The Life and Death of Jason

Notes, Book XIV

XIV.title Sirens: In the Odyssey the Sirens were sea-singers who inhabited an island near Scylla and Charybdis. Sailors charmed by their song landed only to perish and leave a meadow full of decaying corpses, but Odysseus, following the advice of Circe, has himself lashed to the mast so that he could hear their song without harm. Similarly Orpheus saves the Argonauts by successfully competing with their song.

In some stories the Sirens are called daughters of Earth, and are credited with omniscience and the power to quiet the winds; in others, they must die when mortals resist their songs, and so the escape of Odysseus and Orpheus leads to their death.

XIV.title Hesperides: in Greek mythology, the Hesperides are nymphs who tend a paradisal garden in a far western corner of the world, near the Atlas mountains in Libya, or on a distant island at the edge of the encircling Oceanus, the world-ocean. Allegedly the daughters of Night and Erebus or, in later versions, of Hesperis and Atlas or of Ceto and Phorcys, they guard a tree of golden apples given by Earth to Hera at her marriage.

In most accounts there are three sisters, and names attributed to them include Aigle, Erytheia, Arethusa, Hespere, and Hesperethusa. According to legend, some of these golden apples was used by Melanion in winning his race against Atalanta, and Heracles succeeded in taking the apples after slaying Ladon, the dragon who guarded the tree. The Hesperides were a popular subject in Greek art, especially on painted pottery. Tennyson's poem "The Hesperides" was admired by Morris, and he used the story of Melanion for his Earthly Paradise tale "Atalanta's Race," and the story of Heracles and the three sisters in his Earthly Paradise tale "The Golden Apples."

XIV.title Malea: a south-eastern promontory of Laconia, and of the whole Peloponnesus, a reputedly dangerous corner for shipping, chiefly because of the sudden veering of the winds off a harbourless coast. It was denounced as dangerous from Homer down to Byzantine writers, though despite this reputation much traffic continued to pass through the narrow strait of Malea and Cythera. See Map 2, I13.

XIV.3 Trinacrian shore: Sicily’s three corners and capes (akroi) prompted the Greeks sometimes to call it Trinacria, after the legendary island where in the Odyssey, book XII, the Sun god kept his cattle. See Map 5, AB6/7.

XIV.5 Medea: in mythology, she was the grandaughter of Helios and daughter of Aeëtes, king of Colchian Aea and his wife Eidyia; by tradition intelligent, crafty and learned in magical lore.

XIV.12 Fleece: the Golden Fleece, object of the Argonaut’s quest, had originally belonged to a ram on which Phyrxus of Orchomenos (Boetia) fled with his sister Helle from the rage of Ino, their jealous stepmother. The ram set out with them on his back toward Colchis on the Black Sea. En route Helle fell into the Hellespont, but Phryxus survived to kill the ram as a sacrifice and place the fleece in his home. Afterwards King Aetes of Colchis killed him in order to steal the fleece, which he hung in a grove sacred to Mars, where it was guarded by a dragon. This myth arose around the time that Greeks became interested in establishing colonies on the Black Sea, suggesting the story’s attraction as a legend of successful adventure/imperialism.

XIV.13 Minyae: in mythology, a name given to the inhabitants of Orchomenos, in Boeotia, from Minyas, legendary king of the country. Of the two great centers of legends, Thebes, with its Cadmean population, was a military stronghold, and Orchomenos a commercial center; here, the Argonauts, led by Jason of Iolchos. For Boeotian Orchomenos, see Map 2, H6.

XIV.39 thymy: covered or abounding with thyme, an aromatic perennial herbaceous plant with a wiry stem, evergreen leaves, and small white, pink or purple flowers.

XIV.42 Nereus: in Greek mythology, a Titan and eldest son of Pontus (the Sea) and Gaia (the Earth). He lived in the Ægean Sea with his wife Doris and daughters the Nereids, and like Proteus was a shapeshifter with the power of prophecy. Proteus and Nereus were supplanted by Poseidon as sea gods when Zeus overthrew Cronus and assumed rulership of the world.

XIV.42 high scarped land: of rocks, a steep embankment produced by vertical movement of the earth's crust along a fault or by erosion. The term is often used interchangeably with escarpment but is more accurately associated with cliffs produced by faulting rather than those produced by erosional processes.

XIV.44 girt: girded, arrayed.

XIV.57 O Thracian: i. e., Orpheus.

XIV.84 the skilled Milesian man: The Argonaut steersman Erginus came from Miletus.

XIV.91 Orpheus: legendary Thracian singer and supposed founder of Orphism, whose doctrines and myths were conveyed through poems. Aeschylus and Euripides assert that his songs charmed trees, wild beasts and even stones as well as humans. In vase and wall paintings, even in the Catacombs, he is often represented singing.

The best known myth recounts that when his wife Eurydice was killed by a snakebite, Orpheus descended to the Underworld and persuaded its lord to allow him to bring her back on the condition that he should not turn round and look at her before they reached the upper world, and when he did so, she vanished into Hades forever. Morris recounts this myth in an unpublished Earthly Paradise tale, “The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice.”

XIV.91 Minstrel: Here, Orpheus; in Homer the only specialized, professional singer was the minstrel, who sings epic lays to his phorminx.

XIV.182 pensive: sorrowfully thoughtful, melancholy.

XIV.269 timorous: fearful, easily frightened.

XIV.272 meed: reward, deserved recompense.

XIV.297 chrysolite: a name formerly given to several different gems of a green colour, such as zircon, tourmaline, topaz, apatite and since the late eighteenth century, to olivine, a silicate of magnesia and iron found in lava whose color may vary from yellowish-green to dark green; here, referring to the sea’s color.

XIV.299 the Phaeacian king: King Alcinous of Phaeacia (most likely the modern island of Corfu), mentioned in the Odyssey. His kingdom is visited by Odysseus before returning home to Ithaca. His gardens were known for their fruit trees, with pears, pomegranates, and apples growing all year round.

XIV.323 mavis: song thrush

XIV.492 Lilybaeum: ancient city on the far western end of Sicily, now Marsala, known for its fortifications and harbor. Venus had a famous temple on Mount Eryx above the city. A Carthaginian stronghold, Lilybaeum was later conquered by the Romans. See Map 5, A6.

XIV.499 Cyprus: Eurasian island country situated in the eastern Mediterranean south of Turkey, west of the Levant, north of Egypt, and east-southeast of Greece. Inhabited since Neolithic times, during the Bronze Age the Cyprians worked copper mines, and Myceaean culture reached Cyrprus around 1600 B. C. E., followed by Iron Age Greek and Phoenician settlements. See Map 5, J7.

XIV.504 merlin: a small falcon of North America and northern Eurasia, with a pale brown streaked breast, a barred tail, and a back which is slate blue (in the male) or dark brown (in the female).

XIV.507 the Aegades: a group of small mountainous islands in the Mediterranean off the northwest coast of Sicily, near the city of Trapani. See Map 5, A6.

XIV.565 conies: archaic for rabbits, now used of wild rabbits.

XIV.601 Æa: Æa was the leading city of ancient Colchis, along the Rioni river; its current name is Kutaisi, in Georgia.  See Map 5, L3.

XIV.615 Hesperides: in Greek mythology, the Hesperides are nymphs who tend an paradisal garden in a far western corner of the world, near the Atlas mountains in Libya, or on a distant island at the edge of the encircling Oceanus, the world-ocean. Allegedly the daughters of Night and Erebus or, in later versions, of Hesperis and Atlas or of Ceto and Phorcys, they guard a tree of golden apples given by Earth to Hera at her marriage.

In most accounts there are three sisters, and names attributed to them include Aigle, Erytheia, Arethusa, Hespere, and Hesperethusa. According to legend, one of these golden apples was used by Melanion in winning his race against Atalanta, and Heracles succeeded in taking the apples after slaying Ladon, the dragon who guarded the tree. The Hesperides were a popular subject in Greek art, especially on painted pottery. Tennyson's poem "The Hesperides" was admired by Morris, and he used the story of Melanion for his Earthly Paradise tale "Atalanta's Race," and the story of Heracles and the three sisters in his Earthly Paradise tale "The Golden Apples."

XIV.651 Hesperus: in Greek mythology, the "Evening Star," along with Phosphorus, the "Morning Star," a son of the dawn goddess Eos and Cephalus, a mortal. He was the father of Ceyx and Daedalion, as well as, in some accounts, the Hesperides.

XIV.658 Diana: goddess of the hunt, daughter of Jupiter and Latona. Diana was originally a moon goddess anciently identified with Artemis, from whom she took over the patronage of margins and savageness, and she was associated with chastity, beauty and athletic skill. That she was later a goddess of women is shown by the processions of women bearing torches in her honor at Aricia, and the votive offerings there which have reference to children and childbirth. Her links with women, members of the lower classes, slaves, and the seekers of asylum suggest that she was a goddess of margins; for example, slaves could receive asylum in her temples.

XIV.661 Pallas: Pallas Athena was an alternate name for Athena, derived from Greek legends in which she killed the giant Pallas, assuming his name. In Greek mythology, Athena was the wise companion of heroes and patron of heroic endeavor. Her cult seems to have existed from very early times as the patron of Athens, and she was variously associated with wisdom, philosophy, weaving and other crafts, the crafting of weapons, and military strategy. In icongraphy she often wears a breastplate and helmet, is attended by an owl, and often by Nike, winged goddess of victory, who is placed on her extended hand.

As an armed warrior goddess, Athena appears in Greek mythology as a helper of many heroes, including Odysseus, Jason and Heracles. Legends of her birth include her birth from the forehead of Zeus, born after he swallowed her pregnant mother Metis to avoid a prophecy that any offspring of his union with Metis would exceed him in power. As the female offspring of Zeus, Athena shared with him control of the thunderbolt and the Aegis.

XIV.664 Citheraea: alternate name for Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility, comparable to the Roman Venus. She is variously described as the daughter of Zeus and Dione, or of Uranus and Gaia, and was the consort of Vulcan. Cithera and Cyprus both claimed to be her birthplace.

XIV.676 the Fates: mythological weavers of man's fate. Hesiod in his Theogony (218) names these Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Clotho feeds the yarn of life, Lachesis measures it, and Atropos ("She who is unbending") snips it at the moment of death.

XIV.736 Laconians: Laconia is the southeast district of the Peloponnesus, bordering Arcadia to the north and Messenia to the west. A mountainous region, dominated by limestone formations and its derivatives, during the classical period Laconia was controlled by Sparta. See Map 3, F8.

XIV.740 Æa: Æa was the leading city of ancient Colchis, along the Rioni river; its current name is Kutaisi, in Georgia.  See Map 5, L3.