Apollonius of Rhodes and Homeric Anger

2020.07.24 | By Stan Burgess

§0. There have been many recent studies of various aspects of anger in Greek culture, from Homer through the Hellenistic period, and beyond. However few have examined the role anger plays in the Argonautica. There right away a striking curiosity concerning anger stands out. Apollonius of Rhodes avoids the most common term of his day for anger, ὀργή. Through the Classical period and into the Hellenistic, ὀργή became the predominant word for anger. In fact, it is this word and concept for anger that Aristotle analyzes and defines in the Rhetoric. When the Stoics in the Hellenistic period write about anger, it is ὀργή that is their primary concern. But not once does it occur in the Argonautica, which otherwise is replete with anger. Is this perhaps to avoid anachronism? The term ὀργή does not occur at all in Homeric epic either. Since Apollonius’s setting is in the Heroic age, does he avoid the term to make the Argonautica seem archaic and epic, and/or to fit the genre, even though he avoids many other epic conventions? To the extent that the Argonautica also cloaks concerns of his own Hellenistic culture in epic dress, his preference for epic anger vocabulary, the nouns μῆνις, χόλος, and κότος, and their denominative verb forms, invites exploration. The rich specificity of each of these terms provides Apollonius a way to frame different levels of social severity inherent in the situations in which the terms occur. One size doesn’t fit all.

Jason poisoning the Colchian dragon.
Jason poisoning the Colchian dragon. After a painting by Salvator Rosa (1615–1673). Image via Wikimedia Commons.


§1. With the first word in the Iliad the wrath, μῆνις, of Achilles unfolds thematically and unifies the majority of the narrative, and yet there are many more instances of anger at play in isolated situations and events. But just as Steven Lowenstam (1993:60f) argues that each incident of anger in the Iliad informs the others, projecting both backwards and forwards, so too does Apollonius’s depictions. Even the seemingly minor incidents of anger are integrated into how both poets theme the overarching anger that drives their respective plots. What is intra-textual is in turn also intertextual for Apollonius by means of the Homeric anger vocabulary. While each occurrence is often circumspect, situation-specific, and in the moment, in the Argonautica as well the varieties and vagaries of anger have a continuity across various events and situations. All the anger terms form an ethical linked chain. Hardly any occasion of anger is isolated from the rest of the narrative. Still the manner in which anger is a thematic element of the Argonautica has received scant attention, with the exception of the work by Anatole Mori (2005). Just as in the Iliad, at the larger scale of the narrative μῆνις motivates and informs the sequence of events. But in the Argonautica the initiating movement derives from Zeus’s wrath rather than a hero’s, and moreover, we don’t learn of it until book 3.

§2. In addition to the wrath of Zeus and the other gods, there is human anger, which is active at the psychological and ethical level in the narrative. In the Hellenistic period as noted, the term for this is usually ὀργή. Over time the specificity of the anger vocabulary flattens as the term ὀργή becomes predominant and incorporates the other terms. It can (post fifth century) depending on context express all the specific meanings and circumstances of the other terms. Still the term μῆνις can retain its more powerful force, meaning wrath, when it is used at all. Since Apollonius elects to avoid the term ὀργή, it is χόλος that does the heavy lifting. This too is consistent with the Homeric epics insofar as χόλος is the more commonplace. If one looks at these anger terms in context, one finds that Apollonius has a keen understanding of the nuances of Homeric anger. His vocabulary and usage are consistently Homeric. In the manner in which these Homeric anger terms unfold however, he renders them within a Hellenistic, particularly Stoic, world view.

§3. The nouns μῆνις, χόλος, and κότος are not synonymous, though they are often translated as if they were. There are connections and commonalities between them however. As in the Iliad, in the Argonautica it is χόλος that is most frequently used, twenty-nine times; μῆνις, and κότος (including denominative verbs) are used five times each. In the Iliad, μῆνις is the overarching theme, though as noted, occurrences of χόλος are more prevalent. Wrath, μῆνις, also has a determinative and instrumental narrative function in the Argonautica. But whereas the first word of the first line of the Iliad is μῆνις, which drives the narrative at least until after the death of Patroclus, in the Argonautica it is not until book 3 that Apollonius tells the reader that the purpose of the mission of Jason and the Argonauts is to assuage Zeus’s μῆνις against the Aeolidae. Nevertheless its role in the narrative is scarcely less determinative than that in the Iliad. Assuaging Zeus’s μῆνις is one objective of the whole endeavor, on which other ancillary goals depend. In the course of this exposition, I will explore the distinctions between the anger terms in their contexts in further detail.

§4. Attitudes about anger broadly construed do not change much from the Archaic to the Hellenistic period. Greek literature abounds with examples of one party advising another party to restrain their anger, whatever the type. It is rarely exhibited positively, even when as in Achilles’s case, it is said to be sweet like honey (Iliad 18.107–10). Until Aristotle anger carries mostly negative connotations. Anger in any form is considered emotional, impulsive, harmful, and as compromising reason. Not only does it potentially harm the one at whom it is directed, it also harms the angered person himself. The consistent theme across time is that it is something to be avoided. This is the conventional Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic view (Harris 2001:passim). Apollonius’s use of anger fits consistently within this cultural perspective. Yet when Apollonius appropriates the Homeric varieties of anger, he inflects them with a Stoic nuance. Jason throughout the Argonautica is portrayed as exemplifying a proper Stoic ethic.

§5. With Aristotle, philosophical and ethical interpretations begin to undergo refinement. Aristotle identifies a rational and positive component to anger, ὀργή (Konstan 2006:43). He allows that there is a spectrum to anger which has both positive and negative affects and effects. It is the awareness of the negative effects that are more commonplace in Greek culture. Positive effects for Aristotle might include the righting of a wrong or even courage under certain conditions. In addition, a satisfactory response or revenge is said to be pleasurable. Moreover, the rational component of anger involves assessing in the first place whether one has been insulted or wronged, according to the status differences between parties, and if wronged, planning and executing a proportional response. In Aristotle it is a perceived slight or insult, ὀλιγωρία, which is the stimulus for anger (Rhetoric 2.2; 1378a31–33): “a desire, accompanied by pain, for a perceived revenge, on account of a perceived slight on the part of people who are not fit to slight one or one’s own.” Τhe Stoics concur that it is a desire and that there is a cognitive component to anger, but differ even among themselves with regard to how it is constituted. Chrysippus thinks the emotions including anger are a form of false judgement. Martha Nussbaum (1994:369f) notes that while the Stoics consider emotions as a form of judgement that “embody ways of interpreting the world,” at the same time by their very inconsistency they distort reason and no less importantly, the experience and knowledge of the world. Anger as a desire is prone to mistake and consequently deflects reason from correct interpretation and subsequent direction. For Zeno of Citium, according to Diogenes Laertius, anger is a desire (ἐπιθυμία) which is an irrational (ἄλογος) yearning (ὄρεξις). Specifically, “Anger (ὀργή) is the desire to take revenge on one who is thought to have inflicted an undeserved injury” (7.113). Unlike Aristotle, the Stoics argue that anger is always harmful. Underlying this view is a concept that rational man matures over time to full rationality and that it is the final stage which sets man apart from beasts (Long 1986:188):

The goal of the progression is life in accordance with mature human nature, that is, a life governed by rational principles which are in complete harmony with the rationality, goals, and processes of universal Nature.

Only once a man reaches the full development of rationality does he align with the higher rationality which is the cosmos. Submission to anger, or the other emotions, is to surrender control over rationality, and is tantamount to being a slave or a beast, to be less than human since to be human is to align one’s life with cosmological reason, λόγος.


§6. Unlike in the Iliad, it is relatively late in the narrative when the reader first learns of Zeus’s μῆνις. The Argonauts are already in Colchis, the goal of their outbound voyage from Iolcus, to secure the golden fleece. Argus, son of Phrixus, is introducing Jason to King Aeetes. At 3:333–339 the text reads:

τόνδε τις ἱέμενος πάτρης ἀπάνευθεν ἐλάσσαι
καὶ κτεάνων βασιλεύς, περιώσιον οὕνεκεν ἀλκῇ
σφωιτέρῃ πάντεσσι μετέπρεπεν Αἰολίδῃσιν,
πέμπει δεῦρο νέεσθαι, ἀμήχανον· οὐδ᾿ ὑπαλύξειν
στεῦται ἀμειλίκτοιο Διὸς θυμαλγέα μῆνιν
καὶ χόλον οὐδ᾿ ἄτλητον ἄγος Φρίξοιό τε ποινὰς
Αἰολιδέων γενεήν, πρὶν ἐς Ἑλλάδα κῶας ἱκέσθαι.

A certain king, eager to drive this man far away from his homeland and possessions because he surpassed by far all the Aeolidae with his prowess, sends him to voyage here, all helpless. And the king asserts that the race of the Aeolidae will not escape from the heart-grieving wrath and anger of implacable Zeus nor the unbearable pollution and retribution stemming from Phrixus, until the fleece comes to Hellas.

(trans. Race 2008)

The story of Zeus’s wrath at this point in the narrative is thirdhand. King Pelias acting from self-interest must have told at least some version of the backstory to Jason to facilitate his assent to the impossible trial he proposes to send him on. In Pindar’s account in Pythian 4.159–164 this is exactly what happens, though Pelias gives it a convenient spin when he avoids linking the wrath specifically to Zeus. This occasion is unreported in the text in book 1, where it might have been expected. All that Apollonius reports there is a cursory backstory. There is as yet no mention of μῆνις. Pelias receives an oracle that a man in a single sandal will arrive and that this man will be the cause of his death. When Jason arrives from exile he is wearing only one sandal, having lost the other in the mud. Pelias observes his arrival without the sandal and prepares for him the ordeal (1:16–17): καί οἱ ἄεθλον/ ἔντυε ναυτιλίης πολυκηδέος, ὄφρ᾿ ἐνὶ πόντῳ/ ἠὲ καὶ ἀλλοδαποῖσι μετ᾿ ἀνδράσι νόστον ὀλέσσῃ (“and arranged for him the ordeal of a very arduous voyage, so that either on the sea or else among foreign people he would lose any chance of returning home”; trans. Race 2008). At this point in the narrative Apollonius does not indicate the rationale with which Pelias attempts to enlist Jason. The tradition contains a variety of details more informative than Apollonius on this point, and surely like other poets before him, he has an expectation that the reader is generally familiar with the background.

§7. With only this information however, when in book 3 Argus apparently reprises to Aeetes the μῆνις of Zeus, the reader might suspect that Pelias may have also contrived the necessity to assuage Zeus’s wrath to deceive Jason and get him out of the way. Moreover, when Jason previously told the motivation of the quest reported in thin detail to Argus, whom the Argonauts rescued with his brothers from shipwreck on the island of Ares, the poet does not report that Jason attributed the trip to Zeus’s μῆνις, but to his χόλος (2.1192–1195), which Argus also cites.

§8. Zeus’s possible μῆνις warrants exploring. The intersecting genealogy of the Aeolidae, and specifically King Athamas, is where the wrath has its foundation. Argus and his three brothers are sons of Phrixus. Phrixus came to Colchis with the golden ram in the process of escaping being murdered by his father, Athamas, at the behest of his stepmother Ino. The brothers’ mother is Chalciope, sister of Medea, daughter of King Aeetes. The brothers were sailing toward Orchomenus as bid by their dying father to secure Athamas’s wealth (2.1093f). And Athamas has a brother, Cretheus, who is Jason’s grandfather. Small Aiolid world: Jason and Argus are second cousins. Jason’s father Aeson and Pelias are step-brothers. Argus therefore is recounting to Aeetes in somewhat more enhanced detail the story Jason told to him and his brothers.

§9. But what is the basis of Zeus’s wrath against the Aiolidae? Green (1997:250) notes that expiation still had to be made by the Aiolids for Athamas’s sacrilegious intent “even though it was frustrated by divine intervention.” Jason (2.1195) tells Argus that he is making the trip to retrieve the fleece to “atone (στέλλομαι) for the sacrifice of Phrixus, the cause of Zeus’ anger (χόλον) against the Aeolids.”

ἀλλ᾿ ἄγεθ᾿ ὧδε καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐς Ἑλλάδα μαιομένοισιν
κῶας ἄγειν χρύσειον ἐπίρροθοι ἄμμι πέλεσθε
καὶ πλόου ἡγεμονῆες, ἐπεὶ Φρίξοιο θυηλὰς
στέλλομαι ἀμπλήσων, Ζηνὸς χόλον Αἰολίδῃσιν.

But come now, you yourselves be our helpers, for we desire to take the golden fleece to Hellas, and be guides for our voyage, since I am on my way to atone for the sacrifice of Phrixus, the cause of Zeus’ anger against the Aeolids.

(trans. Race 2008)

Jason identifies Zeus’s anger as χόλος. Argus claims to Aeetes that it is both χόλος and μῆνις. In the Iliad χόλος is sometimes a precursor anger of μῆνις. Achilles’s wrath begins with his χόλος (Iliad 1.192).

§10. In his reading of the Iliad, Leonard Muellner defines μῆνις as “the nomen sacrum for the ultimate sanction that enforces the world-defining prohibitions, the tabus that are basic to the establishment and perpetuation of the world of Zeus and the society of mortals he presides over” (Muellner 1996:129). In this sense it is cosmological and results from a violation of the cosmic order. More specifically it indicates a violation of the particular special allotted portion that is the purview a god (and a few heroes with divine sanction) (Muellner 1996:106–108). Both χόλος and μῆνις have a common basis—they represent an angered response to having one’s status challenged or insulted. Moreover μῆνις can develop out of what may initially seem like everyday χόλος. In Iliad book 1 Achilles’s sudden anger at Agamemnon becomes μῆνις as he understands what all is at stake when Agamemnon threatens and then takes away his γέρας, Briseis. More than an insult to one’s status it is a challenge to the specific honor for an extraordinary achievement that encompasses his identity (Benveniste 2016:338). In the case of the gods it is a challenge to one’s specific sphere of influence, and of Zeus in particular, the cosmic Olympian hierarchy. It is several orders of magnitude greater than the personal anger, χόλος, between individuals. Moreover the consequences are society wide. Not only does Agamemnon suffer the wrath of Achilles, but so too does the entire Achaian army. In this sense the wrath extends well beyond the immediate parties deep into the entire society. This is how μῆνις functions within Homeric culture. A concise statement of the impacts of μῆνις occurs in the simile at Iliad 22:523:

ὡς δ᾿ ὅτε καπνὸς ἰὼν εἰς οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἵκηται
ἄστεος αἰθομένοιο, θεῶν δέ ἑ μῆνις ἀνῆκε,
πᾶσι δ᾿ ἔθηκε πόνον, πολλοῖσι δὲ κήδε᾿ ἐφῆκεν,
ὣς Ἀχιλεὺς Τρώεσσι πόνον καὶ κήδε᾿ ἔθηκεν.

And as smoke rises and reaches the wide heaven from a city that burns, and the wrath of the gods drives it on—it causes toil to all and on many does it fasten woes—so Achilles caused toil and woes for the Trojans.

(trans. Murray and Wyatt 1999)

The results of Achilles’s return to the war are analogous to the effects of μῆνις, only here visited on Troy instead of the Achaean army. The destructive consequences impact an entire society. They are social, not merely personal. One other point about μῆνις is important to understand. While it results from a violation of the cosmic order, in Homeric thought it is not restorative of that order. It punishes but does not repair. However it does have a deterrent effect and is often invoked as a warning in the Iliad and elsewhere (Muellner 1996:127). It is its potential (not its outcome) which preserves order, when and if the potential is acknowledged. Other forms of anger are more circumscribed in scope and outcome, and are potentially remedied.

§11. Zeus’s wrath directed at the Aiolidae has the marks of the Homeric prototype. It occurs when Athamas attempts to sacrifice his own son prompted by a false oracle furnished by the son’s stepmother so she may establish a new royal line for her own children. In attempting to do this Athamas violates Zeus’s cosmic hierarchy—the divinely sanctioned order of the succession of kings, and not incidentally, the murder of an offspring, the heir to the scepter. The immediate consequences result in Athamas’s own banishment and madness, the death of his daughter, and the exile of his escaping son Phrixus, who with the golden ram ends up in Colchis. Athamas’s brother Cretheus (Jason’s grandfather) then replaces him. This result might seem to restore the cosmic order, but the μῆνις continues and the impacts are society wide. Illegitimate rule follows the royal family. Pelias, the offspring of Poseidon and Cretheus’s wife, usurps Aeson, Cretheus’s son, the father of Jason. Jason is sent off shortly after he is born to grow up away from the threat of Pelias. Thereupon he is raised by the centaur Cheiron. The Aiolid line in effect through Pelias doubles down on the initial violation of the sanctioned order of kingship by usurpation. Hesiod in the Theogony contrasts Pelias as overweening, insolent, arrogant, and evil-doing (μέγας βασιλεὺς ὑπερήνωρ, ὑβριστὴς Πελίης καὶ ἀτάσθαλος ὀβριμοεργός) to Jason, the shepherd of the people (995–1000). Next the oracle’s apparent warning to Pelias prompts him to double down again, and he sends Jason off with the promise that if he completes the quest (and Pelias gambles he won’t), the kingship may be restored to him and his side of the family. This is what Pelias promises Jason in Pindar Pythian 4.166. He mentions a vague “anger of those in the underworld” (trans. Race 1997; μᾶνιν χθονίων), but not specifically the wrath of Zeus. There Pelias also attributes his reason for the mission to a dream in which Phrixus tells him to recover his soul and bring back the fleece. He makes a bargain with Jason to undertake the mission, which if successful, will return the throne to Jason. Apollonius too establishes epic wrath, μῆνις, as the background motivation for the mission. Moreover, when Pelias enlists Jason with the story of Zeus’s wrath at the Aiolidae, Pelias must have misunderstood its ramifications: his usurpation of Jason’s father is as much a factor as Athamas’s original sin. Kingship and the succession of kings are part of the purview of Zeus. This both Athamas and Pelias violate.

§12. Apollodorus’s account of the μῆνις directed at the Aeolidae differs in significant ways from Apollonius. Rather than to Zeus, he attributes the μῆνις directly to Hera (Library 1.9. 2 & 16). Apollodorus moreover points directly to two acts by the two different Aiolid kings as the source of Hera’s μῆνις. The first source of her wrath is the actions of Athamas at the instigation of his second wife Ino in attempting to kill his children by his first wife, including Phrixus. It is this action which Apollonius’s Pelias hopes (or pretends) to seek to remediate by sending Jason to Colchis after the golden fleece. The second source of Hera’s wrath is closer to the events of the Argonautica. It is directed at Pelias himself, who, Apollodorus reports, did not honor her at a banquet for Poseidon. Moreover he earlier violates her sanctuary when he killed his stepmother Sidero at the altar there (Library 1.9.8–9). In this account, Hera manipulates Pelias to ask Jason what he would do if he knew of someone who was about to kill him, and Jason, at Hera’s prompting, answers that he would send him on a mission to recover the fleece, which of course Pelias turns around and does. Hera’s motivation is that Jason will return with Medea who will contrive the slaying of Pelias. Hera’s μῆνις in Apollodorus is also consistent with Muellner’s account of μῆνις in Homer. It results from a violation of her honor and sphere of influence, and it punishes, but it does not directly remediate. That requires a different chain of events. Apollonius’s account differs from Apollodorus’s in large part over the issue of just whose μῆνις it is, Zeus’s or Hera’s. And while Apollonius points to Zeus, it is noteworthy that Hera is in fact the direct primary agent of the immortals throughout the Argonautica.

§13. Another instance of μῆνις which fits the Homeric prototype occurs on Lemnos, where the women have killed the male population. That they did so is not contested in the ancient sources and is usually reflexively condemned. Why they did so is contested, and Apollonius’s account differs from other accounts significantly. At 1:802–803 most manuscripts read:

οὐλομένης δὲ θεᾶς πορσύνετο μῆτις
Κύπριδος, ἥ τέ σφιν θυμοφθόρον ἔμβαλεν ἄτην·
(802 μῆτις ΩΠ9: μῆνις Π9sl L2slC)

But the plan of that destructive goddess Cypris was being fulfilled, for she cast into the men a heart-destroying obsession.

