The Argonautica is a Greek epic poem written by Apollonius Rhodius in the 3rd c. BC. The only surviving Hellenistic epic, the Argonautica tells the myth of the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts to retrieve the Golden Fleece from Colchis.
Their heroic adventures and Jason’s relationship with the dangerous Colchian princess Medea were already well known to Hellenistic audiences, which enabled Apollonius to go beyond a simple narrative, giving it a scholarly emphasis suitable to the times. It was the age of the great Library of Alexandria, and his epic incorporates his research in geography, ethnography, comparative religion, and Homeric literature.
However, his main contribution to the epic tradition lies in his development of the love between hero and heroine – he seems to have been the first narrative poet to study ‘the pathology of love’.
His Argonautica had a profound impact on Latin poetry: it was translated by Varro and imitated by Valerius Flaccus, it influenced Catullus and Ovid, and it provided Virgil with a model for his Roman epic, the Aeneid.
Below a synopsis of each book will be given: