Female sorcerers, or "witches," are far more prominent than their male counterparts in mainstream classical literature, which is not to say that women were more inclined than men to turn to sorcery in reality. Two related, all-round witch figures above all flourished in Greek myth and Greek and Latin literature, Medea and Circe. Both of them are very ancient figures and were developed in the early epics. No early epic account of Medea survives, although there is perhaps a very dim reflection of such an account in the Hellenistic Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes. Circe, however, features prominently in the Odyssey.
66 A rationalized account of Medea's career 45. They say that there were two sons of Helios
[Sun], Aeetes and Perses. Of these Aeetes was king of Colchis, and the other brother king of the Tauric Chersonnese. Both of them stood out for their cruelty. Perses had a daughter, Hecate, and she excelled her father in her brazen lawlessness. She was fond of the hunt, and when her luck therein failed she would turn her bow upon men instead of beasts. She was a keen contriver of mixtures of deadly drugs [pharmaka], and she discovered the so-called aconite. She tested the powers of each drug by mixing it into the food given to strangers. In this way she developed a great experience. First of all she destroyed her father with a drug and so took over his throne, then she founded a temple of Artemis and had strangers that put in sacrificed to the goddess. Hence she acquired a name for cruelty. After this she married Aeetes and gave birth to two daughters, Circe and Medea, and also a son Aigialeus. Circe too devoted herself to understanding drugs of all sorts, and discovered all kinds of qualities and unbelievable powers of roots. She had been taught a great deal by her mother Hecate, but she discovered far more by her own research, so that her own knowledge was unsurpassed by her mother's. She was given in marriage to the king of the Sarma-tians, whom some call Scythians. First she killed her husband with drugs, and after this, succeeding to his throne, she exercised much cruel violence upon her subjects. For this reason she was thrown out of her queenship and, according to some mythographers, fled to Ocean. She occupied a deserted island in it with some women who had fled with her and set herself up there. But according to some historians, she abandoned Pontus and settled on that Italian headland which is still called "Circaeum" after her.
46. They report that Medea learned all the powers of drugs from her mother and her sister, but her own inclination was the opposite. For she continually saved the strangers that put in from dangers. Sometimes she did this by begging and pleading with her father for the salvation of those who were sentenced to die. Sometimes she herself released them from prison and provided safe passage for the unfortunate men. For Aeetes, spurred on in part by his own cruelty, and in part by his wife, accepted the custom of killing strangers. But since Medea was always working against her parents' project, they say that Aeetes began to suspect that his daughter was plotting against him, and so set guards to attend her. Medea escaped from them and fled to the precinct of Helios that lay by the sea. At this point the Argonauts, traveling from the Tauric Chersonnese, sailed into Colchis by night and to the aforementioned precinct. There they came across Medea as she wandered on the shore, and, learning from her of the custom of killing strangers, explained their own scheme to her. They also learned from her about the danger to which she was subject from her father, because of her piety toward strangers. It became clear that they had common interests. Medea promised to help them until they completed their proposed contest, while Jason swore oaths that he would marry her and keep her as his partner for the whole of his life. After this the Argonauts posted guards on the ship and set off with Medea under cover of night to get the golden fleece. It would be appropriate to expound the details of this, so that no matter of relevance to the subject before us should be unknown.
48. They report that Medea led the Argonauts to the precinct of Ares, which was seventy stades from the city. The city was called Sybaris and it contained the royal palace of the Colchians. She approached the closed gates during the night and addressed the guards in the Taurian dialect. The soldiers opened the gates readily, as they would for a princess. They say that the Argonauts rushed in, swords drawn, and killed many of the barbarians. They chased the rest, who were taken aback by the unexpected attack, out of the precinct, collected the fleece, and rushed back to the ship in all haste. In a similar fashion Medea too killed with her drugs the unsleeping snake, which, according to myth, coiled round the fleece, and went down to the sea with Jason. The escaping Taurians ["Bull-men"] brought news of the attack that had occurred to the king.
