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Arion , Gustave Moreau , 1891, Musee du Petit Palais, France

Sculpture from the Acropolis, Asty Newspaper

Arion of Molyvos (Αρίων ο Μηθυμναίος) a native of Methymna (Mythimna )- Molyvos (625 - 585 BC), a lyre-player. He was the first man whom we know to compose and name the dithyramb which he afterwards taught at Corinth (Herodotus History). Arion , Arion and the Dolphin

Herodotus (Book 1):

This Periander, who apprised Thrasybulus of the oracle, was son of Cypselus, and tyrant of Corinth. In his time a very wonderful thing is said to have happened. The Corinthians and the Lesbians agree in their account of the matter. They relate that Arion of Methymna, who as a player on the harp, was second to no man living at that time, and who was, so far as we know, the first to invent the dithyrambic measure, to give it its name, and to recite in it at Corinth, was carried to Taenarum on the back of a dolphin.

He had lived for many years at the court of Periander, when a longing came upon him to sail across to Italy and Sicily. Having made rich profits in those parts, he wanted to recross the seas to Corinth. He therefore hired a vessel, the crew of which were Corinthians, thinking that there was no people in whom he could more safely confide; and, going on board, he set sail from Tarentum. The sailors, however, when they reached the open sea, formed a plot to throw him overboard and seize upon his riches. Discovering their design, he fell on his knees, beseeching them to spare his life, and making them welcome to his money. But they refused; and required him either to kill himself outright, if he wished for a grave on the dry land, or without loss of time to leap overboard into the sea. In this strait Arion begged them, since such was their pleasure, to allow him to mount upon the quarter-deck, dressed in his full costume, and there to play and sing, and promising that, as soon as his song was ended, he would destroy himself. Delighted at the prospect of hearing the very best harper in the world, they consented, and withdrew from the stern to the middle of the vessel: while Arion dressed himself in the full costume of his calling, took his harp, and standing on the quarter-deck, chanted the Orthian. His strain ended, he flung himself, fully attired as he was, headlong into the sea. The Corinthians then sailed on to Corinth. As for Arion, a dolphin, they say, took him upon his back and carried him to Taenarum, where he went ashore, and thence proceeded to Corinth in his musician’s dress, and told all that had happened to him. Periander, however, disbelieved the story, and put Arion in ward, to prevent his leaving Corinth, while he watched anxiously for the return of the mariners. On their arrival he summoned them before him and asked them if they could give him any tiding of Arion. They returned for answer that he was alive and in good health in Italy, and that they had left him at Tarentum, where he was doing well. Thereupon Arion appeared before them, just as he was when he jumped from the vessel: the men, astonished and detected in falsehood, could no longer deny their guilt. Such is the account which the Corinthians and Lesbians give; and there is to this day at Taenarum, an offering of Arion’s at the shrine, which is a small figure in bronze, representing a man seated upon a dolphin.

Arion, Albrecht Dürer

The Nine Muses inspiring Arion, Orpheus and Pythagoras under the auspieces of the Personified Air, source of all Harmony, 13th century, Public Library Rheims

See also

Enalus who was saved by dolphins

Dolphins in Ancient Greece

Bulfinch's Mythology, The Age of Fable: Arion

Ancient Greeks

Ancient Greeks Portraits

Ancient Greece

Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire

Modern Greece

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