Classical Texts Library >> Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica >> Book 5




1. Jason & King Pelias
2. Assembly of the Argonauts
3. Death of Aeson


1. Women of Lemnos
2. Hercules & the Sea Monster
3. The Hellespont


1. Cyzicus
2. Hylas & the Naiads


1. Wresling of Amcyus
2. Phineus & the Harpies
3. The Clashing Rocks


1. The Black Sea
2. Jason & King Aeetes


1. Colchian-Scythian War
2. Hera & the Love of Medea


1. Jason & Medea
2. Jason & the Bronze Bulls


1. Theft of the Golden Fleece
2. Marriage of Jason & Medea
3. Absyrtus' Pursuit


[1] The next day’s light brought no joy to the heroes as it broke forth from Olympus: Argive Idmon falls before disease and ravaging fate, having long known that his life was near its end. But Jason, remembering that Phineus had spoken all too truly, from Idmon’s taking apprehends other sorrows. Then he pays to his comrade the dues of friendship, and brings as a tribute the skilfully embroidered raiment of the Dolionian prince, while Lycus their host offers ground for his last resting-place. Mopsus in tears takes Idmon’s armour from the lofty vessel; some cut down timber from the woods and bring it to the pyre; others bind fillets and white foliage about the augur’s head, and setting him on the bier unite in lamentation; all alike bethink them of their own appointed day.

[13] But lo! amidst their tears and their last offerings Tiphys, in whose hands lay the ordering of the vessel’s course, is racked by a violent disease, and all aghast with terror pour sad complaints to heaven: “Give heed, we pray, Apollo, now if ever, O wielder of the bow!1 this life, O sire, this life revive for us, if thou carest aught for our enterprise, which is at its supreme turning-point and wholly hangs on the skill of one alone.”

[21] Their words were spoken to the breezes nor swayed appointed fate. And even as when a father lies grievously beset by swift advancing doom, and puny band of children wail over him and with sinking hearts make supplication, that he may endure to save them, weak as they are and still in need of their sire: not otherwise to his comrades hope in his fateful hour that Tiphys beyond all others may be spared. Against them chilly death advances, and Idmon’s late doom hovers before their eyes. As his life ebbs, the Minyae with vain cries strive to stay his passing, and refuse to be torn from him; hardly at length they set on the pyre the rigid limbs, and bring tears and vain offerings to the flames; the melancholy pile grows high with gifts.

[32] But when they wearily broke off the last embraces and the devouring torches crackled, then seemed it as though the ship herself were burning and sinking the heroes in mid-sea. The son of Aeson endured not to behold those bodies that he loved consuming on twin pyres, but groaning from his inmost soul the leader spoke such words as these: “ Why of a sudden are the powers so hostile? What labours of ours have merited punishment? Safe is this coast, yet – oh, horror! – I see two funeral pyres rise side by side. Is then my band of comrades so great, so numerous? Either a day of doom carries off my friends, or driven on by guilty Furies I myself abandon them. Where is Tiphys? Where is Idmon our soothsayer? Where is he that was a match for his step-dame with all her monsters? Without thee, O Thespian, shall we cleave any further seas? Am I not to see thee watching from the high poop the clustering Pleiads and the nightly guidance of the Bear? To whom dost thou bequeath the Minyae and the beloved vessel and the stars? Who now bids Aeson sleep peacefully of nights? Is this the reward thy toil has won, and thine eyes so often cheated of sweet slumber, and thine anxious care as the Colchians drew nigh? Ah! how far now has Aea, how far has Phasis drawn away! Yet even now, if thought survives in a frail ghost, be present, I pray, a shade that foreknows approaching storms, and warn the steersman of thy ship.”

[54] So spake he, and as the flames sank down saw nought but their bones remaining. “One solace yet remains,” he cried, “on distant shores though we be; let not this earth sunder these loving shades, nor hold their bones in separate tomb or urn, but joined together, as with joint destiny ye went to sea.” Without delay their comrades unite their relics and the names they mourned. Then a green mound of living turf is heaped, and Jason entrusts their ashes to Lycus’ care.

[63] Downcast were all, and doubtful whose hand most faithfully should guide the ship; together Ancaeus and wise Nauplius made request. The oak itself at Fate’s prompting summons Erginus, and the defeated helmsmen went back to their oars. And just as that bull who has won the kingship of the herd paces in proud triumph; all love, all honour passes now to him alone: so joyfully does the steersman start on his first voyage; for a bright night shows Helice clear and true. Already the prow had stirred the water, and already set on the stern2 the anchor had sundered them from the dreadful land.

