Hero Cult in Apollonius Rhodius

Sarah Hitch
[[This article was originally published in 2012 in Gods and Religion in Hellenistic Poetry (edited by M. A. Harder, R. F. Regtuit, and G. C. Wakker) 131-162, Peeters Publishers: Leuven. The page-numbers of the printed version are embedded within braces in this electronic version: for example, {131|132} marks where p. 131 ends and p. 132 begins.]]
The divinity of heroes, and the cult honors they received in the Greek world, is a notoriously complicated topic, particularly the presentation of heroes in epic poetry and the relationship between epic and cult practices. [1] Heroes of early epic seem to have been considered, almost automatically, as potential recipients of hero cult from the early Classical period onward. During the Hellenistic era, interest in Bronze Age remains and sites associated with the Homeric epics as places of cult worship flourished, part of a general trend of preserving links with the Greek past in a changing landscape of kings and empires. [2] In this regard, there is no distinction between heroes of epic and heroes of cult for an epic poet in the third century BC, even if such a distinction can be argued for the presentation of heroes in the Homeric poems. For Apollonius, the Argonauts were well-established heroes of both epic and cult, and this paper will explore the multifarious ways in which Apollonius’ distinctive narrative technique in the Argonautica shapes the presentation of hero cult. [3] {131|132}

1. Hero Cult

Heroes of cult, never a heterogeneous group, seem to have possessed an intermediary type of divinity and demonstrate a variety of genesis, powers, and functions that resist modern categorization on the basis of sacrificial rites, fluctuations in religious practice, or mythological origins. Gunnel Ekroth’s impressive study (2002) has created a working classification for hero cults: gods, heroes, and the dead may be said to form three basic but variable groups, with the gods as those who possess a universal and superior power, while the dead are confined to their burial spot with the least power. [4] A figure may occupy the interstices between gods and heroes, such as the Dioskouroi or Herakles, whose divine powers were universal despite their mortal origins, or hero and dead man, as shown in Herodotus’ anecdote about the Delphic oracle’s decision to proclaim Lycurgus as a man rather than a god. [5] Heroes can be distinguished from the less powerful dead by their extraordinary achievements, importance to and worship by an entire community or multiple communities, their powers to help or harm, and their privileged afterlife.
Bruno Currie (2005), expanding Ekroth’s work, emphasizes that the death of the hero is not the essential factor, nor is the burial spot, as some heroes had many graves, and more importantly, heroization could begin during the lifetime of individuals, a process often described as a characteristic of Hellenistic religion, but is already attested in the fifth century. Currie advocates a notion of heroes as “supernatural beings subordinate to gods” and has shown in his excellent study of hero cult in the Archaic and Classical periods that a range of heroic honors for exceptional living people assimilated them to the well-known mythic heroes, a much more accepted part of the Greek experience than previously has been thought. [6] His study illuminates the ways in which Pindar {132|133} projects “inclusive immortality” for his patrons, both the (“metaphorical”) immortal fame bestowed by song and the (“literal”) immortality of cult, through assimilation to mythical heroes. [7] A similar kind of inclusive immortality seems to be a goal for Apollonius, who takes his reader on a literary journey of shared knowledge of the future immortalization awaiting the Argonauts. This alliance between author and reader is created through numerous narratorial intrusions describing the relics or role of the Argonauts in the establishment of hero cults, descriptions of their encounters with previously established hero cults, and an escalating depiction of heroization of the Argonauts as they progress through their quest.
This ongoing heroization of the Argonauts is part of Apollonius’ characteristic engagement with the epic tradition as well as contemporary interests in religion and local histories and his creation of a pervasive chthonic atmosphere throughout the poem. Apollonius’ self-conscious revision of epic traditions is conspicuous from the opening verse: the proem announces the poet’s intention to ‘recall the klea of long-ago men’ (ἀρχόμενος σέο Φοῖβε παλαιγενέων κλέα φωτῶν / μνήσομαι, 1.1-2), identifying this epic as a combination of the immortalization guaranteed through epic song (κλέα) and a contemporary artistic venture controlled by the narrator (μνήσομαι ‘I will recall’), who is distanced from the time of the subject matter (παλαιγενέων φωτῶν ‘long-ago men’). The reference to Apollo (ἀρχόμενος σέο Φοῖβε ‘beginning from you, Phoebus’) signposts the poet’s integration of material from Hymns, recalled again at the end of the poem. [8] {133|134} This triplex relationship between current time, epic time, and the fame created by epic song is perfectly embodied throughout the poem in the descriptions of hero cult, which are repeatedly used by the narrator as a continuous link between the heroes of the ‘long-ago past’ and the poem’s audience.
Heroic immortalization seems to have been the goal of the lost cyclic epics, as well as in Hesiod and Orphic poetry, so, in this sense, Apollonius is not breaking new ground. [9] However, it is characteristic of Apollonius’ complex narrative style that the immortalization of the heroes is contemporaneous with their journey: as the journey progresses, so does the god-like effect the heroes have upon other people, although they themselves remain unhappily unaware. In this way, the immortalization of the heroes is a bond shared only between the readers and the poet, and varying levels of emphasis in the representation of this process of heroization keep the reader in suspense for much of the poem. [10] This narrative distancing allows Apollonius to both heroize his epic heroes and realize the impact of their hero cult as he creates it, while the characters’ ignorance of their future honors keeps the process firmly under the narrator’s control. Similar to the narrator’s aversion to tales told by earlier poets, the explicit immortalization of some of the more prominent cult figures is avoided, and a more tantalizing mixture of explicit and implicit allusions to immortalization through song and cult is created. Many of the more obvious opportunities to emphasize the divinity of Herakles and the Dioskouroi are conspicuously subtle, delayed, or even absent. The Dioskouroi are depicted as having an epiphanic effect on others, but themselves seem unaware of their status, and not even the narrator alludes to their traditional shared afterlife. [11] Only in his absence does Herakles assume a god-like role through {134|135} the inadvertent help he provides for the Argonauts, and the delayed admission of his future apotheosis until his departure suggests that Apollonius is teasing his reader with the possibility of presenting an Iliadic Herakles, who is not immortal. [12] It is no coincidence that the Dioskouroi and Herakles are also the Argonauts with the most conspicuous contemporary relevance to the Ptolemies and their accumulation of divine honors during their lifetimes. [13] As always in Apollonius, these emphatic absences and silences express great meaning: the avoidance of explicit immortalization for the Dioskouroi and other heroes creates the ambiguous landscape of possibilities so carefully manipulated by the poet.

1.1. Hero Cult in the Argonautica

The possibility of heroization, both in terms of a blessed afterlife and as cult honors among the living, is made conspicuous for the external audience throughout the journey of the Argo in numerous descriptions of life after death. In the “Catalogue of Heroes,” Caeneus’ living descent under the earth is the subject of epic song (κλείουσιν ἀοιδοί ‘poets tell’, 1.59–64) and Theseus cannot join the crew because he is held under the earth (1.101–104). [14] The apotheosis of Herakles is explicitly explained to the Argonauts, a paradigm for heroization after long struggles for the Argonauts themselves (1.1315–1320). [15] The prominence given to Orpheus in the “Catalogue of Heroes” and throughout the poem as a sort of religious leader, although never explicitly associated with his famous katabasis, is a tantalizing allusion to his widespread cult status and associations with life after death. [16] Further examples of blessed afterlives are demonstrated to the external audience in Hera’s prediction of the marriage of Achilles {135|136} and Medea in the Elysian Fields, the traditional abode of the blessed (4.811–815), and the narrator’s references to Ganymede (3.115–117) and the failed attempt of Thetis to immortalize Achilles (4.869–880). [17]
One of the most striking examples of the narrator’s anticipation of immortality for his heroes is the long digression on the blessed afterlife of Aethalides, the herald for the Argonauts, whose memory is imperishable (ἄφθιτος) and whose soul moves between the living and those under ground (ὑποχθονίοι, 1.640–649). The only other occurrence of ἄφθιτος in the poem describes the depiction on Jason’s cloak of the “imperishable work” of the Cyclopes, who are making Zeus’ thunderbolts (1.730). Aethalides will have a special existence after death: the implications of ἄφθιτος are further clarified by its almost immediate application to the thunderbolts of Zeus, themselves symbols of immortalization which will recur throughout the poem. [18] This digression on Aethalides comes in lieu of his speech to the Lemnian women, in contrast to the dramatic presentation of their debate and the direct speech of their messenger, Iphinoe, to the Argonauts (1.653–717). The narratorial intrusion is further emphasized by the narrator’s rhetorical question, “why do I need to tell long muthoi about Aethalides?”(1.648–649). [19] The “imperishable memory” of Aethalides is linked to the narrator’s ability to inform his audience of the future immortality of his heroes. Similar to the pointed reference to the epic tales about Caeneus’ living descent underground, the narrator fuses a description of blessed afterlife and poetic art.
Just as the prospect of immortalization after death is established early in the poem, so too is the possibility of cult worship for dead heroes. The first overnight stop of the Argo is to the tomb of Dolops, where the Argonauts propitiate the hero with sacrifices: {136|137}
φαίνοντο δ᾽ ἄπωθεν
Πειρεσιαὶ Μάγνησσά θ᾽ ὑπεύδιος ἠπείροιο
ἀκτὴ καὶ τύμβος Δολοπήιος. ἔνθ᾽ ἄρα τοίγε
ἑσπέριοι ἀνέμοιο παλιμπνοίῃσιν ἔκελσαν,
καί μιν κυδαίνοντες ὑπὸ κνέφας ἔντομα μήλων
κεῖαν, ὀρινομένης ἁλὸς οἴδματι
They saw too in the distance Peiresiai and, in clear weather, the coast of the Magnesian land and the tomb of Dolops. There in the evening they put in, since the winds were against them. In the gloom, honoring him, they offered burnt sacrifices of sheep, as the swell of the sea rose. [20]
The first adventure of the Argonauts is to perform cult honors (κυδαίνοντες) for a hero, which verb will be used throughout the poem in reference to hero cult, culminating in Hera’s treatment of Jason in Book 4. [21] The audience may have expected something important to happen here, since Herodotus describes the departure of Herakles at this location; this substitution gives added import to the hero cult offerings which have been substituted for at least one well-known version of the myth. [22] The performance of sacrifices for Dolops is extended into the present time of the narrator and reader through the aetiology of the beach’s name (τὴν δ᾽ ἀκτὴν Ἀφέτας Ἀργοῦς ἔτι κικλήσκουσιν ‘that coast men still call "Sailing of the Argo"', 1.591). [23] {137|138}
The next relic to be left by the Argo’s voyage, which “can still be seen,” firmly establishes that these tracks of the Argo provide both metaphorical (through renown) and literal immortality (through cult). When the Argonauts reach the island of the Doliones, Tiphys advises them to leave their anchor-stone below a spring; the narrator adds that, on the advice of the Delphic Oracle, the Ionian sons of Neleus consecrated the stone in the Temple of Jasonian Athena (ἀτὰρ κεῖνόν γε θεοπροπίαις Ἑκάτοιο / Νηλεΐδαι μετόπισθεν Ἰάονες ἱδρύσαντο / ἱερόν, ἣ θέμις ἦεν, Ἰησονίης ἐν Ἀθήνης ‘Later, in accordance with an oracle of the Far-Worker, the Ionian sons of Neleus duly set up the abandoned stone as a sacred relic in the temple of Athena, protector of Jason', 1.959-960). This description of the future use of the anchor-stone is suggestive of heroization in both the association of a hero with a god, often the first step in the process, and the authority of the Delphic oracle, which was frequently sought before the creation of new hero cults. [24] Other authors describe the consecration of the anchor stone in locations farther along the route to Colchis; following the sacrifices to Dolops, this early placement of the anchor stone provides a marked beginning for the process of heroization. [25]
Having performed sacrifices for a dead hero and having been signaled as the future subject of hero cult, the Argonauts are then described as creating heroes of cult in their slaughter of the Doliones. [26] Cyzicus and several other Doliones are quickly killed before the battle narrative is interrupted at the climactic moment, when the defeated Doliones turn to flight, by the narrator’s description of the continual heroic honors for the dead (οὓς ἔτι πάντας / ἐνναέται τιμαῖς ἡρωίσι κυδαίνουσιν ‘All these are still glorified by the inhabitants with the honors due to heroes’, 1.1047–1048). As with the rites for Dolops, the verb for the heroic honors after death is κυδαίνειν. After the conclusion of the battle, the narrator {138|139} gives a detailed description of the funeral rites for Cyzicus, and further clarifies his heroic status in the report that his sêma is still visible today, while the excessive lamentation of the nymphs for Cleite, his wife who hanged herself from grief, creates a fountain (1.1061-1069): the creation of a sêma and the attention of nymphs are two motifs which will highlight the process of heroization throughout the poem. [27] Finally, we are told that the inhabitants still perform annual libations for Cyzicus and Cleite, xutla, and grind sacrificial cakes at the public mill (1.1075–1077), an emphatic conclusion to the description of heroic honors for the Doliones: acts of mourning performed by communities, rather than families, and repetitive ritual actions are some of the characteristic features which distinguish hero cult from tendence of the dead. This heroization of Cyzicus anticipates the deaths, and heroization, of Idmon and Tiphys among the Mariandynoi, whose funerals recall this initial model.
The passage through the “Crashing Rocks” with the helpful push of Athena is the climactic adventure of the outward journey, the fame of which is already known to Homer. [28] The narrator reports that the Argonauts feel as if they had escaped Hades (δὴ γὰρ φάσαν ἐξ Ἀίδαο / σώεσθαι, 2.609–610): the transference of people by gods to new locations at the point of death is often associated with heroization, and this critical hurdle in the journey seems to mark a transitive stage in the heroization of the Argonauts. [29] After the “Crashing Rocks,” the Argonauts see the ἱερόν ‘shrine’ of Dipsacus (2.658–659), before stopping off at Thunias where they see Apollo (2.669–682), an appearance which will be recalled in his other epiphany during the final adventures in Book 4 (1704–1714). [30] It is in the context of a brush with a hero cult site, which is “seen” by the Argonauts, and a brush with the divinity most often associated with the creation of hero cults, who is ‘seen’ by the heroes, that the Argonauts travel to the Mariandynoi, who provide heroic honors for both living and dead Argonauts. {139|140}
The landscape of the visit with the Mariandynoi continues the chthonic overtones of the Crashing Rocks, as the Argonauts journey around the entrance to the Underworld: the episode begins with a description of the Acherousian headland that suggests a katabasis will follow, which is rather supplanted with the epiphanic reception of the Dioskouroi and the (failed) establishment of Idmon as cult hero. We will return below to the honors promised to the Dioskouroi and focus here on the heroization of Idmon after death. Like Cyzicus, Idmon and Tiphys both have sêma still visible (2.853), and Idmon is lamented for three days by not only the Argonauts but also the Mariandynoi before he is buried with full honors (τάρχυον μεγαλωστί, 2.838). The mass lamentation and participation of the whole community signifies heroization, as does the verb ταρχύειν, which describes the rites for Sarpedon in the Iliad, one of the rare allusions to hero cult in the poem, and has been translated by Pierre Chantraine as ‘treat like a god’. [31] The narrator digresses on the resultant hero cult at the site of Idmon’s tomb:
τύμβος, σῆμα δ’ ἔπεστι καὶ ὀψιγόνοισιν ἰδέσθαι,
νήιος ἐκ κοτίνοιο φάλαγξ, θαλέθει δέ τε φύλλοις,
ἄκρης τυτθὸν ἔνερθ’ Ἀχερουσίδος. εἰ δέ με καὶ τό
χρειὼ ἀπηλεγέως Μουσέων ὕπο γηρύσασθαι·
τόνδε πολισσοῦχον διεπέφραδε Βοιωτοῖσιν
Νισαίοισί τε Φοῖβος ἐπιρρήδην ἱλάεσθαι,
ἀμφὶ δὲ τήνδε φάλαγγα παλαιγενέος κοτίνοιο
ἄστυ βαλεῖν, οἱ δ’ ἀντὶ θεουδέος Αἰολίδαο
Ἴδμονος εἰσέτι νῦν Ἀγαμήστορα κυδαίνουσιν.
As a marker visible to men of later generations, the tomb is crowned by a ship’s roller made from wild olive and covered in abundant foliage. If, with the Muses’ help, I must also tell without constraint of what follows, Phoibos instructed the Boiotians and the Nisaians to pay honor to this man under the title “Protector of the City” and to establish a city around this roller of ancient olive-wood; they, however, to this day glorify Agamestor rather than Idmon, the descendant of god-fearing Aiolos.
2.842–850 {140|141}
The funeral rites performed for Idmon at the time of his death in the mythical time of the narrative are graduated into heroic honors in the present day: his tomb is visible for future viewing, with a sêma of a flourishing olive tree. His heroic honors are even given a brief history, punctuated with the verb recurrent throughout the poem in contexts of heroization (κυδαίνειν): Apollo told the inhabitants to honor Idmon (ἱλάεσθαι) as the protector of their city, but they glorify (κυδαίνουσιν) Agamestor instead. Apollo has just been twice addressed after his epiphany on Thunias with ἵληθι (2.693) and ἱλήκοις (2.708), verbs which, like κυδαίνειν, will recur throughout the poem as a marker of the heroization process. [32] The importance of this digression in the overall thematic structure of the poem is made clear in the reference to Apollo’s authority and the description of the olive tree as παλαιγενέος, the only occurrence of this adjective after the narrator’s initial statement that he will recall the epic deeds of long-ago men, starting from Apollo (ἀρχόμενος σέο Φοῖβε παλαιγενέων κλέα φωτῶν, 1.1). Apollo leads the way for the poet’s narration of the story and the heroization of Idmon, as was also the case for the creation of hero cults throughout the Greek world. Just as in the proem, the narrator makes clear his role in informing the external audience of these future honors for his heroes. The surprise disappointment, that Idmon is not in fact worshipped as the foundation hero, does not decrease the significance of this episode in the ongoing heroization of the Argonauts, but rather highlights the role of the narrator in this process, whose superior knowledge is contrasted with the ignorance of the Argonauts, who feel ‘helpless’ (ἀμηχανίῃσιν, 2.860), and even the future inhabitants of the site. [33]
The encounters with established hero cults continue to increase with two further ritual offerings to dead heroes, which keep the possibility of heroic honors after death at the forefront of the narrative movement towards Jason’s contest in Colchis, a climactic point in the transition {141|142} towards metaphorical and literal immortality. The Argonauts visit the tomb of Sthenelus, a former comrade of Herakles, now buried near the Mariandynoi. The narrator tells us that the Argonauts paused there because Persephone sent up the psyche of Sthenelus, “who had begged her to be allowed to see his compatriots even for a short while” (λισσομένην τυτθόν περ ὁμήθεας ἄνδρας ἰδέσθαι, 2.917): the appearance of the eidôlon is apparently an Apollonian innovation upon his source for this episode. [34] A hero with life after death wishes to see others like himself: this rare adjective ὁμήθεες, not found before the Hellenistic period, also describes the relationship of Eros and Ganymede (κοῦροι ὁμήθεες, 3.118). Sthenelus appears in full panoply and looks at the Argonauts before disappearing into the gloom, a sight at which they marvel (οἱ δ’ ἐσιδόντες θάμβησαν, 2.921-922). The verb θαμβεῖν and the noun θάμβος, although not restricted to reactions to divine presence, frequently characterize such responses in the poem: the Argonauts also ‘wonder’ at the epiphany of Apollo (2.681), the fleece (4.184), the goddess Circe (4.682), and the epiphany of the Libyan heroines (4.1430). [35] At Mopsus’ suggestion, the Argonauts perform propitiatory sacrifices for Sthenelus, just as for Dolops (ἔντομα μήλων, 1.587, 2.926), build an altar to Apollo, and dedicate Orpheus’ lyre, for which the place is named (2.922–929). This encounter with hero cult recalls their propitiation of Dolops at the start of the journey but is heightened by Sthenelus’ vivid epiphany and their assimilation to the hero, who is ὁμήθεες, an adjective elsewhere used to describe the relationship between young gods living together in the same house. Finally, the power of dead heroes is reiterated upon arrival at Colchis: the outward journey is concluded with Jason’s propitiation of Gaia, local gods and the souls of dead heroes (ψυχαῖς τε καμόντων / ἡρώων, 2.1273-1274).