(trans. Race 2008)

William Race duly follows most manuscripts which have μῆτις as the subject of the line. Peter Green translates the same line differently, “Thus was accomplished the wrath of the dread goddess,/ Cypris, who struct these men with lethal madness.” Whereas Race uses μῆτις as the basis for his translation of line 1.802–803 (“the plan of Cypris”), Green seems to prefer μῆνις (“the wrath…of Cypris”). The alternative reading is suggested for μῆτις in two manuscripts supra lineam. In these, μῆνις is preserved. No question that μῆτις makes some sense in this context, though no where else in the Argonautica is Aphrodite’s action referred to as an artifice or plan. She is credited with bringing the Argonauts to Lemnos, but this is noted as a favor (χάριν) to her husband Hephaestus to re-populate the island (1.850–853). Moreover, if the story about Cypris’s involvement in the women of Lemnos slaying all the men is read from a Homeric conceptualization, μῆνις is then appropriate, since its usage conforms to the Homeric sense of the term. This is clear especially if we zoom out.

§14. Earlier in the episode Apollonius gives us the backstory of Cypris’s ‘plan’ or ‘wrath’ inflicted on Lemnos. At 1.609–615 the text reads:

ἔνθ᾿ ἄμυδις πᾶς δῆμος ὑπερβασίῃσι γυναικῶν
νηλειῶς δέδμητο παροιχομένῳ λυκάβαντι.
δὴ γὰρ κουριδίας μὲν ἀπηνήναντο γυναῖκας
ἀνέρες ἐχθήραντες, ἔχον δ᾿ ἐπὶ ληιάδεσσιν
τρηχὺν ἔρον, ἃς αὐτοὶ ἀγίνεον ἀντιπέρηθεν
Θρηικίην δῃοῦντες· ἐπεὶ χόλος αἰνὸς ὄπαζεν
Κύπριδος, οὕνεκά μιν γεράων ἐπὶ δηρὸν ἄτισσαν.

There, all at once, the whole male population had been ruthlessly slain by the heinous actions of the women in the previous year. For the men had come to loathe their legitimate wives and rejected them, whereas they maintained a violent passion for the captive women whom they themselves brought back when pillaging Thrace on the opposite shore. For the terrible wrath of Cypris was afflicting them, because they had for a long time deprived her of honors.

(trans. Race 2008)

In Apollonius’s account, he seems to wrestle with how far to criticize the women. He calls their slaying of the men “transgressions.” But this together with the passage at 1.802–803 implies that the men were not blameless. Also, the ambiguity of the text itself requires some unpacking. The men of Lemnos for over a year would not sleep with their rightful wives, preferring instead their Thracian captive women. Green translates the line as “since Aphrodite’s terrible anger pursued the wives for too long neglecting her worship.” But the text is vague on whom her χόλος αἰνὸς is afflicting, and who “deprived her of her honors” (γεράων ἐπὶ…ἄτισσαν). The object of the anger and the subject of ἄτισσαν is not given, not even a pronoun from which to determine gender. But the immediately preceding clause’s mention of Cypris’s wrath makes direct reference to the men neglecting sex with their wives. Race’s gender neutral translation therefore is suitably ambiguous and truer to the text. Accordingly both Green’s and Race’s translation of 1:802–803 identify the men as the object of Cypris’s wrath or plan. If this is so, her wrath is easier to comprehend. By avoiding sex with their wives, the men are offending and dishonoring Cypris. It was not the women who were not fulfilling their (sexual) duties, which is Aphrodite’s purview, her γέρας or honorific portion, but the men.

§15. So the consequences when they occur are the complete annihilation of all the male population on Lemnos by the women, except Thoas, who is saved by his daughter Hypsipyle. The women revolt and slay all the men and the community is shattered. This is consistent with Meullner’s explication of μῆνις in Homer. The men violate Aphrodite’s sphere of influence in the cosmic order. Apollonius uses γέρας to highlight Cypris’s specific honors. This term itself among the Olympians carries cosmological meaning. It identifies the specific privileges or entitlements allotted to each god. To fail to honor this privilege violates the cosmic order. And so the mens’ punishment and its community wide consequences are comparable to that of Achilles’s wrath in the Iliad visited on the entire Achaian army. In the Iliad Achilles’s wrath begins with his χόλος at Agamemnon, who threatens to take back Achilles’s γέρας, his specially allotted prize Briseis, and accordingly deprive him of his merited honor. A γέρας though is much more than a prize or reward for achievement, it is also an establishment and confirmation of ritualistic social hierarchy. Transgressions of such an established order and allotted privilege can provoke μῆνις. As noted above Achilles’s χόλος is the immediate in-the-moment anger which transforms into μῆνις for the violation of his γέρας. Likewise, Cypris’s γέρας in the Argonautica is violated by the men of Lemnos.

§16. This is not to say that the women are faultless. The tradition does not allow for a clean bill. The outline of the story of the Lemnian women is very old. It is referred to in Homer, in Pindar, in Aeschylus, in lost plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, in Herodotus, and so on, long before Apollonius. Each colors it slightly differently. The only constant is that the women slay the men of the island. Aeschylus in the Libation-bearers (631–638) considers it an abomination. He has the Chorus sing of the slaughter in a catalog of comparable sins that ultimately concludes with the slaying of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra. In other words, he fits it into the plot of his story. He does not elaborate or develop the reason for the slaying, and that decision too is consistent with his tragic context. Pindar (Pythian 4.253) elides the story of the killings. So Apollonius wrestles with how far to condemn the Lemnian women. He says the men are “ruthlessly slain by the heinous actions” of the women. Nevertheless, Apollonius has particular reasons, not unlike Pindar (see below), for avoiding the more misogynist accounts.

§17. There is a tradition elaborated by Apollodorus (Library 1.9.17) that claims the wrath of Cypris is directed at the women of Lemnos. He is also more explicit about the cause for sequence of events. According to Apollodorus, because they did not honor Aphrodite the women were afflicted by a terrible odor (δυσωδία), the consequence of which was that the men refused to have sex with their wives, and turned their attention to captive women from Thrace. Nowhere in Apollodorus is there an account of what constituted the women’s failure to honor her. Nor is there mention of a punishment directed at the women. Did they refuse the men first? Hunter, Green, and Mori support in various degrees this reading. But this account is not without problems. Apollonius does not address this possible sequence of events. Nor by the way does Pindar in Pythian 4. But in the Argonautica what is mentioned immediately before these lines (1.614–615) is simply that the men refused to have sex with their wives and preferred instead the attractions of their captive women.

§18. There is another example of Cypris’s wrath for comparison. It is visited on Hippolytus in Euripides’s play. Here though, both through the mouth of Phaedra’s nurse and that of Artemis, her anger is called ὀργαὶ (nominative plural, rare). Cypris opens Euripides’s play with her own clear statement about what has provoked her. Hippolytus has vowed to be celibate and to worship the huntress Artemis. For this abstention from sex Cypris declares she will punish him, using Phaedra as collateral damage to manipulate Theseus to banish or through Poseidon to slay him. Hippolytus disrespects the purview of Aphrodite. While μῆνις is not invoked (and Euripides has his reasons, but that’s another story) as the form of anger gripping Cypris, it is clear that what provokes her wrath is Hippolytus’s avoidance of sex (Hippolytus 14). Likewise, it is the men of Lemnos who withhold sex from their wives. Like Hippolytus, they too are slain. This alternative attribution from the tradition of her wrath is crucial to the story of the Lemnian women in the Argonautica.

§19. That Apollonius’s account varies from the mainstream is suggestive. On the one hand, it may have been sufficient to his narrative that the story was so commonplace it required no development. He often elides a backstory deeply rooted in tradition. On the other hand, his choice to avoid the usual narrative may have had its own basis. Pindar also avoids expansive criticism of the Lemnian women when he is establishing a genealogy for the line of King Battus from the offspring of one of the Argonauts, Euphemus, who mates with a Lemnian woman. By leaving out Aphrodite’s wrath directed at the women by means of δυσωδία, Apollonius may have been only sanitizing the local ritual connections (Burkert 1970:14), which were not relevant to his narrative. But in addition, by dropping the reference he enlarges the context beyond local ritual and connects the Argonauts’ encounter with the Lemnian women with different narrative goals, not unlike Pindar’s.

§20. Much recent scholarship has read the Argonautica as something of a foundation myth for the Greek (that is, Ptolemaic) presence in Libya in general and Cyrene in particular, as Pindar had for the line of Battus in Pythian 4. Susan Stephens (2008), among others, connects the Argonautica with the Ptolemaic presence there. The hero Euphemus in both Pindar and Apollonius is the link in the chain between Lemnos and Cyrene. As a member of the crew of the Argonauts his offspring from a Lemnian woman will end up in Thera (Argonautica 4.1749–1764; Pythia 4.1–63), and many generations later colonize Cyrene under King Battus. In addition, Mori (2008:92) connects the portrayal of the Lemnian queen Hypsipyle, along with Medea and Arete, as a part of a “gendered ideology” surrounding the political role of Arsinoe II within the Ptolemaic administration generally. That Lemnos is the nursery for the ultimate colonization of Libya is reason enough to elide the more negative tradition of Lemnian women. For Pindar’s and Apollonius’s purposes too, they must be demonstrably Greek in the male line. But the inhabitants of Lemnos previously were non-Greek, until repopulated by the Greek crew of the Argo. As such, Cypris’s μῆνις at the men and not the women is more congruent with the political subtext. They are punished, the women’s Greek offspring populate Libya.