[73] Then ‘neath the South wind’s pressure she passes the grim Acherusian shores3 and Callichoros famed for the nightly revels of Lyaeus; nor is report ill-founded. In these waters Bacchus washed the wands that dripped with Eastern blood.4 Him do ye still remember, ye waters, how after returning from his wars and from breaking the Red Sea’s farthest barriers, here did he arouse his sluggish votaries and their cymbals and bind his moist horns with wreaths and vine-leaves, in such mood as the Theban Maenad and unhappy Cithaeron would fain have seen.5

[82] But meantime Fame irrepressible has flown already through the farthest regions of the world below, and filled the ghosts with the high praises of their sons, telling that sea is now added to sea, and that now the Cyanean rocks lie open. They burn to raise their eager faces, all whom love of kindred or jealous valour still doth stir. Their destinies abide unchanged: one only, whose grave was on that shore, send they to view the beloved band. Sthenelus6 goes forth: as he was when the martial Amazon beheld him and when Alcides buried his comrade, clad in his own armour, even so flashed he forth as he rose from his funeral mound upon the strand; so glistened the waves, as though the mighty sun were lifting his orb into the sky or heaven were crashing cloud on cloud. Scarce beheld they the vision, when straightway night rapt it away in sombre shade. In grief the spirit sought the deep void again. While Mopsus marvels at the omen, he sees the barrow far away at the limit of the strand, and veiling his head pours wine and calls upon the ghost. Moreover, the Odrysian chief begins in order due the chant that shall appease the spirit they have seen, and strikes his echoing lyre, singing the while, and bequeaths a name to the sands.

[101] Therefore the ship receives a fresher breeze, and all the coast of Crobialus flees back behind them, and Parthenium denied thee, Tiphys, by the Fates, a river held more faithful to Trivia than all others, and more pleasing than her mother’s fountain of Inopus. And next, as the vessel speeds along, they send deep beneath the horizon Cromne’s ridge and pale7 Cytorus and thee, Erythia. And now heaven was bringing back the night; closely skim they high Carambis, and vast upon the sea trembles the shadow of Sinope. Embosoming Assyrian8 bays stands rich Sinope, once a nymph and one who mocked Jove’s ardent wooing, unmoved by heavenly suitors; not Halys only or Apollo were deceived by the trickery of the nymph they loved.

[113] Here Fortune’s kindly chance brings them new comrades, Autolycus and Phlogius and Deileon, heroes who had followed the arms of Hercules; there had their wanderings stranded them. When they saw the Grecian band and the Pelasgian ship, swiftly they ran to the water’s edge and prayed that they take them as companions. The leader welcomes the new names, glad that at last the oars left unmanned can ply for him. Halys goes by, and the long meanderings of Iris’ stream, and Thermodon that rolls even in mid-sea his angry tumult, a river sacred to Gradivus and most rich with spoils, for to it the maiden presents the horses and promised battle-axes, when in great triumph she returns through the Caspian gates, with Medians and Massagetae at her chariot-wheels. True breed and blood are they, the War-god is their sire.9 Hence did the Haemonians rather seek the deep, and despised not Phineus’ warnings.

[128] Jason himself turns to face his new companions, and “Do you now meanwhile,” says he, “narrate the battles and victorious affrays of my own Hercules, and your own exploits on the shore of Mars.” So he speaks, and silently with regretful heart he hears of the pursuits and the labours of the maidens’ warfare, which first let go the reins and fell, which one her father’s stream bore half-dead to the sea, which fled away stripping the targe from her side and the quiver from her shoulder, overtaken soon and pierced by the shaft of Hercules; how Anger and a sire whom tears awaited urged on the axe-wielding companies, what terror the leader herself inspired, what fury drove her on, and how her baldric blazed conspicuous with gold.

[140] At the dead of night they hear from closed caverns of the earth the unresting labour of the Chalybes; thy husbandmen, Gradivus, they ply their weary tools; loud rings the travail of those hands that first created war, the scourge of all the earth. For ere they dragged unknown iron from its stony bed and provided swords, Hatred roamed feeble because unarmed, Anger was resourceless and Revenge but slow. Thence the heroes put behind them the rock of Genetaean Jove, then the green lakes of the Tibarenes, where she that has given birth binds her husband’s head with indolent turban, and herself tends him after her baby is born.10 Ye too, Mossynians, marvelled at the sails of the unknown bark, and ye, Macrones, from your lofty lairs, and nomad Byzeres, and ye shores named of Philyra which Saturn trampled with horse’s hoofs.11

[154] Then the last bay the cruel resting-place of Prometheus comes into view, where Caucasus rises in the cold northern air. That day by chance had brought Alcides also thither, to change the Titan’s fate; and now wrenching sturdily at the rough fetters on every side, ‘mid wreckage of the long-gathered ice, with gripping hands he had torn them from the bed-rock, towering high and with left foot bearing the weight; huge Caucasus echoes the sound, as tree-trunks following the mountain-summit fall, and rivers are turned back from the sea.12 There is a crash, as though Jupiter had risen in might and overthrown the citadels of heaven, or Neptune’s arm had rocked the foundations of the world. The vast length of Pontus trembled, and all the Iberian land that lies beside Armenia, and as the ocean shook to its utmost depths the Minyae feared the Cyanean Rocks they had left behind. Then as the noise grew nearer the sound of the iron and the rending of the crags and the manifold travail of the mountain is heard, and the loud clamour of Prometheus while his rock-bound limbs are torn. But in their ignorance (for who could have believed that Alcides was on those hills, or ventured once more on hopes abandoned?) his comrades proceed upon their way; only they wonder from the deep at the wide-flung snow that strews the beaches, at the cloven crags and the huge shadow of a dying bird above them and the gory dew that drizzles through the air.

[177] The sun was kindling the waters with nearer ray, and the last light began to show the longed-for Colchis to the weary crew, where mighty Phasis with foaming mouth rushes to meet the ocean. Together all recognise their destined goal, and mark the signs and tell the tale of peoples they have passed, as they set their vessel for the river. At the same time Juno and Pallas, in full panoply of glittering cloud, bring to a halt the chariots of their wing-footed steeds.

[184] And while the chieftain enters the river-mouth with heavy beat of oar, he sees a ring of poplars and a mound that rises above the green river, the tomb of his kinsman Phrixus, beside whom stands wrought in marble his sister, ill-starred companion, dreading on this side her cruel step-mother, on that the sea, and afraid to put her hands upon the ram. Then he bids the rowers stop and here first make fast the cables, as though he had entered Pagasae and his native stream. Himself duly bearing in a heavy bowl the sacred offering of wine calls to the shade and thus speaks at the altar: “Phrixus, I pray thee, by our kindred blood and kindred labours, guide thou my enterprise and protect me in these lands who have endured so many seas, so many hurrying northern stars. Be favourable, Phrixus, and in kindly mood remember thy native land. Do thou too now, who wert vainly laid in an empty tomb,13 give mark of approval, goddess of the sea, and aid the cause of thy kinsfolk. Ah, when shall I once more be borne upon thee? When shall the fleece of gold recognise Sestus and those unlucky waters? You too, ye woods and shores of hospitable Colchis, reveal where the rich pelt glitters on the sacred tree. Then do thou, O Phasis, offspring of fecund Jove, born in the snowy region of the Arcadian nymph, do thou but accept with tranquil stream the bark of Pallas, neither gifts nor shrines shall be lacking to thee in my land; an effigy awaits thee, O Phasis, that whoso beholds may reverence, as mighty as great Enipeus or father Inachus outstretched in golden cave.”

[210] He spoke, and at once the vessel turning for him without helmsman’s art swung round by the bow, and with sure omen looked toward the sea and the river’s mouth. “Lo! as thou dost promise and call us, so shall we return,” he cries. So prays he, and then bids the crew bring down the weapons from the lofty poop. Then swiftly they prepare the gifts of Bacchus and Ceres to strengthen them for every hazard, and in long line burden the green banks.

[217] Begin now, goddess, another strain, and relate the wars of the Thessalian chief which ye yourselves beheld; no power have I, no utterance meet. We are come to the madness and unholy compact of the princess, and how the vessel shuddered beneath the terrible maid; the accursed contests on the portent-bearing fields arise before me. Yet first must I explain the guile, the cunning of the faithless offspring of the Sun, how he deserved to be abandoned, deserved to be betrayed; from that point shall my song begin: by now had Phrixus, now grown old in the Scythian city of the Sun, fulfilled the appointed term of his long life of toil.When at the last he died, on a sudden appeared a marvellous flame in heaven, and the ram in a vast constellation stirring up all the sea. But the fleece had Phrixus left in the War-god’s shady grove, a conspicuous memorial of his peril, embracing an oak tree with its glowing metal.

[231] Once too did he appear, a vast phantom, in the silent hours of night, and a great voice spoke forth and struck terror into the father of his bride14: “O thou who didst suffer me, a fugitive from my native land in search of a home, to settle in these abodes, and soon offering thy daughter invited me to be thy son-in-law, dolour and ruin of thy realm shall abound for thee what time the fleece is stolen from the sleep-drugged grove. Moreover, Medea, who now is consecrated to Diana of the underworld and leads the holy dance – let her look for betrothal to any suitor, suffer her not to abide in her father’s kingdom.”

[241] He spoke, and seemed therewith to put forth his hand and proffer the fateful hide, and from the visionary gold there poured a gleam which glanced about the coffered ceiling of the palace. Trembling the other started from his couch, and prayed to the godhead of his sire and to his chariot as it rose above the eastern strand: “This prayer do I make to thee, O father, guardian of my destiny, all-seeing one! Cast now thine eyes upon the land, upon all the sea; whether it be men of my own land or strangers that are planning secret treachery, be first to bear me news. Thou too, Gradivus, in whose sacred oak the fleece doth glitter, keep watch; present to aid let thy arms clash and trumpets sound in thy grove and thy voice ring through the darkness.”

[253] Scarce had he spoken, when a serpent gliding from the Caucasus mountains, not without the will of the god, entwined all the grove with its circling coils and looked toward the Grecian land. Therefore is he watchful to foil all threats and the dangers foretold by Phrixus, and Medea, though her girlhood be not yet mature, is plighted to the Albanian prince’s marriage chamber.

[259] Meantime the god who ever forwarns terrifies the city with omens and threatening portents and gives signs of late-arriving ill; the priest bids the fatal fleece be given back and sent to bring ill luck to the Haemonian land. But the Sun’s offspring ponders with faint heart the warnings of Phrixus and says nay; the tyrant recks not of his folk, so his own safety be assured. Then Perses, next in rank to the king and blood-brother on his mother’s side, assails him with reproach: the crowd, finding a leader, lend support. But he in furious rage starts from his lofty seat, and sends the fathers flying headlong; nay, against Perses himself, as by such ventures he boldly sows for himself hopes of power, thanks to the mob’s favour, he rushes with the sword. Perses flees thence, with marks of cruelty upon him, and with rumours stirs up all the North. And now was he present before the city with princes in their mighty thousands, and had halted, baffled in his first assault upon the walls. That day and the next were given over on either side to burning their slain comrades, when in the lull of war the Thessalian leader landed as Fate ordained upon the Aeaean strand.

[278] Night in pity of mankind and its heavy toil had brought back longed-for silence to weary earth. But Juno and the virgin daughter of supreme Jove were sharing heart to heart their inmost counsels and distracting cares. First spoke the maid: “Against whom do we direct our united forces? Thou seest what a contest holds the Colchians in its grip, and how the issue stands to-day. On this side Perses, on that with strength unequal Aeetes prepares to fight. Which army shall we join?”

[280] Juno replied: “Dismiss thy fear lest perchance I refuse thee the battle thou lovest; already sore toil awaits thy aegis and my steeds too must toil. My mind is resolved to join Aeetes’ host. True, the king’s heart is treacherous, I know; no guerdon will he pay the Minyae. But then will I myself set other devices, other plots, in motion.”

[292] “So be it, I pray,” said Pallas, “for thy power must join with mine, that we be allowed to restore Jason again to Grecian lands, and bring the bark which we wrought ourselves after all its tossing at last to rest in our own sky.”

[296] So planned at that time the heavenly ones for men’s renown. But never was night passed by the Minyae in deeper gloom or in such alarm and fear; naught have they accomplished, though Phasis be found, though the billows of the Clashing Rock be tamed; and all as yet, till they come to the great king’s city, is uncertain and hangs upon the doubtful issue of events. Most of all is the son of Aeson whirled in wavering thought on the shifting tides and surges of perplexity, devising plan upon plan. Even as when15 Jupiter darts lightning from his high citadel, ay, when he stirs the Pleiads and mingled rain and thunder or freezing snow, when the whole plain is hidden by the white downpour, or when he opens the wide gates of bloody war, or brings other beginnings of destiny to stubborn nations: even so then did the leader halt between divers impulses from this quarter and from that, and rack his heart with many a groan, and wish that the kindly dawn were already come and the hours that bring sure decision at the last.

[312] Then turning toward his men whose gaze was fixed upon the ground or bent on the silent gathering: “That mighty enterprise,” he said, “which long since has been your hope and prayer, and from which former ages shrank in horror – lo! we are at its goal, and the great world’s waters lie behind us. Nor have the thousand paths of ocean played us false, nor the tale that Sun-born Aeetes reigns in the midmost region of the north. Therefore when light shall fleck the deep, we must seek the dwellings of the city and make trial of an unknown tyrant’s mind. He will give assent himself, I ween, nor is our quest one that entreaty should not win; yet if he haughtily reject our supplication, harden even now your spirits to a refusal, and let us rather be resolved how to bring back the fleece to our native shores: away with scruple in adversity!” He spoke, and sought by lot those who should bear him company to the Scythian town, and from the whole number nine were drawn. Then they hasten upon the way that leads soonest to the Circean plain, and with day now dawning seek out the king.

[329] It chanced that Medea, alarmed in the night by heavenly portents, had sprung from her couch so soon as she saw the shadows fled, and was going toward the sun’s first heartening gleam and the river-streams that purge night’s horrors.16 For while in her silent bower deep quiet held her slumbering limbs and no trouble was in her maiden heart, she seemed to her terror to be stepping forth from Hecate’s holy grove, and when she sought her loving father’s presence, the tall sea stood between them and she was aghast at the vast deep all around, yet her brother assayed to follow; then had she seen children stand terror-stricken at the threat of sudden death, and herself as they trembled stain her hands with their murder, while tears burst from her eyes. Distracted by these threatening signs she sought the banks of Phasis’ stream amid a band of Scythian maids, her peers in age. As Proserpine in spring-time led the dance over Hymettus’ flowery ridges or beneath the cliffs of Sicily, on this side stepping close by Pallas, on that side hand in hand with her beloved Diana, taller than they and surpassing all her fellows, ere she grew pale at the sight of Avernus and all her beauty fled: so fair also was the Colchian in her sacred fillets by the twin torches’ light,17 while yet she hated not her hapless parents.

[350] When first she saw, at a distance from the cool waters of the river-side, men proceeding with silent pace, she stopped, and called her nurse in dismay and fear: “Mother, what band is this approaching, as though it made toward me with sure advance? Neither by armour nor by dress do I know them. Seek flight, I pray thee, look about for some glen to hide us.” Henioche, aged guardian of the maiden’s honour, to whom was entrusted her girlhood’s upbringing, hears her cry; then with encouraging words she assures her frightened ward: “No enemy’s threat, no violence or cause of fear draws nigh thee,” she says; “already I see their garments flame-bright with foreign dye, ay, and now their fillets and the peaceful olive leaves. It is a Greek approaching, so close doth all their attire resemble Grecian Phrixus.” 18

[303] So doth she speak. But Juno, since long anxiety and heavy toil had taken from the leader the beauty of his strength, shed over him new might and the sheen of roseate youth. And now in peerless aspect doth he outvie Talaus and Ampycides and the sons of Tyndareus with star-illumined hair; just as when Sirius in autumn sharpens yet more his fires, and his angry gold gleams in the shining tresses of the night, the Arcadian and great Jupiter grow dim; fain are the fields that he would not blaze so fiercely in heaven, fain too the already heated waters of the streams. The princess, though amaze holds her in speechless stupor, yet drawing back a space gazed marvelling at the chief, and at him alone. He likewise is entranced by her alone of all the unknown company of maidens, conscious of her as queen and mistress of the band.

