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Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica 1.268-277

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Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica 1.268-277

Postby GJCaesar » Thu Jun 06, 2013 10:14 am

Hello to you all,

I have been quite busy lately and I am currently working on a narratological commentary of a short passage of the Argonautica. But I ran into a comparison which I don't really understand. I do understand the Greek, but the problem is more interpretation-wise:

μήτηρ δ᾽ ὡς τὰ πρῶτ᾽ ἐπεχεύατο πήχεε παιδί,
ὧς ἔχετο κλαίουσ᾽ ἀδινώτερον, ἠύτε κούρη
οἰόθεν ἀσπασίως πολιὴν τροφὸν ἀμφιπεσοῦσα 270
μύρεται, ᾗ οὐκ εἰσὶν ἔτ᾽ ἄλλοι κηδεμονῆες,
ἀλλ᾽ ὑπὸ μητρυιῇ βίοτον βαρὺν ἡγηλάζει:
καί ἑ νέον πολέεσσιν ὀνείδεσιν ἐστυφέλιξεν,
τῇ δέ τ᾽ ὀδυρομένῃ δέδεται κέαρ ἔνδοθεν ἄτῃ, ο
ὐδ᾽ ἔχει ἐκφλύξαι τόσσον γόον, ὅσσον ὀρεχθεῖ: 275
ὧς ἀδινὸν κλαίεσκεν ἑὸν παῖδ᾽ ἀγκὰς ἔχουσα
Ἀλκιμέδη, καὶ τοῖον ἔπος φάτο κηδοσύνῃσιν:


English Loeb translation:
''But his mother, just as she had thrown her arms around her son from the start, so now she clung to him and wept more prefusely, as a girl in her solitude fondly clutches her gray-haired nurse and sobs, a girl who no longer has others to care for her but leads a wretched life under a stepmother who has just mistreated her with many rebukes, and, as she cries, the heart within her is bound fast with misery, and she cannot sob forth all the groans that well up -- so profusely did Alcimede weep, as she held her son in her arms, and spoke there words in her longing: ...''

I am having trouble with defining what relates to what in this comparison. I see that 'a girl in her solitude' refers to Alcimede, and Jason himself is probably compared with 'gray-haired nurse', but who is the stepmother? Is that a reference to Pelias, the man who gave Jason the impossible task to retrieve the Golden Fleece?

Thanks for any advice.

Thomas
Last edited by GJCaesar on Thu Jun 06, 2013 3:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica

Postby Qimmik » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:46 pm

I haven't looked at this in detail, but this may be a "Homeric" simile, where there is a single point of comparison, but the simile takes on a life of its own and blossoms into a small scene with details that don't necessarily bear comparison with specific aspects of the main narrative.
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Re: Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica

Postby Scribo » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:23 pm

Yeah sort of. Well it is a simile and the style is obviously modelled on Homer but everything about is is Alexandrian. The function of simile in Greek (epic) poetry is quite variegated, the levels of intertext and allusion differ. You may be able to make a case for a simile saying something specific about a character(e.g Aias as a donkey) or even more generally (the various lion similes in epic and tragedy) but often the usage is looser.

You've got to take a step back and then re-examine it from the broader context. Allusion is possible, in fact probable with the Alexandrians, but this seems to be a more general usage, trying to convey the empathic force of whatever is happening.
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Re: Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica

Postby GJCaesar » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:47 pm

I can always count on the two of you haha. I took Scribo's advice and looked at it from a broader perspective and took Qimmik's advice of the Homeric simile, which does make sense here.

Although, I took a further look at the passage and the passage contains various references to the story of Helle and Phrixos, the twins of who their stepmother so desiringly wanted to get rid off. It might be a reference to her (she undertook many 'rebukes'), but maybe that's too far-fetched.

I will finish my first look at the passage as a whole tomorrow so maybe I will come up with something, but I will definitely take your advice along in my final version :)
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Re: Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Jun 06, 2013 3:23 pm

I've read the first 3 books of the Argonautica a couple of years ago but I don't have any recollection of this scene. Btw it would be always nice to give the exact book and line number you're quoting...

Anyway, I'm siding more with Qimmik here and I think this is an imitation of the Homeric simile, where you probably shouldn't try to find any exact correspondence between the story's characters and characters in the simile. The brings to my mind the passage in the Odyssey where Odysseus cries like a woman who has been taken as a captive in war and is being led to slavery (Od. 8.523-531). I think the Homeric simile is more about "setting the audience in the mood", making them feel for the characters. If I remember correctly there is even a passage in Homer where a warriors pains are compared to a woman's birth pangs, and it didn't mean the warrior in question was effeminate or something.

But on the other hand, some caution is always in order with Alexandrian authors, and more "literary" interpretations might also be in order.
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Re: Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica

Postby GJCaesar » Thu Jun 06, 2013 3:33 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:I've read the first 3 books of the Argonautica a couple of years ago but I don't have any recollection of this scene. Btw it would be always nice to give the exact book and line number you're quoting...

Anyway, I'm siding more with Qimmik here and I think this is an imitation of the Homeric simile, where you probably shouldn't try to find any exact correspondence between the story's characters and characters in the simile. The brings to my mind the passage in the Odyssey where Odysseus cries like a woman who has been taken as a captive in war and is being led to slavery (Od. 8.523-531). I think the Homeric simile is more about "setting the audience in the mood", making them feel for the characters. If I remember correctly there is even a passage in Homer where a warriors pains are compared to a woman's birth pangs, and it didn't mean the warrior in question was effeminate or something.

But on the other hand, some caution is always in order with Alexandrian authors, and more "literary" interpretations might also be in order.


Sorry about the forgotten quotation of the lines, I normally do that but I totally forgot it. It's 1.268-277.
It's the moment in the story just before the Argonauts are leaving Colchis to set off on their journey.
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Re: Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica 1.268-277

Postby Qimmik » Thu Jun 06, 2013 4:46 pm

The simile seems to be a reminiscence and expansion of a simile of Iliad 16.7 ff., where, in a very different context, Achilles asks Patroclus why he is weeping:

‘τίπτε δεδάκρυσαι Πατρόκλεες, ἠΰτε κούρη
νηπίη, ἥ θ᾽ ἅμα μητρὶ θέουσ᾽ ἀνελέσθαι ἀνώγει
εἱανοῦ ἁπτομένη, καί τ᾽ ἐσσυμένην κατερύκει,
δακρυόεσσα δέ μιν ποτιδέρκεται, ὄφρ᾽ ἀνέληται:
τῇ ἴκελος Πάτροκλε τέρεν κατὰ δάκρυον εἴβεις.

There's also a parallel in Vergil somewhere, I think, though I can't put my finger on it.
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Re: Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica 1.268-277

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Jun 06, 2013 6:16 pm

Qimmik, ἦ τοι ταῦτα κατὰ μοῖραν κατέλεξας!
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Re: Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica 1.268-277

Postby Markos » Thu Jun 06, 2013 7:06 pm

Paul Derouda ἔγραψε
Qimmik, ἦ τοι ταῦτα κατὰ μοῖραν κατέλεξας!


καὶ σύ, φίλε Παῦλε, καλῶς εἶπες!
I am writing in Ancient Greek not because I know Greek well, but because I hope that it will improve my fluency in reading. I got the idea for this from Adrianus over on the Latin forum here at Textkit.
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