αὐτὴ νῦν κάματόν γε, θεά, καὶ δήνεα κούρης
Κολχίδος ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, Διὸς τέκος. ἦ γὰρ ἔμοιγε
ἀμφασίῃ νόος ἔνδον ἑλίσσεται ὁρμαίνοντι,
ἠὲ μιν ἄτης πῆμα δυσίμερου, ἦ τόγ᾽ ἐνίσπω
φύζαν ἀεικελίην, ᾗ κάλλιπεν ἔθνεα Κόλχων. 5
ἤτοι ὁ μὲν δήμοιο μετ᾽ ἀνδράσιν, ὅσσοι ἄριστοι,
παννύχιος δόλον αἰπὺν ἐπὶ σφίσι μητιάασκεν
οἷσιν ἐνὶ μεγάροις, στυγερῷ ἐπὶ θυμὸν ἀέθλῳ
Αἰήτης ἄμοτον κεχολωμένος: οὐδ᾽ ὅγε πάμπαν
θυγατέρων τάδε νόσφιν ἑῶν τελέεσθαι ἐώλπει.10
τῇ δ᾽ ἀλεγεινότατον κραδίῃ φόβον ἔμβαλεν Ἥρη:
τρέσσεν δ᾽, ἠύτε τις κούφη κεμάς, ἥν τε βαθείης
τάρφεσιν ἐν ξυλόχοιο κυνῶν ἐφόβησεν ὁμοκλή.
αὐτίκα γὰρ νημερτὲς ὀίσσατο, μή μιν ἀρωγὴν
ληθέμεν, αἶψα δὲ πᾶσαν ἀναπλήσειν κακότητα.15
τάρβει δ᾽ ἀμφιπόλους ἐπιίστορας: ἐν δέ οἱ ὄσσε
πλῆτο πυρός, δεινὸν δὲ περιβρομέεσκον ἀκουαί.
πυκνὰ δὲ λευκανίης ἐπεμάσσατο, πυκνὰ δὲ κουρὶξ
ἑλκομένη πλοκάμους γοερῇ βρυχήσατ᾽ ἀνίῃ.
καί νύ κεν αὐτοῦ τῆμος ὑπὲρ μόρον ὤλετο κούρη, 20
φάρμακα πασσαμένη, Ἥρης δ᾽ ἁλίωσε μενοινάς,
εἰ μή μιν Φρίξοιο θεὰ σὺν παισὶ φέβεσθαι
ὦρσεν ἀτυζομένην: πτερόεις δέ οἱ ἐν φρεσὶ θυμὸς
ἰάνθη: μετὰ δ᾽ ἥγε παλίσσυτος ἀθρόα κόλπων
φάρμακα πάντ᾽ ἄμυδις κατεχεύατο φωριαμοῖο.25
κύσσε δ᾽ ἑόν τε λέχος καὶ δικλίδας: ἀμφοτέρων τε
σταθμῶν, καὶ τοίχων ἐπαφήσατο, χερσί τε μακρὸν
ῥηξαμένη πλόκαμον, θαλάμῳ μνημήια μητρὶ
κάλλιπε παρθενίης, ἀδινῇ δ᾽ ὀλοφύρατο φωνῇ:
τόνδε τοι ἀντ᾽ ἐμέθεν ταναὸν πλόκον εἶμι λιποῦσα, 30
μῆτερ ἐμή: χαίροις δὲ καὶ ἄνδιχα πολλὸν ἰούσῃ:
χαίροις Χαλκιόπη, καὶ πᾶς δόμος. αἴθε σε πόντος,
ξεῖνε, διέρραισεν, πρὶν Κολχίδα γαῖαν ἱκέσθαι.
ὧς ἄρ᾽ ἔφη: βλεφάρων δὲ κατ᾽ ἀθρόα δάκρυα χεῦεν.
οἵη δ᾽ ἀφνειοῖο διειρυσθεῖσα δόμοιο35
ληιάς, ἥν τε νέον πάτρης ἀπενόσφισεν αἶσα,
οὐδέ νύ πω μογεροῖο πεπείρηται καμάτοιο,
ἀλλ᾽ ἔτ᾽ ἀηθέσσουσα δύης καὶ δούλια ἔργα
εἶσιν ἀτυζομενη χαλεπὰς ὑπὸ χεῖρας ἀνάσσης:
τοίη ἄρ᾽ ἱμερόεσσα δόμων ἐξέσσυτο κούρη. 40
τῇ δὲ καὶ αὐτόματοι θυρέων ἱπόειξαν ὀχῆες,
ὠκείαις ἄψορροι ἀναθρώσκοντες ἀοιδαῖς.
γυμνοῖσιν δὲ πόδεσσιν ἀνὰ στεινὰς θέεν οἴμους,
λαιῇ μὲν χερὶ πέπλον ἐπ᾽ ὀφρύσιν ἀμφὶ μέτωπα
στειλαμένη καὶ καλὰ παρήια, δεξιτερῇ δὲ 45
ἄκρην ὑψόθι πέζαν ἀερτάζουσα χιτῶνος.
καρπαλίμως δ᾽ ἀίδηλον ἀνὰ στίβον ἔκτοθι πύργων
ἄστεος εὐρυχόροιο φόβῳ κίεν: οὐδέ τις ἔγνω
τήνγε φυλακτήρων, λάθε δέ σφεας ὁρμηθεῖσα.