[378] “If thou art a goddess,” he says, “a glory of great Olympus come to earth, these are the torches, I ween, and this the face of virgin Diana, and thy Nymphs escort thee, at peace and thy quiver-string unloosed, to their Caucasian streams. But if thy home is on earth and thy race hath here its origin, happy thy parents in their offspring, and happier one day he who will bear thee away and join thee to himself in long-enduring union. But, O queen, give succour to heroes. Strangers are we, who have sailed hither, Grecian princes in search of thy house. Lead us, I pray, to the presence of your lord, whoe’er he be, and do thou first instruct us in the time and manner of address. For heaven hath sent thee to me, bewildered as I am and ignorant of this region; to thee I entrust our purpose and our all.”

[391] He spoke, and stood awaiting her timorous reply. She, a while hesitating in maiden fear, thus in her turn began: “Hard by is Aeetes my father, whom thou seekest, and the city itself, if thou canst discover natural paths.19 Go on your way, this girl will guide you; for the other approaches are best by a huge camp and a traitor foe.” So she spoke, and turned her steps toward her native stream, and begins her fruitless sacrifice to terror-bringing Night.

[399] But he forthwith sets out in haste upon his road, with the handmaid as his guide, encompassed by a mist, for royal Juno suffers not the hero to be seen, lest before him a message should reach Aeetes. And now he was among the folk, in the city’s midst, unknown, when his companion began to speak: “We have reached the altar of Phoebus our sire. Soon will the king proceed hither to his father’s shrine as is his wont; here doth he listen to the chieftains and the people’s prayers, nor scorns he their addresses; his sire by his presence inspires him to judge aright.”

[407] She was silent; and they make haste to gain the threshold shown them. Even as though they drew night the presence of the radiant god and the very citadel of light eternal, so bright are the rays with which the palace gleams. There iron Atlas stands in ocean, the wave swelling and breaking on his knees; but the god himself on high hurries his shining steeds across the old man’s body,20 and spreads light about the curving sky; behind with smaller wheel follows his sister and the crowded Pleiads and the fires whose tresses are wet with dripping rain.21 Delighted with the temple’s varied imagery the leader likewise casts his gaze upon eh double doors, beholding here the infancy and origin of the Colchian race; how first their king Sesostris22 waged war upon the Getae, how terrified by the slaughter of his people he withdrew some to Thebae and his native stream, and settled others upon the land of Phasis and bade them be called Colchians: while those seek once more Arsinoe23 and the happy ease of sun-bathed Pharos and the fruitful rainless year, these are already changing their linen robes for Sarmatian trews. In frenzied desire savage Phasis pursues Aea upon her native hills; in maiden distress and panic she shoots frightened arrows, and now her strength fails from her running to and fro and the god has overcome her, and binds her fast beneath his rapid wave. His poplar sisters were weeping for young Phaethon,24 while the charred lump fell into the terrified waters of Eridanus; but scarce can Tethys gather the fragments of yoke and axle, or rescue Pyroeis who fears the father’s grief.

[433] Nay, Mulciber with prophetic skill had also caved the golden fleece and the Achaeans who would one day come. The axe of Argo is interweaving the pines of Pagasae; the captain himself steps aboard and with bare hand beckons to his men; and now the same goddess is bending the oars and the sails alike; a southern breeze springs up, and on all the deep one vessel alone is seen; the seals delight in the Odrysian chant. On the mouths of Phasis are seen excited Colchians, and a princess who leaves far behind her parents’ cries. Here again was a city between the waters of two seas, with mirth and song and marriage torches at night, and a bridegroom proud of his royal bride; his former spouse he abandons: avenging Furies watch from the palace roof. His wife, sore distressed in her chamber and moved to anger by her rival, prepares a robe and the deadly gift of a jewelled crown, first bewailing all her sufferings. With this gift the unhappy rival is adorned before her country’s altars; and already, in the grip of the flaming poison, wraps all the palace in fire. These marvels had the Fire-god wrought for the Colchians, though as yet they knew not what enterprise was that, or who it is that with winged serpents cleaves the air, dripping with murder; they hate them nevertheless, and turn away their gaze.

[455] The same shuddering dread the works inspired had held the Minyae spellbound, when the Sun’s offspring made entry into his father’s shrine. Beside him was his son Absyrtus, a stripling worthy of his grandsire, and one whose innocence deserved a fairer future. Then Styrus, who had come from Albania to be his son-in-law, but war had postponed his marriage, Then Phrontis and Argus, sons of Aeolus, and their brother Melas, sons all these of the exile Phrixus, Cytisorus likewise with his light hunting-spear. After them others, whom the Titanian land chose in high honour to be its senators, and princes who had heard the call to arms. Hereupon Jason give the sign to his comrades, and bursts forth in starry presence from the cloud; the new light dazzles the Cytaeans.25 They gather close and press the heroes, asking what is their venture, what their message.

[468] When Jason saw them agape to hear his earliest words and their murmuring now silent, he readily addressed the wondering monarch: “O king, Hyperion’s son, whom the heavenly gods have decreed that I must seek over seas so wide, a worthy quest for the first ship – if ever landsman or ours was wont to speak at all of Thessaly, if Phrixus ever let fall word of the Pelasgians, lo! here are we before thine eyes, so many hazards borne, such fearful desolate distances measured. I myself am own kin to Phrixus; for both of us have Cretheus and Aeolus for our ancestors, ay, Jove too and Neptune and the nymph Salmonis. No father’s sword or altar26 drove me hither, nor yet of my own will do I seek thee, though my name is renowned in Thessaly. Whose pleasure were it, save he were bidden, to face so many monsters of the deep? Or to sail into the thunders of the Cyanean Rocks? Pelias, who holds as his portion the mightiest of realms under all the sway of thine own Phoebus, so many towns that lie upon the hillsides, so many fairest streams with never idle horn,27 he it is lays his heavy ordinance on me, and sets me divers tasks, even as his own prince, himself the son of Sthenelus,28 sends great Alcides hither and thither from Argos. Yet we endure the cruel yoke of kings, nor though the better man do I reuse obedience.

[491] “It is he that bids me bring him at whatever risk the slough of the golden ram. Let his be a cause of favour to me, I pray, and count as a merit that I have accepted his command, and have promised myself that I shall find thee other than as Pelias hopes and wishes and thy right hand joined to mine in friendlier compact. Had I determined to seek this prize by war and cruel bloodshed, Ossa and Pindus offered ships, and princes more than ever followed Perseus and daring Bacchus of yore. But naked honesty and the power of sacred justice has borne me hither, and the favour that Phrixus won will unite our hearts in fellowship, and the grandchildren whom our house has already borne to thine.

[501] “Yet29 Phrygian princes and Bebrycia’s furious land found me no despicable visitor: whether they met us with injury or honour, they found their gifts repaid, and knew us for the sons of gods and our vessel for great Minerva’s own. Scarce now at length have we reached Colchis, for so long the object of our prayers, and find thee such as fame described. Only grudge not the Minyae their glorious enterprise (it is not others’ wealth I seek or aught not owed to my own land, if even in prayers justice may claim a place), and deem that it is to Phrixus thou dost give it, that Phrixus is bearing it to his father’s house. In turn do thou accept these gifts that have journeyed over the vanquished sea, a cloak blood-red from a Taenarian cauldron, a bridle, and a sword aflame with glittering gems: this was my sire’s adornment, that woven by my mother’s toil, the other Lapithes the horseman was wont to use. Suffer me to set thy gift with mine, to win the friendship of Scythian homes: let my prince’s wild anger learn what a ruler the dreadful region of Caucasus hath found in thee, and how gentle it grows beneath thy sway.”

[519] While thus he spake, the other, his brow heavy with threats, had long been muttering and smouldering with hidden fire. Just as a billow swells and silently in the lowest deep becomes pregnant with the southern blast, so from the depths does the savage king draw anger; and now he exclaims against the hero’s daring, now that his realm has been betrayed, alas! to the Greeks, nay, now he grieves that he offered too ready a welcome to Phrixus, and taught men to fear Scythia no more. Now shaking his head he mocks the young man’s idle hopes: “What madman’s scheme is this, to demand the fleece from the serpent?”

[528] Then too the forecast of an ancient oracle burns in his memory: why should Fortune heave sent against him together from one quarter Perses and from the other the Thessalian bark? can doom be claiming its due, and are the stern Fates demanding the fleece already? Meanwhile, since war and the approaching conflict demand his prior care, he shapes the fierceness of his heart with peaceful words, and thus replies: “I could wish that ye had not at such a time drawn nigh my dwelling, when a powerful foe assails me. For my brother (so lust all for sovranty) plots my destruction and besets me with a mighty force. Come then, first defend a kindred land, nor, though a stranger, forgo the glory of war thus offered; for iron of itself attracts a hero. Then once victorious I will bestow the fleece on thy deserts and not the fleece alone.”

[541] Ignorant of guile Aesonides replies: “This hard task also then was among our destined deeds, and as though we had suffered naught upon the sea this day is set thereto. Let then this war too be added to my fate. With no small slaughter will he atone for this annoyance, and for the delay he causes thereby.”

[546] Then sends he Castor to bear to his men the answer of the Aeaean tyrant. But the cruel tarrying was racking them with sharp anxiety, and as soon as they saw Castor in mid-plain, fear knocked more wildly at their hearts. “Kind son of Jupiter, speak,” cried they all, “speak, is there any hope of seeing home?” And thus began he in the midst of the Achaeans: “Aeetes is no savage, as rumour has it, nor does he deny us the golden fleece: but meantime under pressure of adverse war he seeks our aid; our chief bids arm and straightway hasten; for the ship is safe in her distant hiding-place, and the nearness of the city assures the river’s safety.”

[558] Without delay they spring forward, men whom neither the Riphaean nor Hiberian30 youth nor all the quivers of the Dawn could check. The warriors stand first in extended line, and together make trial, if weapons and limbs obey their bidding. None any more casts a look toward the sea or the cities of his own land, rather they march toward the glory that awaits them. A keen breeze shakes their crests, and the road blooms with the varied hues of arms, even as rising from the ocean stars in their multitude clothe the sparkling air, even as the constellations girdle at her arising the golden night.

[570] The offspring of the Sun in silent, wrathful dismay marvels at the array so rashly made allies; he had rather the enemy were in the midst of his palace than such warriors as they. Meanwhile with joyful looks he suffers the banquet, and plies with a great bowl the son of Aeson at his side, who points out now the children of Jove, now next them the faces of the sons of Aeacus, now the great nurslings of Calydon; he hears too how Alcides was left behind in wanderings unspeakable, and of the heroes they had lamented and all their toils by land and sea.

