Fight between Polydeuces and Amycus, King of the Bebrycians; defeat and death of Amycus (1–97). — Victory of the Argonauts over the Bebrycians; arrival at the abode of Phineus (98–177). — History of Phineus and the Harpies, who are chased by Zetes and Calais, sons of Boreas (178–300). — Prediction of Phineus and return of the sons of Boreas (301–447). — Episode of Paraebius (448–499). — Origin of the Etesian winds (500–527). — Argo passes between the Symplegades by the aid of Athena (528–647). — Arrival at the isle Thynias; apparition of Apollo, to whom they pay honour (648–719). — Arrival among the Mariandyni, where King Lycus welcomes them (720–814). — Deaths of Idmon and Tiphys: Ancaeus chosen pilot (815–910). — The Argonauts pass Sinope and the Cape of the Amazons, and reach the Chalybes (911–1008). — Customs of the Tibareni and Mossynoeci (1009–1029). — Contest with the birds of the isle Aretias, where they meet with the sons of Phrixus, shipwrecked on their way to Hellas (1030–1225). — Arrival in Colchis (1226–1285).
Here were the oxstalls and farm of Amycus, the haughty king of the Bebrycians, whom once a nymph, Bithynian Melie, united to Poseidon Genethlius, bare — the most arrogant of men; for even for strangers he laid down an insulting ordinance, that none should depart till they had made trial of him in boxing; and he had slain many of the neighbours. And at that time too he went down to the ship and in his insolence scorned to ask them the occasion of their voyage, and who they were, but at once spake out among them all:
“Listen, ye wanderers by sea, to what it befits you to know. It is the rule that no stranger who comes to the Bebrycians should depart till he has raised his hands in battle against mine. Wherefore select your bravest warrior from the host and set him here on the spot to contend with me in boxing. But if ye pay no heed and trample my decrees under foot, assuredly to your sorrow will stern necessity come upon you.”
Thus he spake in his pride, but fierce anger seized them when they heard it, and the challenge smote Polydeuces most of all. And quickly he stood forth his comrades’ champion, and cried:
“Hold now, and display not to us thy brutal violence, whoever thou art; for we will obey thy rules, as thou sayest. Willingly now do I myself undertake to meet thee.”
Thus he spake outright; but the other with rolling eyes glared on him, like to a lion struck by a javelin when hunters in the mountains are hemming him round, and, though pressed by the throng, he recks no more of them, but keeps his eyes fixed, singling out that man only who struck him first and slew him not. Hereupon the son of Tyndareus laid aside his mantle, closely-woven, delicately-wrought, which one of the Lemnian maidens had given him as a pledge of hospitality; and the king threw down his dark cloak of double fold with its clasps and the knotted crook of mountain olive which he carried. Then straightway they looked and chose close by a spot that pleased them and bade their comrades sit upon the sand in two lines; nor were they alike to behold in form or in stature. The one seemed to be a monstrous son of baleful Typhoeus or of Earth herself, such as she brought forth aforetime, in her wrath against Zeus; but the other, the son of Tyndareus, was like a star of heaven, whose beams are fairest as it shines through the nightly sky at eventide. Such was the son of Zeus, the bloom of the first down still on his cheeks, still with the look of gladness in his eyes. But his might and fury waxed like a wild beast’s; and he poised his hands to see if they were pliant as before and were not altogether numbed by toil and rowing. But Amycus on his side made no trial; but standing apart in silence he kept his eyes upon his foe, and his spirit surged within him all eager to dash the life-blood from his breast. And between them Lycoreus, the henchman of Amycus, placed at their feet on each side two pairs of gauntlets made of raw hide, dry, exceeding tough. And the king addressed the hero with arrogant words:
“Whichever of these thou wilt, without casting lots, I grant thee freely, that thou mayst not blame me hereafter. Bind them about thy hands; thou shalt learn and tell another how skilled I am to carve the dry oxhides and to spatter men’s cheeks with blood.”
Thus he spake; but the other gave back no taunt in answer, but with a light smile readily took up the gauntlets that lay at his feet; and to him came Castor and mighty Talaus, son of Bias, and they quickly bound the gauntlets about his hands, often bidding him be of good courage. And to Amycus came Aretus and Ornytus, but little they knew, poor fools, that they had bound them for the last time on their champion, a victim of evil fate.
Now when they stood apart and were ready with their gauntlets, straightway in front of their faces they raised their heavy hands and matched their might in deadly strife. Hereupon the Bebrycian king — even as a fierce wave of the sea rises in a crest against a swift ship, but she by the skill of the crafty pilot just escapes the shock when the billow is eager to break over the bulwark — so he followed up the son of Tyndareus, trying to daunt him, and gave him no respite. But the hero, ever unwounded, by his skill baffled the rush of his foe, and he quickly noted the brutal play of his fists to see where he was invincible in strength, and where inferior, and stood unceasingly and returned blow for blow. And as when shipwrights with their hammers smite ships’ timbers to meet the sharp clamps, fixing layer upon layer; and the blows resound one after another; so cheeks and jaws crashed on both sides, and a huge clattering of teeth arose, nor did they cease ever from striking their blows until laboured gasping overcame both. And standing a little apart they wiped from their foreheads sweat in abundance, wearily panting for breath. Then back they rushed together again, as two bulls fight in furious rivalry for a grazing heifer. Next Amycus rising on tiptoe, like one who slays an ox, sprung to his full height and swung his heavy hand down upon his rival; but the hero swerved aside from the rush, turning his head, and just received the arm on his shoulder; and coming near and slipping his knee past the king’s, with a rush he struck him above the ear, and broke the bones inside, and the king in agony fell upon his knees; and the Minyan heroes shouted for joy; and his life was poured forth all at once.
Nor were the Bebrycians reckless of their king; but all together took up rough clubs and spears and rushed straight on Polydeuces. But in front of him stood his comrades, their keen swords drawn from the sheath. First Castor struck upon the head a man as he rushed at him: and it was cleft in twain and fell on each side upon his shoulders. And Polydeuces slew huge Itymoneus and Mimas. The one, with a sudden leap, he smote beneath the breast with his swift foot and threw him in the dust; and as the other drew near he struck him with his right hand above the left eyebrow, and tore away his eyelid and the eyeball was left bare. But Oreides, insolent henchman of Amycus, wounded Talaus son of Bias in the side, but did not slay him, but only grazing the skin the bronze sped under his belt and touched not the flesh. Likewise Aretus with well-seasoned club smote Iphitus, the steadfast son of Eurytus, not yet destined to an evil death; assuredly soon was he himself to be slain by the sword of Clytius. Then Ancaeus, the dauntless son of Lycurgus, quickly seized his huge axe, and in his left hand holding a bear’s dark hide, plunged into the midst of the Bebrycians with furious onset; and with him charged the sons of Aeacus, and with them started warlike Jason. And as when amid the folds grey wolves rush down on a winter’s day and scare countless sheep, unmarked by the keen-scented dogs and the shepherds too, and they seek what first to attack and carry off, often glaring around, but the sheep are just huddled together and trample on one another; so the heroes grievously scared the arrogant Bebrycians. And as shepherds or beekeepers smoke out a huge swarm of bees in a rock, and they meanwhile, pent up in their hive, murmur with droning hum, till, stupefied by the murky smoke, they fly forth far from the rock; so they stayed steadfast no longer, but scattered themselves inland through Bebrycia, proclaiming the death of Amycus; fools, not to perceive that another woe all unforeseen was hard upon them. For at that hour their vineyards and villages were being ravaged by the hostile spear of Lycus and the Mariandyni, now that their king was gone. For they were ever at strife about the ironbearing land. And now the foe was destroying their steadings and farms, and now the heroes from all sides were driving off their countless sheep, and one spake among his fellows thus:
“Bethink ye what they would have done in their cowardice if haply some god had brought Heracles hither. Assuredly, if he had been here, no trial would there have been of fists, I ween, but when the king drew near to proclaim his rules, the club would have made him forget his pride and the rules to boot. Yea, we left him uncared for on the strand and we sailed oversea; and full well each one of us shall know our baneful folly, now that he is far away.”