ἔνθεν ἴμεν νηόνδε μάλ᾽ ἐφράσατ᾽: οὐ γὰρ ἄιδρις 50
ἦεν ὁδῶν, θαμὰ καὶ πρὶν ἀλωμένη ἀμφί τε νεκρούς,
ἀμφί τε δυσπαλέας ῥίζας χθονός, οἷα γυναῖκες
φαρμακίδες: τρομερῷ δ᾽ ὑπὸ δείματι πάλλετο θυμός.
τὴν δὲ νέον Τιτηνὶς ἀνερχομένη περάτηθεν
φοιταλέην ἐσιδοῦσα θεὰ ἐπεχήρατο Μήνη 55
ἁρπαλέως, καὶ τοῖα μετὰ φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἔειπεν:
Medea flees the palace.
Book 3 ends with Jason’s triumph over the fire breathing bulls and the earth born giants, an heroic exploit of Iliadic dimensions, undercut by the fact that he is dependent on Medea’s drugs and magic. The mission, however, is not complete in spite of the closural nature of 3.1407. Aietes is already plotting revenge. Will Medea escape retribution for the help that she has given the foreign intruders? How will the Fleece be finally gained? What future developments will there be in the relationship between Jason the Greek and Medea the barbarian Colchian princess?
At the beginning of Book 4, the poet seeks help from his Muse in answering these and other questions in the opening invocation (1–5). The theme of the book is to be the combination of δήνεα with κάματον, which alludes to Medea’s two-sided character: knowing witch and magician and also a tragic figure who suffers for her love. The poet asks the Muse whether it is shame or panic which will drive her motivation:
Invocation of the Muse (1–5)
Medea's farewell to her home (6–33)
Flight from the palace and the city (34–53)
1–2 αὐτὴ . . . τέκος: the book opens with a strong and solemn imperative (ἔννεπε), which takes a double object (κάματόν . . . καὶ δήνεα), γε emphasising the importance of the former. κούρης / Κολχίδος: refers to Medea. The three separate allusions to the Muse (θεά, Μοῦσα, Διὸς τέκος) stress the importance of the moment. The opening words (αὐτὴ νῦν) underline its immediacy.
2–3 ἦ . . . ὁρμαίνοντι: these lines describe the poet’s doubts and thoughts. The subject of the verb ἑλίσσεται is νόος ἔνδον, the owner of which is denoted by ἔμοιγε . . . ὁρμαίνοντι (datives of feeling / agent. Smyth 1486, 1488), linked with ἀμφασίῃ as a further descriptive dative (Smyth 1516). The particle ἦ intensifies the excitement of the moment (Smyth 2864).
4–5 ἠὲ . . . Κόλχων: A.’s supposed hesitation takes the form of a deliberative, indirect question (ἠὲ . . . ἦ), whose main verb is the aorist subjunctive ἐνίσπω (Smyth 2675). Both μιν and τόγ(ε) function as pronouns referring to the vital question at issue (‘was it X or was it Y’), X being described as ἄτης πῆμα δυσίμερου, the two genitives elegantly depending on the noun that they enfold, and Y as φύζαν ἀεικελίην.
6–9 ἤτοι . . . κεχολωμένος: A. now connects the action about unfold with the end of Book 3 by introductory particles ἤτοι ὁ μὲν. An important feature of this long sentence is the wide separation of ὁ μὲν and Αἰήτης. The elaborate phrase δήμοιο μετ᾽ ἀνδράσιν, ὅσσοι ἄριστοι refers to Aietes’ councillors. ἐπὶ σφίσι is the object of Aietes’ nocturnal (παννύχιος) plotting (δόλον αἰπὺν . . . μητιάασκεν), Jason and the Argonauts, who have recently thwarted him in the στυγερῷ . . . ἀέθλῳ and because of this have occasioned his raging anger (ἐπὶ θυμὸν . . . ἄμοτον κεχολωμένος).
9–10 οὐδ᾽ ὅγε . . . ἐώλπει: Aietes’ daughters are implicated in the treachery by the intricate syntax. The word that denotes their deeds (τάδε), menacing because of its indefinite nature, is embedded in the phrase (θυγατέρων . . . νόσφιν ἑῶν) that implicates them in Medea’s escape. The Alexandrian poets thought of ἐώλπει as an imperfect; although LSJ ἔλπω explains it as 3rd person singular pluperfect. Here it balances μητιάασκεν.
11 ἤτοι ὁ μὲν . . . τῇ δ᾽: contrasts the moods of Aietes and his daughter. The use of the superlative (ἀλεγεινότατον) marks the extreme nature of Hera’s intervention. ἔμβαλεν is frequently used of inserting a thought or emotion into the mind.
12–13 τρέσσεν . . . ὁμοκλή: τρεῖν is equivalent to φεύγειν. ἠύτε introduces the simile. The enfolding word order of βαθείης / τάρφεσιν ἐν ξυλόχοιο (reorder: ἐν τάρφεσιν βαθείης ξυλόχοιο) perhaps gives a sense that the fawn may be trapped by the dogs in the deep wood. Likewise the unit formed by κυνῶν ἐφόβησεν ὁμοκλή (κυνῶν depending on ὁμοκλή) balances the previous phrase and underlines the fear caused by the dogs’ attack.