2. Immortalization of the Argonauts

The descriptions of heroic honors for dead heroes detailed above are blended with a depiction of the Argonauts themselves undergoing a process of immortalization, represented in the recurrent motif of the {142|143} admiring crowd and the associated star imagery, building up to Jason’s conquest of the fleece and marriage to Medea. The reactions of crowds to the appearance of the Argonauts is often described in terms suggestive of heroic epiphany: there are no less than six adoring crowds in the first Book, which build up to the mass reception of Polydeuces “like a god” in Book 2. The reaction of the crowd may be either admiration, shouting, or lament. Shouting crowds are a recurrent feature of the reception of living people accorded heroic status during their lifetimes. For example, Diodorus reports that Gelon met with a shouting crowd of Syracusans before they accorded him the titles “Saviour,” “Benefactor,” and “Basileus”; Plutarch describes the shouting crowd upon Alcibiades’ return to Athens. [36] Lamentation performed by a community, rather than confined within the kinship group, is also a recurrent feature of hero cult. [37] In Book 1, Jason provokes both of these reactions among crowds in Iolcus. After the proem (1.1–22), the catalogue of heroes is quickly inserted (1.23–233), so that the first action in the narrative time of the poem comes with the heroes’ passage through the city to the ship. As they walk, a crowd of people gather, and the heroes shine like stars (ἀμφὶ δὲ λαῶν / πληθὺς σπερχομένων ἄμυδις θέον, οἱ δὲ φαεινοί / ἀστέρες ὣς νεφέεσσι μετέπρεπον ‘As they hastened on their way a great crowd of citizens ran with them, but the heroes stood out among them like bright stars among clouds’, 1.238–240). Apollonius’ similes typically draw on Homeric models but are much more integrated into the narrative and act to bring to the fore deeper, allusive meanings and, through repetitive images, even create thematic patterns. [38] In the Iliad, star and fire similes and imagery mark the martial excellence of the warriors, usually through the help of a divinity: for example, Athena makes Diomedes’ armor shine like a star, and a flame shines from Achilles’ head like blazing fire. [39] In contrast, the Argonauts possess {143|144} this star-like quality without divine attribution, nor is it linked to their military prowess in these contexts but rather the way in which they are distinct from the crowds of people receiving them.
The impact of the Argonauts’ movement through Iolcus is extended into the thoughts and reactions of anonymous members of the crowd (1.242–259), including the lamentation of women, who react as if Jason were already dead (ἄλλη δ’ εἰς ἑτέρην ὀλοφύρετο δακρυχέουσα ‘As she wept one would say to another in lamentation’, 1.250). This lamentation recalls the Trojan reactions to Hector’s death in the Iliad but also plays upon this idea of living heroization in the context of the emotional crowd, since group lamentation is one of the hallmarks of heroization. [40] The optimistic adoration of the crowd is resumed when Jason, having bid goodbye to his family, leaves the house. At the appearance of Jason, who is likened by the narrator to Apollo, the assembled crowd shout, but no reaction on the part of Jason is described (1.307–311). [41]
Just as the Argo sets sail, an admiring crowd of Olympian gods, nymphs, and Cheiron gaze upon the heroes, forming a three-tiered arrangement of divinities, spanning from the heavens down to the seashore (1.547–558). Similar to the perceived appearance of Jason to the community in Iolcus, the arms of the heroes shine like a flame (στράπτε δ’ ὑπ’ ἠελίῳ φλογὶ εἴκελα νηὸς ἰούσης / τεύχεα ‘As the ship advanced, their armor shone in the sun like flame’, 1.544-545), which glorious effect is not caused by divine help, as is often the case in Homer, but rather becomes the object of the gods' admiration. The Homeric presentation of assembled gods looking upon the deeds of men has been extended in Apollonius to their silent appreciation of these heroes, whose extraordinary status is further emphasized in their description as herôes, aristoi, and hêmitheoi:
πάντες δ’ οὐρανόθεν λεῦσσον θεοὶ ἤματι κείνῳ
νῆα καὶ ἡμιθέων ἀνδρῶν γένος, οἳ τότ’ ἄριστοι
πόντον ἐπιπλώεσκον· ἐπ’ ἀκροτάτῃσι δὲ νύμφαι
Πηλιάδες σκοπιῇσιν ἐθάμβεον, εἰσορόωσαι {144|145}
ἔργον Ἀθηναίης Ἰτωνίδος ἠδὲ καὶ αὐτούς
ἥρωας χείρεσσιν ἐπικραδάοντας ἐρετμά·
On that day all the gods looked from heaven upon the ship and the race of demi-gods who sailed the sea, best of all men. On the highest peaks the nymphs of Pelion gazed in wonder at the handiwork of Itonian Athena and at the heroes themselves whose arms plied the oars mightily.
The nymphs marvel (ἐθάμβεον) at the divinely wrought Argo and at the heroes, a verb consistently used in epiphanic contexts throughout the poem. In the Iliad, the Olympian gods assemble to speak about the affairs of mortals or enjoy looking down upon the Trojan War; here, this kind of interaction is supplanted with an emphasis on the heroic status of the Argonauts and the wonder of the nymphs. [42] At other points in the poem, the Argonauts and the people they encounter describe their divine parentage, but here the narrator has focalized this perception of them from the viewpoint of the Olympians themselves. [43] This semi-divine origin of the Argonauts, a marked break from the relative absence of children of the gods in Homer, is emphatically described here in three different ways: as herôes, aristoi and a ‘race of demigods’ ἡμιθέων ἀνδρῶν γένος. The only reference to Homeric heroes as hêmitheoi ‘demigods’ describes their destruction, an emphatic marker of the distance between the time of the heroes and that of the narrator. [44] Apollonius combines Homeric and Hesiodic epic diction to demonstrate that the Argonauts are both Homeric heroes (herôes, aristoi) and members of Hesiod’s fourth race (hêmitheoi) in anticipation of their future blessed afterlife. [45] In the Works and Days, Hesiod describes the fourth race of men, who fought and died in the Trojan and Theban {145|146} wars, as ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων θεῖον γένος, οἳ καλέονται ἡμίθεοι, ‘a god-like race of heroes, who are called hêmitheoi’. [46] Hesiod’s heroes are ‘demigods’ because they are born of the union of morals and immortals, and after death some are sent by Zeus to the ‘Isles of the Blessed’ (ἐν μακάρων νήσοισι) a mythical form of immortalization. [47] At the start and end of the Argonautica, there are markers to indicate the Argonauts’ location in Hesiod’s race of demigods: after this description of the heroes embarking upon the voyage, hêmitheos is used once again when the Argonauts confront Talos, their final obstacle to a homecoming. Talos is described as τὸν μέν, χαλκείης μελιηγενέων ἀνθρώπων / ῥίζης λοιπὸν ἐόντα μετ’ ἀνδράσιν ἡμιθέοισιν ‘Among the demi-gods he was the last survivor of the bronze race of men born from ash-trees’ (4.1641–1642). The identification of the Argonauts as living during the generation of hêmitheoi implies that immortality is a possibility, since only some of Hesiod’s hêmitheoi are chosen by Zeus for immortality: the narrator progressively depicts his heroes as transforming from a ‘race of demi-gods’ (ἡμιθέων ἀνδρῶν γένος, 1.549) to a ‘race of blessed ones’ (μακάρων γένος, 4.1773) at the end of the poem.
The gods admire the Argonauts as hêmitheoi, and also as aristoi and herôes. Unlike hêmitheoi, seemingly avoided by Homer because of its intrinsic association with gods and therefore cult, aristoi and herôes are used frequently in early epic poetry with the unmarked, generic meanings of ‘epic hero’, as are the terms ἀντίθεος and ἰσόθεος ‘godlike’. Even outside of epic, ἥρως never has a consistent identification with hero cult: recipients of cult worship can be called theos, herôes, or both. [48] Apollonius uses aristoi and herôes with the unmarked meaning of ‘epic warrior’, but some contexts endow these terms with a more nuanced, marked meaning of ‘cult {146|147} hero’. [49] Significantly, the Argonauts are described as ἣρωες when admired by crowds (1.552, 4.998, 1182, 1192), as is Jason when admired by the Argonauts before undertaking Aietes’ contest (3.921), and are called ἀριστῆες by the narrator in his final address to them as gods (ἵλατ’, ἀριστήων μακάρων γένος ‘be gracious, race of blessed heroes’, 4.1773).
Crowds continue to admire the Argonauts, especially Jason, throughout Book 1, often with star imagery. At Lemnos, an extended simile compares Jason’s movements to a star which has an erotic impact upon maidens (1.774–781), while a rejoicing crowd of women follow him and the Lemnian messanger, Iphinoe (δημότεραι μὲν ὄπισθεν ἐπεκλονέοντο γυναῖκες / γηθόσυναι ξείνῳ ‘The women of the city thronged behind them, delighted by the stranger’, 1.783–784). [50] Jason, on the other hand, keeps his eyes fixed to the ground (1.784–785). Just as in his meeting with his parents in Iolcus, crowds frame his interaction with Hypsipyle, and myriads of maidens “whirl around him” as he returns to the ship (1.843–845). The Argonauts will, of course, perform a saviour service by helping to repopulate the island, a “heroic” feat mocked by Herakles (1.865–874). Finally, when the Argonauts leave Lemnos, there is similar lamentation and crowd gathering as in Iolcus (ὧς ἄρα ταίγε / ἐνδυκὲς ἀνέρας ἀμφὶ κινυρόμεναι προχέοντο ‘so the women press around the men, weeping and embracing them’, 1.882–883). [51]
After the transitional passage through the Crashing Rocks, the epiphanic effect of the Argonauts is intensified. In Book 2, crowds of Mariandynoi welcome Polydeuces as a god (αὐτὸν δ’ ὥστε θεὸν Πολυδεύκεα δεξιόωντο, / πάντοθεν ἀγρόμενοι ‘Polydeuces himself they welcomed as a god, flocking from all around’, 2.756–757). δεξιόωντο ‘they welcomed’ is also found of the gods’ reception of Aphrodite in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (16), and often means ‘to receive a god’, a meaning which is made explicit here (ὥστε {147|148} θεόν). [52] Further, the narrator explains that the Mariandynoi provide this reception upon seeing the heroes because of the kleos of the duel with Amycus (2.754). Similar to the other examples we have seen of the thematic connection between epic and cult immortality (the “inclusive” model of immortality), the epic fame of Polydeuces is complimented by his living heroization and god-like honors among the Mariandynoi. [53] After this ecstatic reception, King Lycus announces that he will build a temple for the Dioskouroi on a lofty height:
νόσφι δὲ Τυνδαρίδαις, Ἀχερουσίδος ὑψόθεν ἄκρης
εἵσομαι ἱερὸν αἰπύ, τὸ μὲν μάλα τηλόθι πάντες
ναυτίλοι ἂμ πέλαγος θηεύμενοι ἱλάξονται,
καί κέ σφιν μετέπειτα πρὸ ἄστεος, οἷα θεοῖσιν,
πίονας εὐαρότοιο γύας πεδίοιο ταμοίμην.
Moreover, high up on the Acherousian headland, I shall build a shrine to the sons of Tyndareus; every sailor on the sea will see it from afar and propitiate them. For the future, I will set aside for them, as for gods, a fertile area of good plough-land on the plain in front of the city.
Homeric heroes are not infrequently described as receiving treatment “like a god.” For example, Sarpedon describes honors, similar to those outlined by Lycus, given to himself and Glaucus by the Lycians: they are awarded a temenos, given timê, are not without kleos, and looked upon ‘as gods’ (πάντες δὲ θεοὺς ὣς εἰσορόωσι, Iliad XII 312). This speech demonstrates the Iliadic model of honors for living heroes by their own communities, which does not extend beyond the grave in the Homeric context. The description of treatment “like a god” or references to heroes as “godlike” in the Iliad are contextualized against a firm backdrop of the finality of death and therefore do not carry the same extended meaning as the honors described by Lycus for the Dioskouroi, since the Argonautica has clearly established the possibility of hero cult. Lycus imagines that sailors will look at the monument and propitiate (ἱλάξονται) the Dioskouroi: this verb is only used of gods in Homer and Hesiod and occurs frequently in other contexts to describe hero cult, such as the heroic honors performed at the tomb of {148|149} Philippos of Croton in Segesta (θυσίῃσι αὐτὸν ἱλάσκονται, ‘they propitiate him with sacrifices’). [54] That Lycus is describing heroization for the living Dioskouroi is made clear with the specification that their honors are equivalent to those given to gods, οἷα θεοῖσιν, as well as the description of people propitiating them in the future: significantly, unlike Sarpedon and Glaucus, all sailors will honor Polydeuces like a god, not just those resident in his community. This is explicit divinization of the Dioskouroi, anticipated by the treatment of Polydeuces by an adoring crowd.
Although the Argonauts do not seem aware of this heroization, since the only response given to either the crowd or King Lycus’ pledge is a general description of the good time enjoyed by all (2.759–760, 811), the reader of the Argonautica has been given prior hints of this immortalization. Polydeuces was compared to a star at the beginning of the duel with Amycus, one of the symbols of heroization throughout the poem (2.40–42). [55] After his victory, he is hymned by Orpheus as the ‘Therapnaean son of Zeus’ (2.163), a reference to the cult site of the Dioskouroi outside of Sparta in which, according to Pindar, they spent their alternate day of life when not with Zeus on Olympus. [56] After this happy reception by Lycus on the outbound journey, there is an equivalent signpost of their immortalization on the return. In Book 4, the narrator describes their altars, sacrifices, and protection of future sailors as allotted by Zeus (4.650–653). The Argonauts, who earlier expressed such dismay after the Dioskouroi performed their prayer, do not know about these honors and altars, which knowledge is shared only by the narrator and reader as part of the timeless presentation of hero cult (ὃ δὴ βωμοί τε καὶ ἱερὰ τοῖσι τέτυκται / ἔμπεδον ‘For this reason, permanent altars and rites are established in their honor’, 4.651–652). That this aetiology marks the completion of their process of heroization is further emphasized by the description of them here, in the last specific reference to the twins in the poem, as κούρων Ζηνός ‘sons of Zeus’ (4.650–651), instead of Τυνδαρίδαι, a title more evocative of their humanity as sons of the {149|150} mortal Tyndareus. This is the only allusion in the poem to their frequent cult title Διόσκουροι, which is nonetheless still avoided in a typically Apollonian fashion. [57]

2.1. Jason’s Aethloi

The climactic heroization scene in the poem is Jason’s performance of Aietes’ challenge. The contest with the bulls is repeatedly designated as an aethlos ‘challenge’, the programmatic term for the labors of heroes which lead to their immortalization, adding further emphasis to the depiction of Jason undergoing a process of heroization in this Book. [58] Aethlos is used to describe Aietes’ challenge 17 times in Book 3, and is the final word of the book (ἦμαρ ἔδυ, καὶ τῷ τετελεσμένος ἦεν ἄεθλος ‘Nightfall came, and Jason’s task was at an end’, 3.1407), recalled again in the closing address to the heroes by the narrator (ἤδη γὰρ ἐπὶ κλυτὰ πείραθ’ ἱκάνω / ὑμετέρων καμάτων, ἐπεὶ οὔ νύ τις ὔμμιν ἄεθλος ‘For now I have reached the glorious conclusion of your struggles, since no other challenge (confronted) you’, 4.1775–1776). [59] The first stage in the accomplishment of Aietes’ contest is Jason’s meeting with Medea to obtain her magic drugs, at which point Jason is already described as having a god-like effect upon the other Argonauts themselves: {150|151}
ἔνθ’ οὔπω τις τοῖος ἐπὶ προτέρων γένετ’ ἀνδρῶν,
οὔθ’ ὅσοι ἐξ αὐτοῖο Διὸς γένος οὔθ’ ὅσοι ἄλλων
ἀθανάτων ἥρωες ἀφ’ αἵματος ἐβλάστησαν,
οἷον Ἰήσονα θῆκε Διὸς δάμαρ ἤματι κείνῳ
ἠμὲν ἐσάντα ἰδεῖν ἠδὲ προτιμυθήσασθαι·
τὸν καὶ παπταίνοντες ἐθάμβεον αὐτοὶ ἑταῖροι
λαμπόμενον χαρίτεσσιν,
Never in all the previous generations, neither among all the descendants of Zeus himself nor among all the heroes who were sprung from the blood of the other immortals, had there been such a man as on that day Jason was made by Zeus’ wife, both to look upon and to hear speaking. Even his companions as they stared were amazed at how he shone with grace.
This description of an adoring crowd recalls the admiration of the gods looking upon the Argo, the point at which the narrator identified the Argonauts as members of Hesiod’s “Race of Heroes,” some of whom are destined for immortality. The phrase ἤματι κείνῳ ‘on that day’, also at the verse end, marked the moment of Olympian admiration (1.547), and his companions admire him, ἐθάμβεον, just as the nymphs had admired the Argo, the work of Athena, ἐθάμβεον (1.550). [60] These echoes of the admiring gods in Book 1 connect these scenes in the progressive heroization of the Argonauts, and indeed, the overall effect of Jason’s appearance on this day will mark a new stage in the journey. Jason’s appearance itself is not described, but rather the way in which others see and hear him, which the narrator qualifies as “shining with grace”; similar to the crowds in Book I, star imagery is used to define the effect Jason has upon others in his presence. An expected description of his hair, clothing or other attributes is supplanted with marked terminology evocative of hero cult. [61]
This light imagery is further extended in the simile comparing Jason to the star Sirius as he approaches Medea (3.956–961), and the flame which shines from his head (3.1017–1018). Lars Nyberg, following Charles Rowan Beye, has observed the increasingly dangerous symbolism of light and stars, which climaxes in Jason’s destruction of the earthborn men when the rock he throws is compared to a shooting star (3.1377–1379). [62] Equally, the star imagery signifies Jason’s divine power and {151|152} epiphanic effect upon others, which power may influence people in positive or negative ways. This imagery is not only linked to his erotic impact upon Medea and performance in this challenge but is also an overall atmospheric quality indicative of an ongoing process of heroization.
The star imagery in Book 3 leads up to his performance of the aethlos set by Aietes, at which point he is granted temporary immortality. Jason anoints himself with the drugs, which Medea promised would give him “boundless strength” equal to that of the immortals (ἐν δέ τοι ἀλκή / ἔσσετ’ ἀπειρεσίη μέγα τε σθένος, οὐδέ κε φαίης / ἀνδράσιν ἀλλὰ θεοῖσιν ἰσαζέμεν ἀθανάτοισιν ‘Your body will possess boundless might and great strength, and you will think yourself the equal not of men, but of the immortal gods’, 3.1043–1045). Rejoicing in these godlike powers, he throws his weapons around, which flash like winter lightning (3.1263–1267). In myth, wearing immortal clothing, of which Medea’s drug is a rather sinister version, and being struck by lightning are both indicative of heroization and apotheosis. [63] The lightning imagery culminates in Jason’s invulnerability from the fiery blasts of Aietes’ bulls, the noise of which has just been compared to the enhancement of fire by a blacksmith’s bellows:
ὧς ἄρα τώγε θοὴν φλόγα φυσιόωντες
ἐκ στομάτων ὁμάδευν, τὸν δ’ ἄμφεπε δήιον αἶθος
βάλλε θ’ ἅ τε στεροπή· κούρης δέ ἑ φάρμακ’ ἔρυτο.
Just so was the noise as the fiery flame flashed forth from the bulls’ mouths, and burning heat enveloped Jason, striking him like the thunder bolt: but the maiden’s drugs protected him.
Consumption by flames and lightning are both mythic symbols for immortalization, combined here in Jason’s achievement of the first part of his aethlos. [64] That this kind of fire and lightning imagery indicates {152|153} heroization is made clear in Book 4, when the heroes pass by Phaethon’s body still smoldering from the lightning bolt of Zeus (4.597–600), and by the narrator’s description of Thetis’ attempt to make Achilles immortal by dipping him in flames (4.869–872). Phaethon’s death by lightning, the sight of which immediately precedes the description of the immortal honors for the Dioskouroi, is linked to yet another immortalization through lightning in the allusions to Asclepius in the alternate aetiology given by narrator (4.611–618). [65] Additionally, the fleece has an effect “like Zeus’ lightning” on the admiring Argonauts (θάμβησαν δὲ νέοι μέγα κῶας ἰδόντες λαμπόμενον στεροπῇ ἴκελον Διός ‘The young men stared in wonder at the great fleece which shone like Zeus’ lightning’, 4.184–185). This admiration for the divine fleece reiterates a pattern of wonder (θάμβησαν) and lightning imagery when in the presence of the divine, echoing the previous descriptions of the embarkation of the Argonauts in Book 1 and Jason in Book 3 as he undergoes a symbolic divinization through fire.
After the narrator’s description of Jason’s symbolic immortalization in his aethlos with the fire breathing bulls, the return journey is also punctuated by adoring crowds, but the motif becomes even more marked as a representation of the living heroization of the Argonauts as a group. The final two descriptions of adoring crowds come in the visit to the island of the Phaeacians. When the Argonauts arrive, the Phaeacians welcome them with sacrifices, and the Argonauts rejoice in their reception:
οἱ δ’ ἀγανῇσιν
Ἀλκίνοος λαοί τε θυηπολίῃσιν ἰόντας
δειδέχατ’ ἀσπασίως, ἐπὶ δέ σφισι καγχαλάασκε
πᾶσα πόλις· φαίης κεν ἑοῖς περὶ παισὶ γάνυσθαι.
καὶ δ’ αὐτοὶ ἥρωες ἀνὰ πληθὺν κεχάροντο
τῷ ἴκελοι οἷόν τε μεσαιτάτῃ ἐμβεβαῶτες
Alkinoos and his people received them with soothing sacrifices and the whole city smiled with delight upon them; you would have said that their joy was for their own sons. Amongst the throng the heroes themselves rejoiced as though they had disembarked in the very middle of Haimonia.
4.994–1000 {153|154}
Both Richard Hunter and Francis Vian translate ἀγανῇσιν θυηπολίῃσιν as ‘sacrifices to gods’, but this masks the narrator’s description of the reception of the arriving heroes with sacrifices, an interpretation supported by the dative noun for sacrifice qualifying the marked verb δειδέχατο ‘received’: δέχεσθαι is a verb often used in the context of receiving a god or heroized individual. For example, in Plutarch’s life, Theseus’ bones are received into Athens “with sacrifices” as if it were the arrival of the hero himself, ἡσθέντες οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι πομπαῖς τε λαμπραῖς ἐδέξαντο καὶ θυσίαις ὥσπερ αὐτὸν ἐπανερχόμενον εἰς τὸ ἄστυ ‘Delighted, the Athenians received the bones with splendid processions and sacrifices as if Theseus himself were returning to the city’. [66] In contrast to the other adoring crowds, the Argonauts here rejoice in this reception as if they had returned home, which goal will be the end of their journey and of the poem. Their divine honors here increase the anticipation of the end of the process of heroization, simultaneous with the end of the narrative journey, signified in the narrator’s address to them as gods at the end of the poem.
The extraordinary status of the Argonauts among the Phaeacians culminates in the marriage of Jason and Medea, which attracts mortal and divine crowds of admirers, the final adoring crowds of the poem. Hera sends nymphs to attend the wedding, giving honor to Jason (ὦρσε γὰρ αὐτή Ἥρη Ζηνὸς ἄκοιτις, Ἰήσονα κυδαίνουσα ‘Hera herself had roused them to come, to bring honor to Jason’, 4.1151–1152). Hera’s honor for Jason is described with a verb used elsewhere in the poem for the honor given to heroes (κυδαίνουσα). Then, the Phaeacian women gather to look at the heroes, as do the countryfolk, who bring gifts (4.1182–1185). All admire the heroes, again with the marked verb in the poem for marvelling at divine presence (θάμβευν δ’ εἰσορόωσαι ἀριπρεπέων ἡρώων / εἴδεα καὶ μορφάς ‘They were struck with wonder at the sight of the handsome form of the glorious heroes’, 4.1192–1193). These crowds have gathered to honor the marriage of Jason and Medea, which has been consecrated on the divine fleece so that the marriage “would be honored and the subject of song” (ὄφρα πέλοιτο τιμήεις τε γάμος καὶ ἀοίδιμος, 4.1142–1143). τιμήεις ‘honored’ is a term evocative of hero cult and frequently used throughout Greek literature to refer to honors given to divinities. The concurrence here of cult honor (τιμήεις) and the honor conferred by epic song (ἀοίδιμος) precisely encapsulates {154|155} Apollonius’ presentation of these two themes as conjoined through his poem. The marriage takes places in the sacred cave of the Phaeacians, which was previously occupied by Macris, nurse of Dionysus, an earlier heroine whose status is denoted by the narrator’s description of the boundless wealth she gave to the inhabitants (πόρεν ὄλβον ἀθέσφατον ἐνναέτῃσιν, 4.1140). The narrator explains that, “even now,” the cave is known as “the sacred cave of Medea” (4.1143–1144), replacing an earlier heroine with this heroized couple.

3. Divine Boundaries

The immortalization of the Argonauts is part of a large-scale preoccupation with the nature of divinity, a response to contemporary poetic engagement with the processes of deification. Their heroization takes place in a landscape largely devoid of gods: Zeus himself never makes a direct appearance in the poem. The poem’s interest in divinity can be appreciated through the epiphanies of the numerous minor gods who seem to supplant the role of the Olympian involvement with Homeric heroes, and Apollonius gives great attention to the aesthetics of divine presence for the poetic audience. It is in this intersection between human and divine that the nature of Apollonius’ divinities is most called into question, and it is this same intersection that is represented in the ongoing heroization of the Argonauts. [67] This discussion will conclude with a brief glance towards the collapsing of boundaries between gods, demigods, and heroes in the encounter with Triton in Libya. The multiple attempts to identify his divinity neatly encapsulate the poem’s experimentation with the divide between mortals and immortals.
When Triton first appears, as in Pindar, he assumes the form of the man Eurypylus, but the narrator has already made clear that he is, in fact, Triton (4.1552). He is then addressed as ἥρως by Euphemus (4.1564). After his miraculous disappearance, the heroes rejoice that they have been met by one of the blessed, μακάρων τις ἐναίσιμος (4.1592). At this realization, they exhort Jason to offer him a sacrifice of sheep and {155|156} prayer: Jason, who offers several possible identifications for the sea-god, addresses him as δαῖμον when he offers the sheep (4.1597). [68] In response to Jason’s prayer for this god to be gracious (ἵλαθι), the narrator describes the epiphany of Triton “as he really was to look upon” (τοῖος ἐὼν οἷός περ ἐτήτυμος ἦεν ἰδέσθαι, 4.1603). This appearance is prefaced by a simile comparing him to a man, followed by a description of the upper half of his body, which is exactly like the immortals (ἀντικρὺ μακάρεσσι, 4.1612), while his bottom half is monstrous (4.1613–1616). Dennis Feeney, on the basis of the parallels to Homeric comparisons of men and gods, observes the “remarkable confusion of categories” created here in this detailed qualification of Triton’s immortal appearance. [69] Makares is used only of divinities in the Argonautica, here at precisely the moment when the narrator emphasizes Triton’s divinity in a detailed exposition of the nebulous boundaries between man and gods. [70] Makares are described again in the final address to the heroes:
ἵλατ' ἀριστήων μακάρων γένος, αἵδε δ' ἀοιδαί
εἰς ἔτος ἐξ ἔτεος γλυκερώτεραι εἶεν ἀείδειν
ἀνθρώποις· ἤδη γὰρ ἐπὶ κλυτὰ πείραθ' ἱκάνω
ὑμετέρων καμάτων, ἐπεὶ οὔ νύ τις ὔμμιν ἄεθλος
αὖτις ἀπ' Αἰγίνηθεν ἀνερχομένοισιν ἐτύχθη
Be gracious, generation of blessed heroes, and may these songs be from year to year ever sweeter for men to sing. For now I have reached the glorious conclusion of your struggles, since no other challenge confronted you as you sailed up from Aegina...
The clear evocations of the language of Hymns in this ending recall the beginning of the poem, creating a sort of pious frame around the whole poem. The implication in the address to the heroes as ἀριστήων μακάρων γένος ‘race of blessed heroes’ (4.1773) is that the Argonauts have completed their aethloi and become divinities. The admiration of the gods towards the ἡμιθέων ἀνδρῶν γένος ‘generation of demigods’ as the Argo set sail is recalled here (1.548), but the reference to the heroes as μακάρων {156|157} γένος affirms their movement from the demigods described at the start of Hesiod’s fourth race to those chosen by Zeus for immortality ἐν μακάρων νήσοισι ‘in the isles of the blessed’. [71] The narrator propitiates the heroes with a verb (ἵλατε) used throughout the poem in contexts of heroization, anticipated by the propitiation of Apollo on Thunias and Anaphe, the honors for the Dioskouroi, and more recently, the addresses to the Hesperides, Libyan heroines and Triton. [72] Further, this mythic and cult immortality is concluded with a hope that their epic fame will continually increase, completing the narrator’s fusion of cult and epic immortality signaled at the beginning of the poem. Their aethloi concluded, the Argonauts have achieved their immortalization, at which point the narrator ends his tale.
A notable feature of traditional epic adventure conspicuously missing from the Argonautica is a katabasis, although there are so many allusions to passage through Hades and chthonic imagery that the journey of the Argo itself seems to be a kind of katabasis symbolized by the passage through crashing rocks in Books 2 and 4. [73] The numerous references to hero cult increase the thematic association of the voyage with a trip through death, and the poem concludes with a kind of poetic immortalization in which the heroes are addressed as gods. This process of heroization is yet another aspect of the poem’s preoccupation with the nature of divinity, which is conspicuous as much through the notable absence of the Olympians as it is through the divine presence assumed by the heroes: the entire poem seems to question the ways in which divinities interact with mortals. [74] In the {157|158} Hellenistic period, a greater interest in divinization and the creation of gods and heroes seems to have accompanied a relaxing of these categories: the much greater frequency of heroic honors for the recently deceased, or in some cases, living individuals, and the mixture of local and foreign cults provoked by migration and the Hellenistic city centers, widened the possibilities of immortalization. The Egyptian traditions of divine rulers, who were traditionally seen as intermediaries between gods and men, seem to have been fully adopted by Ptolemy II Philadelphus, and cult worship was instituted for himself and Arsinoe as the adelphoi theoi in 271, before her death in 270. [75] The desire to promote the divinity of Ptolemaic rulers played a large role in Callimachus’ lost Ektheosis of Arsinoe (fr.228) and has been proposed as a primary theme in his Hymn to Zeus and the Hymn to Delos, as well as Theocritus’ Idylls 15, 16, and 17 (‘Encomium of Ptolemy Philadelphus’) and the lost Berenice (fr.3 Gow). [76] The role of epic in creating eternal renown for its heroes, the cult status of these heroes for the Greeks, and the contemporary interest in deification of living people is combined in Apollonius’ presentation of the movement of his heroes from the poetic immortality established in the opening of the poem towards the cult immortality signaled in the final address to the heroes (4.1773). The elaborate creation of this process of heroization, of which the Argonauts are unaware, amidst a back drop of recessed Olympian gods and more fluid encounters with divinities of intermediary status, would have resonated quite sharply with the ongoing deification of the Ptolemies. As Hunter has observed of the depiction of Arete and Alkinoos in the poem, the poet creates an image which, by updating Homeric epic for his contemporary audience, transfers a “trans-historical authority” to the Ptolemies themselves. [77] {158|159}


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[ back ] 1. Hero cult can be defined as the worship of people, who, having lived and died, were thought to possess powers to help or harm after their death, a uniquely Greek phenomenon with an unclear origin and variable practice throughout the Greek world from at least the eighth century BC. Burkert 1985:203-208. The major studies are Rohde 1894; Farnell 1921; Brelich 1958; Habicht 1970; Kearns 1989; Antonaccio 1994; Ekroth 2002. There is some controversy about the impact of epic on the creation of hero cult and the general absence of this practice in Homer. For different perspectives on the topic: Rohde 1898:146–199; Brelich 1958:99; West 1978:370–373; Nagy 1979:114–117.
[ back ] 2. For example, the Agamemnoneion near Mycenae seems to have been renovated in the Hellenistic period, and inscriptions on votive offerings at this time cite the name of the hero, whereas earlier offerings were unmarked. The first named dedications to Odysseus in the ‘Polis Bay Cave’ on Ithaca also date to the Hellenistic period, and the sanctuary was reorganized at the end of the fourth century. Alcock 1997:23–26; Antonaccio 1995:154; Scheer 2003; Nagy 2005:86.
[ back ] 3. The importance of hero cult in the poem has been observed by Hunter 1993:128. The specific links between the epic heroes and contemporary deification practices, noted by Fränkel 1968:513–516 is beyond the scope of this study. Currie has suggested that, already by the time of Pindar, a distinction was not made between heroes of epic and cult: the two were not synonymous, but such distinctions are not sympathetic to the flexibility of Greek religious beliefs. 2005:62–70. Hero cults for the Boreads, Dioskouroi, Herakles, Idmon, Jason, and Orpheus are described by Farnell 1921:403–408, 410n77–78; cf. scholia ad Argonautica 1.843.
[ back ] 4. Ekroth’s summary conclusions are found at 2002:330–334; cf. Vernant’s tripartite division 1996:117 and the study of Kearns on Attic hero cults. 1989. Mazarakis Ainian 2004:132 distinguishes tomb cults at prehistoric tombs, cults in honor of recently deceased people, and cults of heroes from mythical and epic cycles.
[ back ] 5. Herodotus 1.65. Ekroth 2002 observes that special sacrifices, enagizein, were performed only for heroes and the dead, but never gods. However, some heroes were perceived as assimilated divinities, and therefore farther away from their former mortality: they did not receive enagizein sacrifices but were treated much the same as the Olympians, referred to as theoi, and are only distinguishable through smaller or less expensive offerings. Some actions are characteristic of hero cult, such as tombs or location with relics, lamentation, and funeral games and athletic contests, but even these activities can also be found with Olympian gods.
[ back ] 6. Currie 2005:160–161, 191 and passim; cf. Habicht 1970:3–16. Currie’s examples range from victorious athletes, wise men such as Empedocles and Pythagoras, and community leaders like Hagnon, Dion, and Gelon. 2005:163–200. The important role model of Alexander the Great in this respect is well known: Burkert 1985:211; Hornblower 1983:268–9; Currie 2005:135n.92. Schuller and Leschhorn 2004:145–146 provide a catalogue of ancient references for the heroization of mythical figures, “real people” in the Archaic period, Oikists, and “people” in the Classical and late-Classical eras.
[ back ] 7. Currie 2005:74–78. This process of immortalization would have resonated with the ongoing deification of the Ptolemaic rulers during their lifetimes; while the Ptolemies are not explicitly set up as analogues for the mythical Argonauts in the poem, as Pindar’s patrons are, hero cult for the Argonauts is used to extend their voyage into the present time of the poet through numerous aetiological descriptions, and the ongoing deification of the heroes is very suggestive of contemporary practices. Mori 2008:140–186, who does not discuss hero cult, finds Apollonius’ revisions to Homeric epic in the presentation of Jason’s ritual activity to be positive reflections of state cult under the Ptolemies. Pindar’s Pythian Four is obviously an important model for Apollonius in this regard, although the exact correspondences between the two poems are outside the scope of this short study on the complex narrative technique of Apollonius.
[ back ] 8. The allusions to Homer, the reference to klea, Apollo’s role, the direct echoes of Homeric Hymn 32.18–19 (σέο δ' ἀρχόμενος κλέα φωτῶν / ᾄσομαι ἡμιθέων ὧν κλείουσ' ἔργματ' ἀοιδοὶ), and the relatively aggressive intrusion of the 1st person voice have been well studied: Ardizzoni 1967:99; Fränkel 1968:33–34; Goldhill 1991:286–289; Hunter 1993:119–129. There are also important allusions here to Aratus’ Phaenomena, a poem intensely engaged with Hesiod’s Works and Days. cf. Hunter and Fantuzzi 2004:224-245. On the end of the poem, see below page 156.
[ back ] 9. On the theme of immortalization in epic, Nagy 2005:81–89. The problems created by the loss of intervening epics in between Homer and Apollonius are discussed by Nelis 2005:359.
[ back ] 10. Byre, drawing on the work of Sternberg 1978, describes the “informational privilege” given to the readers which is often superior to that given to the characters. 2002:3. Goldhill (1991:294) identifies the “narrative of narration” which structures the poem, a technique analysed in some detail by Wray 2000.
[ back ] 11. They share life and death in the Odyssey XI 299–304. Castor and Polydeuces are never called ‘Dioskouroi’ by the narrator, the appellative most closely associated with their special status as sons of Zeus, see below. In regards to the Dioskouroi, Hunter observes that Apollonius’ characteristic “revision of epic norms sways between tradition and innovation”: he points to the parallel silence on the brother/sister marriage of Alkinoos and Arete, of equal contemporary significance. 1993:160–161. The ways in which Apollonius tends to avoid the well-known aspects of the myth as a narrative strategy to emphasize his control over the poem is described by Byre 2002.
[ back ] 12. On Herakles in the poem, Feeney 1986; 1991:95–98; Hunter 1993:25–41. His apotheosis is not depicted in the Iliad XVIII 117–119 and ambiguous in the Odyssey XI 601–605.
[ back ] 13. The contemporary interest in the Dioskouroi is summarized by Sens 1997:23; Hunter 1996:18–27.
[ back ] 14. On the description of Caeneus as ‘living’, Ardizzoni 1967:107–108; Fränkel 1968:47. Being swallowed by the earth signifies heroization: Rohde 1894:111–145; Nagy 1979:203–204.
[ back ] 15. One of the numerous ways in which the Argonauts ‘follow in the footsteps’ of Herakles: Feeney 1986; 1991:95–98. This description reflects contemporary interests in the deification of living men: Nock 1972:78, 720–735.
[ back ] 16. For example Orpheus’ initiation of the crew into the Samothracian mysteries, 1.915–921; his interpretation of Apollo’s epiphany, 2.683–693. Orpheus is recruited by Jason specifically for his katabasis experience in the Orphic Argonautica, 91–93. Guthrie 1935 gives an overview of the myths about and cult status of Orpheus.
[ back ] 17. Livrea 1973:254-255 observes echoes in Book 4 of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the heroization of Demophon.
[ back ] 18. In Homer, ἄφθιτος is used only of immortal possessions, with the notable exception of Achilles’ description of the kleos aphthiton he will earn in recompense for his early death: Iliad II 46, 186 (scepter), V 724 (chariot of the gods), IX 413 (kleos of Achilles), XIII 22 (Poseidon’s palace), XIV 238 (throne made by Hephaestus), XVIII 370 (Hephaestus’ house), XXIV 88 (plans of Zeus); Odyssey IX 133 (vines on the island of the Cyclopes). Nagy 1979:174–189 has fully explored the uses of ἄφθιτος to express immortality in archaic poetry, particularly Achilles’ reference to kleos aphthiton, the only kind of afterlife available to the Homeric heroes.
[ back ] 19. On Aethalides, Beye 1982:37; Goldhill 1991:291–292. This hero is later the origin of the soul inhabiting Pythagoras’ body (Diogenes Laertius 8.1.4), due to his divinely-granted ability to keep his memory. Mooney 1912:109–110 and Clauss 1993:114 discuss the resonance of Homeric traditions for Tiresias and the Dioskouroi, Odyssey X 490-495, XI 302-304. ὑποχθονίοι, only here in the Argonautica, is the term used by Hesiod to describe the afterlife of the Silver Race, WD 141, see below.
[ back ] 20. The text used is that of Fränkel 1961, unless otherwise noted, and translations are adapted from Hunter 1995.
[ back ] 21. κυδαίνειν is used for the heroic honors for the Doliones (1.1048), Agamestor (2.850), and Jason (4.1152); it also describes Jason’s treatment of Medea (3.1008). This verb is used in Homer for honors from gods towards favorite mortals: Artemis and Leto ‘honor’ Aeneas after he has been taken off the battlefield (Iliad V 448), Zeus ‘honors’ Achilles and Thetis, (Iliad XIII 348–350), and Zeus ‘honors’ Hector (Iliad XVI 612).
[ back ] 22. Herodotus 7.193, the earliest account for the abandonment of Herakles at this point and the etymology for ‘Aphetai’; cf. Strabo 9.5.15l; Apollodorus 1.9.19; Vian and Delange 1974:77, 255. Clauss 1993:100–105 proposes that this section of the journey is meant as an analogue to the sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulis.
[ back ] 23. The name of the beach is one of no less than twenty-nine descriptions of things to be seen or heard “even now,” left by the path of the Argo, one of the narrator’s most emphatic ways of building links between the mythic past and present. The other relics of the Argo’s voyage: sacred anchor-stone (1.955–960); “path of Jason” (1.988); “sacred rock” (1.1019–1020); the tomb of Cyzicus (1.1061–1062); Cleite’s fountain (1.1068–90); annual rites (1.1075–1078); musical worship of Rhea (1.1138–1139); “Jason’s spring” (1.1147–1148); ritual search for Hylas (1.1354–1356); renaming of the Strophades (2.296–298); crashing rocks fixed (2.604–206); temple of Concord (2.717–719); Idmon’s tomb (2.841–844); Tiphys’ tomb (2.853); “Lyra” (2.928–929); altar of Hecate (4.251–252); Colchian resettlement (4.509–521); Hylus’ tripod (4.527–536); sêmata of the ship (4.552–555); “Argoan Harbor” (4.656–658); “Medea’s cave” (4.1153–1154); Colchian resettlement (4.1210–1216); altars and yearly sacrifices (4.1217–1219); sêma of Polyphemus (4.1476); “Harbor of Argo” and sêmata of the ship and altars (4.1620–1622); rites for Apollo (4.1720–1730); Thera (4.1740–1764); agôn of the Myrmidons (4.1770–1772).
