Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Follow up Links: Dolphins, Zagreus, Thebes, Mycenae

Bell Idol (Thebes)

The dolphin story we were all trying to think of was the tale of Arion, from Herodotus:

. . . the Greek writer Herodotus tells the story of Arion, a lyre-player from Methymna employed by Periander, King of Corinth. Arion is a talented and innovative musician whose performances around the Mediterranean have made him extremely rich. Sailing home from a lucrative tour of Italy to his native Corinth, his crew turn on him, threatening to throw him overboard and take his money. Arion tries to bargain for his life but the crew will have none of it and give him a choice: either lie kills himself or they throw him over the side. Arion, for reasons that Herodotus doesn't really explain, asks if he might sing one last song. The crew agree - after all, why turn down a free farewell concert from the best singer in the known world? As the last note dies away, Arion leaps into the sea.

The ship sails on, but instead of drowning, Arion is rescued by a school of dolphins that have been beguiled by the beauty of his music and carry him to shore. He makes his way back to Corinth and tells his story to King Periander, who cannot believe it. The plot is eventually uncovered when the ship arrives and the crew swear that they left Arion alive and well in Italy.

This image of dolphins rescuing sailors or carrying humans recurs again and again in myth and folklore.

The full excerpt from Dolphins by Chris Catton, is quite rich, with much more about dolphins both in relation to Apollo and to Dionysus.

Here's a bit on Dionysian Mysteries, and another on Dionysus Zagreus.
The Greek Bacchoi claimed that, like wine, Dionysus had a different flavour in different regions; reflecting their mythical and cultural soil, he appeared under different names and appearances in different regions.
And since Metamorphoses Book IV relocates the setting, here's a locator map:

Ovid begins his tale of human cities in Book III with Cadmean Thebes, but in Book IV, after the "batty" daughters of Minyas, as we begin the the saga of Perseus, we're moving toward Mycenae.

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