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Essay – Medea in Apollonius Rhodius and Euripides

How and why does the characterisation of Medea in Apollonius Rhodius draw on the characterisation of the Euripidean Medea.


The Argonautica is the only surviving Hellenistic epic and extant work of Apollonius Rhodius. Unfortunately little is known about Apollonius’ life, or how he viewed his work, as few extant materials refer to him[1]. Argonautica was written in the third century B.C. and broke from the Hellenistic tradition for short literary works[2]. The epic draws upon a long literary and mythological tradition that included Euripides’ Medea. Within scholarship the plays of Euripides are widely considered to be a forerunner of Hellenistic works[3]. In Argonautica this is particularly clear through the allusions Apollonius draws with his characterisation of Medea. Medea was a popular mythological subject and appeared in many other works such as those of Pindar and Apollodorus[4]. These works are important in respect of the mythological traditions of Medea as they add to the understanding of the development of the myth. However, the focus of this essay will be upon the representations of Medea within Argonautica and Medea and how and why Apollonius draws upon Euripides’ characterisation.

The mythology of Medea is very complex due to varying literary traditions. Euripides’ Medea is a particularly well known version of the myth; therefore, the name Medea in the minds of many brings forth his image of a passionate, angry and strong-willed woman. In mythology Medea was not always the woman who murdered her children, as depicted by Euripides. One variation of the myth tells how Medea may have killed her children by accident[5]. Another how the people of Corinth murdered them as an act of revenge for the murder of their princess[6]. Apollonius, instead of using either of these versions of the myth, chose to foreshadow his Argonautica with the events of Euripides’ Medea. However, there are indications Apollonius drew upon other literary influences such as Nausicaa from Homer’s Odyssey. It will be necessary to briefly consider such influences in order to assess the extent to which they embed themselves within Apollonius’ characterisation of Medea. Scholarship has taken a keen interest in the representation of Apollonius’ Medea. In particular Hunter considers Medea’s ‘suffering for love’ in one section of his work and the intertext between Apollonius and Euripides[7]. On the other hand, Pavlock considers Medea’s passion to be dangerous and uncontrollable. These viewpoints, amongst others, will be given due consideration[8].

Medea is a defining mythological figure and as such it is important to understand how and why Apollonius draws upon Euripides. Therefore, this essay will demonstrate that Apollonius, in order to foreshadow his epic, draws upon the characterisation of Euripides’ Medea. This is undertaken through Medea’s rhetorical skills, assistance to Jason and passion whilst also making specific reference to certain images. Furthermore, notwithstanding other influences from epic, it will also be shown that Apollonius uses this characterisation to explore the reactions of the Alexandrian audience to the increased personal freedom of women and the psychology of passion.

The Medea’s of Euripides and Apollonius

One of the primary considerations of how Apollonius foreshadows and draws upon the characterisation of Euripides’ Medea is through her rhetorical ability. Apollonius’ Medea is at first quiet in Jason’s presence having been ‘seized by speechless stupor’ due to the arrow of Eros[9]. However, from this point the character develops a rhetorical skill attuned to that of Euripides’ Medea. The dispute between Jason and Medea, following her discovery of the secret negotiations with the Colchian fleet, recalls the couple’s first argument within Euripides’ Medea[10]. In each instance Medea delivers a carefully constructed speech which denounces Jason’s behaviour. Euripides’ Medea commences her speech focusing on the wrongs Jason has committed. Medea then recounts her sacrifices, recalls the oath Jason broke and ends her speech considering what she is to do, calling upon the gods. Apollonius’ Medea starts by questioning what Jason has planned for her. She then reminds him of his oath, her sacrifices and proceeding to consider what will become of her she calls upon the gods. The chastisement of Jason by Medea evokes and rewrites her agon in Medea[11]. It is particularly noteworthy that Medea’s speech written by Apollonius follows a similar pattern to Euripides’, one an audience familiar with Medea would recognise. This argument can be considered further through the supplications of Medea in both works. Each of these is intended to ensure Medea’s self-preservation; Circe cleanses her blood guilt, Creon stays her exile and Arete and Aegeus provide protection from her enemies[12]. Apollonius appears to have drawn on Euripides’ characterisation of Medea as a survivor, able to use her rhetorical skill in order to secure what she requires. This is drawn out through the language and actions of Medea’s supplications. Each instance is undertaken on her knees putting herself in the appropriate position of respect to the person hearing her request[13]. Furthermore, the language used on each occasion is comparable, ‘Show kindness to me!…Take pity on me…May the immortals grant you both a life of fulfilment…children, and the glory of an unravaged city’ Medea declares to Arete[14]. Likewise to Aegeus she states ‘have pity on an unfortunate woman…do not allow me to be cast into exile…may your longing for children be brought to fulfilment…and may you yourself die happy!’[15]. Though Medea does not ask Creon for pity the approach used in supplicating him is similar:

Have no fear…I am not the kind of person to commit crimes against my rulers…And now I do not begrudge you prosperity. Make your marriage…and may good fortune attend you[16].

The Medea of Apollonius like Euripides understands well the process and requirements of supplication and uses it to her advantage[17]. Medea’s rhetorical skill in Argonautica and desire for self-preservation are the ‘hallmarks of Euripides’ heroine’[18]. Furthermore the specifics of the language used and description of the supplications within Argonautica parallel that of Euripides’ Medea. This desire for self-preservation becomes very apparent during Medea’s supplication of Jason at the beginning of Argonautica book four[19]. Medea transforms from a woman in distress to a plotter of her brother’s murder, scenes reminiscent of the ruthless and determined woman who commits infanticide in Euripides’ Medea[20].

Medea’s act of infanticide is motivated by anger induced by Jason’s betrayal[21]. It is this allusion Apollonius draws upon to prepare the audience for the murder of Apsyrtos[22]. The murder is attributed to Medea in Euripides’ Medea[23]. However, in Argonautica Jason is the murderer with Medea’s role greatly reduced to co-conspirator; Medea requires purification as she is not free from guilt[24]. Apollonius’ use of παρέστιος (by or at the hearth) for the location of Circe’s purification of Jason and Medea is similar to the phraseology of Euripides[25]. During Jason’s recollection of the murder in Medea he describes the location as ‘at the hearth’[26].Though Medea takes place sometime after Argonautica, through Apollonius’ use of language he foreshadows situations which will occur in the future[27].

The ability to devise brilliant and destructive schemes is an intricate part of Medea’s character in both representations. Medea’s name means ‘The Planner’ and this skill is a consistent theme throughout Argonautica and Medea[28]. Medea’s planning secures Jason’s victory in the trials set by Aietes (her father), enables the murder of her brother and removal of Pelias from the throne of Iolcus[29]. Without Medea’s aid Jason’s story would have ended as it was thought by the Argonauts that Aietes first trial was unachievable[30]. The potion provided by Apollonius’ Medea to Jason protects him during the trial and it is she who lulls the dragon to sleep so that he may seize the fleece[31]. These actions foreshadow Euripides’ Medea who declares to Jason that it was she who saved him from death on two occasions, the trial of the fire-breathing bulls and the dragon[32]. Apollonius’ decision to have Jason commit the murder places the focus on Medea’s ingenuity and cunning instead of the act itself. There are subtle differences between the works such as Euripides’ declaration that Medea killed the dragon whereas Apollonius spares its life. Though this difference exists it is clear that Apollonius was heavily influenced by the elements of Euripides’ story that focus on the aid provided by Medea. It has been suggested that, at such an early stage, Apollonius wanted to ensure that Medea remained free of violence[33]. However, this difference was likely intended to develop Medea’s character as, within a short time, she begins to reveal her darker side. Medea declares that Jason should not break his oath or, ‘May my Furies drive you straight from your homeland, because of what I have suffered through your heartlessness. What I say the gods will not leave unaccomplished’[34]. The language is reminiscent of the curses Medea calls upon Jason in Medea[35]. Comparison can also be drawn with the references to Jason as the ‘vilest of knaves’, an enemy of the gods and an oath breaker in Medea, descriptions similarly reflected in Argonautica[36]. Apollonius describes Medea as ‘seething with grim anger’ believing that she is at risk of abandonment and requires placating by Jason[37]. Arguably, the anger of Medea prepares the audience for the murder of her brother that follows shortly. Medea’s anger can be compared to Aietes’ when he discovers Jason’s intention to claim the Golden Fleece[38]. Medea becomes her father’s daughter and although the murder of Apsyrtos is shocking it is the climax of the sacrifices that led to it[39]. Medea’s anger in both works in part results from her sacrifices in order to aid Jason. Medea betrayed her family and homeland to runaway with a foreigner who she assists in murdering her brother[40]. The sacrifices are a key feature in Apollonius’ characterisation of Medea and there are clear indications that they are drawn from Euripides’ representation.