Thus he spake, but all these things had been wrought by the counsels of Zeus. Then they remained there through the night and tended the hurts of the wounded men, and offered sacrifice to the immortals, and made ready a mighty meal; and sleep fell upon no man beside the bowl and the blazing sacrifice. They wreathed their fair brows with the bay that grew by the shore, whereto their hawsers were bound, and chanted a song to the lyre of Orpheus in sweet harmony; and the windless shore was charmed by their song; and they celebrated the Therapnaean son of Zeus.15
15 i.e. Polydeuces.
But when the sun rising from far lands lighted up the dewy hills and wakened the shepherds, then they loosed their hawsers from the stem of the bay-tree and put on board all the spoil they had need to take; and with a favouring wind they steered through the eddying Bosporus. Hereupon a wave like a steep mountain rose aloft in front as though rushing upon them, ever upheaved above the clouds; nor would you say that they could escape grim death, for in its fury it hangs over the middle of the ship, like a cloud, yet it sinks away into calm if it meets with a skilful helmsman. So they by the steering-craft of Tiphys escaped, unhurt but sore dismayed. And on the next day they fastened the hawsers to the coast opposite the Bithynian land.
There Phineus, son of Agenor, had his home by the sea, Phineus who above all men endured most bitter woes because of the gift of prophecy which Leto’s son had granted him aforetime. And he reverenced not a whit even Zeus himself, for he foretold unerringly to men his sacred will. Wherefore Zeus sent upon him a lingering old age, and took from his eyes the pleasant light, and suffered him not to have joy of the dainties untold that the dwellers around ever brought to his house, when they came to enquire the will of heaven. But on a sudden, swooping through the clouds, the Harpies with their crooked beaks incessantly snatched the food away from his mouth and hands. And at times not a morsel of food was left, at others but a little, in order that he might live and be tormented. And they poured forth over all a loathsome stench; and no one dared not merely to carry food to his mouth but even to stand at a distance; so foully reeked the remnants of the meal. But straightway when he heard the voice and the tramp of the band he knew that they were the men passing by, at whose coming Zeus’ oracle had declared to him that he should have joy of his food. And he rose from his couch, like a lifeless dream, bowed over his staff, and crept to the door on his withered feet, feeling the walls; and as he moved, his limbs trembled for weakness and age; and his parched skin was caked with dirt, and naught but the skin held his bones together. And he came forth from the hall with wearied knees and sat on the threshold of the courtyard; and a dark stupor covered him, and it seemed that the earth reeled round beneath his feet, and he lay in a strengthless trance, speechless. But when they saw him they gathered round and marvelled. And he at last drew laboured breath from the depths of his chest and spoke among them with prophetic utterance:
“Listen, bravest of all the Hellenes, if it be truly ye, whom by a king’s ruthless command Jason is leading on the ship Argo in quest of the fleece. It is ye truly. Even yet my soul by its divination knows everything. Thanks I render to thee, O king, son of Leto, plunged in bitter affliction though I be. I beseech you by Zeus the god of suppliants, the sternest foe to sinful men, and for the sake of Phoebus and Hera herself, under whose especial care ye have come hither, help me, save an ill-fated man from misery, and depart not uncaring and leaving me thus as ye see. For not only has the Fury set her foot on my eyes and I drag on to the end a weary old age; but besides my other woes a woe hangs over me — the bitterest of all. The Harpies, swooping down from some unseen den of destruction ever snatch the food from my mouth. And I have no device to aid me. But it were easier, when I long for a meal, to escape my own thoughts than them, so swiftly do they fly through the air. But if haply they do leave me a morsel of food it reeks of decay and the stench is unendurable, nor could any mortal bear to draw near even for a moment, no, not if his heart were wrought of adamant. But necessity, bitter and insatiate, compels me to abide and abiding to put food in my cursèd belly. These pests, the oracle declares, the sons of Boreas shall restrain. And no strangers are they that shall ward them off if indeed I am Phineus who was once renowned among men for wealth and the gift of prophecy, and if I am the son of my father Agenor; and, when I ruled among the Thracians, by my bridal gifts I brought home their sister Cleopatra to be my wife.”
So spake Agenor’s son; and deep sorrow seized each of the heroes, and especially the two sons of Boreas. And brushing away a tear they drew nigh, and Zetes spake as follows, taking in his own the hand of the grief-worn sire:
“Unhappy one, none other of men is more wretched than thou, methinks. Why upon thee is laid the burden of so many sorrows? Hast thou with baneful folly sinned against the gods through thy skill in prophecy? For this are they greatly wroth with thee? Yet our spirit is dismayed within us for all our desire to aid thee, if indeed the god has granted this privilege to us two. For plain to discern to men of earth are the reproofs of the immortals. And we will never check the Harpies when they come, for all our desire, until thou hast sworn that for this we shall not lose the favour of heaven.”
Thus he spake; and towards him the aged sire opened his sightless eyes, and lifted them up and replied with these words:
“Be silent, store not up such thoughts in thy heart, my child. Let the son of Leto be my witness, he who of his gracious will taught me the lore of prophecy, and be witness the ill-starred doom which possesses me and this dark cloud upon my eyes, and the gods of the underworld — and may their curse be upon me if I die perjured thus — no wrath from heaven will fall upon you two for your help to me.”
Then were those two eager to help him because of the oath. And quickly the younger heroes prepared a feast for the aged man, a last prey for the Harpies; and both stood near him, to smite with the sword those pests when they swooped down. Scarcely had the aged man touched the food when they forthwith, like bitter blasts or flashes of lightning, suddenly darted from the clouds, and swooped down with a yell, fiercely craving for food; and the heroes beheld them and shouted in the midst of their onrush; but they at the cry devoured everything and sped away over the sea afar; and an intolerable stench remained. And behind them the two sons of Boreas raising their swords rushed in pursuit. For Zeus imparted to them tireless strength; but without Zeus they could not have followed, for the Harpies used ever to outstrip the blasts of the west wind when they came to Phineus and when they left him. And as when, upon the mountain-side, hounds, cunning in the chase, run in the track of horned goats or deer, and as they strain a little behind gnash their teeth upon the edge of their jaws in vain; so Zetes and Calais rushing very near just grazed the Harpies in vain with their finger-tips. And assuredly they would have torn them to pieces, despite heaven’s will, when they had overtaken them far off at the Floating Islands, had not swift Iris seen them and leapt down from the sky from heaven above, and checked them with these words:
“It is not lawful, O sons of Boreas, to strike with your swords the Harpies, the hounds of mighty Zeus; but I myself will give you a pledge, that hereafter they shall not draw near to Phineus.”
With these words she took an oath by the waters of Styx, which to all the gods is most dread and most awful, that the Harpies would never thereafter again approach the home of Phineus, son of Agenor, for so it was fated. And the heroes yielding to the oath, turned back their flight to the ship. And on account of this men call them the Islands of Turning though aforetime they called them the Floating Islands. And the Harpies and Iris parted. They entered their den in Minoan Crete; but she sped up to Olympus, soaring aloft on her swift wings.