14–15 αὐτίκα . . . κακότητα: Medea’s thoughts and fears are reported in a tersely expressed indirect statement, dependent on νημερτὲς ὀΐσσατο, the equivalent of a verb of fearing (Smyth 2238). There is contrast and balance between the two phrases, μιν ἀρωγὴν / ληθέμεν and πᾶσαν ἀναπλήσειν κακότητα. Aietes is not named (μιν) but the reference to what he may do to Medea gains emphasis from the use of the four-syllable abstract noun (κακότητα rather than perhaps κακά).
16–17 τάρβει . . . ἀκουαί: A. shortens his phrases, pointed by the repetition of π and marking the frantic nature of Medea’s mood. The use of the dual (ὄσσε) together with the reflexive personal pronoun (οἱ. Smyth 1195) and the singular verb (πλῆτο) alludes to Homeric phraseology (Smyth 959) used by A. to enhance his description of Medea’s emotions. The same is true of the following phrase (περιβρομέεσκον ἀκουαί), based on a famous poem of Sappho.
18–19 πυκνὰ . . . ἀνίῃ: Medea doesn’t know which course of action to take. The anaphora of πυκνά must mark the rapidity with which she flits from one possibility to another. Pulling out the hair is a demonstration of grief from Homer onwards. A. describes this action with the help of an Homeric hapax legomenon, κουρίξ.
The meaning of this was disputed among ancient critics: some thought it meant ‘by the hair, by the roots’, others connected it with νεανικῶς or κουρικῶς, “like a young man," i.e. "vigorously”. Here, while the word plainly alludes to the fact that Medea is tearing out her own hair as part of her personal grief, the use of κούρη (20) may be an indirect allusion to the other interpretation. This constant reference to contemporary scholarly discussion, even at a moment of high drama, is a pervasive feature of A.’s writing. There also early evidence from Geometric art: the Dipylon krater (c. 750–35 B.C., Accession number: 14.130.14, Metropolitan Museum, New York) shows women (left side of illustration) tearing out their hair in grief. βρυχήσατ(ο): also marks the strength of Medea’s emotion. It is used to liken Ajax to a bull at Soph. Aj. 322 ὑπεστέναζε ταῦρος ὣς βρυχώμενος, ‘he was groaning like a bellowing bull’, and in the Iliad mostly of the death-cry of wounded men (13.392–3 κεῖτο τανυσθεὶς / βεβρυχώς, ‘he lay stretched out, bellowing like a bull’). However, Deianeira, the wronged wife of Heracles, about to commit suicide and in the same frame of mind as Medea is described thus at Soph. Tr. 904 βρυχᾶτο μὲν βωμοῖσι προσπίπτουσ’, ‘falling near the altar, she bellowed aloud’. Sophocles’ audience must have been shocked to hear the word used of a woman, and possibly A. has this moment in mind.
20-1: καί νύ κεν . . .πασσαμένη: the suspense is heightened by the use of the particles νύ κεν with optative; see Smyth 2311.
22: Φρίξοιο θεὰ σὺν παισί: the word order, the the subject placed within a preposition phrases, implicates the sons of Phrixos in the goddess’s machinations.
These lines give a twist to a familiar epic scenario. At Od. 5.436–7 ἔνθα κε δὴ δύστηνος ὑπὲρ μόρον ὤλετ᾽ Ὀδυσσεύς, / εἰ μὴ ἐπιφροσύνην δῶκε γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη, Odysseus is saved by the intervention of Athene and likewise Aeneas at Il. 5.311–2. καί νύ is striking. The sentence structure previously used to describe the preservation of such heroes as Aeneas and Odysseus on the battlefield is now used of a panic-stricken girl. For a heroine in Greek mythology contemplating or committing suicide, a rope or sword is a more common method. However, Medea, as a woman skilled in drugs, contemplates poison as means of taking her life.
23–4: πτερόεις . . . ἰάνθη: usually the adjective πτερόεις denotes something moving quickly in a definite direction, such as an arrow or a word (Homer’s ‘winged words’) but here A. seems to be thinking of ἀναπτερόω, which can mean metaphorically ‘excite’ or ‘make agitated’ (Eur. Supp. 89 ‘how fluttering fear disquiets me’). οἱ: is the possessive dative (Smyth 1195), the enfolding order elegantly emphasising the meaning. ἡ φρήν originally denoted the chest or midriff and later came to mean ‘mind’. It is the centre of thought and emotion, and this is reflected in A.’s word order.
Although φρεσὶ θυμὸς ἰάνθη and its variations occur in Homer at the end of the verse (Il. 23.600, 24.321, Od. 15.165), the only place with matching metrical quantity and enjambment is Il. 23.597–8 τοῖο δὲ θυμὸς / ἰάνθη, which must constitute some proof of an ancient reader’s knowledge of the Homeric poems. The rhythm is striking: a molossus (– – –) followed by dactyls in line 24 to denote the speed with which she transfers the drugs.
24–5: μετὰ . . . φωριαμοῖο: μετά is used absolutely here, as an adverb (Smyth 1641). παλίσσυτος (‘in sudden rush’) must denote the sudden fresh burst of activity on Medea’s part. Read κόλπῳ for transmitted κόλπων and understand φωριαμοῖο as a genitive of origin / separation (Smyth 1392).
Under Hera’s prompting, she makes her mind up and empties the drugs from the casket into the fold of her robe. Bearing in mind the adjective’s connection with σεύω, ἔσσυμαι, ‘put in motion, run or rush’, it should be understood as denoting hurried physical activity on Medea’s part. Similarly she rushes (40 δόμων ἐξέσσυτο) from the palace when she makes her final departure. The box is left behind, in the same way as the lock of hair (line 28). The separation of drugs from their coffer is a metaphor for the separation of magician from her native land. It is not surprising that there is a stress on her taking all the drugs together (ἀθρόα . . . φάρμακα πάντ᾽ ἄμυδις) from the coffer. She is going to need all her resources in the new life to which she is committing herself. The phrase emphasises that, as she prepares for flight, she is taking all her most precious possessions, packed into the capacious pocket of her chiton
26–7 κύσσε . . . ἐπαφήσατο: two main verbs (κύσσε and ἐπαφήσατο) enclose the significant objects (possibly four; see below) which receive attention from Medea as she moves about her room. The placing of the words creates a chiasmus which emphasises the ritualistic feel about these lines, as Medea goes from one part of the room to another, bidding a formal farewell to her life as a young girl.
Τhe idea, however, that she kisses the ‘double door posts’ presents a problem. In the transmitted text δικλίδας must agree with the σταθμούς. In this context, σταθμός apart from a reference in the Septuagint (LXX 4 Ki.12.9) always means ‘doorpost’. Homer always uses δικλίδες with words like θύραι (Od. 17.268, Arg. 1.786–7), πύλαι (Il. 12.455), σανίδες (Od. 2.345) to mean “double doors.” δικλίς, singular or plural, with or without a noun, is used of “a double or folding door.” Although A. takes a delight in varying Homeric phraseology, it seems foreign to his practice to create a formula (“double doorposts”) so different from the Homeric context. A possible solution would to be to emend the text and read δικλίδας· ἀμφοτέρων τε / σταθμῶν. The enjambment which this alteration creates helps to heighten the drama of the scene, breaking the description up into three phrases articulated by emphatic main verbs, the culminating colon being dramatically connected by τε (χερσί τε . . .); see further Hulse (2022) DOORS AND DOORPOSTS: A Note on the Opening of Book 4 of the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius
27–9 χερσί . . . φωνῇ: an agonised cry (ἀδινῇ δ᾽ ὀλοφύρατο φωνῇ) to accompany a violent action (μακρὸν / ῥηξαμένη πλόκαμον)! Although the background to this scene is traditional, that of a young girl leaving the family home and making a ritual dedication, Medea’s gesture is more violent because she is a bride embarking on a formal ceremony against her will, as the words of her farewell show. Her dedication of the lock to her mother, rather than to a deity, provides a dramatic subject for her first reported words. The word θάλαμος often denotes the bedroom of the lady of the house and, as such, is an important place in a woman’s life. It is dramatically appropriate that Medea’s last farewells should take place there and that she should leave behind a memorial of her maidenhood (μνημήια μητρὶ . . . παρθενίης).
30–2 τόνδε . . . δόμος: the demonstrative τόνδε, in an emphatic position at the beginning of the sentence combined with the interlaced phrasing of the opening clause (τόνδε agrees with πλόκον and encloses ἀντ᾿ ἐμέθεν) enhances the impact of Medea’s first directly reported words. This impact is further strengthened by the enjambment of μῆτερ ἐμή and the repetition of χαίροις (optative instead of the more usual χαῖρε), perhaps introducing an added note uncertainty about her personal future and that of her family. The mention of Chalciope - there has been complex interplay between the two sisters in Book 3 - and the use of the phrase πᾶς δόμος (‘all my house’) mark Medea’s intention to split from her entire family.
32–4 αἴθε . . . χεῦεν: αἴθε (often εἴθε), with a past tense of the indicative, is used to introduce a wish, referring to the past that cannot be realised (Smyth 1780-1). The use of διέρραισεν shows the degree of Medea’s intensity. It is often has the sense of ‘total destruction.’ The infinitive with πρὶν in reference to an unfulfilled action is normal (see the example from the Odyssey quoted above and Smyth 2455).The whole sentiment is an echo of the ‘might-have-been’ thought from the opening of Euripides' Medea (Eur. Med. 1–15),
which has its origin in Od. 18.401–2 (the suitors discussing Odysseus in disguise as a beggar) αἴθ᾽ ὤφελλ᾽ ὁ ξεῖνος ἀλώμενος ἄλλοθ᾽ ὀλέσθαι / πρὶν ἐλθεῖν, ‘Would that the stranger had perished elsewhere on his wanderings before he came here.’ Medea’s words are an expression of the common ancient wish to trace the origin of troubles back to an archē kakōn, ‘the beginning of evil’, (e.g. the Judgment of Paris) and also relate to the theme of an adventuring male arriving in a foreign land and encountering a foreign woman, often high born. She mentions Jason for the first time in Book 4, addresses him as ξεῖνε and curses him, even though later they will later form an alliance with based on mutual physical attraction mixed with a considerable degree of self-interest on both parts.
35–6 οἵη . . . ληιάς: “just like a female prisoner-of-war”, introducing a simile that vividly portrays Medea’s state-of-mind but which contains some difficult points of interpretation. In this simile, descriptive of Medea’s mental state, rather than her physical actions—A.’s switches back to those in line 40—she is likened to a slave girl unwillingly going to face an immediate harsh fate, as Medea unwillingly (cf. 32–3) goes to find Jason and throw in her lot with him.
