Natural Imagery, Intertext, and Initiation Ritual in The Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius

  • Grace Page

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis examines the similes of Apollonius Rhodius in the context of their intertextual and cultural value to demonstrate that imagery of the natural world, such as sunlight, trees, water, fire, and the stars is used in association with initiation ritual in the Argonautica. This study combines philology with myth and ritual theory to examine how Apollonius has reworked the association between nature, ritual, and human life cycles in Greek literature and culture to highlight important moments on his characters’ initiatory journeys into adulthood and to substitute for missing aspects of rituals which are unable to be performed in the mythical narrative of the epic. This study examines how Apollonius combines the cultural legacy of epic natural imagery and the psychological tradition of tragic animal imagery with contemporary values to create a unique genre of natural imagery which is intrinsic to the narrative and themes of the Argonautica, as a tool for the poet to reframe the values of heroism and romance through intertextual references to other sources during pivotal moments in the epic. The first chapter examines natural imagery in the initiation of Jason and explores conceptualisations of heroism and masculinity as he transitions from a boy into a man. The second chapter analyses the nymph abduction of Hylas and discusses the role of nature as a setting for an initiation through a sexual consummation. The third chapter examines natural imagery in the initiation of Medea as she transitions from a maiden to a wife and discusses themes of womanhood and psychology. The fourth chapter analyses the marriage of Jason and Medea and demonstrates how the poet uses natural imagery to connect and conclude both of their initiatory journeys with their wedding. In these chapters, I examine how different initiation rituals for both men and women are described, represented, or substituted with natural imagery. This thesis takes inspiration from similar studies of natural and animal imagery in epic and tragedy to provide the Apollonian similes with a close reading which takes into consideration their intertextuality, connection to ritual, cultural background, interconnectivity, and thematic value, which defines Apollonius' innovative way of using intertextual natural imagery in association with initiation ritual to enhance the narrative and themes of the Argonautica.
    Date of Award11 Jan 2023
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorFiona McHardy (Director of Studies) & Marco Fantuzzi (Co-Supervisor)


    • Argonautica
    • Epic Poetry
    • Apollonius
    • Greek Poetry
    • Natural Imagery
    • Hellenistic
    • Nature
    • Heracles
    • Hylas
    • Initiation
    • Jason
    • Intertext
    • Medea
    • Coming of Age
    • Marriage
    • Ritual
    • Rite of Passage

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