There are few mythological characters that require less of an introduction than Hercules. His "labours" are known and have been reimagined by cultures far beyond their Greek beginnings, and he continues to influence modern culture in more ways than any other ancient Greek hero.
What is curious about Hercules's character is that, despite his fame even in the ancient world, there was no authoritative source for his biography. The Library of Myths, commonly though falsely attributed to Apollodorus, is frequently used to illustrate the key episodes of Hercules's life. Despite being written at some time during the 2nd century CE, the Library encapsulates much of the “conglomerate of popular tales” that has become Hercules’s vulgate biography.
Ultimately, though these tales are well known, their true beauty lies in the social and religious influence of their telling and the historical memories that remain, to this day, as shadows in their lines.
The story of Jason and his crew of Argonauts is one of the best-known and most beloved myths of all time. Blockbuster movies have been made about it, and legendary explorer and historian Tim Severin even constructed a replica of the Argo in 1984 and succeeded in sailing it to Colchis (modern-day Georgia). In the ancient world too, this myth was told and retold time and again. The best source of the myth available to the modern reader (generally considered to be Apollonius Rhodius’s Argonautica) comes from the Hellenistic Period (ca. 323-31 BCE), which is very late in terms of most sources available for Greek myth. This means that the story written at that time had already been exposed to centuries of influences and additions. However, mythology is not the study of a story’s beginnings alone, and very often, it is the changes and adaptations that provide the story with its most fascinating characteristics.
The vague geography of the Argo’s story will become apparent, but it's also important, because there are numerous theories as to why the ancient writers may have charted the journey as they did. The Argo’s journey was as revelatory to Jason as it was to the late ancient Greek readers/listeners, since it incorporated many of the mythical, political, and cultural themes that pervaded myths throughout the Mediterranean. These themes accumulated with every revision and retelling of the story until it became a central motif in the Greek mindset, with strands linking it to myth, peoples, and places. It is this story of multitudes that contains the most fascinating curios of Jason and the Argonauts.
Hercules & Jason and the Argonauts: The Legendary Stories of Ancient Greece’s Most Famous Heroes looks at the famous myths. You will learn about Hercules and Jason and the Argonauts like never before.
©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors