Arion (Ancient Greek: Ἀρίων, gen.: Ἀρίωνος) was a
legendary kitharode in ancient Greece, a Dionysiac poet
credited with inventing the dithyramb: "As a literary
composition for chorus dithyramb was the creation of Arion
of Corinth," The islanders of Lesbos claimed him as their
native son, but Arion found a patron in Periander, tyrant of
Corinth. Although notable for his musical inventions, Arion
is chiefly remembered for the fantastic myth of his
kidnapping by pirates and miraculous rescue by dolphins, a
Herodotus (1,23) says "Arion was second to none of the lyre-
players in his time and was also the first man we know of to
compose and name the dithyramb and teach it in Corinth".
However J.H. Sleeman observes of the dithyramb, or circular
chorus, "It is first mentioned by Archilochus (c 665 BC) . .
. Arion flourished at least 50 years later . . . probably
gave it a more artistic form, adding a chorus of 50 people,
personating satyrs . . . who danced around an altar of
Dionysus. He was doubtless the first to introduce the
dithyramb into Corinth".
Arion is also associated with the origins of tragedy: of
Solon John the Deacon reports: "Arion of Methymna first
introduced the drama [i.e. action] of tragedy, as Solon
indicated in his poem entitled Elegies"....
1. An ancient Greek bard and great master on the cithara,
was a native of Methymna in Lesbos, and, according to some
accounts, a son of Cyclon or of Poseidon and the nymph
Oncaea. He is called the inventor of the dithyrambic poetry,
and of the name dithyramb. (Hdt. 1.23; Schol. ad Pind. Ol.
13.25.) All traditions about him agree in describing him as
a contemporary and friend of Periander, tyrant of Corinth,
so that he must have lived about B. C. 700. He appears to
have spent a great part of his life at the court of
Periander, but respecting his life and his poetical or
musical productions, scarcely anything is known beyond the
beautiful story of his escape from the sailors with whom he
sailed from Sicily to Corinth. On one occasion, thus runs
the story, Arion went to Sicily to take part in some musical
contest. He won the prize, and, laden with presents, he
embarked in a Corinthian ship to return to his friend
Periander. The rude sailors coveted his treasures, and
meditated his murder. Apollo, in a dream, informed his
beloved bard of the plot. After having tried in vain to save
his life, he at length obtained permission once more to seek
delight in his song and playing on the cithara. In festal
attire he placed himself in the prow of the ship and invoked
the gods in inspired strains, and then threw himself into
the sea. But many song-loving dolphins had assembled round
the vessel, and one of them now took the bard on its back
and carried him to Taenarus, from whence he returned to
Corinth in safety, and related his adventure to Periander.
When the Corinthian vessel arrived likewise, Periander
inquired of the sailors after Arion, and they said that he
had remained behind at Tarentum; but when Arion, at the
bidding of Periander, came forward, the sailors owned their
guilt and were punished according to their desert. (Hdt.
1.24 ; Gellius, 16.19; Hyg. Fab. 194; Paus. 3.25.5.) In the
time of Herodotus and Pausanias there existed on Taenarus a
brass monument, which was dedicated there either by
Periander or Arion himself, and which represented him riding
on a dolphin. Arion and his cithara (lyre) were placed among
the stars. (Hygin. l.c. ; Serv. ad Virg. Eclog. 8.54;
Aelian, Ael. NA 12.45.) A fragment of a hymn to Poseidon,
ascribed to Arion, is contained in Bergk's Poetae Lyrici
Graeci, p. 566, &c. 2. A fabulous horse, which Poseidon
begot by Demeter; for in order to escape from the pursuit of
Poseidon, the goddess had metamorphosed herself into a mare,
and Poseidon deceived her by assuming the figure of a horse.
Demeter afterwards gave birth to the horse Arion, and a
daughter whose name remained unknown to the uninitiated.
(Paus. 8.25.4.) According to the poet Antimachus (apud Paus.
l.c.) this horse and Caerus were the offspring of Gaea;
whereas, according to other traditions, Poseidon or Zephyrus
begot the horse by a Harpy. (Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1051;
Quint. Smyrn. 4.570.) Another story related, that Poseidon
created Arion in his contest with Athena. (Serv. ad Virg.
Georg. 1.12.) From Poseidon the horse passed through the
hands of Copreus, Oncus, and Heracles, from whom it was
received by Adrastus. (Paus. l.c. ; Hesiod. Scut. Here.
120.) - A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and
mythology, William Smith, Ed.