Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.2.37 Str. 1.2.39 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.3.2

1.2.38

Demetrius of Skepsis is also wrong, and, in fact, the cause of some of the mistakes of Apollodorus. He eagerly objects to the statement of Neanthes of Cyzicus, that the Argonauts, when they sailed to the Phasis, [Note] founded at Cyzicus the temples of the Idæan Mother. [Note] Though their voyage is attested both by Homer and other writers, he denies that Homer had any knowledge whatever of the departure of Jason to the Phasis. In so doing, he not only contradicts the very words of Homer, but even his own assertions. The poet informs us that Achilles, having ravaged Lesbos [Note] and other districts, spared Lemnos [Note] and the adjoining islands, on account of his relationship with Jason and his son Euneos, [Note] who then had possession of the island. How should he know of a relationship, identity of race, or other connexion existing between Achilles and Jason, which, after all, was nothing else than that they were both Thessalians, one being of Iolcos, [Note] the other of the Achæan Pthiotis, [Note] and yet

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was not aware how it happened that Jason, who was a Thes- salian of Iolcos, should leave no descendants in the land of his nativity, but establish his son as ruler of Lemnos? Homer then was familiar with the history of Pelias and the daughters of Pelias, of Alcestis, who was the most charming of them all, and of her son Eumelus, whom Alcestis, praised
For beauty above all her sisters fair,
In Thessaly to king Admetus bore, [Note]
Iliad ii. 714.
and was yet ignorant of all that befell Jason, and Argo, and the Argonauts, matters on the actual occurrence of which all the world is agreed. The tale then of their voyage in the ocean from æeta, was a mere fiction, for which he had no authority in history. 1.2.39

If, however, the expedition to the Phasis, fitted out by Pelias, its return, and the conquest of several islands, have at the bottom any truth whatever, as all say they have, so also has the account of their wanderings, no less than those of Ulysses and Menelaus; monuments of the actual occurrence of which remain to this day elsewhere than in the writings of Homer. The city of æa, close by the Phasis, is still pointed Out æetes is generally believed to have reigned in Colchis, the name is still common throughout the country, tales of the sorceress Medea are yet abroad, and the riches of the country in gold, silver, and iron, proclaim the motive of Jason's expedition, as well as of that which Phrixus had formerly undertaken. Traces both of one and the other still remain. Such is Phrixium, [Note] midway between Colchis and Iberia, and the Jasonia, or towns of Jason, which are every where met with in Armenia, Media, and the surrounding countries. Many are the witnesses to the reality of the expeditions of Jason and Phrixus at Sinope [Note] and its shore, at Propontis, at the Hellespont, and even at Lemnos. Of Jason and his Colchian followers there are traces even as far as Crete, [Note] Italy, and the Adriatic. Callimachus himself alludes to it where he says,

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[The temple of] Apollo and [the Isle of] Anaphe, [Note]
Near to Laconian Thera. [Note]
In the verses which commence, I sing how the heroes from Cytæan æeta,
Return'd again to ancient æmonia. [Note]
And again concerning the Colchians, who, Ceasing to plough with oars the Illyrian Sea, [Note]
Near to the tomb of fair Harmonia,
Who was transform'd into a dragon's shape,
Founded their city, which a Greek would call
The Town of Fugitives, but in their tongue
Is Pola named.

Some writers assert that Jason and his companions sailed high up the Ister, others say he sailed only so far as to be able to gain the Adriatic: the first statement results altogether from ignorance; the second, which supposes there is a second Ister having its source from the larger river of the same name, and discharging its waters into the Adriatic, is neither incredible nor even improbable. [Note] 1.2.40

Starting from these premises, the poet, in conformity both with general custom and his own practice, narrates some circumstances as they actually occurred, and paints others in the colours of fiction. He follows history when he tells us of æetes and Jason also, when he talks of Argo, and on the authority of [the actual city of æa], feigns his city of ææa, when he settles Euneos in Lemnos, and makes that island friendly to Achilles, and when, in imitation of Medea, he makes the sorceress Circe Sister by birth of the all-wise æetes, [Note]
Odyssey x. 137.
he adds the fiction of the entrance of the Argonauts into the exterior ocean as the sequel to their wanderings on their return home. Here, supposing the previous statements admitted, the truth of the phrase the renowned Argo, [Note] is evident,

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since, in that case, the expedition was directed to a populous and well-known country. But if, as [Demetrius] of Skepsis asserts, on the authority of Mimnermus, æetes dwelt by the Ocean, and Jason was sent thither far east by Pelias, to bring back the fleece, it neither seems probable that such an expedition would have been undertaken into unknown and obscure countries after the Fleece, nor could a voyage to lands desert, uninhabited, and so far remote from us, be considered either glorious or renowned.

[Here follow the words of Demetrius.] Nor as yet had Jason, having accomplished the arduous journey, carried off the splendid fleece from æa, fulfilling the dangerous mission of the insolent Pelias, nor had they ploughed the glorious wave of the ocean. And again: The city of æetes, where the rays of the swift sun recline on their golden bed by the shore of the ocean, which the noble Jason visited.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.2.37 Str. 1.2.39 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.3.2

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