Meanwhile the chiefs carefully cleansed the old man’s squalid skin and with due selection sacrificed sheep which they had borne away from the spoil of Amycus. And when they had laid a huge supper in the hall, they sat down and feasted, and with them feasted Phineus ravenously, delighting his soul, as in a dream. And there, when they had taken their fill of food and drink, they kept awake all night waiting for the sons of Boreas. And the aged sire himself sat in the midst, near the hearth, telling of the end of their voyage and the completion of their journey:
“Listen then. Not everything is it lawful for you to know clearly; but whatever is heaven’s will, I will not hide. I was infatuated aforetime, when in my folly I declared the will of Zeus in order and to the end. For he himself wishes to deliver to men the utterances of the prophetic art incomplete, in order that they may still have some need to know the will of heaven.
“First of all, after leaving me, ye will see the twin Cyanean rocks where the two seas meet. No one, I ween, has won his escape between them. For they are not firmly fixed with roots beneath, but constantly clash against one another to one point, and above a huge mass of salt water rises in a crest, boiling up, and loudly dashes upon the hard beach. Wherefore now obey my counsel, if indeed with prudent mind and reverencing the blessed gods ye pursue your way; and perish not foolishly by a self-sought death, or rush on following the guidance of youth. First entrust the attempt to a dove when ye have sent her forth from the ship. And if she escapes safe with her wings between the rocks to the open sea, then no more do ye refrain from the path, but grip your oars well in your hands and cleave the sea’s narrow strait, for the light of safety will be not so much in prayer as in strength of hands. Wherefore let all else go and labour boldly with might and main, but ere then implore the gods as ye will, I forbid you not. But if she flies onward and perishes midway, then do ye turn back; for it is better to yield to the immortals. For ye could not escape an evil doom from the rocks, not even if Argo were of iron.
“O hapless ones, dare not to transgress my divine warning, even though ye think that I am thrice as much hated by the sons of heaven as I am, and even more than thrice; dare not to sail further with your ship in despite of the omen. And as these things will fall, so shall they fall. But if ye shun the clashing rocks and come scatheless inside Pontus, straightway keep the land of the Bithynians on your right and sail on, and beware of the breakers, until ye round the swift river Rhebas and the black beach, and reach the harbour of the Isle of Thynias. Thence ye must turn back a little space through the sea and beach your ship on the land of the Mariandyni lying opposite. Here is a downward path to the abode of Hades, and the headland of Acherusia stretches aloft, and eddying Acheron cleaves its way at the bottom, even through the headland, and sends its waters forth from a huge ravine. And near it ye will sail past many hills of the Paphlagonians, over whom at the first Eneteian Pelops reigned, and of his blood they boast themselves to be.
“Now there is a headland opposite Helice the Bear, steep on all sides, and they call it Carambis, about whose crests the blasts of the north wind are sundered. So high in the air does it rise turned towards the sea. And when ye have rounded it broad Aegialus stretches before you; and at the end of broad Aegialus, at a jutting point of coast, the waters of the river Halys pour forth with a terrible roar; and after it Iris flowing near, but smaller in stream, rolls into the sea with white eddies. Onward from thence the bend of a huge and towering cape reaches out from the land, next Thermodon at its mouth flows into a quiet bay at the Themiscyreian headland, after wandering through a broad continent. And here is the plain of Doeas, and near are the three cities of the Amazons, and after them the Chalybes, most wretched of men, possess a soil rugged and unyielding — sons of toil, they busy themselves with working iron. And near them dwell the Tibareni, rich in sheep, beyond the Genetaean headland of Zeus, lord of hospitality. And bordering on it the Mossynoeci next in order inhabit the well-wooded mainland and the parts beneath the mountains, who have built in towers made from trees their wooden homes and well-fitted chambers, which they call Mossynes, and the people themselves take their name from them. After passing them ye must beach your ship upon a smooth island, when ye have driven away with all manner of skill the ravening birds, which in countless numbers haunt the desert island. In it the Queens of the Amazons, Otrere and Antiope, built a stone temple of Ares what time they went forth to war. Now here an unspeakable help will come to you from the bitter sea; wherefore with kindly intent I bid you stay. But what need is there that I should sin yet again declaring everything to the end by my prophetic art? And beyond the island and opposite mainland dwell the Philyres: and above the Philyres are the Macrones, and after them the vast tribes of the Becheiri. And next in order to them dwell the Sapeires, and the Byzeres have the lands adjoining to them, and beyond them at last live the warlike Colchians themselves. But speed on in your ship, till ye touch the inmost bourne of the sea. And here at the Cytaean mainland and from the Amarantine mountains far away and the Circaean plain eddying Phasis rolls his broad stream to the sea. Guide your ship to the mouth of that river and ye shall behold the towers of Cytaean Aeetes and the shady grove of Ares, where a dragon, a monster terrible to behold, ever glares around, keeping watch over the fleece that is spread upon the top of an oak; neither by day nor by night does sweet sleep subdue his restless eyes.”
Thus he spake, and straightway fear seized them as they heard. And for a long while they were struck with silence; till at last the hero, son of Aeson, spake, sore dismayed at their evil plight:
“O aged sire, now hast thou come to the end of the toils of our sea-journeying and hast told us the token, trusting to which we shall make our way to Pontus through the hateful rocks; but whether, when we have escaped them, we shall have a return back again to Hellas, this too would we gladly learn from thee. What shall I do, how shall I go over again such a long path through the sea, unskilled as I am, with unskilled comrades? And Colchian Aea lies at the edge of Pontus and of the world.”
Thus he spake, and him the aged sire addressed in reply: “O son, when once thou hast escaped through the deadly rocks, fear not; for a deity will be the guide from Aea by another track; and to Aea there will be guides enough. But, my friends, take thought of the artful aid of the Cyprian goddess. For on her depends the glorious issue of your venture. And further than this ask me not.”
Thus spake Agenor’s son, and close at hand the twin sons of Thracian Boreas came darting from the sky and set their swift feet upon the threshold; and the heroes rose up from their seats when they saw them present. And Zetes, still drawing hard breath after his toil, spake among the eager listeners, telling them how far they had driven the Harpies and how Iris prevented their slaying them, and how the goddess of her grace gave them pledges, and how those others in fear plunged into the vast cave of the Dictaean cliff. Then in the mansion all their comrades were joyful at the tidings and so was Phineus himself. And quickly Aeson’s son, with good will exceeding, addressed him:
“Assuredly there was then, Phineus, some god who cared for thy bitter woe, and brought us hither from afar, that the sons of Boreas might aid thee; and if too he should bring sight to thine eyes, verily I should rejoice, methinks, as much as if I were on my homeward way.”
Thus he spake, but Phineus replied to him with downcast look: “Son of Aeson, that is past recall, nor is there any remedy hereafter, for blasted are my sightless eyes. But instead of that, may the god grant me death at once, and after death I shall take my share in perfect bliss.”