§21. An apparently insignificant instance of μῆνις, at least so far as the narrative is concerned, occurs when it is attributed to gods who are punishing the seer Phineus. When the crew lands on Thynian land, they encounter Agenor’s son Phineas. They find him suffering terrible woes (2.178–183):

ἔνθα δ᾿ ἐπάκτιον οἶκον Ἀγηνορίδης ἔχε Φινεύς,
ὃς περὶ δὴ πάντων ὀλοώτατα πήματ᾿ ἀνέτλη
εἵνεκα μαντοσύνης, τήν οἱ πάρος ἐγγυάλιξεν
Λητοΐδης· οὐδ᾿ ὅσσον ὀπίζετο καὶ Διὸς αὐτοῦ
χρείων ἀτρεκέως ἱερὸν νόον ἀνθρώποισιν·

There Agenor’s son Phineas had his home on the shore. He suffered the most terrible woes of all men because of the prophetic art that Leto’s son had given him long before. For he showed not the slightest reverence even for Zeus himself by accurately prophesying his sacred intentions to men.

(trans. Race 2008)

As punishment, Zeus extends his life and sends the Harpies to snatch away any food given to him by people seeking his prophesies. Because of his prophetic skill he foresees the crew is able to alleviate his suffering. In the course of events this is exactly what happens. Upon their arrival, he addresses them, while thanking Apollo, invoking also Zeus Protector of Suppliants, and Hera, who he informs them is the most concerned of all the gods about their mission. Then he recounts his sufferings. After they hear his woes, Zetes, son of Boreas, addresses him, and identifies wretchedness as the result of his sinning against the gods, as μῆνις (2.244–247):

“ἆ δείλ᾿, οὔ τινά φημι σέθεν σμυγερώτερον ἄλλον
ἔμμεναι ἀνθρώπων. τί νύ τοι τόσα κήδε᾿ ἀνῆπται;
ἦ ῥα θεοὺς ὀλοῇσι παρήλιτες ἀφραδίῃσιν
μαντοσύνας δεδαώς· τῶ τοι μέγα μηνιόωσιν.

Oh, poor man (Phineus)! No other mortal, I think, is more wretched than you. Why then have so many ills been laid upon you? Surely you sinned against the gods out of baneful recklessness through your knowledge of prophecy, and that is why they feel great wrath against you.

(trans. Race 2008)

Then the sons of Boreas, Zetes and Calais, together chase off the Harpies. Consistent with the usages of μῆνις explored above, Phineas by revealing the “sacred intentions” of the gods to men, has violated the cosmic purview of the gods. Though he has received the gift of prophecy from Apollo, by revealing the mind of Zeus, he exceeds his remit, interfering in Zeus’s sphere. He exceeded what he was authorized by Apollo to divulge. In doing so he threatens the cosmic order, revealing to men more than Zeus wants them to know. The consequence is to become a brunt of Zeus’s wrath.

§22. Once the Harpies are chased off, the crew feasts on sheep plundered from Amycus, and Phineas acknowledges his transgression (2.312). He charts their course, including how to navigate the Cyanean Rocks, to Colchis. But he adds when asked by Jason whether they will successfully complete their mission that he is not allowed to foretell the complete plan of Zeus, since Zeus prefers that men lack pieces of his plan (2.316). He demonstrates he has learned his lesson. Phineas’s earlier actions provoke μῆνις, at least by Zetes’s interpretation (Phineas identifies the anger as χόλος [2.261]) , but as μῆνις goes, the consequences are not paradigmatic: they are not visited upon the entire social order. As punishment on a man individually they are more tragic than epic, and therefore not unlike the μῆνις which Athena enacts specifically against Ajax in Sophocles’s play (Ajax 756f). While the μῆνις in this instance has no direct role in the Argonauts’ fate, Apollonius nevertheless presents it as cautionary aside within the broader Hellenistic ethics of the Argonautica. What is also displayed in this regard is the duality of Zeus. He punishes Phineas for overstepping his remit, yet he later sends the Argonauts to ward off the Harpies (2.461). In addition, the encounter forms a link in the narrative chain whereby through Phineas’s prophecy, the Argonauts are able to negotiate the Cyanean Rocks at the entry to the Black Sea. The μῆνις directed at the Aeolidae overrides that directed at Phineas. It is from him also they learn that Cypris has their back and is key to their success (2.423–424).


§23. When we turn to look at χόλος we find that it clusters around certain individuals, and is a key part of their characterization. This characterization then supports one of the thematic concerns of Apollonius. Consistent with the Hellenistic philosophers, particularly the Stoics, he presents all too human anger as an emotion contrary to reason, to be avoided or restrained. As noted earlier, he selects χόλος as his commonplace word for anger, though ὀργή was the predominant term of the day. By the Hellenistic period χόλος itself as a term for anger is being gradually absorbed into the professional Hippocratic jargon, where in later medical texts it will be conflated with bile (χολή) (Kosak 2004:72–74) (Padel 1992:23–24). There it takes on specific physiological connotations still associated with a type of temperament. Plutarch in ‘On the avoidance of anger’ treats it accordingly (456e & 457e). In Homer, χόλος is usually a sudden anger, evident in rash outbursts.

§24. As the more common generic form of anger, χόλος (ὀργή in waiting) has a range of characteristics. Its cause is a result of an insult (according to Aristotle) and/or a violation of status, where the status is relatively equal between parties. It is perceived as personal by the offended party. It arises suddenly and has a relatively short duration (but can expand and morph into other types of anger). It is in the moment. For this reason from the archaic to the Hellenistic period, whether as χόλος or ὀργή, it is treated as substantially emotional (Harris 2001:passim). For the Stoics, and other schools of Hellenistic philosophy, ὀργή shared this rash, emotional quality that was in opposition to reason. On the other hand, Aristotle, as noted above, acknowledges most of these characteristics, but contends that there is a rational cognitive component, and also, that anger is related to desire, which when fulfilled is pleasing. The Stoics recognize anger as a desire (ἐπιθυμία) too, but one that is irrational (ἄλογος) even when cognitive, and contrary to the nature of a fully developed man (Long 1996:176). For Aristotle the rational component is present to assess the status equivalency between parties (if it is very great, it can’t be anger) and then to plan a proportionate response. A critic might reply that in Greek society status is so culturally ingrained that this assessment is virtually automatic. Throughout Greek culture both χόλος and ὀργή are also thought to compromise judgement, and to be detrimental to the immediate parties concerned. They are best avoided, restrained, and controlled, an attitude the Stoic philosophers share with their predecessors. But the Stoic aversion to anger rested on a philosophical and cosmological foundation, not just a practical and ethical one. To the early Stoics emotional anger was contrary to the nature of man whose function is to align with the λόγος (Long 1996:174) that is the basis of the cosmos and the development of man’s nature within it. Inability to overcome anger or the other emotions is characteristic of a not fully developed man.

§25. Two characters each in their own way are case studies of the negativity of anger, Idas and King Aeetes. Idas is a perennially angry character. Apollonius could have used ὀργή to define his temperament, the other component of its definition, because in him anger is always present and ready to erupt at any moment. His anger might also be close to Hippocratic χολή, since he is temperamental, almost melancholic. It defines his character and disposition. But in his case the anger has its source in a very clear rejection of any action engaged in by any means other than through force. He not only is irrational, he rejects rationality. His not infrequent outbursts of anger also serve a narrative function. They are a counterpoint to Jason’s almost constant Stoic resolve, calmness and purposefulness. Idas, as many scholars have noted, serves as a personification of the futility of μένος and βίη (Hunter, Williams, and Mori). And these are contrasted in turn through the commonplace opposition with Jason’s μῆτις. Moreover, Idas represents an outdated world-view, a time if not past, one that Apollonius and the Hellenistic philosophers are ready to see past. Idas is not content with this changing world, and it makes him always out of sorts. His anger is based on a kind of nostalgia. When expressed, his anger takes the form of a sudden outburst. A typical example of Idas’s anger is his reaction when Jason returns to the crew after having met with Medea to learn how he might win (by employing her magic) the challenge Aeetes sets for him (3.1167–1170):

οἱ δέ μιν ἀμφαγάπαζον, ὅπως ἴδον, ἔκ τ᾿ ἐρέοντο·
αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖς πάντεσσι μετέννεπε δήνεα κούρης,
δεῖξέ τε φάρμακον αἰνόν. ὁ δ᾿ οἰόθεν οἶος ἑταίρων
Ἴδας ἧστ᾿ ἀπάνευθε δακὼν χόλον·

When the comrades saw him, they welcomed him and questioned him, and to all of them he told the girl’s instructions and showed them the dread drug. Idas alone of the comrades sat apart, biting back his anger.

(trans. Race 2008)

And while he suppresses and restrains his anger at this moment, which is the preferred Hellenistic response, it seethes, as Idas consistently objects to a solution that is not martial (3.558–64). A solution that involves calculation and deception (and magic), and that moreover depends on a woman, is unacceptable. Although his anger appears sudden, it is hard to read his outburst as a response to a personal insult, unless one may be personally insulted by an approach simply different from one’s point of view. Shortly after this, once the magic potion from Medea has been applied to Jason and his weaponry, Idas activates his anger in attempting to damage Jason’s sword. The initial occasion of χόλος (3.1170) because of its latent duration is here termed κοτός (3.1252) (see below). While Apollonius clearly shares the Hellenistic philosophers’ disdain for the way anger hinders a character from aligning with reason, he does not appear to be entirely unsympathetic to Idas’s nostalgia. Later in the poem (4.1673–1677), the narrator seems to echo (ironically?) Idas’s view. He addresses Zeus directly with his own type of martial nostalgia in an invocation after the encounter with Talus. Prevented from landing on Crete by Talus, Medea conjures magic weaponry. Once Medea uses it to eliminate Talus, the narrator addresses Zeus directly:

Ζεῦ πάτερ, ἦ μέγα δή μοι ἐνὶ φρεσὶ θάμβος ἄηται,
εἰ δὴ μὴ νούσοισι τυπῇσί τε μοῦνον ὄλεθρος
ἀντιάει, καὶ δή τις ἀπόπροθεν ἄμμε χαλέπτει,
ὡς ὅ γε χάλκειός περ ἐὼν ὑπόειξε δαμῆναι
Μηδείης βρίμῃ πολυφαρμάκου.

