About the Author:
Apollonius of Rhodes was, in fact, a citizen of Alexandria during the 3rd Century BC but lived on Rhodes for a time and earned the Rhodian franchise with the publication of his (revised) Argonautica. Apollonius later became Director of the great library of Alexandria.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
2 out of 5
The Voyage Of Argo
Also known as 'The Argonautica', I read the E. V. Rieu translation of the 3rd Century BC retelling of the myth of Jason and the Argonauts. The hero Jason is tasked with travelling to a distant land to recover the Golden Fleece from the cruel King Aeetes and soon gathers a crew of brave volunteers, who each carry divine blood and include in their number the mighty Heracles (AKA Hercules). Setting sail in their ship, the Argo, they face countless dangers on their epic journey to and from Aeetes' kingdom, including the Sirens, fire-breathing bulls, Harpies and the dual-peril of Scylla and Charybdis.
My first experience of Jason's story was, of course, the brilliant 1963 film version with special effects by the legend Ray Harryhausen. However, the legend went on to grow in my understanding and I was therefore fascinated to read this complete version of the tale. It hits all the story points which had so fascinated me as a child and which have fascinated people in general for millennia, with the Argonauts having to overcome troubles brought upon them by men, monsters and the gods themselves.
Where Apollonius' text surprised me was in its characterisations of some of the famous mythological figures. The 'romantic leads' of Jason and Medea are the most obvious examples of this, with Jason being constantly wracked with despair and self-doubt and Medea, whose own will is overcome by Eros' arrow of love, immediately regretting the betrayal of her father and lamenting her impulsive decisions for the remainder of the narrative. Also Apollonius' expression of the characters of the gods manages to be inventive and personal, without quite crossing the lines into heresy.
The problem is, however, that this book was written more than 2,300 years ago and storytelling has developed somewhat since then. Here, as was the preference of the age, the author constantly fills us in not only on the lineage of every single character encountered but also tries to link in with and retell every other myth or legend that opportunity allows. This makes it very hard to retain specific details of the backgrounds of the main characters and their relationships with others mentioned. On top of that is the author's tedious desire to mention the name of every place, people or country even so much as incidentally involved, so that rather than finding out what Jason and company are up to, we spend a great deal of time hearing about the social habits of tribes of people who don't actually appear in the narrative in any way.
The gist is that, on a scholarly level, I'm glad to have read this important and ancient text. However, on a personal enjoyment level, I found it to contain too much boring and irrelevant information to really stand out as something to ever recommend.
2 out of 5