Medea sacrificed much out of love for Jason. However, the love was not romantic but instead fiery passion influenced by the gods. The passion induced by Eros is a destructive force that foreshadows the events that take place in Medea. Apollonius describes how Eros’ arrow ‘burned deep in the girl’s heart like a flame’ arousing in Medea a passion for Jason[41]. Comparison can be drawn with the description provided by Euripides of Medea being ‘smitten with love for Jason’[42]. The shooting is described by Apollonius in violent terms, Eros ‘fitted the arrow-notch to the bowstring…and shot straight at Medea…the destructive love which crouched unobserved and burnt in Medea’s heart’[43]. This echoes the comments of Euripides’ chorus who declare that they never want the arrow of desire to ‘fly against my heart’ or for Aphrodite to ‘madden my heart with love for a stranger’s bed’[44]. Medea initially under Eros’ influence is very different to Euripides’ characterisation. She is a ‘young, vulnerable girl overwhelmed by love for Jason’[45]. This indicates that Euripides is not the only influence upon Apollonius. There are allusions to Homer and during book three of Argonautica it is suggested Apollonius continuously recalls the Phaeacian episode of Odyssey whilst still reminding his audience of Medea[46]. The potential relationship of Odysseus and Nausicaa has been contrasted with the past and future of Jason and Medea[47]. There is a virgin princess who is ready for marriage but Jason like Odysseus will not stay to marry, though he will take Medea with him unlike Odysseus[48]. Furthermore the scene where Medea leaves to meet Jason at Hecate’s temple is considered to imitate Odyssey book six[49]. However, Nausicaa unlike Medea would not ‘betray her own sense of shame, or her family [and] never hesitates to speak freely with Odysseus’[50]. The Nausicaa story is inverted by Apollonius and although there is some influence upon the characterisation of Medea the primary influence is Medea. Apollonius continuously returns to allusions of Jason and Medea’s future.  Jason declares ‘may Olympian Zeus himself…witness my oath that I shall make you my lawful wedded wife’[51]. Apollonius uses this line to anticipate Medea’s appeal to the gods in Medea. The nurse recounts how Medea, ‘invokes the mighty assurance of his sworn right hand, and calls the gods to witness the unjust return she is getting’[52].  In turn the oath in Medea becomes an appeal to the oath in Argonautica[53]. Furthermore, though Athena influences Nausicaa by enhancing Odysseus’ appearance she does not experience the same destructive power of love brought upon Medea by Eros[54]. This is best attested through Medea’s violent state of mind in Argonautica where, ‘she longed to set fire to the ship, to destroy everything…and throw herself into the…flames’[55]. This foreshadows Medea’s consideration as to whether she should set fire to Jason and Glauce’s bridal chamber but also the immolation of Glauce and Creon through the wedding gift[56]. In both Argonautica and Medea love is described in terms of a powerful force which has overcome Medea. Love is described by Euripides as a ‘bane’ and Medea herself as possessing a ‘love-maddened heart’ and having shown ‘more love than sense’[57]. This language brings to mind Apollonius’ description of Medea as having ‘bitter-pain in her heart’ and suffering ‘distress’[58]. Apollonius’ use of language and imagery is very Euripidean. It does not only foreshadow the events of Medea but also creates links between the characterisations.