35 ἀφνειοῖο . . . δόμοιο: “from a rich house.” The two words agree and, in some way, depend on διειλυσθεῖσα, which looks like an aorist passive participle and may be connected with εἰλύω.
Nowhere, however, does εἰλύω (which in A. and late epic generally can equal ἐλύω) bear any meaning denoting motion, undertaken by Medea. διειλυσθεῖσα: Read διειρυσθεῖσα (my emendation for mss. διειλυσθεῖσα) which makes clearer the point of the simile that both girls go unwillingly to their respective fates. The slave-girl is “dragged through the rich house” to meet her mistress, after separation from her homeland. Medea leaves the house to find Jason. Medea hurries (ἐξέσσυτο), but this is of necessity. She goes to find Jason much against her will (cf. 20–33) and is similarly separated from her homeland.
36 νέον: “recently.” The slave girl has just been separated (ἀπενόσφισεν) from her homeland and Medea is just about to leave hers. She returns to this theme later in tirade against Jason at 4.362 νοσφισάμην (n. 360). “fate”and μοῖρα are equivalent in A. and other authors.
37 μογεροῖο . . . καμάτοιο: two separated genitives (with the epic ending) in agreement as in 35. The slave girl will be afflicted with κάματος, as will Medea (1n.). πεπείρηται: < πειράομαι: 3rd per. sing. perf. indic. “She has not experienced (lit. made trial of) wretched labour.”
38-9 ἀηθέσσουσα δύης καὶ δούλια ἔργα / εἶσιν ἀτυζομένη: “unused to wretchedness and fearing the work of slaves, she goes . . .” closely parallels Medea’s fate. As a princess, she had a band of ἀμφίπολοι to do her bidding (3.838). ἀηθέσσουσα is hapax in Homer (Il. 10.493) and takes the genitive.The enjambment, taking δούλια ἔργα with ἀτυζόμενη, (cf. 4.512 ἀτυζόμενοι χόλον ἄγριον Αἰήταο) is in A.’s style. εἶσιν: < εἶμι: press. act. indic. 3rd singular.
39 χαλεπὰς ὑπὸ χεῖρας ἀνάσσης: ὑ. governs the entire phrase. It also has significance for Medea’s plight. The ἄνασσα is possibly Hera (cf. 4.21) or more probably Aphrodite forcing her into the arms of Jason, although she does not want to go. Aphrodite is often spoken of as a cruel goddess.
40 ἱμερόεσσα: A. is reminding us that in spite of her distress, Medea retains her beauty and that at 92 Jason has a tangible reason for rejoicing. The description of the simile concentrates on her inner state of mind; the main text on her outward appearance.
40 δόμων: gen. of separation after ἐξέσσυτο: < ἐκσεύομαι: imperf. ind mid. 3rd sg.
41–2 τῇ . . . ἀοιδαῖς: emphasis now turns to Medea’s magical powers. The bolts of the door (θυρέων . . . ὀχῆες) yield (ὑπόειξαν) to her speedy spells (ὠκείαις . . . ἀοιδαῖς), leaping apart (ἀναθρώσκοντες), almost personified. Medea is a witch, after all.
42 ὠκείαις . . . ἀοιδαῖς: the adjective and noun agree: A. is fond of structuring the line with adjective and noun at opposite ends (3.1285, 3.1325, 4.97, 4.452, 4.623); The adjective functions as a transferred epithet-adverb.
43 γυμνοῖσιν . . . οἴμους: one way to describe haste is to say that the individual concerned did not have time to put on their shoes. ἀνὰ στεινὰς . . . οἴμους: “along the narrow streets” stresses the clandestine nature of Medea’s escape. θέεν: is unaugmented imperfect < θέω.
44–5 λαιῇ . . . χιτῶνος: Medea is in disguise and, therefore hides beneath her drapped cloak. She raises the hem of her garment so she may flee all the faster. There are perhaps some similarities with this small bronze statue (see under Media tab). While the figure is usually believed to be that of a dancer, the pose that she adopts fits A.’s description of Medea. Movement and concealment are combined with a hint of seduction.
46 ἄκρην ὑψόθι πέζαν ἀερτάζουσα χιτῶνος: a beautifully balanced line typical of Hellenistic Greek poetry.
46 ἄκρην . . . πέζαν . . . χιτῶνος is the object of ἀερτάζουσα, a rare word also found in Callimachus. This intricately worded description (λαιῇ μὲν ~ δεξιτερῇ; στειλαμένη ~ ἀερτάζουσα), as well as aptly describing Medea’s movement, may indeed reflect the pose of a statue that A. knew.
47 καρπαλίμως δ᾿ἀΐδηλον ἀνὰ στίβον: the pace of Medea’s escape picks up (καρπαλίμως). She is soon “outside the walls” (ἔκτοθι πύργων).
We might read ἀΐδηλος rather than transmitted ἀΐδηλον. In the present case what is ‘unseen’ is not the path but Medea (48 οὐδέ τις ἔγνω reinforces the fact that no one sees her). She is wrapped up in her cloak. A. nowhere else combines στίβος with an adjective (see 1.781, 1253, 3.534, 3.927, 3.1218). Perhaps the line was in Virgil’s mind when he wrote Aen. 6.268 ibant obscuri sola sub nocte, “obscured they walked in the desolate night," where obscuri is Virgil’s equivalent of ἀΐδηλος. The transferred sense of sola sub nocte stresses that the walkers are alone. See further Hulse 2020.
