Apollonius Rhodius, Cyzicus, and the Near East

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The article explores some ritual nuances in Books 1 and 4 of Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica. We argue that the experience of the Argonauts at Cyzicus in Book 1 recalls initiation rites in mystery cults, most prominently that of Cybele. Furthermore, Apollonius seems to have been familiar with Jewish cultic traditions and has overlaid his narration with patterns derived from the Jewish Exodus. In particular, the notion of reclaiming one’s fatherland, constantly reiterated in Exodus, is utilised by Apollonius in Book 4 in relation to Cyrene, which will, as Euphemus relates, eventually be restored to the Ptolemies (lines 1730-54). Awareness of the rich nexus of cultures and cults that characterises the Argonautica is crucial to explaining the peculiar customs described by Apollonius in Book 1 and to appreciating the historical context of the work and its purposes, which are highlighted in Book 4.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-148
Number of pages32
JournalGiornale Italiano di Filologia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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