In Greek mythology, the Symplegades (pronounced /sɪmˈplɛgəˌdiz/), also known as the Cyanean Rocks or Clashing Rocks, were a pair of rocks at the Bosporus that clashed together randomly. They were defeated by Jason and the Argonauts, who would have been lost and killed by the rocks except for Phineas' advice. Jason let a dove fly between the rocks; it lost only its tail feathers. The Argonauts rowed mightily to get through and lost only part of the stern ornament. After that, the Symplegades stopped moving permanently.

The Romans called them cyaneae insulae.

Lord Byron refers to the Symplegades in the concluding stanzas of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage:

And from the Alban Mount we now behold
Our friend of youth, that ocean, which when we
Beheld it last by Calp's rock unfold
Those waves, we follow on till the dark Euxine roll'd
''Upon the blue Symplegades …

The Wandering Rocks

In the Odyssey of Homer, the sorceress Circe tells Odysseus of the "Wandering Rocks" or "Roving Rocks" that have only been successfully passed by the Argo when homeward bound. These rocks smash ships and the remaining timbers are scattered by the sea or destroyed by flames. The rocks lie on one of two potential routes to Ithaca; the alternative, which is taken by Odysseus, leads to Scylla and Charybdis.

The rocks also appear on the homeward journey in Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes, who also locates them near to Scylla and Charybdis, but beyond them rather than as an alternative route. The Argonauts manage safely to sail through the rocks with the help of Thetis and the Nereids.

The similarities and differences between the Wandering Rocks and the Symplegades has been much debated by scholars, as have potential locations for them. (See also Geography of the Odyssey.) As Scylla and Charybdis have often been located in the Straits of Messina, this has led some (like E. V. Rieu) to suggest the Wandering Rocks were located around Sicily, with their flames and smoke coming from Mount Etna. An alternative theory of the geography of the Odyssey places Circe, the Sirens, Scylla & Charybdis and the Wandering Rocks, all mentioned in the stories of both Jason and Odysseus, in north west Greece. Tim Severin noted that the island of Seolsa off the coast of Levkas looked very similar to the rocks from the Argo story, and also that the area is near a geological fault, and hypothesised that, due to both its similarity with the legends of the Symplegades and the stories of the Argo sailing home via the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, the original legend was copied to the area. Severin also supported his theory with locations for Scylla and Charybdis being located on the other side of Levkas, noting that the name "Cape Skilla" is still used for a nearby headland on the mainland.


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