Then they two returned answering speech, each to other, and soon in the midst of their converse early dawn appeared; and round Phineus were gathered the neighbours who used to come thither aforetime day by day and constantly bring a portion of their food. To all alike, however poor he was that came, the aged man gave his oracles with good will, and freed many from their woes by his prophetic art; wherefore they visited and tended him. And with them came Paraebius, who was dearest to him, and gladly did he perceive these strangers in the house. For long ere now the seer himself had said that a band of chieftains, faring from Hellas to the city of Aeetes, would make fast their hawsers to the Thynian land, and by Zeus’ will would check the approach of the Harpies. The rest the old man pleased with words of wisdom and let them go; Paraebius only he bade remain there with the chiefs; and straightway he sent him and bade him bring back the choicest of his sheep. And when he had left the hall Phineus spake gently amid the throng of oarsmen:
“O my friends, not all men are arrogant, it seems, nor unmindful of benefits. Even as this man, loyal as he is, came hither to learn his fate. For when he laboured the most and toiled the most, then the needs of life, ever growing more and more, would waste him, and day after day ever dawned more wretched, nor was there any respite to his toil. But he was paying the sad penalty of his father’s sin. For he when alone on the mountains, felling trees, once slighted the prayers of a Hamadryad, who wept and sought to soften him with plaintive words, not to cut down the stump of an oak tree coeval with herself, wherein for a long time she had lived continually; but he in the arrogance of youth recklessly cut it down. So to him the nymph thereafter made her death a curse, to him and to his children. I indeed knew of the sin when he came; and I bid him build an altar to the Thynian nymph, and offer on it an atoning sacrifice, with prayer to escape his father’s fate. Here, ever since he escaped the god-sent doom, never has he forgotten or neglected me; but sorely and against his will do I send him from my doors, so eager is he to remain with me in my affliction.”
Thus spake Agenor’s son; and his friend straightway came near leading two sheep from the flock. And up rose Jason and up rose the sons of Boreas at the bidding of the aged sire. And quickly they called upon Apollo, lord of prophecy, and offered sacrifice upon the hearth as the day was just sinking. And the younger comrades made ready a feast to their hearts’ desire. Thereupon having well feasted they turned themselves to rest, some near the ship’s hawsers, others in groups throughout the mansion. And at dawn the Etesian winds blew strongly, which by the command of Zeus blow over every land equally.
Cyrene, the tale goes, once tended sheep along the marsh-meadow of Peneus among men of old time; for dear to her were maidenhood and a couch unstained. But, as she guarded her flock by the river, Apollo carried her off far from Haemonia and placed her among the nymphs of the land, who dwelt in Libya near the Myrtosian height. And here to Phoebus she bore Aristaeus whom the Haemonians, rich in corn-land, call “Hunter” and “Shepherd.” Her, of his love, the god made a nymph there, of long life and a huntress, and his son he brought while still an infant to be nurtured in the cave of Cheiron. And to him when he grew to manhood the Muses gave a bride, and taught him the arts of healing and of prophecy; and they made him the keeper of their sheep, of all that grazed on the Athamantian plain of Phthia and round steep Othrys and the sacred stream of the river Apidanus. But when from heaven Sirius scorched the Minoan Isles, and for long there was no respite for the inhabitants, then by the injunction of the Far–Darter they summoned Aristaeus to ward off the pestilence. And by his father’s command he left Phthia and made his home in Ceos, and gathered together the Parrhasian people who are of the lineage of Lycaon, and he built a great altar to Zeus Icmaeus, and duly offered sacrifices upon the mountains to that star Sirius, and to Zeus son of Cronos himself. And on this account it is that Etesian winds from Zeus cool the land for forty days, and in Ceos even now the priests offer sacrifices before the rising of the Dog-star.
So the tale is told, but the chieftains stayed there by constraint, and every day the Thynians, doing pleasure to Phineus, sent them gifts beyond measure. And afterwards they raised an altar to the blessed twelve on the sea-beach opposite and laid offerings thereon and then entered their swift ship to row, nor did they forget to bear with them a trembling dove; but Euphemus seized her and brought her all quivering with fear, and they loosed the twin hawsers from the land.
Nor did they start unmarked by Athena, but straightway swiftly she set her feet on a light cloud, which would waft her on, mighty though she was, and she swept on to the sea with friendly thoughts to the oarsmen. And as when one roveth far from his native land, as we men often wander with enduring heart, nor is any land too distant but all ways are clear to his view, and he sees in mind his own home, and at once the way over sea and land seems plain, and swiftly thinking, now this way, now that, he strains with eager eyes; so swiftly the daughter of Zeus darted down and set her foot on the cheerless shore of Thynia.
Now when they reached the narrow strait of the winding passage, hemmed in on both sides by rugged cliffs, while an eddying current from below was washing against the ship as she moved on, they went forward sorely in dread; and now the thud of the crashing rocks ceaselessly struck their ears, and the sea-washed shores resounded, and then Euphemus grasped the dove in his hand and started to mount the prow; and they, at the bidding of Tiphys, son of Hagnias, rowed with good will to drive Argo between the rocks, trusting to their strength. And as they rounded a bend they saw the rocks opening for the last time of all. Their spirit melted within them; and Euphemus sent forth the dove to dart forward in flight; and they all together raised their heads to look; but she flew between them, and the rocks again rushed together and crashed as they met face to face. And the foam leapt up in a mass like a cloud; awful was the thunder of the sea; and all round them the mighty welkin roared.
The hollow caves beneath the rugged cliffs rumbled as the sea came surging in; and the white foam of the dashing wave spurted high above the cliff. Next the current whirled the ship round. And the rocks shore away the end of the dove’s tail-feathers; but away she flew unscathed. And the rowers gave a loud cry; and Tiphys himself called to them to row with might and main. For the rocks were again parting asunder. But as they rowed they trembled, until the tide returning drove them back within the rocks. Then most awful fear seized upon all; for over their head was destruction without escape. And now to right and left broad Pontus was seen, when suddenly a huge wave rose up before them, arched, like a steep rock; and at the sight they bowed with bended heads. For it seemed about to leap down upon the ship’s whole length and to overwhelm them. But Tiphys was quick to ease the ship as she laboured with the oars; and in all its mass the wave rolled away beneath the keel, and at the stern it raised Argo herself and drew her far away from the rocks; and high in air was she borne. But Euphemus strode among all his comrades and cried to them to bend to their oars with all their might; and they with a shout smote the water. And as far as the ship yielded to the rowers, twice as far did she leap back, and the oars were bent like curved bows as the heroes used their strength.
Then a vaulted billow rushed upon them, and the ship like a cylinder ran on the furious wave plunging through the hollow sea. And the eddying current held her between the clashing rocks; and on each side they shook and thundered; and the ship’s timbers were held fast. Then Athena with her left hand thrust back one mighty rock and with her right pushed the ship through; and she, like a winged arrow, sped through the air. Nevertheless the rocks, ceaselessly clashing, shore off as she passed the extreme end of the stern-ornament. But Athena soared up to Olympus, when they had escaped unscathed. And the rocks in one spot at that moment were rooted fast for ever to each other, which thing had been destined by the blessed gods, when a man in his ship should have passed between them alive. And the heroes breathed again after their chilling fear, beholding at the same time the sky and the expanse of sea spreading far and wide. For they deemed that they were saved from Hades; and Tiphys first of all began to speak:
“It is my hope that we have safely escaped this peril — we, and the ship; and none other is the cause so much as Athena, who breathed into Argo divine strength when Argus knitted her together with bolts; and she may not be caught. Son of Aeson, no longer fear thou so much the best of thy king, since a god hath granted us escape between the rocks; for Phineus, Agenor’s son, said that our toils hereafter would be lightly accomplished.”
He spake, and at once he sped the ship onward through the midst of the sea past the Bithynian coast. But Jason with gentle words addressed him in reply: “Tiphys, why dost thou comfort thus my grieving heart? I have erred and am distraught in wretched and helpless ruin. For I ought, when Pelias gave the command, to have straightway refused this quest to his face, yea, though I were doomed to die pitilessly, torn limb from limb, but now I am wrapped in excessive fear and cares unbearable, dreading to sail through the chilling paths of the sea, and dreading when we shall set foot on the mainland. For on every side are unkindly men. And ever when day is done I pass a night of groans from the time when ye first gathered together for my sake, while I take thought for all things; but thou talkest at thine ease, caring only for thine own life; while for myself I am dismayed not a whit; but I fear for this man and for that equally, and for thee, and for my other comrades, if I shall not bring you back safe to the land of Hellas.”
