A commentary on Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica II
The text used throughout is that of W. W. Ehlers (Stuttgart 1980) and a separate version is not established, though I have occasionally disagreed with Ehlers' choice of reading. The commentary deals with questions of interest as they arise, both textual and syntactical, literary and mythological. It seeks to show that Valerius was no unskilled versifier, and that problems of interpretation may be due to misunderstanding as much as to poor workmanship on the part of the poet. The introduction to each episode includes a detailed discussion of the mythological tradition, which reveals the limited extent of innovation by Valerius. The preliminary section on Valerius' literary qualities seeks to analyse questions of language and style that have emerged from the investigation in the commentary, concentrating in particular on the close relationship with Virgil's Aeneid. It concludes that Valerius was mistaken to concentrate on the long mythological epic as his talents clearly lay in the field of short descriptive poetry. The section on Valerius' use of his sources rejects the claim that he makes allusive use of Virgil, and briefly examines his debt to Apollonius, and the chronological relationship with Statius' Thebaid. The section on the manuscript tradition provides brief reasons for the acceptance of Ehlers' stemma (rather than Courtney's), differing only in acknowledging the existence of a separate French tradition and in placing greater weight on the authority of Carrio's old manuscript. The section concludes with a rapid survey of Valerius' influence on Medieval literature. An excursus is appended that traces the close relationship between the pictorial and literary versions of the Hesione story from the earliest examples until the time of Valerius and beyond.