The Voyage of Argo is the second E.V. Rieu translation from epic poem to prose work of Ancient Greek literature that I have indulged in. The story laid out here is the quest for and return from obtaining the Golden Fleece by Jason and the 'Argonauts' as his traveling companions come to be known.
Each of the four 'books' of this crafting of Apollonius's tale relates the various trials, dangers, deceptions, victories, and defeats of the crew of the Argo.
Book one, 'Preparation and Departure' was, for me, the hardest to digest. The first several pages, following a lengthy introduction, read merely like a passenger manifest. Many are named, some easily recognizable from other tales of Ancient Greece. The crew sails off on their quest, led by Jason, son of Aeson, with Heracles (Hercules) as part of their company. By the end of book one, the disappearence of one of the crew, Hylas, sends Heracles off on a quest of his own, to find Hylas' abductors and punish them.
Book two, 'Onward to Colchis', finds the crew of the Argo in battle with the Bebryces, drawing the attention of Athene, who allows the ship to pass safely through the treacherous Clashing Rocks, and the loss of other crew members along the way. Jason and company find their way to Colchis and land there, with the divine influence of the Gods.
Book three, 'Jason and Medea', centers on the famed love story of the two title characters. Medea, struck by an arrow from Eros, falls in love with Jason, and becomes his greatest ally, as she is the daughter of King Aeetes, the man who knows the location of the Golden Fleece Jason and his crew seek. Aeetes, finding the company of the Argo to be brash and treacherous, proposes a test of their fortitude, and should they survive the flaming bulls and sharp toothed serpent, and obtain the fleece, they will have proven themselves worthy. Medea, desperate to help her beloved, contrives a plot of her own to aid Jason, and win his heart.
Book four, 'Homeward Bound' tells of the dangers Jason and crew once again face on the open seas as they journey home. Medea in tow, Jason must choose between his love for her and the lives of his crew as Aeetes sets out to destroy them and bring Medea back home to him.
A thrilling tale of bravery and cunning, The Voyage of Argo ranks with the Odyssey in terms of excitement and content. While reading this, and the notes that accompany the text naming this surviving version of the tale as a possibly 'revised second edition' of the actual story, I am left to wonder if perhaps the 'divine influence' of Athene and Here (Hera), and even Zeus himself, are not offered as simple explanation for events that seemed miraculous to the author. The story flows along easily and while it does not suffer from the 'interference' of the Gods, it is not exactly amplified by it either.
Whatever the case, The Voyage of Argo is a thrilling read. It is easy to see why it has spawned many fictional accounts, as it is an adventure tale ripe for the picking, and needs very little 'inventiveness' to augment it to a full-fledged fictional thriller.