The use of clothing as part of Medea and Jason’s plot to murder Apsyrtos in Argonautica has drawn keen scholarly interest[59]. Apollonius’ description of the deception used to lure Apsyrtos to his death is the same as that used by Euripides’ Medea to destroy Glauce[60]. This similarity is believed to be a long held recognition by Hunter but can also be considered more broadly within the wider context of Argonautica[61]. Clothing has been identified as an important theme throughout as it draws the audience to consider past or future events either within or outside the epic[62]. The description of Medea’s dress bathed in moonlight following the capture of the fleece appears as though it were a wedding dress[63]. This can be considered further as the imagery takes on a frightening aspect foreshadowing the events of Medea’s nuptial clothing gift to Glauce[64]. Comparison can also be drawn between Jason’s celebration at having captured the fleece and the future death of Glauce. When Jason raises the fleece he is described in terms of a young girl who ‘catches in her fine dress the gleam of the full moon…her heart is delighted at the sight of the lovely radiance’[65]. This simile whilst emasculating Jason for having won the fleece without risk to himself also brings to mind the image of Glauce putting on Medea’s deadly wedding gift[66]. Glauce is described as ‘arranging her hair in a bright mirror, smiling… [parading] about the room…entranced with the gifts’[67]. The parallels between the images cannot be ignored. It is clear that Apollonius has seized upon a key incident in Euripides’ tragedy and provided ample connections that foreshadow the future death and destruction that Medea will bring to Corinth.

Why Euripides’ Medea?

In the years that followed the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. the Macedonian Empire broke into separate kingdoms ruled by his successors[68]. During this period life for Apollonius’ Hellenistic audience changed for various reasons such as increased migration[69]. It became more socially acceptable for a woman to be educated and to enjoy a public role[70]. Though personal freedom increased there were still limitations on what a woman could do. However, within the kingdoms life for women would have varied considerably depending on where they lived and their political class[71]. Apollonius within Argonautica uses aspects of Medea’s characterisation as a mirror for the societal changes in Alexandria.

Medea was first performed in Athens in the fifth century B.C. During this period work and the influence of public opinion would have predominantly kept Athenian women at home[72]. Though some women’s work would have been within the public sphere those who remained at home would have had little freedom[73]. At the beginning of the play, Medea has been fulfilling the role of an Athenian wife, remaining at home looking after it and the children[74]. The majority of evidence of the lives of Greek women comes from Athens. However, it is important to be cautious when drawing conclusions on the lives of women in wider Greek society due to the differing natures of each city state[75]. In Medea the idealistic societal structure of Athens is broken down by Medea’s emergence from the home and her challenges towards her former husband in public[76]. This can be compared with societal changes in Alexandria as women began to enjoy an increased freedom of movement, particularly in comparison to Athens[77].  Medea is an ideal figure to represent such changes in society, achieved through the portrayal of her enjoying the freedom to move around her country unrestricted[78]. Apollonius’ portrait is realistic as although Medea has freedom she is required to have her handmaids accompany her; though under her instruction they leave her to speak with Jason alone[79]. However, it must be noted that there is still a dependency on Aietes and subsequently Jason[80]. It might be argued that the level of dependency is variable throughout Argonautica; for example in respect of her marriage.

Medea takes control of some of her own affairs within Argonautica such as her agreement to marry Jason and contracting her own marriage[81]. Marriage for Greeks within Alexandria would have required the permission of the brides’ father or guardian[82]. Both Jason and Alkinoos are thought to act as Medea’s guardians. The former as Medea declares herself his daughter, sister and wife. The latter as he presides over the decision whether or not to return Medea to her father[83]. Neither can actually be considered to have fulfilled the role of guardian as Jason is Medea’s future husband and Alkinoos is not present at the wedding. Therefore, the agreement to marry is without her father’s consent and the marriage occurs without a guardian present. Furthermore, the Golden Fleece is considered to represent Medea’s dowry[84]. Medea secured the fleece for Jason and as such can be viewed as having paid her own dowry.  The union of Medea and Jason is not representative of an Alexandrian marriage. Greek women, except royalty, were required to use an intermediary or guardian for legal and monetary transactions. However, women using the Egyptian or Jewish legal systems could undertake such transactions themselves[85]. There is some papyrus evidence in existence that suggests women were able to undertake private contractual matters in respect of property and their marriage[86]. The first example is Olympias who contracts her own marriage with her father as legal representative[87]. Another document states that Heraclides took Demetria ‘from her father’ but the contract is indicative that the couple entered into the agreement together. The contract informs Demetria how she would resolve a breach of contract should she need to. Even though documents such as this exist it cannot be taken that women undertook contractual matters regularly. Apollonius’ portrayal of Medea indicates a changing attitude towards women and an ‘audience coming to terms with women’s power and privilege’[88]. The influence of wealthy and royal women could be attributed to the development of this class of Alexandrian women.

