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Apollonius of Rhodes

Entry updated 25 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

(early 3rd century BCE-late 3rd century BCE) Greek author, his name also given as Apollonius Rhodius; known primarily for the Argonautica (mid 3rd century BCE), which recounts more fully and capably than any other source the Fantastic Voyage of Jason and the Argonauts, from the mainland to various Islands in the Greek Archipelago and onward, in their quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece from Colchis on the Black Sea. The erotic intensity of the relationship between Jason and Medea is as central to the tale's continuing relevance as the journey itself, and Medea herself is the effective protagonist of the tale through her command of Magic; her role was diminished, and her womanhood deprecated, over the centuries of Christian dominance in the West (see Feminism; Women in SF), though recent translations try to recover the thrust of the original. Influential from the time of its first dissemination, it has long been a central Taproot Text [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] for fantasy and Proto SF. The basic story has subtended – sometimes very indirectly – more tales of travel than can easily be numbered. The Argonautica was first printed in 1496. The first translation into English seems to have been by Jeffery Ekins (?   -1791), as The Loves of Medea and Jason; a Poem in Three Books Translated from the Greek of Apollonius Rhodius's Argonautics (1771); subsequent editions may have been revised. Jason and the Argonauts (trans Aaron Poochigian 2015) is an accomplished presentation of the text.

The Argonautica is in fact, however, a text less translated than taken as a model; A Journey of the Voyage of the Argonauts in 1880 (1881) by William Mitchell Banks (1842-1904) or W B Drayton Henderson's The New Argonautica (1928) (see Poetry) are typical of these transformations. Robert Graves's The Golden Fleece (1944; vt Hercules, My Shipmate 1945), on the other hand, retells the original tale, a more faithful conception than Henry Treece's euhemerizing Jason (1961). R A Lafferty's Archipelago (1979) is relatively faithful in spirit and structure to the original. [JC]

Apollonius of Rhodes

born [early 3rd century BCE]

died [late 3rd century BCE]

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