Rivers, Shores, Margins, and Boundaries

William G. Thalmann

in Apollonius of Rhodes and the Spaces of Hellenism

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199731572
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199896752 | DOI:

Series: Classical Culture and Society

Rivers, Shores, Margins, and Boundaries

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Pursued by the Colchians, the Argonauts with Medea and the Golden Fleece sail from the Black Sea up the Istros (Danube) River and descend to the Adriatic, and this provides the occasion to examine rivers and other bodies of water in the poem’s spatial constructions. As natural boundaries between territories, rivers articulate space; they are given cultural and political meaning. They also are a means of communication between the littoral and inland areas. But whereas the shore is a place of directional clarity, inland areas reached by river are places of spatial disorientation and confusion of categories. In the Argonauts’ two river journeys in Book 4, the text gives little sense of the space they pass through; it is outside the area they can master with spatial definitions. Springs and lakes are also places of danger. These landlocked bodies of water raise the question of the relation between water and land, which is a persistent theme of the poem. The shore is where land and sea both merge and are divided, potentially a place where confusions can lead to clarity. The question is how to bring them into the proper relation.

Keywords: rivers; seashores; springs; lakes

Chapter.  12242 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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