Thus he spake, making trial of the chiefs; but they shouted loud with cheerful words. And his heart was warmed within him at their cry and again he spake outright among them: “My friends, in your valour my courage is quickened. Wherefore now, even though I should take my way through the gulfs of Hades, no more shall I let fear seize upon me, since ye are steadfast amid cruel terrors. But now that we have sailed out from the striking rocks, I trow that never hereafter will there be another such fearful thing, if indeed we go on our way following the counsel of Phineus.”
Thus he spake, and straightway they ceased from such words and gave unwearying labour to the oar; and quickly they passed by the swiftly flowing river Rhebas and the peak of Colone, and soon thereafter the black headland, and near it the mouth of the river Phyllis, where aforetime Dipsacus received in his home the son of Athamas, when with his ram he was flying from the city of Orchomenus; and Dipsacus was the son of a meadow-nymph, nor was insolence his delight, but contented by his father’s stream he dwelt with his mother, pasturing his flocks by the shore. And quickly they sighted and sailed past his shrine and the broad banks of the river and the plain, and deep-flowing Calpe, and all the windless night and the day they bent to their tireless oars. And even as ploughing oxen toil as they cleave the moist earth, and sweat streams in abundance from flank and neck; and from beneath the yoke their eyes roll askance, while the breath ever rushes from their mouths in hot gasps; and all day long they toil, planting their hoofs deep in the ground; like them the heroes kept dragging their oars through the sea.
Now when divine light has not yet come nor is it utter darkness, but a faint glimmer has spread over the night, the time when men wake and call it twilight, at that hour they ran into the harbour of the desert island Thynias and, spent by weary toil, mounted the shore. And to them the son of Leto, as he passed from Lycia far away to the countless folk of the Hyperboreans, appeared; and about his cheeks on both sides his golden locks flowed in clusters as he moved; in his left hand he held a silver bow, and on his back was slung a quiver hanging from his shoulders; and beneath his feet all the island quaked, and the waves surged high on the beach. Helpless amazement seized them as they looked; and no one dared to gaze face to face into the fair eyes of the god. And they stood with heads bowed to the ground; but he, far off, passed on to the sea through the air; and at length Orpheus spake as follows, addressing the chiefs:
“Come, let us call this island the sacred isle of Apollo of the Dawn since he has appeared to all, passing by at dawn; and we will offer such sacrifices as we can, building an altar on the shore; and if hereafter he shall grant us a safe return to the Haemonian land, then will we lay on his altar the thighs of horned goats. And now I bid you propitiate him with the steam of sacrifice and libations. Be gracious, O king, be gracious in thy appearing.”
Thus he spake, and they straightway built up an altar with shingle; and over the island they wandered, seeking if haply they could get a glimpse of a fawn or a wild goat, that often seek their pasture in the deep wood. And for them Leto’s son provided a quarry; and with pious rites they wrapped in fat the thigh bones of them all and burnt them on the sacred altar, celebrating Apollo, Lord of Dawn. And round the burning sacrifice they set up a broad dancing-ring, singing, “All hail, fair god of healing, Phoebus, all hail,” and with them Oeagrus’ goodly son began a clear lay on his Bistonian lyre; how once beneath the rocky ridge of Parnassus he slew with his bow the monster Delphyne, he, still young and beardless, still rejoicing in his long tresses. Mayst thou be gracious! Ever, O king, be thy locks unshorn, ever unravaged; for so is it right. And none but Leto, daughter of Coeus, strokes them with her dear hands. And often the Corycian nymphs, daughters of Pleistus, took up the cheering strain crying “Healer”; hence arose this lovely refrain of the hymn to Phoebus.
Now when they had celebrated him with dance and song they took an oath with holy libations, that they would ever help each other with concord of heart, touching the sacrifice as they swore; and even now there stands there a temple to gracious Concord, which the heroes themselves reared, paying honour at that time to the glorious goddess.
Now when the third morning came, with a fresh west wind they left the lofty island. Next, on the opposite side they saw and passed the mouth of the river Sangarius and the fertile land of the Mariandyni, and the stream of Lycus and the Anthemoeisian lake; and beneath the breeze the ropes and all the tackling quivered as they sped onward. During the night the wind ceased and at dawn they gladly reached the haven of the Acherusian headland. It rises aloft with steep cliffs, looking towards the Bithynian sea; and beneath it smooth rocks, ever washed by the sea, stand rooted firm; and round them the wave rolls and thunders loud, but above, wide-spreading plane trees grow on the topmost point. And from it towards the land a hollow glen slopes gradually away, where there is a cave of Hades overarched by wood and rocks. From here an icy breath, unceasingly issuing from the chill recess, ever forms a glistening rime which melts again beneath the midday sun. And never does silence hold that grim headland, but there is a continual murmur from the sounding sea and the leaves that quiver in the winds from the cave. And here is the outfall of the river Acheron which bursts its way through the headland and falls into the Eastern sea, and a hollow ravine brings it down from above. In after times the Nisaean Megarians named it Soönautes16 when they were about to settle in the land of the Mariandyni. For indeed the river saved them with their ships when they were caught in a violent tempest. By this way the heroes took the ship through17 the Acherusian headland and came to land over against it as the wind had just ceased.
16 i.e. Saviour of sailors.
17 i.e. through the ravine that divides the headland.
Not long had they come unmarked by Lycus, the lord of that land, and the Mariandyni — they, the slayers of Amycus, according to the report which the people heard before; but for that very deed they even made a league with the heroes. And Polydeuces himself they welcomed as a god, flocking from every side, since for a long time had they been warring against the arrogant Bebrycians. And so they went up all together into the city, and all that day with friendly feelings made ready a feast within the palace of Lycus and gladdened their souls with converse. Aeson’s son told him the lineage and name of each of his comrades and the behests of Pelias, and how they were welcomed by the Lemnian women, and all that they did at Dolionian Cyzicus; and how they reached the Mysian land and Cius, where, sore against their will, they left behind the hero Heracles, and he told the saying of Glaucus, and how they slew the Bebrycians and Amycus, and he told of the prophecies and affliction of Phineus, and how they escaped the Cyanean rocks, and how they met with Leto’s son at the island. And as he told all, Lycus was charmed in soul with listening; and he grieved for Heracles left behind, and spake as follows among them all:
“O friends, what a man he was from whose help ye have fallen away, as ye cleave your long path to Aeetes; for well do I know that I saw him here in the halls of Dascylus my father, when he came hither on foot through the land of Asia bringing the girdle of warlike Hippolyte; and me he found with the down just growing on my cheeks. And here, when my brother Priolas was slain by the Mysians — my brother, whom ever since the people lament with most piteous dirges — he entered the lists with Titias in boxing and slew him, mighty Titias, who surpassed all the youths in beauty and strength; and he dashed his teeth to the ground. Together with the Mysians he subdued beneath my father’s sway the Phrygians also, who inhabit the lands next to us, and he made his own the tribes of the Bithynians and their land, as far as the mouth of Rhebas and the peak of Colone; and besides them the Paphlagonians of Pelops yielded just as they were, even all those round whom the dark water of Billaeus breaks. But now the Bebrycians and the insolence of Amycus have robbed me, since Heracles dwells far away, for they have long been cutting off huge pieces of my land until they have set their bounds at the meadows of deep-flowing Hypius. Nevertheless, by your hands have they paid the penalty; and it was not without the will of heaven, I trow, that he brought war on the Bebrycians this day — he, the son of Tyndareus, when he slew that champion. Wherefore whatever requital I am now able to pay, gladly will I pay it, for that is the rule for weaker men when the stronger begin to help them. So with you all, and in your company, I bid Dascylus my son follow; and if he goes, you will find all men friendly that ye meet on your way through the sea even to the mouth of the river Thermodon. And besides that, to the sons of Tyndareus will I raise a lofty temple on the Acherusian height, which all sailors shall mark far across the sea and shall reverence; and hereafter for them will I set apart outside the city, as for gods, some fertile fields of the well-tilled plain.”
