William Morris Archive

Annotations for Book V

V.4 rude: uncivilized, barbarous

V.9 Propontis: Now called the sea of Marmora; an inland sea that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, thus bisecting Turkey into a European part and an Asian part. It is about 300 miles in circumference and received its name from its vicinity to the Pontus. The Bosporus strait connects it to the Black Sea and the Dardanelles strait to the Aegean. The former also separates Istanbul into a more European and a more Asian side. See Map 5, G5.

V.16-18 Cyzicum. . . Cyzicus: Cyzicum is an island on the south of the Propontis, or Sea of Marmora (which connects the Aegean and Black Seas) about 530 stadia in circumference. Alexander joined it to the continent by two bridges, and from that time it was called a peninsula. It had two harbours called Panormus and Chytus, the first natural, and the other artificial. It became one of the most considerable cities of Asia. See Map 5, G5.

Cyzicus is the name of the chief town of the island of Cyzicum, and also the name of a son of Oeneus and Stilba, who reigned in Cyzicum. See Map 5, G5.

V.25 champion: a fighting man, a combatant; a stout fighter, a man of valor

V.35 fain: well-pleased

V.52 hapless: unfortunate

V.69 bow-shot: the distance to which an arrow can be shot from a bow

V.112 fair-cuffed: fair-curled

V.118 wrack: seaweed

V.122 fret: ornamental interlaced work; a net; an ornament (esp. for the hair) consisting of jewels or flowers in a network

V.132 hardihead: strength, endurance

V.140 Pontus: From Pontos, "the main," a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea with a series of mountain ranges with deep valleys, running parallel to the coast. Today it is located in Turkey. See Map 5, J4.

Pontus, whose coasts were colonized by the Ionian Greeks about the end of the Greek Dark Ages (1150-750 B. C. E.) was occupied inland by a village population organized in territorial units, large temple territories with numerous sacred slaves ruled by priests, and a feudal nobility. Some mountainous regions in eastern Pontus long remained "uncivilized" tribal territories.

V.146 mind: remind

V.148 Salmydessa: Actual ancient Thracian city west of the Black Sea (now Kirklareli, Turkey), erroneously located on the Propontis in the myth involving King Phineus and the Argonauts. See Map 5, G4/5.

V.162 grapnels: An instrument with iron claws to be attached to a rope and thrown for the purpose of seizing and holding an object, esp. an enemy's ship.

V.163 Phineus: The best known of several mythological persons so named was a Thracian king. As Zeus’s instigation, he was plagued by the Harpies; since they stole or defiled all his food, he had nearly starved to death by the time the Argonauts arrived at his land.

V.190 ‘longed: abbreviated form of belonged

V.225 Minos’ throne: Minos was a mythical king of Crete, allegedly a son of Zeus and Europa, who after his death became a judge of the dead in Hades; the Minoan civilization has been named after him. An alleged "throne of Minos" is preserved in Knossos, Crete.

V.229 Minyae: In mythology, a name given to the inhabitants of Orchomenus, in Boeotia, from Minyas, legendary king of the country. Of the two great centers of legends, Thebes, with its Cadmean population, was a military stronghold, and Orchomenus a commercial center; here, the Argonauts, led by Jason of Iolchos. See Map 1.

V.230 the daughters of the earth and sea, the dreadful Snatchers: i.e. The Harpies, supernatural winged beings, apparently winds in origin, who ‘snatched’ and abducted various persons and things. These spirit-winds were named Aello, Ocypete, and Celaeno.

V.244 drouth: thirst

V.279 the Northwind’s offspring: i.e. Zetes and Calais, sons of Boreasa or Boreas, the name of the north wind blowing from the Hyperborean mountains.

V.302 restless: continually moving or operating; never ceasing or pausing

V.307 brand: burning taper or torch

V.311 fair hap: good fortune (ironic)

V.312-13 fair hap: Morris here allows the Harpies to prophesy accurately Medea's contriving both the killing of Pelias and the burning of the Corinthian princess Glauce.

V.340 Strophades: A small group of Greek islands on the western coast of the Peloponnesus, southeast of the island of Zakynthose. The two chief islands of the Strophades are Stamfani and Arpia, both rocky and sparsely vegetated. See Map 2, B9.

V.379 “Clad as in Saturn’s time folk used to be”: Here Morris is referring primarily not to the Roman festival of Saturnalia, but to the primeval Golden Age (as described in e. g. Hesiod's Works and Days, ll. 109-26, or Ovid's Metamorphoses I, 113-43), in which early men enjoyed, amid perpetual summer, a life of leisure and pleasure, supported without toil by the spontaneous abundance of nature in the time of Kronos/Saturn, before the rule of Jupiter/Zeus brought in developed civilization with its skills and discontents.