In his most recent book, Twilight of the Gods (2009; English trans. 2010), Erich von Däniken (EVD) returns to the well he had previously drawn from in Odyssey of the Gods and again tries to rope the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts into his alien agenda. Again EVD displays remarkable ignorance of ancient literature and the subject he purports to discuss.
In Twilight of the Gods, EVD states that the myth of the Argonauts is filled with alien-created giants. He quotes "the Greek saga 'The Argonautica'" as stating that the Argonauts had climbed a mountain on the "Kapidag Peninsular" (sic) when they are attacked by giants:
I know all the ancient versions of the Argonaut saga well, and I'll admit that I didn't readily understand what the heck EVD was talking about. Then it hit me that he must be talking about the scene in Apollonius of Rhodes' Argonautica 1.910ff. when the Argonauts climb Mt. Dindymum and are attacked by the Earthborn wild-men. Apollonius does in fact describe the Earthborn somewhat like EVD claims, though something is lost in translating Greek to German to English. Here is the standard translation of the passage:
But here's the thing. EVD evinces no knowledge that "the Greek saga 'The Argonautica'" is one particular poem, that of Apollonius, rather late, and not the only one in existence. Valerius Flaccus wrote a Latin version; there were Greek prose versions included in Apollodorus and Diodorus Siculus and a Latin prose version in Hyginus, and there was an entire other Greek epic poem known as the Orphic Argonautica which I have translated into English myself and therefore know quite well. In that poem, the Earthborn are not specifically giants, and their description doesn't match EVD's:
In Apollonius, the Earthborn are the descendents of Poseidon; in Orpheus descendents of Rhea. There are other discrepancies. The point, of course, is that EVD doesn't know anything about the books he copies from and just assumes that whatever story he runs across is somehow an "official" version recording what the aliens want us to know. Myths and folklore have many different variants, and it is imperative to establish why we should accept one above another before proclaiming it evidence for aliens.
Since I bothered to look up Twilight of the Gods, I suppose I will review the book point by point over the next couple of weeks. I don't expect it to improve.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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