Thus all day long they revelled at the banquet. But at dawn they hied down to the ship in haste; and with them went Lycus himself, when he had given them countless gifts to bear away; and with them he sent forth his son from his home.
And here his destined fate smote Idmon, son of Abas, skilled in soothsaying; but not at all did his soothsaying save him, for necessity drew him on to death. For in the mead of the reedy river there lay, cooling his flanks and huge belly in the mud, a white-tusked boar, a deadly monster, whom even the nymphs of the marsh dreaded, and no man knew it; but all alone he was feeding in the wide fen. But the son of Abas was passing along the raised banks of the muddy river, and the boar from some unseen lair leapt out of the reed-bed, and charging gashed his thigh and severed in twain the sinews and the bone. And with a sharp cry the hero fell to the ground; and as he was struck his comrades flocked together with answering cry. And quickly Peleus with his hunting spear aimed at the murderous boar as he fled back into the fen; and again he turned and charged; but Idas wounded him, and with a roar he fell impaled upon the sharp spear. And the boar they left on the ground just as he had fallen there; but Idmon, now at the last gasp, his comrades bore to the ship in sorrow of heart, and he died in his comrades’ arms.
And here they stayed from taking thought for their voyaging and abode in grief for the burial of their dead friend. And for three whole days they lamented; and on the next they buried him with full honours, and the people and King Lycus himself took part in the funeral rites; and, as is the due of the departed, they slaughtered countless sheep at his tomb. And so a barrow to this hero was raised in that land, and there stands a token for men of later days to see, the trunk of a wild olive tree, such as ships are built of; and it flourishes with its green leaves a little below the Acherusian headland. And if at the bidding of the Muses I must tell this tale outright, Phoebus strictly commanded the Boeotians and Nisaeans to worship him as guardian of their city, and to build their city round the trunk of the ancient wild olive; but they, instead of the god-fearing Aeolid Idmon, at this day honour Agamestor.
Who was the next that died? For then a second time the heroes heaped up a barrow for a comrade dead. For still are to be seen two monuments of those heroes. The tale goes that Tiphys son of Hagnias died; nor was it his destiny thereafter to sail any further. But him there on the spot a short sickness laid to rest far from his native land, when the company had paid due honours to the dead son of Abas. And at the cruel woe they were seized with unbearable grief. For when with due honours they had buried him also hard by the seer, they cast themselves down in helplessness on the sea-shore silently, closely wrapped up, and took no thought for meat or drink; and their spirit drooped in grief, for all hope of return was gone. And in their sorrow they would have stayed from going further had not Hera kindled exceeding courage in Ancaeus, whom near the waters of Imbrasus Astypalaea bore to Poseidon; for especially was he skilled in steering and eagerly did he address Peleus:
“Son of Aeacus, is it well for us to give up our toils and linger on in a strange land? Not so much for my prowess in war did Jason take me with him in quest of the fleece, far from Parthenia, as for my knowledge of ships. Wherefore, I pray, let there be no fear for the ship. And so there are here other men of skill, of whom none will harm our voyaging, whomsoever we set at the helm. But quickly tell forth all this and boldly urge them to call to mind their task.”
Thus he spake; and Peleus’ soul was stirred with gladness, and straightway he spake in the midst of all: “My friends, why do we thus cherish a bootless grief like this? For those two have perished by the fate they have met with; but among our host are steersmen yet, and many a one. Wherefore let us not delay our attempt, but rouse yourselves to the work and cast away your griefs.”
And him in reply Aeson’s son addressed with helpless words: “Son of Aeacus, where are these steersmen of thine? For those whom we once deemed to be men of skill, they even more than I are bowed with vexation of heart. Wherefore I forebode an evil doom for us even as for the dead, if it shall be our lot neither to reach the city of fell Aeetes, nor ever again to pass beyond the rocks to the land of Hellas, but a wretched fate will enshroud us here ingloriously till we grow old for naught.”
Thus he spake, but Ancaeus quickly undertook to guide the swift ship; for he was stirred by the impulse of the goddess. And after him Erginus and Nauplius and Euphemus started up, eager to steer. But the others held them back, and many of his comrades granted it to Ancaeus.
So on the twelfth day they went aboard at dawn, for a strong breeze of westerly wind was blowing. And quickly with the oars they passed out through the river Acheron and, trusting to the wind, shook out their sails, and with canvas spread far and wide they were cleaving their passage through the waves in fair weather. And soon they passed the outfall of the river Callichorus, where, as the tale goes, the Nysean son of Zeus, when he had left the tribes of the Indians and came to dwell at Thebes, held revels and arrayed dances in front of a cave, wherein he passed unsmiling sacred nights, from which time the neighbours call the river by the name of Callichorus18 and the cave Aulion.19
18 i.e. river of fair dances.
19 i.e. the bedchamber.
Next they beheld the barrow of Sthenelus, Actor’s son, who on his way back from the valorous war against the Amazons — for he had been the comrade of Heracles — was struck by an arrow and died there upon the sea-beach. And for a time they went no further, for Persephone herself sent forth the spirit of Actor’s son which craved with many tears to behold men like himself, even for a moment. And mounting on the edge of the barrow he gazed upon the ship, such as he was when he went to war; and round his head a fair helm with four peaks gleamed with its blood-red crest. And again he entered the vast gloom; and they looked and marvelled; and Mopsus, son of Ampycus, with word of prophecy urged them to land and propitiate him with libations. Quickly they drew in sail and threw out hawsers, and on the strand paid honour to the tomb of Sthenelus, and poured out drink offerings to him and sacrificed sheep as victims. And besides the drink offerings they built an altar to Apollo, saviour of ships, and burnt thigh bones; and Orpheus dedicated his lyre; whence the place has the name of Lyra.
And straightway they went aboard as the wind blew strong; and they drew the sail down, and made it taut to both sheets; then Argo was borne over the sea swiftly, even as a hawk soaring high through the air commits to the breeze its outspread wings and is borne on swiftly, nor swerves in its flight, poising in the clear sky with quiet pinions. And lo, they passed by the stream of Parthenius as it flows into the sea, a most gentle river, where the maid, daughter of Leto, when she mounts to heaven after the chase, cools her limbs in its much-desired waters. Then they sped onward in the night without ceasing, and passed Sesamus and lofty Erythini, Crobialus, Cromna and woody Cytorus. Next they swept round Carambis at the rising of the sun, and plied the oars past long Aegialus, all day and on through the night.
And straightway they landed on the Assyrian shore where Zeus himself gave a home to Sinope, daughter of Asopus, and granted her virginity, beguiled by his own promises. For he longed for her love, and he promised to grant her whatever her heart’s desire might be. And she in her craftiness asked of him virginity. And in like manner she deceived Apollo too who longed to wed her, and besides them the river Halys, and no man ever subdued her in love’s embrace. And there the sons of noble Deimachus of Tricca were still dwelling, Deileon, Autolycus and Phlogius, since the day when they wandered far away from Heracles; and they, when they marked the array of chieftains, went to meet them and declared in truth who they were; and they wished to remain there no longer, but as soon as Argestes20 blew went on ship-board. And so with them, borne along by the swift breeze, the heroes left behind the river Halys, and left behind Iris that flows hard by, and the delta-land of Assyria; and on the same day they rounded the distant headland of the Amazons that guards their harbour.