50. While they [the Argonauts] were in this state of confusion it is said that Medea promised to kill Pelias by her own abilities and hand over the palace to the chiefs without any danger. They were all astonished by the claim and asked her to explain the nature of her scheme to them. She said that she brought with her many drugs with strange powers which had been discovered by her mother Hecate and her sister Circe. She had never used them to destroy people before, but she would now use them to take easy vengeance on those who deserved punishment. She laid out the details of her attack to the chiefs, and she promised that she would send a signal from the palace to them on the vantage point above the sea, with smoke if by day, with fire if by night.
51. She prepared a hollow effigy of Artemis and hid within it all sorts of powerful drugs. She also anointed her own hair with certain powerful agents and made it gray, and she filled her face and body with wrinkles, with the result that those who saw her thought she was by all means an old woman. Finally she took up the goddess that had been designed to terrify the general populace into superstitious terror and entered the city at dawn. She took on divine frenzy and the crowds rushed through the streets and converged upon her. She urged them all to receive the god dess in pious fashion, for she had come to them from the Hyperboreans to bestow good fortune on the entire city and their king. They all abased themselves before the goddess and honored her with sacrifices and, in short, the whole city joined Medea in her divine frenzy. She entered the palace and inflicted superstitious terror upon Pelias. Through her strange powers she brought his daughters to such a state of bewilderment that they believed the goddess herself was present and bestowing good fortune on the king's house. For Medea told them Artemis had driven through the air on a chariot drawn by snakes and had flown over many parts of the inhabited world, and that she had chosen out the most pious of all kings to establish herself and for eternal honors. The goddess had, she said, commanded her to use certain powers to take Pelias's old age from him and make his body completely young, and to give him many other gifts as well, so that his life could be a blessed one dear to the gods. The king was astonished by these unexpected words. Medea promised that she would at once afford proof of her claims on her own body. She told one of the daughters of Pelias to fetch pure water, and the girl immediately fulfilled her request. They say that she then shut herself into a little room and washed her whole body, rinsing away the effects of the drugs. When she had returned to her former condition and shown herself to the king she amazed all the onlookers and seemed to have transformed her old age into the youth of a girl and an eye-catching beauty by the will of the gods. She also used some drugs to make phantom snakes appear, on which, she said, the goddess had ridden through the air from the Hyperboreans to come to visit Pelias. Medea's achievements seemed to be beyond the nature of a human, and the king gave her warm welcome and, in short, believed that she was speaking truthfully. They say that she spoke one-to-one with Pelias and urged him to tell his daughters to cooperate with her and do whatever she ordered them to. For it was fitting that the body of the king should receive its benefaction from the gods tended not by the hands of slaves but by the hands of his children. So Pelias expressly told his daughters to do whatever Medea commanded them to in respect of their father's body, and the girls were ready to do what was bidden of them.
52. When night had fallen and Pelias had gone to sleep Medea told them that they must boil Pelias's body in a cauldron. The girls were averse to the proposal, so she devised a second proof of her claims. They kept in the house a very old ram, and Medea proposed to the girls that she should first boil this and make it a lamb all over again. The girls agreed, and they say that Medea took the body of the ram apart limb from limb and boiled it, and then, deceiving them with some drugs, drew the image of a lamb out of the cauldron. The girls were astonished by this and believed they had full proof of Medea's promise and so carried out her commands. They all struck their father and killed him, apart from Alcestis, who held back from her father because of her greater piety. After this they say Medea stood back from cutting up the body or boiling it. Pretending that she must first pray to the moon, she told the girls to mount with lamps to the top of the palace roof, but she herself spent a lot of time reciting a long prayer in the Colchian language, so making an opportunity for the attackers.
54. They say that Jason resided in Corinth and lived with Medea for ten years. He fathered children by her, the eldest two being twins, Thessalus and Alcimenes. The third, Tisander, was much younger than these. They report that at this time Medea was highly favored by her husband not only because she excelled in beauty, but also because she was endowed with self-restraint and the other virtues. After this, as time ever more diminished her physical attractiveness, it is said that Jason fell in love with Glauce the daughter of Creon and wooed the girl. When her father had agreed and had appointed a wedding day, they say that Jason at first tried to persuade Medea to withdraw voluntarily from their marriage. For, he said, it was not because he disdained Medea's society that he wished to marry her, but because he was keen to make the royal house the kin to their children. His wife became angry and invoked the gods that had been witness to their oaths. They say that Jason held the vows in contempt and married the king's daughter. Medea was banished from the city, and was given one day by Creon to prepare for her exile. She entered the palace under cover of night after altering her appearance with drugs. She set fire to the building, using a little root, which had been discovered by her sister Circe. It had the quality of being difficult to extinguish once set alight. The palace was suddenly aflame. Jason quickly leaped out of it, but Glauce and Creon were cut off by the fire and perished. Some historians say that Medea's sons took gifts to the bride smeared with drugs, and that when Glauce accepted them and put them on she met with disaster, and that her father, who came running to help, also died when he touched her body. Medea's first projects were successful, and she did not hold back from taking revenge on Jason. For she became so enraged, envious, and cruel that, since he had escaped the danger in which his wife had perished, she embroiled him in catastrophe by slaughtering the children they had between them. One of her sons managed to escape, but she sacrificed the others and fled from Corinth while it was still the middle of the night with her most trusty women attendants. She managed to get to Heracles in Thebes. Heracles had been an arbitrator of agreements among the Colchians and had promised to help her if these agreements were compromised to her disadvantage.
55. In the meantime everyone thought Jason had had his just deserts in being deprived of his children and his wife. For this reason, and because he could not endure such a great catastrophe, he killed himself. The Corinthians were dismayed by this terrible reversal, and were particularly at a loss as to how they should bury the children. Therefore they sent to Delphi to ask the god how to dispose of the children's bodies. The Pythia bade them bury them in the precinct of Hera and to confer heroic honors upon them.
They say that Medea found Heracles in Thebes in the grip of madness and fresh from the killing of his sons. She cured him with drugs [pharmaka]. But Eurystheus was imposing his orders on Heracles, and she gave up hope of receiving help from him at that time. She fled on to Athens, to the house of Aegeus, son of Pandion. Here, as some say, she married Aegeus and gave birth to Medus, who subsequently became king of Media. And some say that Hippotes, the son of Creon, demanded she be tried, but that she was absolved of the charges. After this, when Theseus had returned from Troezen to Athens, she was charged with poisoning/witchcraft [pharmakeia] and fled the city. Aegeus gave her a guard to escort her to whichever country she wished, and she journeyed to Phoenicia. From there she traveled to the inland part of Asia and married one of the distinguished kings, to whom she bore the son Medus. After the death of his father this son inherited the kingdom. He was admired for his bravery, and named the peoples Medes after himself.
56. In general a varied and contradictory story about Medea has been circulated because of the strange tastes of the tragedians. And some, wishing to curry favor with the Athenians, say that she conceived Medus by Aegeus and made her way safely to Colchis. At around this time Aeetes, who had been forcibly expelled from his kingdom by his brother Perses, recovered his rule, after Medea's son Medus had killed Perses. After this Medus, taking charge of an army, traversed much of Asia above Pontus and took control of the land called Media after him. But in my opinion there is no need to record all the claims the mythographers have made about
Medea, and it would take too long to do so. So I will confine myself to laying out the remainder of the story of the Argonauts.
DIODORUS'S ACCOUNT DRAWS ON THAT OF the rationalizing and euhemerist early Hellenistic mythographer Dionysius Scytobrachion, a contemporary of Apollonius of Rhodes. It draws together many of the ideas that had been attached to Circe and Medea in the course of the developing tradition, and so is a useful place to start in laying out the tales associated with them. The rationalized elements are for the most part implicitly acknowledged; others will become apparent by comparison with the following excerpts in this section.
Hecate (for whom see 275, with commentary), the favored goddess of witches, is reduced to a historical queen (45). As a goddess she came to be considered an aspect of Artemis; but here as a historicized figure she is represented rather as a devotee of her, as is Medea herself (50). Medea also claims devotion to the moon (52), the third aspect of Artemis-Hecate.
