William Morris Archive

Annotations for Book I

I.1 Thessaly: A district of northern Greece which consists of large and level plains surrounded by mountains. See Map 1, EF3, E2.

I.2 Minyas: Legendary king, progenitor of the Minyans, and founder of Orchomenus (Pindar, Isthm, I.56). He was also described as the ancestor of the Argonauts, who according to Apollonius Rhodius, were descended from his daughters (Pindar, Pyth, 4.69; Ap. Rhod.I.230 ff.).

I.3 Orchomenus: A name given at various times to several cities in Phthiotic Achaea, Boeotia, and Arcadia. Here Morris must mean the Boeotian Orchomenus, founded by Minyas. For Boeotia, see Map 2, H6, and for Arcadia, Map 2, F9.

I.7 Anaurus: A river of Thessaly, near the foot of mount Pelion, where Jason lost one of his sandals. Morris would have found this detail in Lemprière. See Map 2, C6.

I.8 Mount Pelion: A mountain of more than 5,300 feet in Thessalian Magnesia, the legendary home of the centaur Chiron. See Map 2, H3.

I.9 Centaurs: A tribe of wild monsters, part man, part horse. According to legend, centaurs lived in the woods and mountains of Elis, Arcadia, and Thessaly. Embodying wildlife, animality, and barbarism, the Centaurs were represented as lustful and over-fond of wine.

Among the Centaurs, Chiron was the wise and aged medicine man. Of divine origin as the son of Kronos and Philyra, he was well-versed in medicine and other arts. To him was entrusted the education of Achilles, Asclepius, and Jason, among other heroes, and he was the object of a cult in Thessaly.

The Centaurs were perceived as warlike creatures, as reflected in myths involving the Lapiths and Heracles. When King Peirithous invited Centaurs to his wedding, for example, at least one tried to rape the Lapith women and a bloody battle ensued. Likewise, Heracles had to combat Centaurs when they were attracted to the scent of their wine.

I.11 nigh: near

I.13 Iolchos: (Iolcus) a city of Thessalian Magnesia, situated on the northern shore of the Bay of Volo, where it was sheltered by Mt. Pelion. It was celebrated in mythology as the home of Jason and the starting point of the Argonauts, that is, the center from which Mycenaean influence spread over most of Thessaly. The surrounding region contained pastureland and meadows suitable for grazing. See Map 4, H5.

I.15 Cretheus: According to Lemprière, Cretheus, a son of Aeolus, was the father of Aeson by Tyro his brother’s daughter, and thus Jason's grandfather.

I.17 Tyro: According to legend, a beautiful nymph, the daughter of Salmoneus, king of Elis and Alcidice, and Jason’s grandmother. She was treated with great severity by her stepmother Sidero, and at last removed from her father’s house by her uncle Cretheus. She became enamored of the river Enipeus, and as she often walked on its banks, Neptune assumed the shape of her favored lover in order to seduce her. She had two sons by Neptune, Pelias and Neleus, whom she exposed to conceal their intimacy from the world. The children were preserved by herdsmen, and when they had arrived to years of maturity, they avenged their mother’s injuries by assassinating the cruel Sidero. Tyro married her uncle Cretheus, by whom she had Amythaon, Pheres, and Aeson.

I.19 Pelias: Jason's half-uncle, the mythological twin brother of Neleus, and son of Neptune by Tyro, the daughter of Salmoneus. His birth was concealed from the world by his mother, who, fearful of her father's wrath at the news of the birth, caused him to be exposed in the woods. The infant's life was preserved by herdsmen, who named him Pelias, from a lead-colored spot in his face. Sometime afterwards, Tyro married Cretheus, son of Aeolus, king of Iolchos, and bore three other children, of whom Aeson was the eldest. See also Neleus, I.187 below.

I.47 Chiron: The wise and aged medicine man among the Centaurs. Of divine origin as the son of Kronos and Philyra, he was well-versed in medicine and other arts. To him was entrusted the education of Achilles, Asclepius, and Jason, among other heroes, and he was the object of a cult in Thessaly.

I.53 youngling: a young person

I.61 hart: adult male deer

I.83 cornel: The wood of Cornus mascula, celebrated for its hardness and toughness, and used for javelins, arrows, and other objects requiring strength.

I.86 rill: a small stream

I.90 The Fates: Mythological weavers of man's fate. Hesiod in his Theogony (218) names these Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Clotho feeds the yarn of life, Lachesis measures it, and Atropos ("She who is unbending") snips it at the moment of death.

I.91 hap: come to pass

I.92 wood-nymphs: A young mortal male's love for a sylvan nymph is a narrative motif present in the earliest pastoral compositions. Morris' employment in his account of Jason's upbringing of pastoral language and motifs absent from his classical sources pays tribute to this tradition.

I.105 war-horse: A charger; a powerful horse ridden in war.

I.108 glaive: A name given at different periods to three distinct kinds of weapons, viz. lance, bill, and sword. Here, probably a sword.

I.127 point:  A flourish or call played on a hunting-horn.

I.130 Euboean: Euboea was a large island, also called Long Island (Makris) since it stretched beside Boeotia from the Gulf of Pagasae to Andros. See Map 1.