20 The north-west wind.
Here once when Melanippe, daughter of Ares, had gone forth, the hero Heracles caught her by ambuscade and Hippolyte gave him her glistening girdle as her sister’s ransom, and he sent away his captive unharmed. In the bay of this headland, at the outfall of Thermodon, they ran ashore, for the sea was rough for their voyage. No river is like this, and none sends forth from itself such mighty streams over the land. If a man should count every one he would lack but four of a hundred, but the real spring is only one. This flows down to the plain from lofty mountains, which, men say, are called the Amazonian mountains. Thence it spreads inland over a hilly country straight forward; wherefrom its streams go winding on, and they roll on, this way and that ever more, wherever best they can reach the lower ground, one at a distance and another near at hand; and many streams are swallowed up in the sand and are without a name; but, mingled with a few, the main stream openly bursts with its arching crest of foam into the Inhospitable Pontus. And they would have tarried there and have closed in battle with the Amazons, and would have fought not without bloodshed — for the Amazons were not gentle foes and regarded not justice, those dwellers on the Doeantian plain; but grievous insolence and the works of Ares were all their care; for by race they were the daughters of Ares and the nymph Harmonia, who bare to Ares war-loving maids, wedded to him in the glens of the Acmonian wood — had not the breezes of Argestes come again from Zeus; and with the wind they left the rounded beach, where the Themiscyreian Amazons were arming for war. For they dwelt not gathered together in one city, but scattered over the land, parted into three tribes. In one part dwelt the Themiscyreians, over whom at that time Hippolyte reigned, in another the Lycastians, and in another the dart-throwing Chadesians. And the next day they sped on and at nightfall they reached the land of the Chalybes.
That folk have no care for ploughing with oxen or for any planting of honey-sweet fruit; nor yet do they pasture flocks in the dewy meadow. But they cleave the hard iron-bearing land and exchange their wages for daily sustenance; never does the morn rise for them without toil, but amid bleak sooty flames and smoke they endure heavy labour.
And straightway thereafter they rounded the headland of Genetaean Zeus and sped safely past the land of the Tibareni. Here when wives bring forth children to their husbands, the men lie in bed and groan with their heads close bound; but the women tend them with food, and prepare child-birth baths for them.
Next they reached the sacred mount and the land where the Mossynoeci dwell amid high mountains in wooden huts,21 from which that people take their name. And strange are their customs and laws. Whatever it is right to do openly before the people or in the market place, all this they do in their homes, but whatever acts we perform at home, these they perform out of doors in the midst of the streets, without blame. And among them is no reverence for the marriage-bed, but, like swine that feed in herds, no whit abashed in others’ presence, on the earth they lie with the women. Their king sits in the loftiest hut and dispenses upright judgments to the multitude, poor wretch! For if haply he err at all in his decrees, for that day they keep him shut up in starvation.
21 called “Mossynes.”
They passed them by and cleft their way with oars over against the island of Ares all day long; for at dusk the light breeze left them. At last they spied above them, hurtling through the air, one of the birds of Ares which haunt that isle. It shook its wings down over the ship as she sped on and sent against her a keen feather, and it fell on the left shoulder of goodly Oileus, and he dropped his oar from his hands at the sudden blow, and his comrades marvelled at the sight of the winged bolt. And Eribotes from his seat hard by drew out the feather, and bound up the wound when he had loosed the strap hanging from his own sword-sheath; and besides the first, another bird appeared swooping down; but the hero Clytius, son of Eurytus — for he bent his curved bow, and sped a swift arrow against the bird — struck it, and it whirled round and fell close to the ship. And to them spake Amphidamas, son of Aleus:
“The island of Ares is near us; you know it yourselves now that ye have seen these birds. But little will arrows avail us, I trow, for landing. But let us contrive some other device to help us, if ye intend to land, bearing in mind the injunction of Phineus. For not even could Heracles, when he came to Arcadia, drive away with bow and arrow the birds that swam on the Stymphalian lake. I saw it myself. But he shook in his hand a rattle of bronze and made a loud clatter as he stood upon a lofty peak; and the birds fled far off, screeching in bewildered fear. Wherefore now too let us contrive some such device, and I myself will speak, having pondered the matter beforehand. Set on your heads your helmets of lofty crest, then half row by turns, and half fence the ship about with polished spears and shields. Then all together raise a mighty shout so that the birds may be scared by the unwonted din, the nodding crests, and the uplifted spears on high. And if we reach the island itself, then make mighty noise with the clashing of shields.”
Thus he spake, and the helpful device pleased all. And on their heads they placed helmets of bronze, gleaming terribly, and the blood-red crests were tossing. And half of them rowed in turn, and the rest covered the ship with spears and shields. And as when a man roofs over a house with tiles, to be an ornament of his home and a defence against rain, and one tile fits firmly into another, each after each; so they roofed over the ship with their shields, locking them together. And as a din arises from a warrior-host of men sweeping on, when lines of battle meet, such a shout rose upward from the ship into the air. Now they saw none of the birds yet, but when they touched the island and clashed upon their shields, then the birds in countless numbers rose in flight hither and thither. And as when the son of Cronos sends from the clouds a dense hail storm on city and houses, and the people who dwell beneath hear the din above the roof and sit quietly, since the stormy season has not come upon them unawares, but they have first made strong their roofs; so the birds sent against the heroes a thick shower of feather-shafts as they darted over the sea to the mountains of the land opposite.
What then was the purpose of Phineus in bidding the divine band of heroes land there? Or what kind of help was about to meet their desire?
The sons of Phrixus were faring towards the city of Orchomenus from Aea, coming from Cytaean Aeetes, on board a Colchian ship, to win the boundless wealth of their father; for he, when dying, had enjoined this journey upon them. And lo, on that day they were very near that island. But Zeus had impelled the north wind’s might to blow, marking by rain the moist path of Arcturus; and all day long he was stirring the leaves upon the mountains, breathing gently upon the topmost sprays; but at night he rushed upon the sea with monstrous force, and with his shrieking blasts uplifted the surge; and a dark mist covered the heavens, nor did the bright stars anywhere appear from among the clouds, but a murky gloom brooded all around. And so the sons of Phrixus, drenched and trembling in fear of a horrible doom, were borne along by the waves helplessly. And the force of the wind had snatched away their sails and shattered in twain the hull, tossed as it was by the breakers. And hereupon by heaven’s prompting those four clutched a huge beam, one of many that were scattered about, held together by sharp bolts, when the ship broke to pieces. And on to the island the waves and the blasts of wind bore the men in their distress, within a little of death. And straightway a mighty rain burst forth, and rained upon the sea and the island, and all the country opposite the island, where the arrogant Mossynoeci dwelt. And the sweep of the waves hurled the sons of Phrixus, together with their massy beam, upon the beach of the island, in the murky night; and the floods of rain from Zeus ceased at sunrise, and soon the two bands drew near and met each other, and Argus spoke first:
“We beseech you, by Zeus the Beholder, whoever ye are, to be kindly and to help us in our need. For fierce tempests, falling on the sea, have shattered all the timbers of the crazy ship in which we were cleaving our path on business bent. Wherefore we entreat you, if haply ye will listen, to grant us just a covering for our bodies, and to pity and succour men in misfortune, your equals in age. Oh, reverence suppliants and strangers for Zeus’ sake, the god of strangers and suppliants. To Zeus belong both suppliants and strangers; and his eye, methinks, beholdeth even us.”
