hurries (ἐξέσσυτο), but this is of necessity. She goes to find Jason much against her will (cf. 20–33) and is similarly separated from her homeland.
36: νέον: “recently.” The slave girl has just been separated (ἀπενόσφισεν) from her homeland and Medea is just about to leave hers. She returns to this theme later in tirade against Jason at 4.362 νοσφισάμην (n. 360–2). αἶσα: “fate”and μοῖραare equivalentin A. and other authors.
37: μογεροῖο . . . καμάτοιο: Two separated genitives (with the epic ending) in agreement as in 35. The slave girl will be afflicted with κάματος, as will Medea (1n.). πεπείρηται: > πειράομαι: 3rdperson sing. perf. indic. “She has not experienced (lit. made trial of) wretched labour.”
᾽38-9: ἀηθέσσουσα δύης καὶ δούλια ἔργα/ εἶσιν ἀτυζομένη: “unused to wretchedness and fearing the work of slaves, she goes. . .” closely parallels Medea’s fate. As a princess, she had a band of ἀμφίπολοι to do her bidding (3.838). ἀηθέσσουσαis hapax in Homer (Il. 10.493) and takes the genitive. It is doubtful whether A. would have changed the case. The enjambment, taking δούλια ἔργα with ἀτυζόμενη, (cf. 4.512 ἀτυζόμενοι χόλον ἄγριον Αἰήταο) is in A.’s style. εἶσιν: > εἶμι: present active indicative 3rd singular.
39: χαλεπὰς ὑπὸ χεῖρας ἀνάσσης: ὑ. governs the entire phrase. It also has significance for Medea’s plight. The ἄνασσα is possibly Hera (cf. 4.21) or more probably Aphrodite forcing her into the arms of Jason, although she does not want to go. Aphroditeis often spoken of as a cruel goddess.
40: ἱμερόεσσα: A. is reminding us that in spite of her distress, Medea retains her beauty and that at 92 Jason has a tangible reason for rejoicing. The description of the simile concentrates on her inner state of mind; the main text on her outward appearance. δόμων: gen. of separation after ἐξέσσυτο: > ἐκσεύομαι:imperfect middle indicative 3rd singular.
41: αὐτόματοι . . . ὀχῆες: The doors open magically: Medea is a witch, after all. θυρέων . . . ὀχῆες: “the bolts of the doors.” ὀχ. > ὀχεύς: nominative plural masculine.ὑπόειξαν > ὑπείκω: aor. 3rd. plur.
42: ὠκείαις . . . ἀοιδαῖς:The adjective and noun agree: A. is fond of structuring the line with adjective and noun at opposite ends (cf. 3.1285, 3.1325, 4.97, 4.452, 4.623); The adjective functions as a transferred epithet-adverb. Medea’s spells (ἀοιδαῖς) made the doors jump back quickly.
43: γυμνοῖσιν δὲ πόδεσσιν: “On bare feet.” One way to describe haste is to say that the individual concerned did not have time to put on their shoes. At Arg. 3.646 Medea is described as νήλιπος, one of the many links between these two scenes. ἀνὰ στεινὰς . . . οἴμους: “Along the narrow streets” stresses the clandestine nature of Medea’s escape. θέεν: is unaugmented imperfect > θέω.
44: λαιῇ μὲν χερὶ: Medea is in disguise and, therefore hides beneath her drapped cloak. She raises the hem of her garment so she may flee all the faster. πέπλον is the object of στειλαμένη with ἐπ’ ὀφρύσιν ἀμφὶ μέτωπα, “at eye-level around her forehead,” adding a further touch of mystery. The description is a balanced one (44: λαιῇ μὲν χερὶ . . . 45: δεξιτερῇ δὲ) and calls to mind works of art such as this small bronze statue: (250-150 BC,
height 20.5cm., from Alexandria, current location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, serial no. 1972.118.95). While this figure is usually believed to be
that of a dancer the pose that she adopts fits A.’s description of Medea. Movement and concealment are combined with a hint of seduction, although the statue uses the ‘wrong’ hand to hide her face.
46: ἄκρην ὑψόθι πέζαν ἀερτάζουσα χιτῶνος: A beautifully balanced line typical of Hellenistic Greek poetry. ἄκρην . . . πέζαν . . . χιτῶνος is the object ofἀερτάζουσα, a rare word also found in Callimachus.
47: καρπαλίμως δ᾿ ἀΐδηλον ἀνὰ στίβον: The pace of Medea’s escape picks up (καρπαλίμως). She is soon “outside the walls” (ἔκτοθι πύργων). We should read ἀΐδηλος rather than transmitted ἀΐδηλον. In the present case what is ‘unseen’ is not the path but Medea (48 οὐδέ τις ἔγνω reinforces the fact that no one sees her). She is wrapped up in her cloak. A. nowhere else combines στίβος with an adjective (cf. 1.781, 1253, 3.534, 3.927, 3.1218). Perhaps the line wasin Virgil’s mind when he wrote Aen. 6.268 ibant obscuri sola sub nocte, “obscured they walked in the desolate night, where obscuriis Virgil’s equivalent of ἀΐδηλος, with the transferred sense of sola sub noctestressing that the walkers are alone.
48: ἄστεος εὐρυχόροιο: The phrase depends on πύργων. The use of the epithet with ἄστεος stresses the richness of the life that Medea is leaving behind her for the sake of the Greek foreigner. φόβῳ ἵκετ᾿: “she arrived with (in) fear, outside the walls.” This is a curious statement. What is required is a verb not of arrival, but of progression as at 4.1182–3ἥρωας δὲ γυναῖκες ἀολλέες ἔκτοθι πύργων / βαῖνον ἐποψόμεναι. A plausible emendation is κίεν.
There has already been a reference to the speed of Medea’s progress (ἐξέσσυτο κούρη) and she has not yet arrived at her destination. The corruption is easily explained. ΦΟΒΩΙΚΙΕΝ was wrongly divided as ΦΟΒΩ / ΙΚΙΕΝ which led to ΦΟΒΩΙ ΙΚΕΤ᾽. For κίεν with ἀνά cf. 1.310τοῖος ἀνὰ πληθὺν δήμου κίεν. The phrase οὐδέ τις ἔγνω, “none of the guards recognised her” recalls Il. 24.690–1Ἑρμείας ζεῦξ’ ἵππους ἡμιόνους τε, / ῥίμφα δ᾽ ἄρ’ αὐτὸς ἔλαυνε κατὰ στρατόν, οὐδέ τις ἔγνω where the context is similar: Priam and his herald escape the Greek camp by night after their visit to Achilles. Darkness and secrecy pervade the opening of Book 4; this atmosphere is only dispelled when Jason and Medea gain the Fleece with its illuminating radiance at 4.167–86.
49: λάθε: > λανθάνω: aorist active indicative 3rd singular and for the construction with participle: Smyth §2096. ὁρμηθεῖσα: “as she went on her way(lit. having been set in motion”) >ὁρμάω: aorist passive participle nominative singular.
50: ἔνθεν ἴμεν νειόνδε μάλ᾽ ἐφράσατʼ: “From there she intended to make straight for the plain.” ἴμεν present active infinitive (epic) > εἶμι. Most mss. want to send her to the temple of Hecate (νηόνδε) but νειόνδεis to be preferred. The plain of Ares, where the contest has been held, was on thesouth bank of the river opposite the city (2.1266–9). The Argonauts have moored. beside it (3.1270–7). οὐ γὰρ ἄιδρις: signals a change of tone in the narrative. The escape-by-night of a scared young girl becomes an allusive disquisition on the skills and habits of Thessalian witches, concluding with the ironic intervention of the goddess of the Moon at line 57.
51: ἦεν ὁδῶν: Typically, A. uses enjambment to mark this important change of tack. She was (ἦεν > εἰμί: imperfect active indicative 3rd singular) not only knowledgeable (ἄιδρις)about the best route (ὁδῶν, depending on ἄιδρις) but experienced in other bizarre magical practices. ἀλωμένη ἀμφί τε νεκροὺς: Part of the rites of ancient witches involved corpses. (Flint et. al.199, 19). At 3.531–3 Argos talks of Medea’s extraordinary skills as a witch. This is one of the first things that we hear of her in the poem. Medea is at once witch and love-sick maiden. θαμὰ: marks recurrent actions and feelings as it does at line 59.
51–52: ἀμφί τε νεκροὺς ἀμφί τε: “in search of(C5)” The repetition emphasises what an important part witch-craft plays in Medea’s characterisation.
52: δυσπαλέας ῥίζας χθονός: In Sophocles’ Root-cutters, Medea is described
cropping evil plants while turning away, so that the power of their noxious smell will
not kill her (F534.1–6 TrGF= Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta): αἱ δὲ καλυπταὶ / κίσται ῥιζῶν κρύπτουσι τομάς, / ἃς ἥδε βοῶσ᾿ ἀλαλαζομένη / γυμνὴ χαλκέοις ἤμα δρεπάνοις, “And the hidden boxes conceal the cuttings of the roots, which she, uttering loud ritual cries, naked, was severing with bronze sickles.” “Grubbing up roots” is the sort of thing that witches do, especially in Thessaly (Dio Chrys. 58.4.1 ῥίζας ὀρύττειν, ὥσπερ αἱ φαρμακίδες.)
52–53:οἷα γυναῖκες: “like women do.” Women do not usually hunt for dead bodies or exotic roots but they do if they are φαρμακίδες: enjambment is used to produce an amusing paraprosdokiannoun-adjective combination. τρομερῷ δ᾿:δέ marks a strong contrast: Medea is used to wandering around in this area, searching for raw materials; but fear now makes her heart beat.
54–6 τὴν δὲ νέον Τιτηνὶς: The introduction of the goddess of the Moonalters the mood entirely. She is “Titanian” because she is the offspring of the Titan Hyperion and Theia. The past misfortunes of the goddess and her present unexalted emotion adds a delightful twist to the narrative whose chief note has previously been pathos, fear and excitement. The intricacy of the word order of heightens the bizarreness and the surprise: τηνrefers to Medea, who is then ‘trapped’ (φοιταλέην) between the two references to the Moon (Τιτηνὶς . . . Μήνη). Lovers address the Moon, stars and night as a way of relieving their feelings. On this critical occasion the Moon addresses the lover. We can only guess at the actual extent of Α’s originality. He may have had a precedent in New Comedy. The prologue in Plautus’ Rudens, spoken by the star Arcturus, goes back to Diphilos.
56: ἁρπαλέως: usually used of a ‘strong appetite’ emphasises the relish with which
the Moon speaks. τοῖα μετὰ φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἔειπεν: “such were her unspoken thoughts (lit. she spoke such things in her mind).” ᾗσιν: = ἑῇσιν, fem. dat. pl. > ἑός. (Smyth § 330). This half line marks the beginning of an interior monologue on the part of the Moon.
Flint, V. et al. (eds.). 1999. Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome. London.