[ back ] 24. Hughes 1999:170 gives Hellenistic and imperial period examples for the creation of heroic status through association with divinities. For the authority of the Delphic Oracle in the creation of hero cult: Rohde 1894:177–182; Nock 1972:251; Currie 2005:5n.20 lists the ancient sources.
[ back ] 25. On the Homeric echoes in this scene, Clauss 1993:158-160. The other locations are: Panormus (Callimachus), Ankyraion (Dionysius of Byzantium), and the mouth of the Phasis (Arrian). Clauss 1993:158n24.
[ back ] 26. Jason kills Cyzicus in accordance with his fate, which the narrator describes as “inescapable for mortals” (1.1035–1036). Currie 2005:81 has observed that gnomic statements about the absolute condition of mortals do not preclude heroization, since the hero’s death is often the first step in the process. Vian discusses the conflicting sources for Cyzicus cited in the scholia, whom he identifies as an eponymous hero deliberately cast by Apollonius in the mold of a dying vegetation god through the associated cult activities in honor of Rhea. Vian and Delange 1974:30–36.
[ back ] 27. The tombs of Idmon (2.842), Tiphys (2.853), and Polyphemus (4.1476) provide other sêma in the Argonautica. On the semantics of sêma, Nagy 1990:208–222; 2005:86. Saïd 1994 analyzes the different representations of tombs and burial in Homer and Apollonius. Nymphs celebrate the marriage of Jason and Medea, 4.1143–1145, see below.
[ back ] 28. Odyssey XII 70–72; cf. Pindar Pythian Four 208–211. On the episode in general, Knight 1995:41–48 observes that the Crashing Rocks are a “moment of transition.” Nelis 2001:228–231 discusses the careful construction of the voyage in Book 2 as a type of underworld journey, both through recollection of Odyssey XI and Apollonius’ numerous references to the river Acheron (e.g. 2.355). The role of a katabasis in other versions of the Argonautic voyage is discussed by West 1966:315.
[ back ] 29. On transport by gods as a sign of immortalization in myth, Currie 2005:51; Nagy 1979:190–210.
[ back ] 30. These epiphanies have been well studied by Hunter 1986; 1993:83.
[ back ] 31. Iliad XVI 456 = 674; the verb also describes the hypothetical burial of the man defeated by Hector, whose sêma will be visible in the future and give Hector kleos, Iliad VII 85–91. On the death of Sarpedon and the linguistic basis for this translation, Chantraine 1945:1095, followed by Nagy 1990:132; 2005:78. ταρχύειν is also used for the burial of Canthus, 1.83, 4.1500, and of Jason’s mother’s wish to be buried by her son, 1.281. Idmon’s death recalls the death of Elpenor in the Odyssey XI 75–78, and both men have sêma on headlands, 2.844 ~ Odyssey XII 11. However, Elpenor’s death goes unnoticed in contrast to the state funeral given to Idmon: Hunter 1993:44. Nelis 2001:232 observes that “tombs of the dead begin to characterise this section of the voyage.”
[ back ] 32. The related verbs ἱλάομαι, ἱλάσκομαι, and ἵλημι are used of Rhea (1.1093, 1193), Hecate (3.1037), the Muses (4.984), the Hesperides (4.1411), the Libyan heroines (4.1333), Triton (4.1600), Apollo (4.1730) and of cult heroes: the Dioskouroi (2.808), Idmon (2.847) and in the final address to the Argonauts (4.1773). Arete is also addressed in this way, 4.1014. Additionally, it describes the atonement of murderers for their crime (ἱλάεσθαι, 4.479).
[ back ] 33. Goldhill 1991:292–293 discusses Apollonius’ “game of epic believability” in regards to the presentation of the Muses in the poem. Hunter 1993:87 describes Apollonius’ “resistance to patterns which would impose obvious unity or consistency”; he also discusses these kinds of destabilizing statements with reference to the commentaries of Dover (1971) and Gow (1950) on Theocritus 15.106–108. Dover remarks, “the dissemination of a story which increases the kleos of a deity or hero is important.”
[ back ] 34. Schol. ad 2.911–214. Achilles appeared at his tomb in the Nostoi, Vian and Delage 1976:163n.6. The release of a soul by Persephone is similar to Odyssey XI 225ff, Campbell 1981:36, but also to Pindar’s fr.133, in which souls, having paid a poinê for Persephone’s “ancient grief” are allowed to return after nine years to become kings and great men, who are called ‘holy heroes’ (ἁγνοι ἣροες) by men. ὁμήθεες occurs also in Aetia fr.178.5.
[ back ] 35. There are other unmarked uses of θαμβεῖν and θάμβος: 1.220, 1.322, 1.1307, 3.670, 4.74, 4.1363, 4.1673. On the Phaeacian crowd (4.1192), see below.
[ back ] 36. Diodorus 11.26.6, Plutarch Alcibiades 32.3, cf. Aelian Historical Miscellany 13.38: the treatment of Alcibiades is described as “equal to the gods.” Currie 2005:184, 193. Often, these crowds crown the heroized person or perform other rites also associated with victorious athletes. Currie 2005:139–142.
[ back ] 37. Brelich 1958:82–86; Seaford 1993:118, 124–125, 138–139.
[ back ] 38. Effe 2001:148, drawing on the work of Drögemüller 1956 and Fusillo 1985; also the thesis of Nyberg 1992:18. The re-working of Homeric similes in Apollonius is discussed by Carspecken 1952:58–99; Fusillo 1985:327–345; Hunter 1993:129–138; Knight 1990:198–231.
[ back ] 39. Iliad V 1–9, XVIII 204–214. Star similes have been transferred in Apollonius to non-martial contexts. Effe 2001:165–166. Levin connects this effect Jason has on others to the role of Apollo in the poem and the constant comparisons drawn between the two by the narrator. 1972:36–39. Nyberg 1992:24 draws connections between the star similes and the “burning” effect love will have upon Medea as well as the way in which erotic impact is Jason’s primary weapon: so also Beye 1982:91. The star imagery associated with Jason also forms part of the contrast throughout the poem between Apollo’s light and that of Helios. Hunter 1996:18.
[ back ] 40. Currie 2005:97 discusses the heroization of the Spartan war dead with reference to the poem by Tyrtaeus 12.27 IEG: τόν δ᾽ὀλοφύρονται μὲν ὁμῶς νέοι ἠδὲ γέροντες. The emphasis on young and old in this crowd scene (1.315–316) may draw on a similar perception of communal lamentation of war dead. On the echoes of Hector’s death, Clauss 1993:38–56.
[ back ] 41. His silent treatment of this assembled crowd anticipates the Argonauts’ interaction with Apollo on Thunias: Hunter 1993:84–85. Collins 1967:33 observes the contrasting brief and vague description of the reception of Jason by the assembled Argonauts (1.320).
[ back ] 42. For example the divine assemblies which open Iliad IV 1–7 and VIII 1–4.
[ back ] 43. Byre 2002:7 observes that this language is focalized from the perspective of the gods, who are prominent here as part of the pattern of false expectations in which the poem exults: the crowd of gods suggest divine interaction will be a bigger part of the journey than it actually is: cf. Hunter 1993:78. The divine parentage of the Argonauts is emphasized in character speech at 3.365–6, 402, 4.805, 1389; cf. Pindar Pythian 4.184.
[ back ] 44. Iliad XII 23; Koenen 1994:5; Saïd 1998:17; Nagy 2005:83. Sinos 1980:51 observes, “The language of (Homeric) epic is conditioned to speak of its characters as men; their non-epic aspect as hêmitheoi or as objects of cult is limited by the synchronic perspective of Epic.”
[ back ] 45. The narrator twice elsewhere recalls the Hesiodic fourth race: ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων θεῖος στόλος (1.970); ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων θεῖον στόλον (2.1090–1091). The echoes of Hesiod in the Argonautica are discussed by Hunter 1993:128 and Clauss 2000, who details the numerous references to a “pre-historical period” throughout the poem, which create the atmosphere of a transitional phase during which the Argonautic voyage has a simultaneously civilizing and ominous power.
[ back ] 46. WD 159–160. The other crucial passages are Homeric Hymn 31.18–19 (ἐκ σέο δ' ἀρξάμενος κλῄσω μερόπων γένος ἀνδρῶν / ἡμιθέων ὧν ἔργα θεοὶ θνητοῖσιν ἔδειξαν.) and 32.18–19 (σέο δ' ἀρχόμενος κλέα φωτῶν / ᾄσομαι ἡμιθέων ὧν κλείουσ' ἔργματ' ἀοιδοὶ), as well as Hesiod f.204.100 MW. West 1978:191 gives other examples of ἡμίθεοι in Greek poetry.
[ back ] 47. καὶ τοὶ μὲν ναίουσιν ἀκηδέα θυμὸν ἔχοντες / ἐν μακάρων νήσοισι, WD 170–171; ὄλβιοι ἥρωες, WD 172. On the division of the race of heroes after death and the text of WD, West 1978:192. West discusses the controversy over the meaning of μάκαρες θνητοί in Hesiod’s silver race, which he believes does not indicate divinity in this context, but does think that makares, unqualified, denotes divinities, and that an afterlife ἐν μακάρων νήσοισι signifies immortality, 1978:186, 193.
[ back ] 48. On the terminology of hero cult, Ekroth 2002:18–22 and passim; Barrigón 2000:1-14 discusses the usage of these words in lyric poetry.
[ back ] 49. ἀντίθεος never occurs in Apollonius and ἰσόθεος only once, to describe Perseus, ἰσόθεος Λιβύην ὑπερέπτατο Περσεύς, 4.1513. Apollonius typically avoids the obvious and therefore much of the basic terminology of hero cult is missing from the poem: for example, neither ἀφηρωίζειν, which was commonly used in the Hellenistic period to indicate heroization, nor the adjective olbios are used in the poem. Equally conspicuous is the absence of some terminology associated with the Ptolemaic kings (soter and euergetes).