And in reply the son of Aeson prudently questioned him, deeming that the prophecies of Phineus were being fulfilled: “All these things will we straightway grant you with right good will. But come tell me truly in what country ye dwell and what business bids you sail across the sea, and tell me your own glorious names and lineage.”
And him Argus, helpless in his evil plight, addressed: “That one Phrixus an Aeolid reached Aea from Hellas you yourselves have clearly heard ere this, I trow; Phrixus, who came to the city of Aeetes, bestriding a ram, which Hermes had made all gold; and the fleece ye may see even now. The ram, at its own prompting, he then sacrificed to Zeus, son of Cronos, above all, the god of fugitives. And him did Aeetes receive in his palace, and with gladness of heart gave him his daughter Chalciope in marriage without gifts of wooing.22 From those two are we sprung. But Phrixus died at last, an aged man, in the home of Aeetes; and we, giving heed to our father’s behests, are journeying to Orchomenus to take the possessions of Athamas. And if thou dost desire to learn our names, this is Cytissorus, this Phrontis, and this Melas, and me ye may call Argus.”
22 i.e. without exacting gifts from the bridegroom. So in the Iliad (ix. 146) Agamemnon offers Achilles any of his three daughters [Greek: anhaednos]
Thus he spake, and the chieftains rejoiced at the meeting, and tended them, much marvelling. And Jason again in turn replied, as was fitting, with these words:
“Surely ye are our kinsmen on my father’s side, and ye pray that with kindly hearts we succour your evil plight. For Cretheus and Athamas were brothers. I am the grandson of Cretheus, and with these comrades here I am journeying from that same Hellas to the city of Aeetes. But of these things we will converse hereafter. And do ye first put clothing upon you. By heaven’s devising, I ween, have ye come to my hands in your sore need.”
He spake, and out of the ship gave them raiment to put on. Then all together they went to the temple of Ares to offer sacrifice of sheep; and in haste they stood round the altar, which was outside the roofless temple, an altar built of pebbles; within a black stone stood fixed, a sacred thing, to which of yore the Amazons all used to pray. Nor was it lawful for them, when they came from the opposite coast, to burn on this altar offerings of sheep and oxen, but they used to slay horses which they kept in great herds. Now when they had sacrificed and eaten the feast prepared, then Aeson’s son spake among them and thus began:
“Zeus’ self, I ween, beholds everything; nor do we men escape his eye, we that be god-fearing and just, for as he rescued your father from the hands of a murderous step-dame and gave him measureless wealth besides; even so hath he saved you harmless from the baleful storm. And on board this ship ye may sail hither and thither, where ye will, whether to Aea or to the wealthy city of divine Orchomenus. For our ship Athena built and with axe of bronze cut her timbers near the crest of Pelion, and with the goddess wrought Argus. But yours the fierce surge hath shattered, before ye came nigh to the rocks which all day long clash together in the straits of the sea. But come, be yourselves our helpers, for we are eager to bring to Hellas the golden fleece, and guide us on our voyage, for I go to atone for the intended sacrifice of Phrixus, the cause of Zeus’ wrath against the sons of Aeolus.”
He spake with soothing words; but horror seized them when they heard. For they deemed that they would not find Aeetes friendly if they desired to take away the ram’s fleece. And Argus spake as follows, vexed that they should busy themselves with such a quest:
“My friends, our strength, so far as it avails, shall never cease to help you, not one whit, when need shall come. But Aeetes is terribly armed with deadly ruthlessness; wherefore exceedingly do I dread this voyage. And he boasts himself to be the son of Helios; and all round dwell countless tribes of Colchians; and he might match himself with Ares in his dread war-cry and giant strength. Nay, to seize the fleece in spite of Aeetes is no easy task; so huge a serpent keeps guard round and about it, deathless and sleepless, which Earth herself brought forth on the sides of Caucasus, by the rock of Typhaon, where Typhaon, they say, smitten by the bolt of Zeus, son of Cronos, when he lifted against the god his sturdy hands, dropped from his head hot gore; and in such plight he reached the mountains and plain of Nysa, where to this day he lies whelmed beneath the waters of the Serbonian lake.”
Thus he spake, and straightway many a cheek grew pale when they heard of so mighty an adventure. But quickly Peleus answered with cheering words, and thus spake:
“Be not so fearful in spirit, my good friend. For we are not so lacking in prowess as to be no match for Aeetes to try his strength with arms; but I deem that we too are cunning in war, we that go thither, near akin to the blood of the blessed gods. Wherefore if he will not grant us the fleece of gold for friendship’s sake, the tribes of the Colchians will not avail him, I ween.”
Thus they addressed each other in turn, until again, satisfied with their feast, they turned to rest. And when they rose at dawn a gentle breeze was blowing; and they raised the sails, which strained to the rush of the wind, and quickly they left behind the island of Ares.
And at nightfall they came to the island of Philyra, where Cronos, son of Uranus, what time in Olympus he reigned over the Titans, and Zeus was yet being nurtured in a Cretan cave by the Curetes of Ida, lay beside Philyra, when he had deceived Rhea; and the goddess found them in the midst of their dalliance; and Cronos leapt up from the couch with a rush in the form of a steed with flowing mane, but Ocean’s daughter, Philyra, in shame left the spot and those haunts, and came to the long Pelasgian ridges, where by her union with the transfigured deity she brought forth huge Cheiron, half like a horse, half like a god.
Thence they sailed on, past the Macrones and the far-stretching land of the Becheiri and the overweening Sapeires, and after them the Byzeres; for ever forward they clave their way, quickly borne by the gentle breeze. And lo, as they sped on, a deep gulf of the sea was opened, and lo, the steep crags of the Caucasian mountains rose up, where, with his limbs bound upon the hard rocks by galling fetters of bronze, Prometheus fed with his liver an eagle that ever rushed back to its prey. High above the ship at even they saw it flying with a loud whirr, near the clouds; and yet it shook all the sails with the fanning of those huge wings. For it had not the form of a bird of the air but kept poising its long wing-feathers like polished oars. And not long after they heard the bitter cry of Prometheus as his liver was being torn away; and the air rang with his screams until they marked the ravening eagle rushing back from the mountain on the self-same track. And at night, by the skill of Argus, they reached broad-flowing Phasis, and the utmost bourne of the sea.
And straightway they let down the sails and the yard-arm and stowed them inside the hollow mast-crutch, and at once they lowered the mast itself till it lay along; and quickly with oars they entered the mighty stream of the river; and round the prow the water surged as it gave them way. And on their left hand they had lofty Caucasus and the Cytaean city of Aea, and on the other side the plain of Ares and the sacred grove of that god, where the serpent was keeping watch and ward over the fleece as it hung on the leafy branches of an oak. And Aeson’s son himself from a golden goblet poured into the river libations of honey and pure wine to Earth and to the gods of the country, and to the souls of dead heroes; and he besought them of their grace to give kindly aid, and to welcome their ship’s hawsers with favourable omen. And straightway Ancaeus spake these words:
“We have reached the Colchian land and the stream of Phasis; and it is time for us to take counsel whether we shall make trial of Aeetes with soft words, or an attempt of another kind shall be fitting.”
Thus he spake, and by the advice of Argus Jason bade them enter a shaded backwater and let the ship ride at anchor off shore; and it was near at hand in their course and there they passed the night. And soon the dawn appeared to their expectant eyes.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:50