William Morris Archive

Annotations for Book XII

XII.Argument Northern sea: Possibly the Baltic; see Maps 6a and 6b.

XII.Argument Pillars of Hercules: Ancient name for promontories which flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. In legend, the Pillars were set up by Hercules to mark the limits of his westward journey. The northern or European pillar Calpe is the Rock of Gibraltar, and the southern or African Abyla may be the Monte Hacho in Ceuta and/or the Jebel Musa in Morocco.

XII.42 fear much the doubtful spring: fear that spring would not arrive; i.e., they opened

XII.74-75 Lynceus and Idas: In mythology, Lynceus was an Argonaut and one of those who participated in the hunt for the Calydonian boar. A son of Aphareus and Arene, he was alleged to be so sharp-sighted that he could see through walls, trees, underground, and distinguish objects more than nine miles away. The brothers Lynceus and Idas were probably betrothed to their uncle Leucippus's daughters Phoebe and Hilaeria, but those sisters were abducted (and possibly wedded) by Castor and Pollux. The rival pairs of brothers later fought to the death: in one version to avenge the abduction, in another in a quarrel over raided cattle. Lynceus, Idas, and Castor were killed.

XII.91 Messene: The chief city of Messenia, the southwestern quarter of the Peloppenese. It was subjugated, and its people enslaved, by the Spartans between 750 and 650 B. C. E. After its liberation, a new city was built on Mount Ithome in 369 B. C. E. See Map 3, C7.

XII.92 fane: temple

XII.131-32 Deity / who dwelt between the river and the sea: a regional river divinity

XII.133 Earth-shaking One: Neptune

XII.134 Her by whose help: Juno

XII.140 sea-born seed of Jove: Venus/Aphrodite

XII.166 amber-bearing shore: The southern shore of the Baltic, from which amber was intermittently exported southward overland to the Mediterranean lands throughout ancient times, (cf. Tacitus, Germania, ch. 45); cf. l. 86, "amber-bearing beads." See “The Route of the Argonauts,” Dr. Peter Wright, in Supplementary Materials).

XII.171 the steersman’s mighty sire: According to legend, Erginus was the son of Neptune.

XII.207 Cimbrian folk: a Germanic people who then inhabited a region around the straits leading to the Baltic Sea, including parts of Jutland.

XII.227 bright-winged twain: i.e., the Boreads, Zetes, and Calis; sons of Boreas, god of the north wind.

XII.235 Nereus’ pavement: In Greek mythology, Nereus was a Titan and the eldest son of Pontus (the Sea) and Gaia (the Earth). He lived in the Ægean Sea with his spouse Doris and daughters the Nereids, and like Proteus was a shapeshifter with the power of prophecy. Proteus and Nereus were supplanted by Poseidon as sea gods when Zeus overthrew Cronus and assumed rulership of the world.

XII.264 shrouds: ropes or rigging that hold the masthead in place

XII.267 Erginus: here, an Argonaut from Miletus and legendary son of Neptune

XII.270-71 He who still doth shake / the firm-set earth: Neptune

XII.271-72 She who draws the sea / This way and that: the moon

XII.432 Iberian land: Hercules would have learnt of the western "Iberian land" during his tenth labor, when he journeyed westward to capture the cattle of Geryon.