[576] Jason too seeks to learn about the war so passionately aroused and the array of friendly princes: “Who is that hero yonder, girt with a studded belt, and near him a squire with drawn bow, as though preparing battle and to bring havoc on the ordered tables?” In answer spake the Persean31 offspring of the flaming Sun: “’Tis Carmeius of whom thou askest; it is his custom ever to have his weapon ready, ever to be mindful of his quiver.” “Tell me of him likewise,” said Jason, “whose cloak is rough with embroideries, and whose curled hair exhales many a fragrant breath.” Glancing at him Aeetes tells his name also: “Rich Aron is he; not a horseman of his but scatters such saffron odours, not a man of his company but curls his tresses thus; yet despise not the man nor distrust his tended locks. Here is Campesus in tiger’s spoils; there Odrussa deep in his wine-cup; mark his breast with its broad growth of hair and the great beard that fouls the goblet.”

[593] The guest gazes at him in wonder, and at Iaxartes immoderate in bitter speech and violent tongue, flinging many a threat without regard of gods above or present Phoebus. But Aeetes in his turn says: “Those mighty taunts fly not in vain from his proud mouth, and he ahs a sword to match his words, nor by day or by night rests he from assiduous warfare; ay, even when the rivers are struck motionless by Riphaean frost, still do the terrified Getae with their progeny, still does the watchful Mede and Iberia with confronting barriers await his onset. What if thou shouldst marvel at Latagus or river-born Choaspes? mark him drinking his charger’s blood: yet none the slower will he gallop when the reins are loosed. But were I to tell what troop, what standards follow each chieftain, ere that would the light disperse the humid shades. To-morrow shalt thou see the armies, and to-morrow the chieftains’ realms in various array, those from whom rises the sleet of the stone-bearing sling, those who are skilful with the light javelin, those who are gay with painted quivers. Now let thy mind’s eye range the spreading plains, and see Euryale32 here trampling the corpses with her wing-swift car, how she exults, the warrior-maid, in her valiant troops, how terrible she is with uplifted battle-axe and targe, dear to me not least among my true-born daughters.” He speaks, and pours the bowl in honour of his sire now setting. Then each to his own gods pours alike goblet and entreaty, that they suffer them to do battle, suffer them to survive their warlike deeds.

[618] But lo! Gradivus coming from his Getic caverns and trailing a huge cloud over the northern seas beholds in amazement the Minyans in the Aeaean city and the old king entreated and the fleece vouchsafed to the Thessalian youth. Swiftly he hastens to the starry palace of his sire on high, and with bitter complaint calls Jove to witness: “What end is there, great king, to faction? Now are we gods plotting mutual destruction for naught but human glory, and all this pleases thee, who drivest not the insensate Pallas from heaven nor settest thy law against a woman’s daring. Do I complain that she herself has constructed a ship and conveyed him who hopes to rob my grove of the sacred fleece, and has openly kept the heroes safe? Let her continue so hereafter, if she can. Why now does she deceive with crafty wiles, that my temple may be despoiled of Phrixus’ gold? The Colchians have no need of aid or of your33 alliance. We claim both Perses and the Minyae as foes. Nay, come (why should folk so mighty, why should thy Jason take part in battle?), why go we not, go straightway to the gold-decked grove, and there take arms and decide the quarrel? Do thou now, alone, unsuspected in the silent gloom glide down from heaven; there shalt thou learn how great a god I am, nor without rueing it advance against those boughs. What, are the shrines of Mars then less inviolate, because I have but a grove and rude mound and only in shade34 do the people worship me? All love and guard their own domains. Thy shrines of offering too, great father, have their own rivalry in different lands, and their own glory too. But were I to plunder Mycenae’s famous heights or the virgin citadel of Cecrops, soon would thy spouse, thy daughter be clasping thee with tears and groans and protestation. Let them fear, therefore, nor make such bold demands.”

[649] Pallas’ proud spirit brooked not this, but she broke her long silence laughing to scorn the noisy threats of Mars: “No Aloids or Lapiths hast thou here,” 35 she answered, “to assail with these savage cries, but Pallas; nor were I worthy of the aegis nor should I any more be called the child of Jove, if thy spirit give not over its proud boasting. Wretch, I shall make thee loathe thy arms and trumpets, and in the first combat rob thee of thy fame. Why didst thou not pursue thy mother, fool, with speech so violent? Verily she deserved as much, for creating such a monster among the gods. Yet what crime have we wrought, wherein lies our guilt, if we have helped a youth who fearlessly obeyed the dire behest of his own lord and faced the as yet unknown main, if we have stirred in him some hope of accomplishing a mighty enterprise? Ought we to have made no prayers, sought no agreement with the king, but plunged all into battle’s doubtful issue? So act the Thracians, and so this turbulent fellow here, whenever he seeks aught. I could wish that even now this war were broken off, and that kindred hands took up no arms. Grant us the fleece, O king, and behold us in mid-sea.36 Bt if Mars refuses and alone resists our efforts, shall we depart disgraced after traversing so many seas in vain? And shall I now yield to thee because I am weary and a woman?”

