Shakespeare's Myths

Absyrtus, also Absirtus, Absirtes, Absirthius, Abserthius


Related Entries
 Medea, Jason



Absyrtus was Aeetes’ son and Medea’s brother. When Medea fled from Colchis with Jason, she took her young brother Absyrtus with her. As Aeetes pursued the fugitives and was catching up with them, Medea killed Absyrtus and dispersed his limbs so that Aeetes abandoned his pursuit to gather them. This story, narrated by Apollodorus, was made popular by Seneca and Ovid and became the better known version in early modern literature. Sophocles and Euripides, however, have Medea kill Absyrtus in her father’s palace, even before she joins Jason on the Argo: it is upon this variant that Raoul Le Fèvre, translated by Caxton, elaborates. According to a different version, told by Apollonius Rhodius, Absyrtus was not a child (Ovid’s “infans”, Metamorphoses, VII, 54), but a young man, who raised an army and managed to encircle the fugitives. But Medea lured her brother into an ambush and Jason killed him. Valerius Flaccus’ Absyrtus is likewise a tough soldier, bent on taking revenge on his sister and on Jason. 


In The Nature of Gods (III, xix), Cicero remarked that although Absyrtus is his more common name, Medea’s brother was called Aegialeus by Pacuvius. So do Justin and Diodorus Siculus call him Aegialeus.


How to cite

Yves Peyré. “Absyrtus.”  2014.  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology (2009-), ed. Yves Peyré.

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