Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Dee L. Clayman

Committee Members

Jennifer T. Roberts

Peter Simpson

Dee L. Clayman

Subject Categories

Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Classical Literature and Philology | Other Classics


Apollonius, Rhodius, Rhodes, Argonautica, Herodotus, Poetics, Prose, Tradition, Argus, Allusion


Detecting allusions in the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes is not quite new except for the fact that it has been carried out for long mostly within the poetic tradition. Looking at the proem of the epic, where there is mixing of genres, this mixture suggests that scholars may need to look beyond the Homeric epics and the poetic tradition for better appreciation of the Alexandrian epic. This dissertation explores the relationship between certain features and episodes of Apollonius’ Argonautica and the prose tradition, and seeks to show that the prose tradition, particularly Herodotus’ Histories, is germane to the appreciation and profound understanding of the Alexandrian epic.

In chapter one, I argue that some literary devices found in the Histories such as research and source-citation have been adopted and adapted in the Argonautica with the result that there is an emergence of a researcher-narrator in the Alexandrian epic. The second chapter examines the correlativity of some geographical landmarks in the Argonautica with those mentioned in the Histories as the Persian forces arrive in Greece. This correlativity and another scene in Apollonius’ epic in which the status of Medea as an abductee is contested are presented as an evocation of Herodotus’ argument concerning the cause of the Trojan and Persian wars. The usefulness of the prose tradition in defining the role of Argus the son of Phrixus is the focus of the third chapter. Argus, who plays the role of a secondary narrator, is portrayed as a character who is ancestrally and culturally self-aware, and he demonstrates this awareness in a major speech which is filled with allusions to the prose tradition, especially Herodotus’ Histories. The attempt in the fourth chapter is to analyze and present the Libyan episode in the Argonautica as an example of a colonial narrative which may have arisen within the context of the Greeks settling a large number of new cities in foreign lands from the eighth to the sixth centuries BCE, and continuing to do so through the expansion and colonization which were initiated by Alexander the Great, and his successors in the Hellenistic period. The dissertation rounds off in the fifth chapter by comparing Apollonius’ and Herodotus’ portrayal of the Lemnian women’s deeds, and the ethnographic descriptions of different groups of people considered as antithesis to the Greek. I argue there that Apollonius seeks to correct the impression that Egypt is perennially antithetical to Greece.

Apollonius’ interaction with the prose tradition reflects the spirit of the Hellenistic age in which erudition was part of a system where writers innovatively adopted and adapted the works of other writers in the poetic and prose traditions. The objective here is to show that Apollonius’ Argonautica is a complex work for which the prose tradition, especially Herodotus’ Histories offers the reader an additional tool for its appreciation and interpretation.