Here Hecate is presented as the discoverer of herbal drugs, pharmaka, and this is consequently the specialization of her daughters also. Medea's magic is entirely worked through the medium of drugs. It is with these that: she heals (48); she transforms her own appearance and becomes a crone (51 and 54); she inflicts madness (51) and, complimentarily, dismisses it (55); she (supposedly) rejuvenates Pelias in a boiling cauldron (51-2); she makes phantom snakes and a phantom lamb (51-2); she burns up Glauce's wedding-dress or burns down the palace of Creon (54; compare Euripides Medea 1136-1230).
The tale of Medea's "animated statue" of Artemis (50) should be compared with the myth of the Spartans Astrabacus and Alopecus. They were similarly driven mad on their discovery of a statue of Artemis Orthia (Pausa-nias 3.16). The famous Trojan horse may be construed as another hollow talisman designed to capture a city (see Faraone 1992c, 94-112). The Greek magical papyri give recipes for the manufacture of hollow figures into which further magical material can be inserted (see 242, with commentary). In whipping up divine frenzy Medea resembles a bacchant (see 87, 282).
Medea is, importantly, bound in with traditions of male sorcery. She is the granddaughter and niece of Perses ("Persian"; 45, 56) and the mother of the Medus ("Median"; 55-6), named for her, through whom she is explicitly said to have engendered the Median race (see 40); (an interpolation in?) Hesiod already gives her a son Medeios at Theogony 1001. She also poses as a Hyperborean (not too great a stretch for one from the Black Sea), and in so doing salutes the shaman tradition of Aristeas and Abaris (51; see 5-7, 244). Diodorus is, furthermore, keen to emphasise Medea's links with the home of female witchcraft in the Greek world, Thessaly (50), and she is also said to be the mother to Thessalus ("Thessalian"; 54). For Thessalian witches see 96, 104-5, 107, 214-23. Medea's prayer to the moon (52) hints at her ability to draw it down (compare 214-33).
67 Medea and her root-cutters F534 (Macrobius Saturnalia 5.19.8): In the Root-cutters Sophocles describes how Medea crops evil plants while turning away, so that the power of their noxious smell will not kill her, and drains the juice of the plants into bronze jars. She crops the actual plants with sickles also made from bronze. These are Sophocles's lines:
She covers her eyes with her hand and collects up the white-clouded juice that drips from the cut in bronze jars.
Sophocles Rhizotomoi F534-6 TrGF
Shortly afterward he continues:
The covered chests conceal cut roots, which this woman reaped, naked, with bronze sickles, while crying out and howling.
F535 (Scholium on Apollonius Rhodius Argonautica 3.1214): Hecate is crowned with an oak branch and snakes. In the Root-cutters Sophocles has the chorus say:
Lord sun and holy fire, sword of Hecate of the roads, which she carries over Olympus as she attends and as she traverses the sacred crossroads of the land, crowned with oak and the woven coils of snakes, falling on her shoulders.
F536 (Hesychius s.v. "melted" [a/stosas]): Sophocles in Root-cutters says:
After he had melted a doll [koros] with fire.
THE SUBJECT OF the TRAGEDY IS thought to have been Medea's murder of Pelias. The "root-cutters" who gave their name to the play would have been the chorus. F535 seems to confirm that this chorus was made up of Medea's witch-attendants. Plant-drug magic was evidently their speciality. For the aversion of the eyes while cutting animal throats in sacrifice see 144. It is common for Medea and other witches to perform their rites with their clothing untied (see 69, 91, 98), but Sophocles takes the notion to an extreme here. The rationalization of this may have been that one performing binding magic should not herself be bound. F536 is intriguing. The subject of the melting is masculine and cannot therefore be Medea. It is unclear whether this referred to erotic magic or to an oath-taking ceremony (see 236).
Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica 3.475-80, 528-33, 1026-62, 1191-1224, 1246-67, 4.123-66, 445-81, 1636-93
68 Medea aids the Argonauts Book 3: 475. [Argus speaks:] "Son of Aeson, you will scorn the cunning advice I am about to give you. But in a bad situation everything must be tried. You yourself have heard from me in the past that there is a girl that practices witchcraft [pharmassein] under the instruction of Hecate, daughter of Perses. If we can persuade her to help us, you will, I think, have no more fear of being defeated in the contest."
528. [Argus speaks:] "A girl was reared in the house of Aeetes, whom the goddess Hecate taught to be the greatest exploiter of the drugs [pharmaka] that grow on the dry land and in the full-flowing water. With these drugs she extinguishes the blast of the unwearied flame. With these she at once stays the noisy course of rivers, and binds the stars and the paths of the sacred moon."
1026. [Medea addresses Jason:] "Pay attention now, so that I can devise help for you. When you come and my father gives you the destructive teeth from the jaws of the snake to sow, wait then for the precise midpoint of the night. Bathe in the streams of the unwearied river, then alone, apart from the others, and in dark clothing, dig a round pit. Jugulate a female sheep over it, and sacrifice it whole. Heap up a fire at the pit. Then appease Hecate, the only child of Perses, making libations of the hive-produce of bees from a cup. Then, whenever you have carefully propitiated the goddess, retreat back from the fire. Let not the noise of feet cause you to turn back, nor the barking of dogs, lest you should vitiate the rites and prevent yourself from returning to your companions in good condition. At dawn make a solution of the drug, strip off, and smear it over your body like oil. There will be boundless might in you and great strength. You will think yourself equal to the immortal gods rather than to other men. In addition to your actual spear, sprinkle your shield and sword with it. Then the spear-points of the earth-born men will not be able to cut through you, nor the irresistible darting flame of the destructive bulls. But you will not have these powers for long, but just for the day. Even so, do not shy back from the contest. I will give you another piece of helpful advice too. When you have yoked the strong bulls, and driven the plough through all the difficult fallow land with your manly hands, the Giants will now grow up in the furrows as you sow the snake's teeth in the dark soil. At that point immediately, if you see them rise from the fallow land in vast numbers, secretly throw a large stone. They will then destroy each other over it, like ravening dogs over their food. Make haste and rush into the battle yourself too. By doing this you will carry the fleece far from Aea to Greece. In any case, go somewhere dear or pleasing to you, when you have departed."
1191. Far off in the west the Sun was entering the dark earth, beyond the remotest hills of the Ethiopians. Night was yoking up her horses. The heroes were making their pallet-beds ready beside the ship's cables. But as soon as the stars of Helice, the shiny Bear, had set, and the heaven's ether had grown silent, Jason made for a deserted place, like a furtive thief, with all the things he needed. For he had already taken care of all the details during the day. Argus came and brought a female sheep and milk from the flock. These things he brought from the ship. But when he saw a place that was off the beaten track, under a calm sky and in a pure meadow, he first of all washed his soft body there and made himself pure with water from the divine river. He put on a dark robe, which the Lemnian Hypsipyle had formerly given him, a memento of their frequent sex. Then he dug a pit in the ground, a cubit in diameter, and piled up the firewood. He cut the sheep's throat and laid it out well over the top. He set light to the wood, inserting a flame underneath, and over the sacrifice he poured mingled libations. He called upon Brimo-Hecate to be his helper in the contests. After invoking her he retreated. The terrible goddess heard him from the depth of her lair and came to accept the sacrifice of the son of Aeson. Around her head dreadful snakes intertwined with oak twigs. The boundless light of torches flashed. Around her the underworld dogs gave voice to sharp howls. All the meadows quaked at her step. The nymphs of the marsh and the nymphs of the rivers shrieked out, as did all that wheeled around that meadow of Amarantian Phasis. Fear gripped the son of Aeson, but even so his feet carried him out of danger without him turning around, until he found his way back to his companions. Already Dawn, child of the morning, was rising and casting her light above snowy Caucasus.
1246. In the meantime, following Medea's instructions, Jason made a solution of the drugs and sprinkled his shield, his stout spear, and his sword with it. Around him his companions tested the weapons with all their might. They could not bend the spear even a little, but it withstood them in its seasoned state and remained unbroken, just as it was, in their hands. Yet Idas, son of Aphareus, violently angry at them, struck the spear near the butt-end with his great sword, but the blade, beaten back, jumped up like a hammer from an anvil. The heroes shouted out in joy, buoyed up by their hopes for success in the contest. And Jason sprinkled himself. A terrible strength entered him, inexpressible and unshakeable. On both sides his hands moved quickly as they began to burst with all strength. As when a war horse, eager for battle, whinnies, leaps, and beats the ground, but lifts up his neck and pricks up his ears with pride, so the son of Aeson exulted in the strength of his limbs. He kept throwing his feet into the air this way and that, shaking his bronze shield and his ashen spear in his hands. You would have thought that winter light ening, darting forth from the dark ether, was repeatedly shooting from clouds, when they bring their blackest rain.
Book 4:123. Jason and Medea came down the path to the sacred grove in search of the giant oak, over which the fleece had been cast, like a cloud that glows red under the fiery rays of the rising sun. But the snake, watching out with his sleepless eyes, stretched out his long neck to meet them as they came and gave out a monstrous hiss. The long riverbanks and the vast grove reverberated around them. This was heard by the inhabitants of the Colchian land who lived a long way from Titanian Aea, by the debouch of the Lycus, which splits off from the roaring river Araxes and mixes its sacred stream with the Phasis. They combine their streams into one and debouch into the Caucasian sea. New mothers woke in fear and, distressed, threw their hands round their baby children, who were sleeping in the crooks of their arms, and who shook at the hiss. As unnumbered circles of sooty smoke coil upward above smoldering wood and one ever rises quickly on top of another, ascending upward from below in spirals, so then did that huge creature gather its unnumbered coils, covered over with dry scales. The girl came before its eyes as it coiled. In a sweet voice she invoked Sleep, highest of the gods, to help her in bewitching the monster. She cried out to the night-wandering queen, the underworld goddess, to look kindly upon her project. The son of Aeson followed her, scared, but the snake was already bewitched by her song and was unfolding its long spiraling spine and straightening its countless circles, just as a black wave, silent and without noise, rolls over a calm sea. Even so, it raised its terrible head aloft and was eager to enfold the pair of them in its ruinous jaws. But she sprinkled his eyes with a fresh-cut sprig of juniper, dunking unmixed drugs into her potage and singing spells. Round about the intense smell of the drug cast sleep. It laid down and rested its jaw just where it was. Its endless coils were unfurled a long way behind through the wood of many trees. Then, as the girl instructed him, he seized the golden fleece from the oak. But she stood her ground and smeared the head of the creature with her drug, until Jason himself bade her return to his ship, and she left the shady grove of Ares.
445. Reckless love, a great pain, a hateful thing for human beings. From you derive, in tumultuous fashion, destructive strifes, lamentations and wails, and other boundless agonies on top of these. Rise up, demon, and take up arms against the children of enemies, just as you once cast hateful madness into the mind of Medea. For how did she subdue Apsyrtus in evil death when he came to her? That is the next part of my song. When they had left her by agreement on the island of Artemis, the two parties beached their ships separately. Jason settled himself in ambush for Apsyrtus and then again for his comrades. But Apsyrtus, tricked by the terrible promises, swiftly crossed over the swell of the sea in his ship and landed on the sacred island under the dark night. He went to face his sister on her own and to try to speak to her, as a delicate child makes trial of a winter storm, through which not even vigorous men pass, to contrive some trick against strangers. The pair of them agreed all details with each other. Immediately the son of Aeson leaped out from his thickly covered ambush and raised his naked sword with his hand. The girl quickly turned her eyes back, covering herself with her linen veil, so that she should not see her brother struck and murdered. Just as an ox-butcher strikes a great stout-horned bull, Jason found his mark and struck him down near the temple which the Brygi, who dwelt on the mainland across the water, once built for Artemis. He fell on his knee in its front chamber. The hero cupped in both his hands the black blood from the wound, as he breathed out his life - his last act. He stained red Medea's shiny white veil and dress as she shied away. The all-conquering pitiless Fury with a sharp sideways look saw what sort of murderous act they had perpetrated. The hero, the son of Aeson, chopped off the dead man's extremities. Three times he licked up some of the blood from the murder, and three times he spat the polluted material from his teeth. This is the right thing for murderers to do to propitiate killings by trickery. He hid the wet corpse in the earth. Those bones still lie there now in the midst of the Apsyrtian men.
1636. From Carpathus they were destined to cross over to Crete, which stands above other islands in the sea. Bronze Talos prevented them from fastening their hawsers to the land by breaking off rocks from a stout crag, when they were come to the Dictaean harbor to moor. He was of bronze stock, one of the men born from ash trees, the last survivor of the demigods. The son of Cronos had given him to Europa to be a guard for the island. Three times a day he would run round the island on his brazen feet. In all the rest of his body and limbs he was made from bronze and could not be broken. But on his ankle he had a bloody vein below the tendon. This was covered by a fine membrane, upon which depended his life and death. The men, although overcome with misery, thrust the ship off from shore with the oars in dread. They would gloomily have taken themselves far from Crete, suffering both from their thirst and their pains, had not Medea said to them as they shrank back: "Listen to me, for I think that I am the only one who can overcome this man for you, whoever he is, even if his entire body is made of bronze, so long as his life is not also inexhaustible. But be willing to keep the ship here beyond the reach of the stones, until he falls to me." So she spoke, and they pressed on their oars to withdraw the ship from the reach of the missiles, waiting to see what unexpected piece of cunning she would execute. She held the fold of her purple dress up to her cheeks on either side and went up on the deck. The son of Aeson took her hand in his and escorted her through the rowing benches. Then with songs she propitiated and called on the soul-devouring Deaths, the fast dogs of Hades, which whirl through all the air and pounce on the living. Beseeching these she invoked them three times with songs and three times with prayers. Turning her mind evil, she bewitched the sight of bronze Talos with hating eyes. She gnashed baneful anger against him, and sent out destructive phantoms in her vehement rage. Father Zeus, great amazement blows through my mind, to think that baneful doom meets us not just through diseases and wounds, but can even crush us across a great distance. So Talos, even though he was made of bronze, fell before the power of Medea of the many drugs. As he was levering up heavy rocks to prevent them from reaching a mooring, he scratched his ankle on a sharply pointed rock. The ichor flowed out of him like molten lead. Not much longer was he able to maintain his stand on the projecting crag. But he resembled some monstrously tall pine in the mountains, which the lumberjacks have left half cut through with their sharp axes before returning from the wood. First of all it shudders in the night, but then later it is broken from its stump and collapses. So too Talos for some time swayed this way and that on his untiring feet, but then, when his strength was gone, he fell down with a great crash. The heroes camped on Crete for that dark night. Afterward, as dawn was brightening, they founded a temple to Minoan Athene. They drew water and embarked, so that they could first of all row past the peak of Salmone.
Apollonius was LIBRARIAN OF the GREAT Ptolemaic library of Alexandria ca. 270-45 B.C., during which time he composed the Argonautica, the most important extant work of Hellenistic literature. The context of these particular passages is readily understood from the Diodorus excerpt (66).
Drugs are once more here presented as the basis of Medea's power and underpin all her magical achievements except for the destruction of Talos. Among the various abilities attributed to her are the commonplace ones of ancient witchcraft, namely the ability to control elements, landscape, moon, and stars (3.528-33; compare 97-103, 214-33). For control over snakes see 49.
The rites by which Medea instructs Jason to call up Hecate (3.1026-62, 1191-1224) strongly resemble the traditional rites of evocation for ghosts and are evidently modeled on them (see 144). Jason must not look back on Hecate during the rite. It is implied that the goddess will damage or destroy him if he does; or perhaps the terrible sight of her alone is harmful. But it is also implied that the magic will thus be vitiated. This may be because it will send Hecate back to the underworld. According to the well-known version of his myth, Orpheus sent his wife Eurydice back into the underworld by looking back at her as she came (see 20). For Hecate's arrival from an underworld hole (3.1191-1224) and her appearance see 275.
For the destruction of Talos Medea uses the "evil eye" (4.1636-93; see 192-6). It may be significant that the evil eye could be particularly associated with the attempts of metal-workers to blight each others' products (22-3; see also 178). Talos shares his unique noninvincible heel with Achilles. Ichor flows through the veins of the divine in place of blood.
For the mutilation (maschalismos) of Apsyrtus's body (4.445-81) see 122. Much of Apollonius's material is recycled in the late-first-century A.D. Latin Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus (books 5-8), but that text includes little of further magical interest.
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