48 ἄστεος εὐρυχόροιο: depends on πύργων. The use of the epithet with ἄστεος stresses the richness of the life that Medea is leaving behind her for the sake of the Greek foreigner. φόβῳ κίεν: “she went in fear.” κίεν is my emendation for transmitted ἵκετ᾽. “She arrived in fear” is a curious statement. What is required is a verb not of arrival, but of progression as at 4.1182–3 ἥρωας δὲ γυναῖκες ἀολλέες ἔκτοθι πύργων / βαῖνον ἐποψόμεναι.
There has already been a reference to the speed of Medea’s progress (ἐξέσσυτο κούρη) and she has not yet arrived at her destination. The corruption is easily explained. ΦΟΒΩΙΚΙΕΝ was wrongly divided as ΦΟΒΩ / ΙΚΙΕΝ which led to ΦΟΒΩΙ ΙΚΕΤ᾽. For κίεν with ἀνά cf. 1.310 τοῖος ἀνὰ πληθὺν δήμου κίεν. The phrase οὐδέ τις ἔγνω, “none of the guards recognised her” recalls Il. 24.690–1 Ἑρμείας ζεῦξ’ ἵππους ἡμιόνους τε, / ῥίμφα δ᾽ ἄρ’ αὐτὸς ἔλαυνε κατὰ στρατόν, οὐδέ τις ἔγνω where the context is similar: Priam and his herald escape the Greek camp by night after their visit to Achilles. Darkness and secrecy pervade the opening of Book 4; this atmosphere is only dispelled when Jason and Medea gain the Fleece with its illuminating radiance at 4.167–86.
49 λάθε: < λανθάνω: aor. act. ind. 3rd. sg. For the construction with participle, see Smyth 2096. For the way in which she slips past the guards see the illustration under the Media tab on this page.
49 ὁρμηθεῖσα: “as she went on her way" (lit., "having been set in motion”) < ὁρμάω: aor. pass. participle nominative singular. The participle is a further indication that she is still in motion and has not yet arrived. Σφεας is the accus. plur. of the epic pronoun σφεῖς.
51 ἦεν ὁδῶν: A. often uses enjambment to mark this important change of tack. She was (ἦεν < εἰμί: imperf. act. ind. 3rd. sg.) not only knowledgeable (ἄιδρις) about the best route (ὁδῶν, depending on ἄιδρις) but experienced in other bizarre magical practices.
51 ἀλωμένη ἀμφί τε νεκροὺς: Part of the rites of ancient witches involved corpses. (Ogden 1999,19). At 3.531–3 Argos talks of Medea’s extraordinary skills as a witch. This is one of the first things that we hear of her in the poem. Medea is at once witch and love-sick maiden. θαμὰ: marks recurrent actions and feelings as it does at line 59.
52 δυσπαλέας ῥίζας χθονός: In Sophocles’ fragmentary drama Root-cutters, Medea is described cropping evil plants while turning away, so that the power of their noxious smell will not kill her (F534.1–6 TrGF = Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta): αἱ δὲ καλυπταὶ / κίσται ῥιζῶν κρύπτουσι τομάς, / ἃς ἥδε βοῶσ᾿ ἀλαλαζομένη / γυμνὴ χαλκέοις ἤμα δρεπάνοις, “And the hidden boxes conceal the cuttings of the roots, which she, uttering loud ritual cries, naked, was severing with bronze sickles.” “Grubbing up roots” is the sort of thing that witches do, especially in Thessaly (Dio Chrys. 58.4.1 ῥίζας ὀρύττειν, ὥσπερ αἱ φαρμακίδες.)
52–53 οἷα γυναῖκες: “like women do.” Women do not usually hunt for dead bodies or exotic roots but they do if they are φαρμακίδες: enjambment is used to produce an amusing paraprosdokian noun-adjective combination.
53 τρομερῷ δ᾿: δέ marks a strong contrast: Medea is used to wandering around in this area, searching for raw materials; but fear now makes her heart beat.
54–6 τὴν δὲ νέον Τιτηνὶς: The introduction of the goddess of the Moon alters the mood entirely. She is “Titanian” because she is the offspring of the Titan Hyperion and Theia. The past misfortunes of the goddess and her present unexalted emotion adds a delightful twist to the narrative whose chief note has previously been pathos, fear and excitement. The intricacy of the word order of heightens the bizarreness and the surprise: τήν refers to Medea, who is then ‘trapped’ (φοιταλέην) between the two references to the Moon (Τιτηνὶς . . . Μήνη). Lovers address the Moon, stars and night as a way of relieving their feelings. On this critical occasion the Moon addresses the lover. We can only guess at the actual extent of Α.’s originality. He may have had a precedent in New Comedy. The prologue in Plautus’ Rudens, spoken by the star Arcturus, goes back to Diphilos.
56 ἁρπαλέως: usually used of a ‘strong appetite’ emphasises the relish with which the Moon speaks.
56 τοῖα μετὰ φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἔειπεν: “such were her unspoken thoughts" (lit. "she spoke such things in her mind"). ᾗσιν: = ἑῇσιν, fem. dat. pl. < ἑός. (Smyth 330). This half line marks the beginning of an interior monologue on the part of the Moon.