Truly, Father Zeus, great astonishment confounds my mind, if in fact death comes not only through disease and wounds, but even from afar someone can harm us, just as he, though made of bronze, yielded in defeat to the power of Medea the sorceress.

(trans. Race 2008)

§26. By far the angriest character is King Aeetes. As noted earlier the nouns μῆνις, χόλος, and κότος, and their denominative verb forms are used thirty-nine times in the Argonautica. Apollonius uses μῆνις and κότος five times each and χόλος twenty-nine times. Over twenty-five percent of the anger terms are used to describe King Aeetes or his actions, and this all in the last two books. Much like Idas, anger and hostility are part of his character. Direct causes of his anger initially are not apparent, especially with regard to the Argonauts. Always suspicious, his latent anger determines how he interacts with others and then his subsequent actions. Each occasion demonstrates how anger corrupts reason. As the term ὀργή can also mean temper or temperament, a disposition predisposed to anger, it might have fit Aeetes better than χόλος, which is usually quick and in the moment. Rashness can be an attribute of both, but someone always angry or on the edge of anger wouldn’t have χόλος per se.

§27. Even before the crew reaches Colchis Argus forewarns them about the hostile reception they will likely receive and the difficulty they will face in obtaining the fleece. Once they arrive there Jason proceeds cautiously. With Argus and his brothers, and two crew members, he goes to the palace to try to persuade Aeetes to give them the fleece and to gauge his reaction and resistance. Jason is hopeful that they might be received warmly, and that Aeetes will respect Zeus Xenios, as he had with Phrixus (3.100–103). But before there is any basis for becoming hostile, his reputation for anger has his family and Jason on edge and cautious. As soon as Argus recalls to Aeetes his own and his brothers’ encounter with and rescue by the Argonauts and explains Jason’s mission to assuage the wrath of Zeus (see above), Aeetes erupts (3.368):

τοῖα παρέννεπεν Ἄργος· ἄναξ δ᾿ ἐπεχώσατο μύθοις
εἰσαΐων, ὑψοῦ δὲ χόλῳ φρένες ἠερέθοντο.
φῆ δ᾿ ἐπαλαστήσας· μενέαινε δὲ παισὶ μάλιστα
Χαλκιόπης, τῶν γάρ σφε μετελθέμεν οὕνεκ᾿ ἐώλπει·
ἐκ δέ οἱ ὄμματ᾿ ἔλαμψεν ὑπ᾿ ὀφρύσιν ἱεμένοιο·

Saying such things, Argus sought to win him over, but the king became furious at the words he was hearing and his mind rose high in anger. He spoke full of wrath and was especially vexed at Chalciope’s sons, because he thought it was on their behalf that the strangers had come. His eyes flashed out beneath his eyebrows in his rage.

(trans. Race 2008)

Argus’s previous (3.338, see above) possibly veiled warning about the potential μῆνις of Zeus is ignored or unperceived by Aeetes. His persistent angry disposition prevents him from comprehending the situation and establishing a guest-friend relationship with Jason, as he had with Phrixus. Moreover his latent anger causes his reasoning faculty to misperceive his grandsons’ intentions. He doesn’t try to understand events. Instead he immediately presents Jason with the contest: yoking the deadly oxen, plowing the field, sowing the teeth, and killing the resulting sown men. Only then will he challenge the serpent guarding the fleece. Jason reports all this back to the crew, citing Aeetes’s χόλος (3.493). Then with Argus he considers his options. Meanwhile Aeetes’s two daughters, Phrixus’s widow Chalciope and Medea, are terrified at his χόλος (3.449 & 3.614).

§28. Earlier at the insistence of Hera, Cypris convinced Eros to shoot Medea with his arrow to enchant her with love for Jason. Phineas had told the Argonauts that Cypris would be important to their success. In other accounts there is no vector of intervention from Hera through Athena and Aphrodite to Eros. Eros at Hera’s behest afflicts Medea with desire for Jason as he arrives at the palace with her sister’s sons (3.275–3.298). Her magic will thereafter help Jason win the contest. Only after that event is there an evident basis for Aeetes’s anger, which for the first time has a specific object, Medea, whom he is sure aided and abetted Jason:

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᾿ ὅ γε πάμπαν
θυγατέρων τάδε νόσφιν ἑῶν τελέεσθαι ἐώλπει.

Aeetes spent the entire night in his palace with the leading men of his people, plotting an inescapable trap for the heroes, violently angry in his heart at the appalling contest, for he did not think for a moment that it was accomplished without the involvement of his daughters.

(trans. Race 2008)

If he is slighted, it is indirect, by virtue of Medea’s assistance to Jason, and not from a direct personal insult. His anger expands outward from Medea, to the Argonauts, to his grandsons, and even to his own subjects and supporters. If they fail to capture Medea (4.235), who by then is fleeing with Jason, they will be on the receiving end of his anger. Of the eleven times Apollonius attributes one or another form of anger to Aeetes, four in addition to the intimations from Argus occur before the contest, before there is any possible justification. Also, of these eleven, nine are reported as χόλος. It is a fixture of his reputation. In the few cases where it is attributed to him in the moment of his anger, the cause does not once seem to be an insult or slight in the Aristotlean sense, though he likely perceives his status as challenged. Actions become personal offenses only because his anger predisposes him to make them so. As a king, his χόλος could be more than personal. Yet only once is a king’s entitlement to μῆνις attributed to him, through the perspective of King Alcinous (see below). Though the consequences impact the society at large, he himself is the primary victim. Seneca notes in De Ira (3.3.2) that anger deals “destruction at the cost of its on destruction” (Kaster & Nussbaum, 64). This describes Aeetes’s drive for revenge.

§29. Once the Argonauts are on their return voyage and in flight from the pursuit by Aeetes’s men lead by his son Apsyrtus, Medea’s brother, though he no longer directly participates in the action, his anger is not dormant. It still has agency, and moreover, it is an agency that continues to work against his interest. After Jason slays Apsyrtus, Apsyrtus’s crew eventually abandons the chase. Because they fear Aeetes’s anger they decide not to return home and so they look for a place to resettle (4.512). Then at Drepane once again his reputation for anger works against him. After being purified by Circe for the murder, Jason and Medea land on the Phaeacian island. A second expedition of Colchians arrives shortly thereafter. From them King Alcinous learns about Jason’s and Medea’s collaboration and King Aeetes’s demand for Medea’s return. Medea elicits the support of Arete, Alcinous’s queen. She, with Hera’s guidance, in turn goes privately to Alcinous to lobby for his support in preventing her capture and return (4.1079–1088):

μή μιν, ἄναξ, Κόλχοισι πόροις ἐς πατρὸς ἄγεσθαι.
ἀάσθη, ὅτε πρῶτα βοῶν θελκτήρια δῶκεν
φάρμακά οἱ· σχεδόθεν δὲ κακῷ κακόν, οἷά τε πολλὰ
ῥέζομεν ἀμπλακίῃσιν, ἀκειομένη, ὑπάλυξεν
πατρὸς ὑπερφιάλοιο βαρὺν χόλον. αὐτὰρ Ἰήσων,
ὡς ἀίω, μεγάλοισιν ἐνίσχεται ἐξ ἕθεν ὅρκοις,
κουριδίην θήσεσθαι ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἄκοιτιν.
τῶ, φίλε, μήτ᾿ οὖν αὐτὸν ἑκὼν ἐπίορκον ὀμόσσαι
θείης Αἰσονίδην, μήτ᾿ ἄσχετα σεῖο ἕκητι
παῖδα πατὴρ θυμῷ κεκοτηότι δηλήσαιτο.

Do not, my lord, hand her over to the Colchians to take to her father’s home. She made a blunder when she first gave the stranger the drugs to charm the oxen. Then right away, seeking to cure one wrong with another, as we often do through our mistakes, she fled from her overbearing father’s terrible wrath. But Jason, as I am told, has been bound ever since then with mighty oaths to make her his wedded wife in his palace. So, dear, do not then willingly make Jason himself go back on his oath, nor, because you allowed it, let a father in spiteful anger inflict intolerable harm on his daughter.

(trans. Race 2008)

Aeetes’s anger forms the basis for the Arete’s argument not to hand over Medea to the Colchians. In addition to χόλος she also attributes κοτός to Aeetes. This is another Homeric anger term that is severe and long lasting, often associated with revenge (see below). King Alcinous is reluctant, out of respect for both the privilege of kings and fathers, to grant his wife’s request. He doesn’t jump to conclusions. He considers his options judiciously. In contrast to Aeetes, Alcinous is a paradigmatic Hellenistic and Stoic king. He responds to Arete that he could drive off the Colchians, but he is concerned that this might slight the straight justice of Zeus (4.1100). He wisely finds a rationale which he knows will be supported by Zeus however and tells Arete that if Jason and Medea are married, he will not return her to her father. Because Hera is fully engaged in supporting the expedition, and since marriage is her purview, she enacts that very night their marriage. Duly married the king keeps his word (4.1205):

οὐδέ ἑ τάρβος
οὐλοὸν οὐδὲ βαρεῖαι ἐπήλυθον Αἰήταο
μήνιες· ἀρρήκτοισι δ᾿ ἐνιζεύξας ἔχεν ὅρκοις.

Not even deadly fear or Aeetes’ grievous rancor affected him, for he had bound both parties with unalterable oaths.

(trans. Race 2008)

Here Apollonius allows that Alcinous regards Aeetes’s anger as potential μῆνις. As a king himself, he likely sees Medea’s actions as violation of Aeetes’s kingly (divine) and paternal rights. What is implied when Alcinous identifies Aeetes’s anger as potentially μῆνις is that as a king, Aeetes represents a higher order in the cosmic hierarchy than others (Benveniste 2016:339). Consistent with Muellner’s argument, μῆνις here could result from the violation of that higher order. Within the cosmic framework Antinous balances this against unalterable oaths and a wedding bond, sanctified by Zeus and Hera respectively. Moreover he also believes he is administering the straight justice of Zeus by keeping Medea with her husband. Once Alcinous’s decision is made public, this second contingent of Colchians also decides not to return to Aeetes. Again it is Aeetes’s anger that defeats him. These too examples demonstrate a reason the Stoics were so interested in restraining anger: not only does it compromise reason as the basis for man’s higher nature, it is more likely to thwart rather than sustain one’s own interests.