[670] Once more was Mavors rising to the attack, in hot rejoinder; but the Sire cuts him short and with these words constrains him: “What means this insane uproar? As soon as you repent of your acts and have done misdeeds enough, you come to my tribunal. Further your enterprises by what means you will, by any war, for madness hath its own doom. Yet I warn thee, wife, and thee, my daughter, of this: let it suffice to have routed Perses, let no vain hopes hold the Minyae, nor let them wish to set an end to the war. This is the order of events (hearken!) that awaits him. At first will he move backward his stricken camp and abandon the war, terrified by the approach and valour of the Pelasgian chief; soon when the breezes waft these heroes back to Thessalian lands, he will return and in triumph hold the sceptre and the kingdom, until his daughter (ah, what atonement will she pay to the mighty fates for her impiety!) bring Aeetes aid, when in long exile he hath spent a helpless old age, and a Grecian grandson37 place him on his throne once more. Such will be the labours and the fortunes of the two brothers. Go now, rush into battle, if such be your will.”

[690] His words were ended. He renews the banquet and brings back harmony, and at last sends starry night down from Olympus. Then the choir of Muses and Apollo, striker of the lyre, whose wont it is to tell of the Phlegraean fight, appear, and the Phrygian henchman38 bears round the heavy bowl. They rise when slumber calls, and turn themselves each to his own dwelling.

1. Because he sends plague by means of it; cf. Homer, Iliad 1. 43-52.
2. The anchor was usually in the bows of the ship, but Langen quotes Acts xxvii. 29; “ they cast four anchors out of the stern,” also a ship on the column of Trajan which has an anchor hanging by the rudder.
3. A promontory of Bithynia.
4. A group of legends told how Bacchus had conquered Eastern realms and then returned in a triumphal progress to the West.
5. The reference is to Agave, mother of Pentheus, King of Thebes, whom she tore to pieces when he spied upon the revelling Maenads.
6. A companion of Hercules in the war against the Amazons, and buried by Hercules when he met his death here on his return.
7. From its box-trees.
8. There was a tradition that Assyrians had lived by the mouth of the Thermodon.
9. The reference is to the Amazons, a warlike race of women, who were supposed to have been daughters of Mars, according to Apollonius (2. 992), by Harmonia. Various explanations have been given of the traditions about them; one is that the Amazons were really Mongols, who being beardless were thought to be women.
10. Cf. Apollonius 2. 1013; Langen refers to Diodorus 5. 14 and Strabo 3. 4. 17, who attribute the same custom to the Corsicans and Spaniards respectively.

11. Philyra was a nymph wooed by Saturn in the form of a horse.
12. The description is not very clear; Hercules’ efforts cause the mountain-summit and the trees upon it to fall, the result being that the mountain streams are blocked and prevented from reaching the sea.
13. Helle had been drowned, and though a tomb had been made for her she needed none, as she was now a goddess.
14. Aeetes, whose daughter Chalciope Phrixus married.
15. Valerius is here imitating Homer, Iliad 10. 5-10.
16. Telling a dream to the sun or washing in clear water was thought to avert evil consequences; cf. Aesch. Pers. 201, Soph. Elec. 424, Eur. Iph. Taur. 41, Prop. 3. 10. 13, Pers. 2. 16.
17. Medea, as priestess of Hecate, was carrying the two torches commonly associated with her as the goddess of darkness and the underworld.
18. Henioche had known Phrixus and so become acquainted with Greek dress.
19. i.e. ways afforded by the natural lie of the land as opposed to artificial roads.
20. The sun as he goes up the sky seems to pass over the body of Atlas, the mountain, before he fills the sky with light.

21. The Hyades.
22. This expedition is related by Herodotus (2. 103), who holds the Colchians to have been of Egyptian origin.
23. An Egyptian town at the head of the Sinus Heroopolites (Suez Canal): Pharos was an island at the mouth of the Nile. Sea (426) is a nymph invented for the occasion by Valerius.
24. Son of the Sun-god, who entrusted him with his chariot for one day; the horses took fright and Phaethon fell into the river Eridanus (Po). His sisters who wept for him were turned into poplars that wept tears of amber. Pyroeis was one of the horses.
25. Another name for Colchians, from a town in that country.
26. As had been the case with Phrixus.
27. i.e. unfailing in its outpouring of water; river gods are frequently so represented.
28. Different from the Sthenelus of 89; this one was a son of Perseus and Andromeda, and father of Eurystheus, king of Argos, who imposed the labours upon Hercules.
29. “tamen”: though he had not come with warlike purpose, but in peace.
30. Scythian and Armenian (cf. 5. 166); by “quivers of the Dawn” he means Eastern bowmen, perhaps Parthian.

31. So called from his mother Perse.
32. A princess of the Amazons.
33. Apparently Jason and Minerva; that he turns to address Minerva here is clear from “tuus,” “tu” (636, 638). What Mars suspects is a compact, engineered by Minerva, between Aeetes and Jason, by which, in return for his help against Perses, Jason shall have the fleece. This, to Mars, is underhand work; he says he is perfectly capable of repulsing Perses and the Minyae as well. Straightforward hostility (cf. “palam” in 630) he does not mind; he suggests a single combat between himself and Minerva.
34. i.e. of a grove.
35. Foes more distinguished for ferocity than for skill in fight; the Aloidae were among the giants who tried to take heaven by storm.
36. Let us have the fleece and we will leave Colchis at once and sail for home.
37. Medus, son of Medea by Aegeus, king of Athens.
38. Ganymede.