κάματος, -ου, ὁ, toil, trouble, labour
θεά, -ᾶς, ἡ, goddess
δήνεα, τά, counsels, plans, arts
κούρη, -ης ἡ, girl
Κολχίς, -ίδος, ἡ, a female Colchian
ἐννέπω, to tell, tell of, relate, describe
Μοῦσα, -ης, ἡ, Muse
Ζεύς, Διός, ὁ, Zeus
τέκος, -εος, τό, child
ἀμφασίη, -ης, ἡ, speechlessness
νόος, -ου, ὁ, mind, perception
ἔνδον, within, at home
ἑλίσσω, to turn round
ὁρμαίνω, to turn over, to ponder
μιν, (accusative singular third person pronoun) him, her, it; himself, herself, itself
ἄτη, -ης, ἡ, blindness, destruction
πῆμα, τό, suffering, misery, calamity
δυσίμερος, -ον, ill-starred, that suffers unhappy desire
φύζα, ἡ, headlong flight, rout 5
ἀεικέλιος, -η, -ον, woeful, ill-favored, disgraceful
καταλείπω, καλλείψω, κάλλιπον, to leave behind
ἔθνος, -ους, τό, tribe, nation
Κόλχος, -ου, ὁ, Colchian
ἤτοι, now, surely, truly
δῆμος, -ου, ὁ, common people
μετά, among, after, in pursuit of
ὅσσος, -η -ον, as many as
παννύχιος, -ον, all night long
δόλος, -ου ὁ, trick
αἰπύς, -εῖα -ύ, sheer, utter
μητιάω, to plan
μέγαρον, -ου, τό, a large room, hall, feast-hall
στυγερός, -ή, -όν, hated, abominated, loathed
θυμός, -οῦ, ὁ, heart, spirit
ἄεθλος, -ου, ὁ, contest
Αἰήτης, ὁ, Aeetes, son of Helios and Perse
ἄμοτον, insatiably, incessantly
χολόω, to make angry, provoke
πάμπαν, wholly, altogether
νόσφι, apart, away 10
ἑός, ἑή, ἑόν, his, her, own
τελέω, τελέσω, ἐτέλεσα, fulfil
ἔλπω, to hope (see notes)
ἀλεγεινός, -ή, -όν, hard, painful
κραδίη, -ης ἡ, heart
ἐμβάλλω, ἐμβαλῶ, ἐνέβαλον, cast, throw in,
τρέω --- ἔτρεσα, flee from fear, dread
ἠύτε, as, like as
κοῦφος, -ή, -όν, light, nimble
κεμάς, -άδος, ἡ, a young deer
βαθύς, βαθεῖα, βαθύ, deep, high
τάρφος, -εος, τό, a thicket
ξύλοχος, -ος, ἡ, a thicket, copse
ὁμοκλή, -ης, ἡ, call, cry, shout
νημερτής, unerringly, surely
οἴομαι, οἰήσομαι, impf. ᾤμην, aor. ᾠήθην, think, believe
ἀρωγή, -ης, ἡ, help, aid, succour, protection
αἶψα, forthwith, at once, directly 15
ἀναπίμπλημι, accomplish (what is destined)
κακότης, -ητος, ἡ, evil, badness
ταρβέω, to be frightened, alarmed, terrified
ἀμφίπολος, ἡ, female attendant, handmaid
ἐπιίστωρ, ορος, ὁ, ἡ, having knowledge of what has happened
οἱ, to or for him(self), her(self), it(self); dat. sg., equivalent to αὐτῷ
ὄσσε, τώ, the (two) eyes
πίμπλημι, πλήσω, ἔπλησα, to fill
περιβρομέω, buzz about
ἀκουή, -ής, ἡ, hearing
πυκνός, -ή, -όν, close, compact, dense
λαυκανίη, ἡ, the throat
ἐπιμαίομαι, grasp, aim at
κουρίξ, by the hair
ἕλκω, ἕλξω, εἵλκυσα, drag, tear
πλόκαμος, -ου, ὁ, a lock
γοερός, ά, όν, mournful, lamentable
βρυχάομαι, to roar, bellow
ἀνίη, -ης, ἡ, torment, vexation;
αὐτοῦ, at the very place, here, there
τῆμος, then, thereupon 20
μόρος, -ου, ὁ, fate, destiny
ὄλλυμι, ὀλῶ, ὤλεσα, destroy, lose
φάρμακον, -ου τό, drug
πατέομαι, fut. mid. πᾰ́σομαι, aor. mid. ἐπᾰσάμην, epic also πασσάμην, to eat, taste
ἁλιόω, aor. ἡλίωσα, epic ἁλίωσα, to make fruitless, frustrate, disappoint
μενοινή, -ης, ἡ, eager desire
Φριξός, -ου, ὁ, Phrixos
φέβομαι, to be put to flight
ὄρνυμι, arouse, stir up
ἀτύζομαι, to be distraught from fear, bewildered
πτερόεις, -όεσσα, -όεν, winged, fluttering
φρήν, φρενός, ἡ, thinking-thing, heart, core
θυμός, -οῦ, ὁ, heart, spirit
ἰαίνω, to heat, warm
παλίσσυτος, -ον, [πάλιν, σεύομαι], that rushes back, that moves backward
ἀθρόος, -α, -ον, crowded together, many
κόλπος, -ου, ὁ, lap, bosom, fold, of clothing
ἄμυδις, together, at the same time 25
καταχέω, impf. κατέχεον, mid. pass. κατεχεόμην, aor. κατέχεα and κατέχευα, to pour down upon
φωριαμός, ἡ, a chest, trunk, coffer
κυνέω, to kiss
λέχος, -εος, τό, a couch, bed
δικλίς, -ίδος, ἡ, double-folding
ἀμφοτέρωθεν, from both sides
σταθμός, -ου, ὁ, a doorpost
τοῖχος, -ου, ὁ, the wall of a house
ἐπαφάω, to touch on the surface, stroke
θάλαμος, -ου ὁ, bed chamber
μνημήϊον, τό, reminder
καταλείπω, καλλείψω, κάλλιπον, to leave behind
παρθενίη, -ης, ἡ, virginity, maidenhood
ἀδινός, -ή -όν, vehement
ὀλοφύρομαι, to lament, wail, moan, weep
φωνή, -ῆς, ἡ, sound, voice
τοι, let me tell you, surely
ταναός, -ή, -όν, slender 30
πλόκος, ὁ, a lock of hair, a braid, curl
Χαλκιόπη, ἡ, Chalkiope
δόμος, -ου, ὁ, house, home
αἴθε, would that
πόντος, -ου, ὁ, sea, the deep
ξεῖνος, -ου, ὁ, stranger, guest-friend, foreigner
διαρραίω, to dash in pieces, destroy
γαῖα, -ας, ἡ, earth
ἱκνέομαι, ἵξομαι, ἱκόμην, arrive
βλέφαρον, το, mostly in pl. the eyelids
ἀθρόος, -α, -ον, crowded together, many
δάκρυον, τό, a tear
κατάχέω, -ἔχεα, -ἐχύθην, to pour down
οἷος, -η, -ον, just as, of what sort, like,
ἀφνειός, -όν, also -ή, -όν, rich, wealthy 35
διειλυσθεῖσα, requires emendation: see notes
ληϊάς, -άδος, ἡ slave girl, captive
πάτρη, ἡ, fatherland, native land, country, home
ἀπονοσφίζω, separate from
αἶσα, -ης, ἡ, share, portion, fate
πω, up to this time, yet
μογερός, -ά, -όν, toiling, wretched
πειράω, πειράσω, ἐπείρασα, experience, make trial
ἀηθέσσω, to be unaccustomed to
δύη, -ης, ἡ, woe, misery, anguish, pain
δούλιος, -α, -ον, to do with a slave
ἔργον -ου, τό, work, deed
χαλεπός, -ή, -όν, difficult
ἄνασσα, -ης, ἡ, a queen, lady, mistress
τοῖος, -α, -ον, such, in such a way.
ἄρα, well then, really
ἱμερόεις, -εις, -εσσα, -εν, exciting love40
ἐκσεύομαι, to rush out
αὐτόματος, -η, -ον, automatic, of oneself
θύρα, -ας, ἡ, door
ὑπείκω, to give way
ὀχεύς, -έως, ὁ, bolt
ἄψορρος, -ον, going back, backwards
ἀναθρώσκω, to spring up, bound up, rebound
ἀοιδή, ἡ, song, spell
γυμνός, -ή -όν, naked, unarmed
στενός, -ή, -όν, narrow
θέω, θεύσομαι, to run
οἶμος, ὁ, a way, road, path
λαιός, -ά, -όν, left
πέπλος, ὁ, cloak
ὀφρύς, ύος, ἡ, the brow, eyebrow
μέτωπον, τό, the brow, forehead
στέλλω, στελῶ, ἔστειλα, send 45
παρήιον, τό, the cheek
δεξιτερός, -ά, -όν, right
ἄκρος, -α, -ον, the edge, the furthest point
ὑψόθι, aloft, on high
πέζα, -ης, ἡ, edge
ἀερτάζω, to lift up
χιτών, -ῶνος ὁ, chiton, tunic
καρπάλιμος, -όν, swift
ἀΐδηλος, -ον, making unseen, annihilating, destructive, unseen
στίβος, -ου, ὁ, a trodden way, track, path
ἔκτοθι, out of, outside
πύργος, -ου ὁ, tower
ἄστυ, -εως τό, town
εὐρύχορος, -ον, with broad places, spacious
φυλακτήρ, ῆρος, ὁ, guard
ὁρμάω, ὁρμήσω, ὥρμησα, start, rush
ἔνθεν, from there
νειός, ἡ, plain, fallow land
φράζω, φράσω, ἔφρασα, think, consider, ponder
ἄϊδρις, -ι, unknowing, ignorant 50
ἀλάομαι , to wander, stray
νεκρός -οῦ ὁ, corpse
δυσπαλής, -ές, hard to wrestle with
ῥίζα, -ης, ἡ, a root
χθών, χθονός ἡ, the earth, ground
φαρμακίς, -ίδος, ἡ, a sorceress, witch
τρομερός, -ά, -όν, trembling
δεῖμα, -ατος, τό, fear, affright
πάλλω, to shake, sway, leap
Τῑτανίς, -ίδος ἡ, Titanian (Name of the Moon: see notes)
ἀνέρχομαι, to go up raise
περάτηθεν, from beyond, from the far side
φοιταλέος, -ά, -όν, roaming wildly about 55
εἰσοράω, to look into, look upon, view, behold
ἐπιχαίρω, to rejoice over, exult over
Μήνη, -ης, ἡ, the Μoon
ἁρπαλέος, -ά, -όν, greedy
φρήν, φρενός, ἡ, mind