§30. All through the Aeetes sequence it is worth noting how others perceive his anger. His grandsons fear it, Jason forewarned tries to circumvent it, and his subjects escape it at the first opportunity. But it is three female characters who give extra weight to his anger, his daughter Chalciope, Circe, and Arete. They especially note the severity of his anger, modifying χόλον with ἄγριον, βαρὺν and ὀλοὸν (savage, burdensome, destructive). Each adjective reinforces Stoic concerns about anger. That it is savage indicates it is contrary to the rational nature of man and signals his reversion to savagery; that it is burdensome indicates it weighs him down from achieving his objectives; that it is destructive indicates that it inflicts harm on those around him and the man himself. More than all others Aeetes’s anger constantly works against him.

§31. The most paradigmatic exploration of anger comes on the outbound voyage early in the expedition. Telamon’s angry outburst occurs at a pivotal moment. Waking up to a favorable wind, the steersman Tiphys rouses the crew to set out from Mysia, where they had put in after Heracles had broken his oar and where he might find and fashion a new one. While he is doing so, Hylas is abducted by a nymph at a spring when he tries to fill a water jug. Unaware of what has happened, Heracles looks all over for him and fails to return to the ship. When a favorable wind comes up, they then depart without him, apparently without noticing his absence. Once they do notice, Telamon thinks Heracles may have been deliberately abandoned and he becomes angry (1.1284–1289):

ἐν δέ σφιν κρατερὸν νεῖκος πέσεν, ἐν δὲ κολῳὸς
ἄσπετος, εἰ τὸν ἄριστον ἀποπρολιπόντες ἔβησαν
σφωιτέρων ἑτάρων. ὁ δ᾿ ἀμηχανίῃσιν ἀτυχθεὶς
οὐδέ τι τοῖον ἔπος μετεφώνεεν οὐδέ τι τοῖον
Αἰσονίδης, ἀλλ᾿ ἧστο βαρείῃ νειόθεν ἄτῃ
θυμὸν ἔδων. Τελαμῶνα δ᾿ ἕλεν χόλος, ὧδέ τ᾿ ἔειπεν·

And fierce strife came upon them and a great uproar, to think that they had gone off and abandoned the best man of their comrades. Stunned with helplessness, Jason spoke not a word on one side or the other, but sat there, eating his heart out from deep within at this grievous calamity. And anger took hold of Telamon, and he spoke thus:

(trans. Race 2008)

He accuses Jason of deliberately leaving Heracles behind and that he did so out of self-interest, so that he would not have to share glory with his renowned comrade. Jason suffers from the accusation. Before Jason responds, Telamon attempts to have Tiphys turn the ship around and return to retrieve Heracles. Then Glaucus, interpreter of Nereus, appears from the deep sea, intervenes and informs the crew that the leaving behind of Heracles was part of Zeus’s plan (βουλή) (1.1315). Upon learning this Telamon is genuinely remorseful and apologizes to Jason (1.1332–1335):

“Αἰσονίδη, μή μοί τι χολώσεαι, ἀφραδίῃσιν
εἴ τί περ ἀασάμην· πέρι γάρ μ᾿ ἄχος ἧκεν ἐνισπεῖν
μῦθον ὑπερφίαλόν τε καὶ ἄσχετον. ἀλλ᾿ ἀνέμοισιν
δώομεν ἀμπλακίην, ὡς καὶ πάρος εὐμενέοντες.”

“Jason, do not be angry with me, if I foolishly blundered, for excessive grief impelled me to make that arrogant and insufferable rebuke. Let us cast that mistake to the winds and be friends as before.”

(trans. Race 2008)

The poet identifies Telamon’s anger as χόλος. Moreover Jason says that it was brought on by ἄχος. For Achilles too ἄχος is an emotion contributing to his complex χόλος (Iliad 6.335–336) (Muellner 2012:4). The anger itself though is clearly sudden and in the moment. And Telamon anticipates that Jason will have χόλος in turn at him. The details of the second instance (but not in the first) is much closer to Aristotle’s definition of ὀργή anger. In the Rhetoric Aristotle notes that a slight or insult is a necessary stimulus for anger (Konstan 2006:42–43). But epic χόλος need not be so constrained by Aristotle’s definition. As we’ve seen it is much more fluid and imprecise. In the first instance, Telamon has in no way been insulted by Jason, yet he is angry at him. He is upset about what he perceives to be Jason’s self-interested inaction, and moreover, he is angry on behalf of a colleague, not himself. It is sufficient that his anger is sudden, which is the most consistent characteristic of χόλος.

§32. What happens next is even more indicative of Apollonius’s Stoic moral viewpoint. His Jason replies with compassion and understanding, and moreover praises Telamon’s core reason (albeit mistaken) for getting angry (1.1336–1343):

τὸν δ᾿ αὖτ᾿ Αἴσονος υἱὸς ἐπιφραδέως προσέειπεν·
“ὦ πέπον, ἦ μάλα δή με κακῷ ἐκυδάσσαο μύθῳ,
φὰς ἐνὶ τοῖσιν ἅπασιν ἐνηέος ἀνδρὸς ἀλείτην
ἔμμεναι. ἀλλ᾿ οὔ θήν τοι ἀδευκέα μῆνιν ἀέξω,
πρίν περ ἀνιηθείς· ἐπεὶ οὐ περὶ πώεσι μήλων
οὐδὲ περὶ κτεάτεσσι χαλεψάμενος μενέηνας,
ἀλλ᾿ ἑτάρου περὶ φωτός. ἔολπα δέ τοι σὲ καὶ ἄλλῳ
ἀμφ᾿ ἐμεῦ, εἰ τοιόνδε πέλοι ποτέ, δηρίσασθαι.”

In turn, Jason answered him with due consideration: “My good friend, you certainly did revile me with a harsh rebuke, claiming in front of them all that I betrayed a man who was kind to me. But I can assure you that I harbor no bitter wrath against you, although before this I was pained, because it was not over flocks of sheep or over possessions that you flared up in anger, but for a man who was your comrade. Indeed, I hope that you would oppose another man as well on my behalf, if a similar situation ever arose.”

(trans. Race 2008)

It is Jason’s response which Apollonius emphasizes as paradigmatic for Hellenistic morality. He noted Jason’s reply is considered thoroughly, ἐπιφραδέως. This term underscores Jason’s rationality. Jason upfront concedes that he has been insulted (1.1337). By assessing and understanding the cause of anger, both Telamon’s and especially his own potential anger, Jason is able to restrain it and in fact turn it into a positive motivation. The cognitive ability to comprehend the situation and to redirect the anger in a positive direction also aligns with Aristotlean and Stoic concepts. Long notes that reason redirects impulses such as anger (1986:176). For the Stoics a primary liability of anger is that is diverts one from one’s purposes, both specific goals and one’s mature alignment with reason. Jason’s reason turns a dangerous moment into a positive result for the mission, and demonstrates his Stoic leadership.

§33. But there is more going on, and it is indicative of how thoroughly Apollonius absorbs Homeric precedent. When Jason replies, the anger his identifies, which he might have had towards Telamon, is μῆνις. Mori (2005:232) suggests that this is surely an intertextual reference to Achilles’s wrath and notes its severity for the harmony of the crew. This is valid as far as it goes. But as noted above, this is an anger of another order of magnitude. Why does Apollonius put this term in Jason’s mouth? He has just been insulted or slighted, so simple lower order χόλος (as a stand in for ὀργή) would seem to suffice. But Jason clearly knows how close Telamon’s words and actions were to undermining his authority, and that his own reaction would destroy the cosmological order of the ship of state that is the Argo. It is the cosmological significance (cosmos—ship of state—ship) of the term as explored by Muellner that Mori misses when he suggests Apollonius’s usage here is a “set piece” (Mori 2005:233). Jason as captain of a ship on a mission sanctioned by Zeus would have been entitled to have μῆνις. Just prior to Telamon’s attempt at reconciliation Glaucus as the interpreter of Nereus emerges from the sea and relates that by the plan of Zeus Heracles was left behind (1.1310–1325). Recall that the mission itself is intended to lead to the restoration of another sanctioned order of succession, and ultimately to punish that violation which elicited μῆνις anger in the first place. Had Jason allowed the potential for anger to turn into μῆνις, the societal order of the mission would have been threatened. Infighting was already surfacing among the crew. Post-heroic Jason is not willing to inflict harm on his on comrades and their social structure, or risk their mission. He anticipates the consequences. In the Iliad this is the outcome of Achilles μῆνις directed at Agamemnon that impacts his own Achaian allies and his most dear comrade. Instead Jason restrains, and even sublimates, his anger. Jason stays focused on the mission’s purpose. Mori (2005:215) and Williams (1996:29) recognize that the amicable resolution brought about by Jason has a positive outcome for the crews’ solidarity and for the success of their collective enterprise. Jason’s refusal to satisfy his own angry impulse or need to react to a misperceived threat to his status and honor and his forward looking response are paradigmatic Stoic rational responses.

§34. Mori (2005:233) sees this episode as a marker of Apollonius’s post-epic Hellenistic morality and as indicative of his Aristotlean understanding of anger. Though there are many commonalities with Aristotle he does not explore the Stoic connections. Williams argues in an extended exploration of Stoic philosophy throughout the Argonautica that this episode particularly highlights Jason as a post-heroic hero (Williams 1996:26). Neither scholar examines the operative and cosmological differences specific to the different anger terms, yet when one does so it strengthens their positions. Jason’s avoidance of anger in any form is paradigmatic. He is throughout the narrative the foil to others’ anger (and other emotions). In contrast to him, some of the others seem petty, unstable, emotional, irrational, and unable to accomplish their goals. They cannot get out of the way of their own anger. They exemplify why the Stoics counseled restraining emotions. Jason is their counterexample. Each angry character and what their anger entails is contrasted with Jason’s Stoic demeanor. In fact, not once is Jason presented as truly angry. His goal will not be compromised by emotion. Even when he confronts King Pelias in the beginning, he does so without rancor over the usurpation of his birthright to be king himself.

