“The Long Pathways of the Sea”
Space and Time in the Argonautika
This chapter applies spatial theory to the general themes of the poem. The Argo’s voyage involves a material, bodily experience of space, but it produces space by connecting the places on its itinerary as interrelated constituents of a spatial system. It defines that space also by tracing routes or “pathways” on the sea, and also because the Argonauts leave signs of their presence in places where they stop. These signs imply narratives of what they did, and these narratives explain landmarks or ritual and other cultural practices associated with the Argonauts and exemplary for later times. In these stories (called aitia by the Greeks), space and time fuse together, and space is a signifying system, as is the poem itself, which is self-reflexively identified with the voyage. The Argo is a mobile embodiment of Greek space, confronting the alterity of foreign places and peoples. Herakles’ random movement through space provides a contrast with the systematic production of it by Jason and the Argonauts.
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