[ back ] 50. The star symbolism has many levels of meaning, not least of which is erotic, on which note 39 above.
[ back ] 51. This assembled crowd recalls the initial arming of the Lemnian women, who “pour out” of the city onto the beach, 1.635. The possible ritual meanings of this episode have been examined by Burkert 2001.
[ back ] 52. δεξιόωντο is also used in the Argonautica of Chalciope’s reception of her sons, 3.258.
[ back ] 53. Kleos is only used very selectively in the Argonautica: after the programmatic statement at the start of the poem to sing the klea of “long-ago men” (1.1), kleos describes Lynceus’ ability to see beneath the earth (1.154), is promised by Jason to Medea (3.992), and the loss of the klea of her home are lamented by Medea (4.362).
[ back ] 54. Herodotus 5.47.5, on which see Currie 2005:120. On the two sanctuaries for the Dioskouroi, Vian and Delange 1974:162–163.
[ back ] 55. Fränkel 1968:515–516 notices a similar progression from the allusion to divinity in the star simile, building up to the divine honors among the Mariandynoi, which will allow sailors to propitiate them (despite the boxing achievement which led to this glorification), a hint towards their honors described in Book 4. They are often associated with stars in iconography, and in poetry at least as early as Euripides’ Helen 140: Parker 1996.
[ back ] 56. Pindar Pythian Eleven 61–64; Burkert 1985:213; Farnell 1921:191–192.
[ back ] 57. Vian proposes that the use of this phrase here suggests that Zeus has finally sanctioned the apotheosis already taking place among the Mariandynoi. Vian and Delange 1981:171. They are first described as Διὸς κοῦροι in Homeric Hymn 33, Farnell 1921:183. Knight 1995:277 observes that the narrator does not ever describe their traditional shared immortality after death. A similar game is played with their role as ship’s saviours, which they never are accredited for by the other heroes in the poem. Fränkel 1968:515. The plausible connections between these honors for the Dioskouroi and the divine cult of the Ptolemies, who were closely associated with the divine twins, augments the importance of this theme within the poem: Fränkel 1968:514, cf. Fusillo 1985:125–126. Ptolemy Philadelphus and Euergetes shared temples with the Dioskouroi, and Arsinoe may have established their cult in Alexandria: Cameron 1995:433–444 on Callimachus fr. 228 Pf.
[ back ] 58. The semantics of aethlos are demonstrated by Finkelberg 1995:7 and passim, who observes the close association of this word with Odysseus in the Odyssey and the corresponding avoidance of the term in reference to Achilles in the Iliad as indicative of the different heroic codes structuring these poems. She proposes that the ability to suffer nobly on behalf of the community, as expressed by these mythical aethloi, forms the Greek mindset towards life and death underlying hero cult.
[ back ] 59. Aethlos in Book III in reference to Aietes’ challenge: 3.407, 428, 480, 502, 536, 561, 580, 619, 624, 642, 720, 779, 989, 1189, 1211, 1255, 1268: also used of Theseus’ labors, 3.997.
[ back ] 60. The phrase ἤματι κείνῳ also describes the day on which the Argonauts pick up the sons of Phrixus, 2.1097. Ardizzoni 1967:164 observes the use of this phrase in the Iliad (2.37, 482, 4.543, 18.324, 21.517) and Callimachus’ Hymn to Artemis (200).
[ back ] 61. Compare for example Pindar Pythian Four 77–85, where Jason’s spears, clothing, and hair are described.
[ back ] 62. Nyberg 1992:34; Beye 1982:136–138 observes the very different light imagery associated with Medea.
[ back ] 63. On mythic symbols of immortalization, Nagy 1979:203 and passim. It is usually the thunderbolt which causes the heroic transformation: for example, the death of Semele in Pindar Olympian Two 25–26; Euripides’ Bacchae 6. But lightning and thunder are generally inextricable: cf. the depiction on Jason’s cloak, Κύκλωπες ἐκαρτύναντο κεραυνῷ, 
βροντῇ τε στεροπῇ τε· τὰ γὰρ Διὶ κῦδος ὀπάζει. (1.510–511); the advent of the Argo is marked by Zeus’ thunder and lightning in Pindar Pythian Four 168. Medea’s “drug of Prometheus” comes from a plant sprung from the Titan’s own ichor and causes Prometheus pain when she cuts it (3.844–853).
[ back ] 64. Currie 2005:363 establishes the connection between fire and lightning, for example the immortalization of Herakles by both lightning and fire in Didodorus Siculus (4.38); cf. Rohde 1894:320–322; Nagy 1979:203; 2005:85, Jason withstands the flames again when yoking the bulls, which causes Aietes to “marvel” at him (διὰ φλογὸς εἶθαρ ἐλυσθείς· θαύμασε δ' Αἰήτης σθένος ἀνέρος, 3.1313–1314).
[ back ] 65. There are important and obvious connections between this digression, which is given considerable prominence, and the death of Apsyrtus. On which Vian (Vian and Delage 1981:35–38), who also gives the other extant sources for the Phaethon story, 36n1. After his murder, Apsyrtus is described as an eponymous hero (4.480–481). Phaethon’s burning corpse recalls Argus’ description of Typhaon’s death by thunderbolt (2.1210–1215): Nelis 2001:233. On Asclepius’ immortalization by thunderbolt, Hesiod Catalogue fr.51 M–W, Currie 2005:361.
[ back ] 66. Plutarch Theseus 36.3–4; see also Callimachus Bath of Pallas 137–138, Plutarch Dion 28.3, among numerous examples of the meaning of this verb as “receive a god” collected by Currie 2005:181–182. cf. Apollonius’ description of the altars which receive sacrifices for the Nymphs and Moirai, θύη ἐπέτεια δέχονται, 4.1217–1218.
[ back ] 67. The absence of the Olympians and the attention to the aesthetics of divinity are the conclusions drawn by Feeney 1991:78, who describes a “large scale upsetting of Homer’s norms … at work when the god’s actions mesh into the human action.” Similarly, Knight 1995:276 observes the relevance of the immortalization of some of the Argonauts in Apollonius’ poetic “confusion” of boundaries between the mortals and immortals. The absence of Zeus as an epic character does not weaken his role in the poem. Dräger 2001.
[ back ] 68. The sheep are slaughtered (λαιμοτομήσας, 4.1601), a verb only used elsewhere in the poem of the sacrifices at Idmon’s funeral (2.840).
[ back ] 69. Feeney 1991:79. The Homeric echoes are given by Campbell 1981 and Livrea 1973:445.
[ back ] 70. Makares in the Argonautica: 1.481, 507, 681, 885, 901, 1094, 1102; 2.325, 531, 606, 1223; 3.381, 701; 4.1128, 1592, 1612, 1773. The exclusive use of makares in reference to gods in the Argonautica is the reason Fränkel suggests emending ἀριστήων given in the manuscripts at 4.1773 to ἀριστῆες, so that the meaning would be ‘heroes, offspring of the gods’. Fränkel’s emendation is supported by West 1965 and Vian and Delange 1981, while ἀριστήων is maintained by Livrea 1973:484.
[ back ] 71. Genos, which can mean either ‘race’, ‘generation’, or ‘offspring’, is notoriously difficult to translate into English: see Koenen 1994:2n3 on ‘race’ as a translation for Hesiod’s myth of the ages, where genos is used of each different group. There are examples in Apollonius of genos as ‘race’, 1.618, 824; 4.262, 614 and as ‘offspring’, 2.1150; 3.402, 920; 4.992, 1414, 1517, 1741. The links between 4.1773 and 1.548, as well as the echoes of Hesiod’s myth of the ages, see above pages 145-6, demonstrate that the meaning here is ‘race’; cf. Theogony 33 μακάρων γένος αἰὲν ἐόντων; Alciphron 3.68 θεοὶ μάκαρες ἱλήκοιτε. Hunter 1995 translates 4.1773 as ‘children of the blessed gods’, but Vian gives ‘race des Bienheureux’. The echoes of Homeric Hymns and Theocritus 15.143 are discussed by Fränkel 1968:619–621. Hunter and Fantuzzi 2004:126 link the honorific address to the heroes to the hope for the ritual repetition of the poem. The seemingly abrupt ending of the poem has provoked much comment, on which Livrea 1973:484; Hunter 1993:123–128.
[ back ] 72. On the cognates ἱλάσκομαι, ἱλάομαι, and ἵλημι, see above page 141.
[ back ] 73. Meuli 1975:604; Vian and Delange 1976:125; Beye 1982:43–45; Clare 2002:122–127; Hunter 1993:184; Nelis 2001:234, and the bibliography at n34; Dräger 2001:80–84.
[ back ] 74. On Apollonius’ innovations in his presentation of the divine machinery, Feeney 1991, Louden 2005:103–104; “In a work where the differences in knowledge and perception between gods, characters, narrator and reader are so marked, human awareness of the gods (and its absence) becomes a substitute for direct narration of their activity.” Knight 1995:7.
[ back ] 75. Ptolemy I is deified as Soter in 280; Arsinoe is deified as sunnaos theos after her death in 270. Ptolemy III Euergetes and Berenice appear as gods in 243/2, only four years after their succession. Adelphoi theoi: (P. Hibeh 199), discussed by Koenen 1993:51–52; Bulloch 1984:212 with bibliography. On the increased frequency of heroization in the Hellenistic period, Rohde 1894:358–362; Farnell 1921:413–418; Thönges-Stringaris 1965:22–24; Burkert 1985:206; Kearns 1989:5; Hughes 1999:168–169.
[ back ] 76. The complexity of royal patronage of poets in Alexandria is discussed by Cameron 1995:47–49; Hunter 2003:26–27, cf. 37–38 on Theocritus 17.112–120. Stephens 2003 is the major study on the ways in which Hellenistic poets are concerned with Egyptian culture, as is Mori 2008. Bulloch 1984:210, in reference to the Athenian Hymn to Demetrios Poliorctetes, observes “the whole hymn is somewhat diagnostic for the modern reader of early Hellenistic religious poetry, for we see just how direct and uncomplicated the equation of man with god could be.”
[ back ] 77. Hunter 1996:24, with the important proviso, “the relation between the ideological and theological world of an epic poem and that of the society in which it was composed is complex and shifting: the fit is never exact.” 27.