The Dolphins of Arion

A song attributed to Arion. The story is that he attended a musical competition in Sicily. He won and on his way home the sailors conspired to steal his prize money. He was allowed to sing one last song which attracted the music loving dolphins, one of whom gave him a ride to the sanctuary of Poseidon at Tainarum when he was thrown overboard.

ὕμνον δὲ χαριστήριον τῷ Ποσειδῶνι, μάρτυρα τῆς τῶν δελφίνων φιλομουσίας, οἱονεὶ καὶ τούτοις ζωάγρια ἐκτίνων ὁ Ἀρίων ἔγραψε. καὶ ἔστιν ὁ ὕμνος οὗτος·

Ὕψιστε θεῶν,
πόντιε, χρυσοτρίαινε Πόσειδον,
γαιάοχ᾿ ἐγκύμον᾿ ἅλμαν·
βράγχιοι περὶ δὲ σὲ πλωτοὶ
θῆρες χορεύουσι κύκλῳ,
κούφοισι ποδῶν ῥίμμασιν
ἐλάφρ᾿ ἀναπαλλόμενοι, σιμοὶ
φριξαύχενες ὠκυδρόμοι
σκύλακες, φιλόμουσοι
δελφῖνες, ἔναλα θρέμματα
κουρᾶν Νηρεΐδων θεᾶν,
ἃς ἐγείνατ᾿ Ἀμφιτρίτα·
οἵ μ᾿ εἰς Πέλοπος γᾶν ἐπὶ Ταιναρίαν ἀκτὰν
ἐπορεύσαν πλαζόμενον Σικελῷ ἐνὶ πόντῳ,
κυρτοῖσι νώτοις ὀχέοντες,
ἄλοκα Νηρεΐας πλακὸς
τέμνοντες, ἀστιβῆ πόρον, φῶτες δόλιοι
ὥς μ᾿ ἀφ᾿ ἁλιπλόου γλαφυρᾶς νεὼς
εἰς οἶδμ᾿ ἁλιπόρφυρον λίμνας ἔριψαν.

A song of thanks to Poseidon, evidence of the dolphin’s love of music, which Arion wrote as if to them in return for saving his life. And this is the song.

Highest of the Gods, Lord of the sea, Poseidon of the golden trident, Earth shaker in the swelling brine, around you the swimming finned creatures dance in a circle with gentle movements of their limbs leaping up gracefully, snub-nosed, bristly-necked, swift-running sea-dogs, lovers of the muses, dolphins, the sea creatures of the goddesses, the daughters of Nereus whom Amphitrite bore. They carried me to the land of Pelops upon the Cape of Tainarum when I was drifting on the Sicilian sea, giving me a ride on their arched backs cutting a furrow through the plain of Nereus, a pathless way, when treacherous men threw me from the hollow sea-faring ship into the purple waves of the sea.

Aelian On Animals 12.45

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