Librarian (295 BC – 190 BC)
Apollonius is one of the chief representatives of epic poetry of the Hellenistic era. During the reigns of Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III Apollonius served as chief librarian and scholar of the Library of Alexandria. His best known work is the Argonautika (Jason and the Argonauts), an epic based on the homonymous Orphic myth that tells the story of Jason and the Argonauts on their quest to find the Golden Fleece.
In spite of his name, Apollonius was born in Alexandria and studied in the Museum of Alexandria under the influence of Callimachus, who would later become his greatest adversary. From a young age, Apollonius wrote his epic Argonautika and presented it in a poetic contest. After losing to his teacher Callimachus, Apollonius fled in disgrace to Rhodes, where he became an honorary citizen and founded a school of rhetoric. While in Rhodes he revised and perfected his work, ultimately gaining fame and prestige among his fellow citizens. He then returned to Alexandria where he regained his position as chief librarian of Alexandria, after succeeding Eratosthenes, until his death.
Recent evidence by numerous writers and researchers, most notably by Henriette Mertz, now suggest that Jason and the Argonauts did exist thousands before the age of Homer and that they crossed the Atlantic Ocean and sailed to the Americas in search of gold. Henriette Mertz, known for her works on Homer recreated the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts by travelling herself multiple times in the Americas, visiting the places that the Argonauts had did using Orpheus’ myths and Apollonius’ book as a guide. Her remarkable findings, in conjunction with all the other findings of her fellow researchers evidently show that the Argonauts’ voyage was a quest to find the secret of gold and bring it back to Greece. Gold was allegorically portrayed as a golden fleece because sheep skin was used to catch gold nuggets from rivers in which they were found. Their journey can be compared to that of the two Byzantine monks who travelled to China in search for silk.
Back then, Apollonius was not a homo unius libri, as he came to be known today (for his work Argonautika). He was a polymath, a writer and scientist who compiled several scientific works, none of which survives. Other works include poems such as On Archilochus, On Zenodotus, historical works such as Ktiseis, which is about the foundation of cities like Alexandria and Rhodes and annotations on the works of Hesiod, Antimachus and Homer, by whom he was heavily influenced.
- “Apollonios o Rhodios”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
- Apollonius of Rhodes. Argonautika. Kaktos: Athens, 1999. Print.
- Lahanas, Michael. Apollonius of Rhodes. Mlahanas.de. Web. August 30, 2016.
- Ayfantis, Georgios. Anthropos & Epistimi – Enimerosis: Prehistory and History of Man, Science & Civilization. Athens: Hellinikon Selas, 2009. Print.
- Mertz, Henriette. The Wine Dark Sea. Athens: Nea Thesis, 1995. Print.