Betrayed by Men; Saved By Dolphins–The Story of Arion

Herodotus 1.35

“Periander was ruling Korinth as a tyrant. For the Korinthians claim (and the Lesbians agree with them) that the most wonderful thing happened in his life: Arion of Methymna was carried to Tainaron on a dolphin. He was a kithara player second to none at that time and the first man we know of who composed, named and taught the dithyramb at Corinth.

They say that this Arion spent much time at Periander’s palace but desired to sail to Italy and Sicily. After he made a lot of money there, he wanted to return to Korinth again. He left from Tarentum and hired a ship of Korinthian men because he trusted no one more than Korinthians. But once on the sea, they conspired to throw Arion out to keep his money. After he learned this, he was begging, offering money to them, trying to bargain for his life. But he was not able to persuade him—the sailors commanded him either to do himself in, so that he might have a burial on ground, or to leap into the sea as soon as possible.

When Arion realized he was at the end, he asked, since it might seem right to them, that he appear in full dress standing on the benches singing. And he promised to kill himself after singing. This came as a delight to them if they could hear the best mortal singer at work. They retreated to the middle of the ship from the stern and he donned all his equipment and took up the kithara. While standing on the benches he sang the entire Orthian nome. When he was done with it, he threw himself into the sea in full costume.

They sailed back to Korinth but people claim a dolphin picked him up and took him to Tainaros. Once he got to land, he went to Koronth with all his stuff and when he got there told the whole story. Since Periander distrusted him, he held Arion under guard, separated from everyone. He waited for the sailors. When they were present, they were asked if they could say anything about Arion. When they were claiming that they left him safe somewhere in Italy and he was doing well in Tarentum, he appeared to them looking just like he did when he leaped out of the boat. The sailors were shocked and were not able to deny it since they had been completely refuted. The Korinthians and Lesbians say these things. And there is a bronze dedication of Arion in Tarentum, not very large: a man riding a dolphin.”

ἐτυράννευε δὲ ὁ Περίανδρος Κορίνθου· τῷ δὴ λέγουσι Κορίνθιοι (ὁμολογέουσι δέ σφι Λέσβιοι) ἐν τῷ βίῳ θῶμα μέγιστον παραστῆναι, Ἀρίονα τὸν Μηθυμναῖον ἐπὶ δελφῖνος ἐξενειχθέντα ἐπὶ Ταίναρον, ἐόντα κιθαρῳδὸν τῶν τότε ἐόντων οὐδενὸς δεύτερον, καὶ διθύραμβον πρῶτον ἀνθρώπων τῶν ἡμεῖς ἴδμεν ποιήσαντά τε καὶ ὀνομάσαντα καὶ διδάξαντα ἐν Κορίνθῳ. τοῦτον τὸν Ἀρίονα λέγουσι, τὸν πολλὸν τοῦ χρόνου διατρίβοντα παρὰ Περιάνδρῳ, ἐπιθυμῆσαι πλῶσαι ἐς Ἰταλίην τε καὶ Σικελίην, ἐργασάμενον δὲ χρήματα μεγάλα θελῆσαι ὀπίσω ἐς Κόρινθον ἀπικέσθαι. ὁρμᾶσθαι μέν νυν ἐκ Τάραντος, πιστεύοντα δὲ οὐδαμοῖσι μᾶλλον ἢ Κορινθίοισι μισθώσασθαι πλοῖον ἀνδρῶν Κορινθίων· τοὺς δὲ ἐν τῷ πελάγει ἐπιβουλεύειν τὸν Ἀρίονα ἐκβαλόντας ἔχειν τὰ χρήματα· τὸν δὲ συνέντα τοῦτο λίσσεσθαι, χρήματα μέν σφι προϊέντα, ψυχὴν δὲ παραιτεόμενον. οὐκ ὦν δὴ πείθειν αὐτὸν τούτοισι, ἀλλὰ κελεύειν τοὺς πορθμέας ἢ αὐτὸν διαχρᾶσθαί μιν, ὡς ἂν ταφῆς ἐν γῇ τύχῃ, ἢ ἐκπηδᾶν ἐς τὴν θάλασσαν τὴν ταχίστην. ἀπειληθέντα δὲ τὸν Ἀρίονα ἐς ἀπορίην παραιτήσασθαι, ἐπειδή σφι οὕτω δοκέοι, περιιδεῖν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ σκευῇ πάσῃ στάντα ἐν τοῖσι ἑδωλίοισι ἀεῖσαι· ἀείσας δὲ ὑπεδέκετο ἑωυτὸν κατεργάσεσθαι. καὶ τοῖσι ἐσελθεῖν γὰρ ἡδονὴν εἰ μέλλοιεν ἀκούσεσθαι τοῦ ἀρίστου ἀνθρώπων ἀοιδοῦ, ἀναχωρῆσαι ἐκ τῆς πρύμνης ἐς μέσην νέα. τὸν δὲ ἐνδύντα τε πᾶσαν τὴν σκευὴν καὶ λαβόντα τὴν κιθάρην, στάντα ἐν τοῖσι ἑδωλίοισι διεξελθεῖν νόμον τὸν ὄρθιον, τελευτῶντος δὲ τοῦ νόμου ῥῖψαί μιν ἐς τὴν θάλασσαν ἑωυτὸν ὡς εἶχε σὺν τῇ σκευῇ πάσῃ. καὶ τοὺς μὲν ἀποπλέειν ἐς Κόρινθον, τὸν δὲ δελφῖνα λέγουσι ὑπολαβόντα ἐξενεῖκαι ἐπὶ Ταίναρον. ἀποβάντα δὲ αὐτὸν χωρέειν ἐς Κόρινθον σὺν τῇ σκευῇ καὶ ἀπικόμενον ἀπηγέεσθαι πᾶν τὸ γεγονός. Περίανδρον δὲ ὑπὸ ἀπιστίης Ἀρίονα μὲν ἐν φυλακῇ ἔχειν οὐδαμῇ μετιέντα, ἀνακῶς δὲ ἔχειν τῶν πορθμέων· ὡς δὲ ἄρα παρεῖναι αὐτούς, κληθέντας ἱστορέεσθαι εἴ τι λέγοιεν περὶ Ἀρίονος. φαμένων δὲ ἐκείνων ὡς εἴη τε σῶς περὶ Ἰταλίην καί μιν εὖ πρήσσοντα λίποιεν ἐν Τάραντι, ἐπιφανῆναί σφι τὸν Ἀρίονα ὥσπερ ἔχων ἐξεπήδησε· καὶ τοὺς ἐκπλαγέντας οὐκ ἔχειν ἔτι ἐλεγχομένους ἀρνέεσθαι. ταῦτα μέν νυν Κορίνθιοί τε καὶ Λέσβιοι λέγουσι, καὶ Ἀρίονος ἔστι ἀνάθημα χάλκεον οὐ μέγα ἐπὶ Ταινάρῳ, ἐπὶ δελφῖνος ἐπεὼν ἄνθρωπος.

 

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