§35. Yet there is an extensive body of criticism comparing Jason unfavorably to Homeric epic heroes. Compared to his antecedents he seems indecisive, prone to delay, reluctant to use force, and passive. Such criticism is anachronistic. Jason cannot be judged by archaic Greek criteria. Moreover the criticism also seems to overlook one essential aspect of Homeric Odysseus’s character. He too frequently exemplifies restraint when faced with situations that would provoke a normal hero’s anger (Bakker 2013:passim), but might inhibit his mission. Neither Jason nor Odysseus is willing to sacrifice the success of their respective missions to satisfy an immediate emotional impulse. In addition to Mori, as noted above, Hunter and Williams each in their own way nevertheless see in Jason a new model of hero and ultimately of king. For Hunter, who glorifies the martial aspect of the Homeric hero, Jason, while an exemplar of the new morality fails when he hesitates to engage in physical action (1993:9). Yet when absolutely necessary Jason stands and fights, as the events among the Bebrycians demonstrates (2.122). Nussbaum calls this restraint “radical detachment” befitting a Stoic sage (1994:363). And this is exactly Apollonius’s point, that a martial resolution provoked by anger or a lack of patient forethought would compromise Jason’s goals, goals which in fact align with the cosmic order of Zeus. Williams sees Jason as the paradigm of the Stoic hero (1996:22). She adds that “Jason’s refusal to give in to angry opponents like Idas, Telamon and Aeetes marks him as superior in moral virtue” (1996:26), befitting a Stoic leader. All of these versions of the new type of hero are reinforced by how Apollonius construes Jason’s reaction under pressure to anger. How Apollonius incorporates anger in its various aspects is almost certainly worldly. His appropriations and improvisations of the Homeric terms should be seen to reinforce the various political readings as well.


§36. Another complex form of Homeric anger is κότος. It is usually connected to resentment (and severe revenge), but not entirely at the personal level. It’s most salient feature though is its duration and durability. Apollonius’s usage does not tightly fit the Homeric pattern recently explicated by Walsh. In Walsh’s reading of Homer and more recently Aeschylus, κότος has certain qualities which distinguish it from other forms of anger, especially from χόλος. The two differ by virtue of time frame, the body, and degree of social status (Walsh 2005:97). With regard to time frame, χόλος, as noted above, is sudden, it arises quickly, and can quickly go away, while κότος has a long duration, both to develop and enact, and may persist until a much later date, then erupt again. It can share this durable quality with μῆνις. Diogenes Laertius in commenting on the Stoic philosopher Zeno of Citium in fact conflates the two (7.114). With regard to the body, χόλος is physical and purely emotional, affecting outwardly and inwardly bodily function, while κότος is virtually abstract. It may have its basis in a perceived violation of an abstract concept, such as honor or status, but it first is manifest from a concrete event.

§37. Distinguishing anger terms on the grounds of a violation of status alone in Greek culture hedges towards over-simplification. The difference between the bodily χόλος and the abstract κότος can be difficult to isolate, because with regard to status, Greek society effectively merged the bodily and the abstract into one’s personal identity. It might be better to interpret κότος as a type of emotion that the offended party enhances through abstracting the slight into an established principle after the fact. Within this vector it may also be familial, instigated against the murderer of a close relative. There are two other sources for κότος: the neglect of a suppliant, and the swearing of a false oath, which similar to μῆνις, can be violations of Homeric cosmic order. Each are within the purview of Zeus, though punishment through κότος may be enacted through the Erinyes, as in Aeschylus’s Eumenides (219–224). In regard to social status, χόλος may be thought of as almost an initially personal matter between two individuals (exceptions abound) where status is insulted, contested, or violated, while κότος becomes more public and hence, potentially consequential in the social environment. As we’ve seen with μῆνις, χόλος is also a precursor to κοτός. Walsh argues that as a social anger κότος has the potential to become a feud. It is this and its durability which ultimately sets it apart. As such it carries a dangerous reciprocity; κότος needs a τέλος (Walsh 2005:83) enacted as revenge. But one ending can be another beginning, as in a feud. Its consequences are on a larger scale that those of χόλος, and impact multiple social groups across time. The consequences of μῆνις are on an even larger scale, as we have seen, and impact an entire society and cosmic order.

§38. The term κότος first occurs in the Argonautica in a simile describing the boxing duel between the king of the Bebrycians, Amycus, and Polydeuces. Amycus will not allow the Argonauts to proceed without engaging in the match. Polydeuces steps forward for the Argonauts, and then the boxing match gets under way. Amycus and Polydeuces are pounding one another, and when they are separated, ‘they rushed back to face each other, like two enraged bulls fighting over a grazing heifer’ (συνόρουσαν ἐναντίοι, ἠύτε ταύρω/ φορβάδος ἀμφὶ βοὸς κεκοτηότε δηριάασθον) (2.89). In this context any of the definitions of κότος (κοτέω) may work well. The two bulls may have wrath at one another, they may resent one another, they may begrudge one another, they may want revenge on the other, all for the sake of the heifer. Their κότος may have a history (they have been rivals for this heifer before) that under the circumstances finds an opportunity to resurface. If so, this is consistent with Walsh’s feud-like delayed reaction model, at least for the bulls. Even an outburst which seems to be in the moment may be considered κότος if there is a deep backstory (Walsh 2005:81–82). For these two boxers however, the emotion is here and now, without any history. Moreover the provocation and the resulting fight occur in the same time frame. When Amycus provokes the crew, as a societal group they are together “seized by savage χόλος”(2.20). The emotion at play here is less layered than Homeric κότος. The metaphor nevertheless does reinforce the boxers’ intensity. It may also be have been provoked by an abstraction such as honor. However their situation lacks the duration and sequential consequences of a feud. Amycus is killed, but there is little sequel. The crew defeat his compatriots, and take his sheep. For the fighters, though not perhaps for the bulls, the anger is closer to χόλος, the term Apollonius earlier applies to the crew.

§39. Another instance of κότος occurs when Jason spreads Medea’s potion on his weapons and the crew tests their strength. The weapons pass the test, so perennially angry Idas “nursing his implacable grudge (κοτέων) against them” (3.1252) puts all his might in his effort to break the spear, and fails. Because he rejects the trickery of Medea and favors the martial alternative, he begrudges Jason’s reliance on weapons enhanced by her magic. But he is fixated on an abstract martial ideal. This is consistent with κότος though there has been no specific offense against him that the reader is aware of. As noted earlier, his nostalgia-based anger has seethed and so is long term, as Walsh describes κότος. However it is also largely trivial and inert in the narrative, unlike κότος in Homer and Aeschylus. His resentment never quite rises to the level of harm to the society, and his public persona lacks the status to precipitate a feud. (In another context after the return of the Argo however, Idas kills Castor (also an Argonaut) and Zeus then in turn smites him [Apollodorus 3.11]). Whether Idas’s anger is κότος or χόλος, he only harms himself. He lacks the ability to develop in accordance with Stoic reason to assess the cause of his anger or to respond appropriately by restraining or redirecting his angry impulse. And like Aeetes, Idas is a foil to Jason’s Stoic temperament.

§40. Apollonius understands the impact Homeric μῆνις and κότος can have on the social order. When he makes reference to them he often leverages their potential threat and limits them to a deterrent function, as does Homer in several cases. In a later scene κότος more closely aligns with Walsh’s explication, at least in its potential. This concerns the slaying of Medea’s brother Apsyrtus by Jason and the resulting purification by Circe. In order to rid themselves of the pursuit by her brother, Medea deceptively lures Apsyrtus to a meeting to facilitate her return, while Jason waits in ambush (4.421–481). The murder is witnessed by a Fury (4.476). Jason tries to purify himself at once for the murder (4.477–479), but unbeknownst to him he is unsuccessful (4.557–558). Then the ship sails on until, at the instigation of Zeus, Hera rouses a storm and the ship’s “speaking beam” tells them to seek purification by Circe. The following scene on Circe’s island is rife with family relationships which prefigure the potential for κότος. Circe is King Aeetes’s sister, Medea’s and Apsyrtus’s aunt. When as suppliants Jason and Medea enter her house, Circe recognizes their plight though not the specific circumstances and she proceeds to purify them according to Zeus’s instructions. Here Zeus’s anger, κότος, is identified by the narrator in a generic abstract statement (4.701):

τῶ καὶ ὀπιζομένη Ζηνὸς θέμιν Ἱκεσίοιο,
ὃς μέγα μὲν κοτέει, μέγα δ᾿ ἀνδροφόνοισιν ἀρήγει,
ῥέζε θυηπολίην, οἵῃ τ᾿ ἀπολυμαίνονται
νηλειεῖς ἱκέται, ὅτ᾿ ἐφέστιοι ἀντιόωσιν.

Therefore, out of reverence for the ordinance of Zeus, Protector of Suppliants—who mightily hates murderers, but mightily protects them—she began making the kind of sacrifice by which ruthless suppliants are cleansed, when they supplicate at the hearth.

(trans. Race 2008)

Zeus has κότος for murderers, but at the same time protects them in his role as protector of suppliants. Race translates κοτέει as “hates,” though “takes revenge” or “resents” would fit Walsh’s model better. As in the case of Phineas, Zeus’s duality as revenger and protector Circe takes to be an ordinance (θέμις) of Zeus. In this case the potential κότος never occurs. Moreover μῆνις is latent in Medea’s reverence for Zeus’s θέμις. In this passage and at 12.178–183 above, Apollonius uses a verb rare after Homer, ὀπίζομαι (“look at, pay attention to, respect”) in a context not unlike Homer (Odyssey 13.148, 14.283) and Hesiod (Shield 22). It is a verbal derivative of ὄπις, a virtual synonym of μῆνις (Muellner 1996:187). It highlights the deterrent function of μῆνις through an understanding of the necessity of avoiding another’s wrath, usually a god’s. Although reticent, Circe knows she has no choice but to purify Jason and Medea, or she will incur Zeus’s μῆνις. Apollonius’s usage of ὀπίζομαι reflects how attuned he is to Homeric anger.