I.138 Dædalus: A legendary artist, craftsman, and inventor of archaic times. His most noted creation was the Labyrinth to hold the Minotaur, in which King Minos later imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus. To escape, Daedalus constructed artificial wings for himself and his son. When Icarus ventured too close to the sun, the wax of his wings melted, and he drowned in the Aegean Sea.

Daedalus was born in Athens, the son of Eupalamus or ‘Skillhand,’ who was allegedly descended from Erechtheus. Daedalus had to leave the city because he had killed his nephew Perdix who surpassed him in skill. He went to Crete, where he created the wooden cow for Pasiphaë, the labyrinth for the Minotaur, a dancing floor and the famous thread for Ariadne. Enraged by the aid that Daedalus had rendered to Pasiphaë, King Minos imprisoned him and his son Icarus, but Daedalus constructed two pairs of artificial wings for himself and his son and flew away. Daedalus eventually crossed safely to Sicily; Icarus, however, approached the sun too closely so that the wax of his wings melted and he drowned in the Aegean Sea, named after him Icarian.

I.145 roan: of animals: having a coat in which the prevailing color is thickly interspersed with some other; especially bay, sorrel, or chestnut mixed with white or grey; of horses: the prevailing color is frequently expressed as black, blue, red, silver, or strawberry roan.

I.146 dight: adorned, arrayed

I.160 Olympus: The highest mountain of the Greek peninsula, situated on the borders of Macedonia and Thessaly. It rises at one point to 9,573 feet and there are several other heights of over 9,000 feet. Famous as the reputed home of the gods, it was important in religion and is frequently mentioned by poets. See Map 4, F3/4.

I.162 Malea: The south-eastern promontory of Laconia, and of the whole Peloponnesus, a reputedly dangerous corner for shipping, chiefly because of the sudden veering of the winds off a harbourless coast. It was denounced as dangerous from Homer down to Byzantine writers, though despite this reputation much traffic continued to pass through the narrow strait between Malea and the island of Cythera. See Map 2, I13.

I.187 Sidero: The step-mother of Tyro, killed by Pelias.

I.187 Neleus: According to legend, Neleus and Pelias were twin sons of Tyro, the daughter of Salmoneus, and Poseidon, who had gained her consent by deceptively approaching her in the shape of her lover, the river-god Enipeus. (Od, 11.235 ff). According to one tradition, (Od, 11.237; Aeolus 2) she later married Cretheus, and here this seems to be the case; in later sources, as in Apollodorus (I.90), he is her guardian.

Apollodorus also says that she exposed Neleus and Pelias on birth, who were rescued by a horse-herder. Tyro continued to suffer persecution from Sidero, her stepmother, till her twin sons grew up, recognized her, and pursued Sidero into a temple of Juno, where Pelias killed her at the altar. Neleus married Chloris, daughter of Amphion of Orchomenus (Od,11.281 ff), and they produced twelve sons, including Nestor. But Heracles attacked Pylos, Neleus' kingdom, because Neleus would not purify him from the blood guilt of Iphitus (Iliad, 11.690 ff) and killed all his sons except Nestor.

I.192 the Earth-begirder: “begird” means “to encompass”; the Earth-begirder is Neptune / Poseidon, the god of the sea.

I.205 Dodona: A sanctuary of Zeus located in Epirus, famous as the home of an oracle. See Map 4, B4.

Dodona is first mentioned in the Iliad (16.233) where its prophets, the Selli, are described as "of unwashed feet and sleeping on the ground." In the Odyssey and elsewhere in early mythology the responses of the oracle are described as emanating from a sacred oak, and a dove was associated with the tree and was credited with having spoken (!) to reveal its sacred character. By the mid-fifth-century B.C.E. the oracle was operated by three priestesses instead of the Selli, and in later times, the priestesses were themselves called doves.

I.215 half-shod: here, wearing only one shoe

I.216 wan: pale

I.230 stead: A particular part of the earth's surface, or of space generally; a place.

I.255 fall to meat: archaic. dine

I.262 rout: a company, assemblage, band, or troop of persons; connotations: a flock or herd of animals, a disreputable group, commoners

I.265 let fall the crooked horn: i.e., he ceased his hunting

I.286 girt-up: To gird up means to surround, encircle (the waist, a person about the waist) with a belt or girdle, esp. for the purpose of allowing freer movement. Here she has probably pulled up her skirt through her girdle for ease of movement.

I.290 Actaeon: In mythology, the son of Aristaeus and Autonoe, a daughter of Cadmus. A keen hunter, Actaeon one day came upon Artemis bathing; offended at being thus seen naked by a man, she turned him into a stag and he was chased and killed by his own hounds (see Stesichorus ap. Paus. 9.2.3 and Ovid, Met 3.138 ff.). Other versions of his offense were that he was Zeus' rival with Semele (Apollod.3.30) or that he boasted he was a better hunter than Artemis (Eur. Bacch 339-40), and that he wished to marry Artemis (Diod.Sic.4.81.4).

I.291 certes: archaic. certainly

I.306 cushat: the wood-pigeon or ring dove

I.314 betide: archaic. here, might happen

I.326 Magnesian garments: Magnesia was a region of Thessaly; see Map 4, FG, 5/6.

I.344 ambrosial: here, delectable — even divine, since "ambrosia" was the legendary food of the gods on Mount Olympus

I.361 rede: archaic. counsel, advise

I.374 vane: weather vanes, placed atop a roof or spire