It was particularly important for the privileged of Alexandrian society to be highly educated[89]. Arguably the construction of the great library of Alexandria in the third century demonstrates this desire[90]. Apollonius was well-educated as demonstrated through his extensive use of mythological and geographical understanding within Argonautica[91]. Apollonius assumes his Alexandrian audience would have been aware of the mythological traditions of Medea and Jason and the story told by Euripides[92]. Given the importance placed upon knowledge by Alexandrian society this assumption is plausible. Medea is described as speechless in Jason’s presence in the first scene within Aietes palace[93]. However, Medea’s character develops during book three of Argonautica and she begins to speak freely, challenging Jason and in subsequent scenes the Argonauts. Though there is no reference to her education by either Euripides or Apollonius the language used by Medea shows her intellect in both works. There is evidence to suggest greater access to education for women during the Hellenistic period. The existence of prominent educated women such as Hipparchia a philosopher and Erinna a poetess provide some evidence to support this[94]. Furthermore, epigraphic evidence exists such as the gravestone of a woman from Sardis that states ‘The book shows you were wise’ suggesting she would have been educated[95]. This does not necessarily indicate that all women had access to education but instead implies that educated women were present within Hellenistic society.

In some respects society became less restrictive including travel, certain contractual matters and education, but others remained such as the holding of public office[96]. Though there is evidence of one wealthy woman having held a magisterial position true equality was not possible and as such this cannot be considered to have been common[97]. Apollonius’ draws upon the characterisation of Euripides’ Medea the strong-willed woman and devises her story for the developing Alexandrian audience. Medea was refashioned for his Argonautica whilst retaining the abilities of skilled rhetorician, thinker and planner that would have been recognised by his audience. Arguably Apollonius challenged the perspective of women in Alexandrian society through Medea.

Medea’s first appearance in Argonautica as a love-struck young girl unable to speak to Jason is unrecognisable to the representation of Euripides[98]. Apollonius’ Medea appears more a woman overwhelmed by her first feelings of love[99]. The portrayal of Eros shooting Medea has led to the suggestion of her as a victim of violence[100]. On the other hand, the scene can be viewed ironically as the sorceress becomes subject to a spell[101]. Instead of the powerful sorceress Medea is the victim of magic with her prayer to Hecate an attempt to process her feelings[102]. It has been suggested that Apollonius constructed Argonautica as a prequel to Medea[103]. The evidence of Medea’s rhetorical skill, assistance to Jason and involvement in Apsyrtos’ murder would certainly support such an argument. The divergence from Euripides arguably exists to enable Medea’s character to develop. Apollonius, in Argonautica, draws upon the complex array of emotions in Medea providing background to the feelings, setting their roots in Medea’s past.

