Life

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

The Greek poet Apollonius Rhodius (ap-uh-LOH-nee-uhs ROH-dee-uhs) has traditionally been identified with the island of Rhodes—where he may have withdrawn because of a quarrel with his teacher Callimachus or because his poetry had been poorly received. In any case, Apollonius served as director of the famous library at Alexandria from about 260 to 246 b.c.e.

Apollonius’s major work is the Argonautica (third century b.c.e.; English translation, 1780), a long poem in four sections describing the adventures of a band of Greek heroes aboard the ship Argo. The heroes have been given the quest of seizing the Golden Fleece from King Aeëtes of Colchis on the far shores of the Black Sea. The most famous section of the work describes the passion of King Aeëtes’ daughter Medea for the expedition’s leader Jason.