Back in 2012, when I was trying to find a publisher for Jason and the Argonauts through the Ages, Susan Bielstein of the University of Chicago Press rejected my manuscript even though she loved it because she had just signed—the same week!—another author who was writing an identical book on the same subject. That book has yet to materialize from Chicago, but a strikingly similar one just popped up over at I. B. Tauris, who also rejected my manuscript. Their publishing house announced publication early next year of British Classics scholar Helen Lovatt’s In Search of the Argonauts: The Remarkable History of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Unless, of course, there are now three books on the same subject!
The book is nearly identical to mine in scope and subject, though with a significant difference in emphasis according to the book description:
Few classical stories are as romantic as that of Jason and the Golden Fleece. The stirring tale of an adventurer who was also a disenfranchised king's son and daring sea-captain has resonated through the ages, rumbling and echoing like the clashing rocks which almost pulverised the doughty Argo to splinters. [But] it speaks to us of more: of sex and gender; of identity and race; and, of colonisation and conquest. From Pindar to J W Waterhouse, from Max Beckmann to Ray Harryhausen and from Mary Renault to Ian Seraillier, the epic poem of "Apollonius of Rhodes" has inspired later interpretations as rich, salty and diverse as the source text itself. Helen Lovatt here unravels, like untangled sea-kelp, the diverse strands of the narrative and its numerous and fascinating afterlives. Her book will prove endlessly entertaining to those who love classical literature and myth.
Recognizing that the writers of the description probably don’t quite capture the work, I am nevertheless confused by the emphasis on Apollonius’ Argonautica, which was not the inspiration for Pindar (who lived 200 years before it was written!). It is a late poem and one that was not historically very influential until after the Renaissance. Perhaps, then, this is the difference between our books: I am interested mostly in what came before Apollonius in order to reconstruct where the story started, and she prefers to trace where the story ended up afterward.
At any rate, maybe the similarity will work to my advantage since my book came out first and might manage to make its way into some reviews of the larger publisher’s offering for comparison’s sake.
Tsoukalos Hunts for Bigfoot
Two weeks ago, I devoted a number of blog posts to the unusual connection between Bigfoot and ufology, particularly the growing chorus of claims that the mysterious ape is somehow either an extraterrestrial himself, a trans-dimensional being, or the guardian of underground aliens. Well imagine my surprise when yesterday I learned that none other than Giorgio Tsoukalos, our favorite ancient astronaut theorist, is tramping about in the woods hunting for Bigfoot.
According to Bigfoot hunter Jack Meldrum, Tsoukalos is going to be the “host of an upcoming series,” but sadly what that series might be isn’t specified. We can only guess at who else might be paying for the dubious talents of a man who has written no books, produced no original research, and makes his living recycling Erich von Däniken’s old ideas.
Tsoukalos’s Bigfoot adventure was reported on the Bigfoot Evidence blog, along with photographic proof:
Tsoukalos, of course, has no trouble seeing aliens and animals as being in league. Apparently inspired by Star Trek IV, he proposed that extraterrestrials made a peace treaty with coelacanths: “I think it is possible that the coelacanth survived due to a direct guarantee by extraterrestrials” (Ancient Aliens S04E10, “Aliens and Dinosaurs”).
And now our intrepid hero bravely plunged into the woods in Washington to stalk the non-existent Sasquatch.
The Location of the Ark
I’ve been reading Irving Finkel’s The Ark Before Noah (2014), which I intend to discuss more fully after I’ve finished it, but something struck me as wrong when I was reading his chapter on the mountains claimed as the resting place of the Ark. In that chapter, Finkel enters into evidence the statements of Berossus as preserved first by Alexander Polyhistor and second by Abydenus, both to be found in Eusebius’ Chronicle:
The vessel being thus stranded in Armenia, some part of it yet remains in the Corcyræan mountains of Armenia; and the people scrape off the bitumen, with which it had been outwardly coated, and make use of it by way of an alexipharmic and amulet.
With respect to the vessel, which yet remains in Armenia, it is a custom of the inhabitants to form bracelets and amulets of its wood.
(trans. I. P. Cory, plagiarizing the earlier translation of Jacob Bryant)
The problem is that he seems to see the Gordyaean Mountains and Armenia as geographically unconnected, but this is only true of modern political Armenia. Ancient Armenia, in the time of Berossus, was much larger. See this map:
According to Xenophon in Anabasis 4, the Carduchoi inhabited the mountains north of the Tigris a century before Berossus wrote. Both Flavius Josephus (Against Apion 19) and Strabo (Geography 11) agree on the identity of the Gordyaean Mountains with Armenia, and Josephus cites Berossus to the effect that the Ark “was brought to the highest part of the Armenian mountains” (Against Apion 19) and directly quotes Berossus as given in Polyhistor (Antiquities 1.93 = Whiston translation 1.3.6). The Greek historian Nicolaus of Damascus, according to Josephus, concurs.
The Carduchoi lent their name to the Corduene, an ancient vassal state of Armenia that is now the Şırnak Province of Turkey. In Şırnak Province one finds, of course, Al-Judi, suggesting that Berossus knew Al-Judi as the mountain of the Ark. While Finkel would like to interpret the Ark’s landing on Al-Judi as a relatively late tradition used by Hellenisitc Jews, Nestorian Christians, and then Islam, we can see that it was the one known at least as far back as 300 BCE, and almost certainly earlier than that. But we know from Heraclius’ visit to the mountain (Agapius, Kitab al-’Unwan; Elmacin, al-Majmu’ al-Mubarak 2.1.1) that the Orthodox Christians followed the same tradition into the Middle Ages, and as late as the 1700s George Sale could write with bemused astonishment of the novelty that the Ark’s mountain had only recently been reassigned from Al-Judi to Mt. Masis in Armenia, which we today call Ararat.