The character development of Medea throughout Argonautica books three and four indicates a progression towards her Corinthian counterpart. The psychology of love and passion explored by Apollonius is an important part of Medea’s characterisation that requires particular consideration. The development of Medea’s passion for Jason is undertaken through a dream during which she convinces herself that Jason has come to Colchis in order to marry her[104]. The dream ‘represents an important stage in the awakening of her passion’[105]. Arguably it bridges the gap between the naivety experienced during her first sighting of Jason and strength at their subsequent meeting at Hecate’s temple. Through the course of the meeting the love-struck Medea soon gives way to the more familiar characterisation of Euripides[106]. Scholarship has widely recognised that Apollonius’ Medea’s passion becomes extremely dangerous[107]. Pavlock suggests that Apollonius’ association of women with the disruption of social norms and the community is his attempt to reinforce ‘traditional views about excessive passion of the female’[108]. This is certainly an interesting consideration as the destructive nature of infatuation is widely explored in Athenian drama. Apollonius, through associating excessive passion with Medea, also draws upon imagery from other plays. In Euripides’ Trojan Women and Hippolytus Helen and Phaedra’s passions have brought about death and destruction[109]. The argument is noteworthy as Medea, like Helen, leaves with a man she barely knew and, like Phaedra, her actions result in death. Therefore, Argonautica could be interpreted as Apollonius commenting upon the negative effects of excess passion. Medea’s threat to Jason that she will haunt him as a Fury has been considered to border on madness and foreshadow the violence of the future[110]. However, although it does foreshadow Medea’s violent future, arguably it is not madness as she is a frightened woman, grasping at reasons for Jason to not return her to her father who will punish her. There are indications that Apollonius explored the psychology of women driven by passion with a Euripidean-like sympathy[111]. Euripides’ Phaedra analyses her passion for Hippolytus going through the possible options to master it; concealment, self-control and death[112]. Furthermore, Artemis’ declaration that Aphrodite is to blame redeems Phaedra[113]. Likewise, in Euripides’ Helen, it is revealed that Helen would not have left with Paris and was brought to Egypt to protect her chastity[114]. Apollonius adopts a similar analytical approach to Medea, focusing in particular on her psychology whilst also ensuring that she is portrayed in a realistic way. Even though Medea is under Eros’ spell Apollonius explores the realism of her passion and developing awareness of what is affecting her[115]. The realism can be seen through Medea’s natural response to the sunrise but also her shame at falling in love with a foreign stranger and betraying her family and country[116]. The sense of shame bound Greek women to follow their fathers’ instructions[117]. Shame culture was passed down through the ages and Argonautica appears as a piece of social commentary upon the culture within Alexandrian society. Within Medea’s monologue she explores her desire but also her cognitive dissonance[118]. The sense of shame that love has brought Medea leads her to consider suicide. Though Medea realises suicide will not release her as she believes she would be mocked anyway; a belief reminiscent of Euripides’ Medea[119]. Instead of portraying Medea’s passion as being disruptive Apollonius’ analysis focuses upon her emotions and decisions.  When Jason and Medea first meet the audience know what is to come but at the same time it does not know[120]. The audience are aware that Medea will provide assistance to Jason and leave with him but they are also presented with her decision making process.

Arguably, Apollonius used Medea to examine the psychology of passion. The division in Medea’s personality between naivety and powerful sorceress might be seen as Apollonius’ attempt to explain the future murder of her children[121]. Alternatively Apollonius’ Medea could be looked upon as a sympathetic development of her characterisation akin to Euripides. Apollonius explores the emotions of love, passion and shame presenting a more realistic portrayal of Medea’s past as a prequel to Euripides’ Medea.


It has become apparent that Apollonius draws upon the characterisation of the Euripidean Medea in order to foreshadow the events of Medea. Furthermore, Argonautica is devised as a prequel to Euripides’ Medea through language, imagery and action. There are indications of other influences upon Medea’s characterisation from tragedy and epic but the primary focus is Medea. Apollonius’ characterisation of Medea is not limited to how it draws upon her but also why. Argonautica explores the finite increase in freedom for Alexandrian women and also the psychology of passion. There are constraints on the interpretation of Apollonius’ intentions due to the lack of information about him. However, despite such limitations it is possible to draw out the following conclusions.

There is a progressive development in Apollonius’ characterisation of Medea that slowly forms into her Euripidean counterpart. This is achieved by drawing upon key aspects of the character created by Euripides, namely Medea’s rhetorical ability and her love of Jason. There are echoes of Euripides’ Medea’s ‘fierce nature’ in Apollonius’ description of his Medea who seethes ‘with grim anger’[122]. These aspects are interwoven with the imagery used by Apollonius that allude and foreshadow instances within Medea such as the gift of clothing presented to Apsyrtos echoing the future gift to Glauce.

Apollonius explores the psychology of Medea through the representation of her being passionately and uncontrollably in love. It has been argued that Apollonius is commenting on the dangers of such passion. However, it is apparent that his treatment of this subject is sensitive. Medea is shamed by her feelings and behaviour towards Jason to the point of wanting to commit suicide. Medea’s passion though uncontrollable (due to the influence of the gods) is explored in detail by Apollonius through her thought processes. Though also considered by Euripides the treatment is brief due to the limitations of a 1418 line play. Apollonius used the length and breadth of an epic to provide a more detailed analysis of Medea and her actions, presenting a relatively realistic image and prequel to the Alexandrian audience.

Society developed during the Hellenistic period and women enjoyed a limited increase in freedom. Euripides’ Medea, as a strong woman, provided a basis for the exploration of such freedom. Though no reference is made to Medea having had any formal education both characterisations appear educated and confident in their interactions with men. Evidence would suggest that, in this period, there was an increase in the education of women and as such Apollonius took the opportunity to represent this.

Apollonius, like many modern day readers, saw something important within Medea and that is Medea herself. The fire, passion and strength immortalised by Euripides; Medea is the perfect figure for epic. Argonautica and Medea are exceptional and important works. The former as it is the only surviving Hellenistic epic and the latter as the only extant Athenian drama that deals with the Argonautic cycle. Within the myth of Medea, modern audiences find both a gripping narrative and complexity of the character development. It is considered by Griffiths that ‘in facing the complexities of Medea’s identity we face the complexities of our own’[123]. Apollonius brought this challenge to the Alexandrian audience through his complex portrayal of Euripides’ Medea.


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[1]                 Lefkowitz (2001:52) states what is known of Apollonius comes from two scholia about Argonautica, an entry in Suda and an entry on a damaged papyrus (P.Oxy.1241).

[2]               Hunter, 2008:127.

[3]               Gow and Page (1965:II.251) cited in Klooster (2011:151); Fraser (1972:I.599) cited in Klooster (2011:151); Klooster 2011:151.

[4]               Pindar Pythian 4; Apollodorus Library 3.13

[5]               Pausanias Description of Greece 2.3.10-1

[6]               Scholia Medea 264

[7]               Hunter, 1993:59-67.

[8]               Pavlock, 1990:51-68.

[9]               Apollonius 3.284

[10]             Apollonius 4.350-95; Euripides Medea 465-519

[11]             Euripides Medea 465-519; Apollonius 4.350-95; Hunter, 1993:61; Hunter, 2008:142.

[12]             Euripides Medea 292-356, 709-19; Apollonius 4.690-748, 4.1000-28

[13]             Euripides Medea 324, 710; Apollonius 4.695, 4.1029

[14]             Apollonius 4.1000-28

[15]             Euripides Medea 712-5

[16]             Euripides Medea 307-13

[17]             Boedeker, 1991:98.

[18]             Dyck, 1989:456-7.

[19]             Apollonius 4.337-93

[20]             Kenny, 2008:369.

[21]             Euripides Medea 1040-64

[22]             Apollonius 4.350-424

[23]             Euripides Medea 166-7, 1334

[24]             Apollonius 4.415-60, 4.557-62

[25]             Apollonius 4.713; Knight, 1991:248.

[26]             Euripides Medea 1334

[27]             Knight, 1991:248.

[28]             Griffiths, 2006:3.

[29]             Euripides Medea 475-90; Apollonius 4.358-68

[30]             Apollonius 3.490-504

[31]             Apollonius 3.1025-62, 4.123-64

[32]             Euripides Medea 475-83

[33]             Dyck, 1989:459.

[34]             Apollonius 4.385-90

[35]             Euripides Medea 160-7

[36]             Euripides Medea 465-8, 493-6

[37]             Apollonius 4.391-4

[38]             Apollonius 3.317-81

[39]             Hunter, 1993:61; DeForest, 1994:129.

[40]             Apollonius 4.356-7; Euripides Medea 167, 483-4

[41]             Apollonius 3.285

[42]             Euripides Medea 8

[43]             Apollonius 3.282-98

[44]             Euripides Medea 629-41

[45]             Griffiths, 2006:88-9.

[46]             Pavlock, 1990:51.

[47]             Hunter, 1993:69.

[48]             Thalmann, 2011:136-7.

[49]             Apollonius 3.870-86; Homer Odyssey 6.80-4

[50]             Clauss, 1997:167.

[51]             Apollonius 4.95-7

[52]             Euripides Medea 20-3

[53]             Feeney, 1991:65.

[54]             Homer Odyssey 6.229-35

[55]             Apollonius 4.392-3

[56]             Euripides Medea 379, 1185-95

[57]             Euripides Medea 330, 434, 485

[58]             Apollonius 3.616-81

[59]             Hunter, 1987:131; Knight, 1991:249-50; Hunter, 1993:61.

[60]             Euripides Medea 945-58; Apollonius 4.421-44

[61]             Hunter, 1987:131.

[62]             Rose, 1985:29-44; Knight, 1991:249.

[63]             Bremer, 1987:423-6.

[64]             Knight, 1991:249.

[65]             Apollonius 4.167-71

[66]             DeForest, 1994:128.

[67]             Euripides Medea 1159-66

[68]             Shipley, 2000:41.

[69]             Blundell, 1995:199.

[70]             Fantham et al, 1994:140, 163-8; Pomeroy, 1994:120; Shipley, 2000:104-5.

[71]             Blundell, 1995:199.

[72]             Aristophanes Lysistrata 17-19, 880-1; Luschnig, 2007:7.

[73]             Pomeroy, 1994:73, 79-80.

[74]             Fantham et al, 1994:69; Blundell, 1995:140.

[75]             Blundell, 1995:113.

[76]             Euripides Medea 214, 465-519

[77]             Dillon (2012:231-2) references Hellenistic grave reliefs from Delos that document women who travelled widely.

[78]             Apollonius 3.871-3

[79]             Apollonius 3.911

[80]             Lefkowitz, 2007:51.

[81]             Apollonius 4.92-8, 4.1128-69

[82]             Pomeroy, 1984:90.

[83]             Apollonius 4.368-9, 1073-109; Byre, 1996:8-9.

[84]             Dyck, 1989:458; Luschnig, 2007:14.

[85]             Fantham et al, 1994:140.

[86]             P.Elephantine 1 translated by Pomeroy, 1984:86-7; Blundell, 1995:199.

[87]             P.Giessen I.2 translated by Rowlandson (1998) cited in Parca, 2012:324.

[88]             Gutzwiller, 2007:81.

[89]             Walbank, 1981:176-7; Meyer, 2001:227-8; Thalmann, 2011:219.

[90]             Walbank, 1981:176.

[91]             Shipley, 2000:240; Apollonius 1.496-511 (Orpheus’ song of the cosmos); Apollonius 3.980-1007 (Ariadne and Theseus); Apollonius 4.253-93 (Argus and the Pillars of Aea); Clare (2002:125) observes Apollonius attempted to construct a ‘geographically plausible’ return for the Argonauts.

[92]             Hunter (1989) cited in Clauss, 1993:9; Gutzwiller, 2007:79.

[93]             Apollonius 3.285

[94]             Diogenes Lives of Eminent Philosophers 6.7.96-7; St Jerome Chronicle 203

[95]             Lefkowitz and Fant (1995) cited in Shipley, 2000:104.

[96]             Pomeroy, 1994:125.

[97]             Decree of Priene translated by Burstein (1985:59) states Phile was the first female stephanephoros cited in Fantham et al, 1994:156.

[98]             Apollonius 3.287

[99]             Fantham et al, 1994:169.

[100]            Griffiths, 2006:89.

[101]            Nyberg (1992) cited in Griffiths, 2006:89.

[102]            Apollonius 3.467; Clare, 2002:242.

[103]            Feeney, 1991:65; Gutzwiller, 2007:79.

[104]            Apollonius 3.616-44

[105]            Clauss, 1997:160.

[106]            Apollonius 3.947-1145

[107]            Levin, 1971:15; Feeney, 1991:64-5; Lefkowitz, 2007:179.

[108]            Pavlock, 1990:65.

[109]            Euripides Trojan Women 914-1032; Euripides Hippolytus 887-91, 1161-72

[110]            Apollonius 4.385-90; Pavlock, 1990:67.

[111]            Pomeroy, 1994:147.

[112]            Euripides Hippolytus 393-430

[113]            Euripides Hippolytus 1389-1439

[114]            Euripides Helen 43-67

[115]            Apollonius 4.413, 1016-7, 1040; Feeney, 1991:80-4.

[116]            Apollonius 3.645-825; Gutzwiller, 2007:81.

[117]            Gutzwiller, 2007:81; Thalmann, 2011:115.

[118]            Apollonius 3.785-801; Fusillo, 2001:139.

[119]            Euripides Medea 1049-50

[120]            Hunter, 1993:59.

[121]            Gutzwiller, 2007:79.

[122]            Euripides Medea 103-4; Apollonius 4.391

[123]            Griffiths, 2006:119.

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