§41. The supplication and purification performed by Circe negates the impetus for punishment and alleviates any κότος. In the process she burns sacrificial cakes and makes libations to propitiate the Furies, to placate their χόλος (4.713). Walsh identifies κότος as the anger of the Furies (Walsh 2011:13). Circe’s purification would seem to arrest its development from the initiating χόλος too. After she finishes the purification, Circe asks them about the nature of their crime. Medea answers her questions in the Colchian language, which they share, and gives a self-exculpating account of their escape from Aeetes. She avoids reporting the murder of her brother, but Circe isn’t fooled. She pities Medea but tells her she does not think they will escape the anger, here χόλος (4.740), of Aeetes. Circe is not a disinterested party—recall that Apsyrtus is her nephew. She tells them she does not condone their actions and bids them to supplicate her no more and to leave.

§42. In this episode it is significant too that this potential κότος begins with Zeus’s χόλος (4.558 & 4.577 & 4.585), which as noted can be a precursor for either μῆνις or κότος. Walsh points out that κότος has in its past a “founding moment” (2005:81) that is latent during its duration until it erupts. Zeus’s anger in the immediacy of the murder is χόλος which may become κότος unless it is purified, as in this case. On the revenge side of the equation the Furies’s κότος is also only potential because of the timely purification of Jason and Medea. It is noteworthy too that it is Zeus, through the medium of Hera, who directs Jason to seek out Circe’s purification. Zeus actively redirects the potential (and virtually mandatory) κότος anger for the murder of Apsyrtus. By facilitating a remediation for χόλος, Zeus through Hera inhibits it from developing into durable κότος. Just as Jason acted when confronted by Telamon, Zeus seeks to find a way around the emotional destructiveness of especially long term social anger. Both Jason and Zeus are in their own way paradigmatic Stoic kings.

§43. Upon leaving Circe, the Argonauts are stunned into inaction. They hesitate. Iris spots them and alerts Hera. She in turn sets out to prepare their way past the forges of Hephaestus and Scylla and Charybdis to the land of the Phaeacians. She sends Iris to summon Thetis. When Thetis arrives Hera prompts her to organize the Nereids to assure the ship’s safe passage through Scylla and Charybdis and to visit onboard ship her husband Peleus so that he will rouse the crew to get under way. Hera offers Thetis an incentive (4.810–816):

ἀλλ᾿ ἄγε καί τινά τοι νημερτέα μῦθον ἐνίψω.
εὖτ᾿ ἂν ἐς Ἠλύσιον πεδίον τεὸς υἱὸς ἵκηται,
ὃν δὴ νῦν Χείρωνος ἐν ἤθεσι Κενταύροιο
νηιάδες κομέουσι τεοῦ λίπτοντα γάλακτος,
χρειώ μιν κούρης πόσιν ἔμμεναι Αἰήταο
Μηδείης· σὺ δ᾿ ἄρηγε νυῷ ἑκυρή περ ἐοῦσα,
ἠδ᾿ αὐτῷ Πηλῆι. τί τοι χόλος ἐστήρικται;

But come, let me tell you an unerring account: when your son comes to the Elysian field—he whom the Naiads are now tending in the dwelling of Cheiron the Centaur, though he longs for your milk—it is his fate to be the husband of Aeetes’ daughter Medea. So, as her mother-in-law, help your daughter-in-law, and Peleus himself as well. Why is your anger so firmly fixed?

(trans. Race 2008)

Hera concludes by asking why Thetis’s χόλος at Peleus is so persistent. We learn later the basis for Thetis’s χόλος (4.865–870). Peleus had interrupted her tempering of Achilles for immortality. Her anger as it turns out is not short-term as χόλος would imply. In this respect it is more like κότος. There is a familial revenge factor to her anger at Peleus too. It could be construed that Peleus has in effect killed Achilles by preventing Thetis from making him immortal. As such her anger could fit into the κότος model. Yet even so it still lacks any explosive revenge aspect. As long as her anger persists, it ignores Peleus almost to the point of indifference. To persuade Thetis to set aside her anger, Hera has to provide her with a goal which her anger to some extent inhibits: to assist the future wife of Achilles and her daughter-in-law Medea on her way. Hera also effectively removes the basis of Thetis’s anger when she tells her Achilles will be immortal.

§44. Consistent with the Stoic construction, anger has to be set aside to enable the fulfillment of a goal, even if the goal is only indirectly one’s own. Thetis leaves aside her anger and agrees to provide safe passage for the ship together with the Nereids assistance through Scylla and Charybdis. Upon making arrangements with them she then proceeds to Peleus, unseen by the rest of the crew. She tells him they must embark at dawn and that because they have the support of Hera and with the aid of the Nereids, they will be protected through Scylla and Charybdis. She nevertheless concludes with a warning (4.862–864):

ἀλλὰ σὺ μή τῳ ἐμὸν δείξῃς δέμας, εὖτ᾿ ἂν ἴδηαι
ἀντομένην σὺν τῇσι, νόῳ δ᾿ ἔχε, μή με χολώσῃς
πλεῖον ἔτ᾿ ἢ τὸ πάροιθεν ἀπηλεγέως ἐχόλωσας.

But you must not point out my form to anyone when you see me coming with them, but keep it to yourself, lest you anger me even more than before, when you inconsiderately angered me.

(trans. Race 2008)

Peleus duly obeys. As promised Thetis sets aside her anger and facilitates the plan of Hera. The Argo then passes safely on to the land of the Phaeacians. Once again, Apollonius casts anger as an emotion which can inhibit the successful completion of a plan. How Thetis deals with her anger is a clear example of a moral and narratological effort coinciding to move the mission forward.

§45. Another look at Arete’s attempt to persuade King Antinous not to return Medea to her father points out Aietes’s κότος. The long term nature of his anger is evident. So is its abstract quality. He resents Medea not because she merely insulted him but because she subverted his status and authority. Arete, before she can orchestrate the marriage of Jason and Medea at Antinous’s intimation, identifies his anger as κότος. She reasons with Antinous not to send Medea back to Aeetes (4.1088):

τῶ, φίλε, μήτ᾿ οὖν αὐτὸν ἑκὼν ἐπίορκον ὀμόσσαι
θείης Αἰσονίδην, μήτ᾿ ἄσχετα σεῖο ἕκητι
παῖδα πατὴρ θυμῷ κεκοτηότι δηλήσαιτο.

So, dear, do not then willingly make Jason himself go back on his oath, nor, because you allowed it, let a father in spiteful anger inflict intolerable harm on his daughter.

(trans. Race 2008)

While this anger attributed to Aeetes may appear personal between a father and his daughter, it is based on an abstract principle, and as we have already seen, the consequences extend to a large section of Colchian society through the loss of his son and the desertion of two separate pursuing expeditions. Still it is only κότος in potential. There is no apparent subsequent reciprocal feud. When Apollonius uses κότος, he anticipates the consequences being understood, and so he uses its potential as a cautionary Hellenistic morality representing an anger best avoided. There is a paradox here. As Walsh describes it, κότος requires a goal, it is future directed. Yet one of the Stoic’s reasons for seeking to restrain anger, is that the rational man is one who doesn’t allow past anger to inhibit future plans. While Aristotle allows that (rational) anger can be instrumental in the accomplishment of a goal, the Stoics reject that view (Nussbaum 1994:391). It is reason, not anger, that gets things done, Seneca notes, in rebutting Aristotle’s claim that anger is a useful agent (De Ira 1.17). Seneca’s ideas about anger largely follow the early Stoics, Zeno and Chrysippus (Graver 2007:69–70). Anger is unstable and yet stubborn and unwilling to adjust to changing circumstances (De Ira 1.18.2). Moreover, it magnifies itself with its backwards obsession, while reason concentrates on the future (De Ira 1.19.7). All of anger’s liabilities are manifest in Aeetes.

§46. Apollonius also rejects any positive instrumentality for human anger. Aeetes exhibits all three types of Homeric anger, even if only in potential. In each instance he demonstrates that his anger thwarts his objectives. Apollonius’s use of κότος is consistent with the usage Walsh explores in Homer and Aeschylus in its durability, basis in abstraction, and grievous harm, even if the recipient of the harm is the one exhibiting the anger. It is more destructive than χόλος, but not as cosmologically consequential as μῆνις. However in the Argonautica it remains only potential and never quite reaches the level of a familial or societal feud.


§47. When Apollonius wrote the Argonautica he elected to avoid the use of the term ὀργή, the predominant operative word for anger in his day, and to reclaim Homeric anger vocabulary. He did so with clear intent. He knew ὀργή signified human, all too human anger. As we’ve seen, there are occasions when it would have found acceptable application. Yet the Homeric anger vocabulary provides advantages beyond archaism, genre, and intertextuality. Each represents a different order of magnitude or severity of cause and effect. They range on a scale from personal to familial to social and cosmological. Against each level of this hierarchy Apollonius presents epic contexts and paradigmatic Stoic responses which differ from those of the Homeric heroes. By presenting anger on a hierarchical scale, the importance of controlling anger at all levels of society is emphasized. Jason is no Achilles. Faced with the situation where μῆνις would have been an appropriate response, Jason relying on reason turns the circumstance in a positive direction. Apollonius shows through Jason that anger no longer has a place in the mission of heroes. Though he composed the Argonautica from the point of view of his present day (Williams 1996:28), the Homeric vocabulary allows him to recenter Stoic concepts about anger onto a heroic past. Then in turn he brings these forward to present a paradigmatic Stoic response within the larger epic frame. In so doing he recasts the Homeric hero into the effective Hellenistic Stoic king, exemplified by Jason. If there is a political subtext and Jason is Apollonius’s future Stoic king, Apollonius presents Jason as a dynastic paradigm for the Ptolemaic line, and at the same time celebrates that line. But the example of μῆνις hanging over Jason’s family’s genealogy also functions as a subtle cautionary note for the legitimate succession of the Ptolemaic dynasty.



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