Monday, June 20, 2011
Herodotus’ “Histories” of the Persian Wars (very liberally ‘translaparaphrased’): Book I sections 23 -25
23 (Herodotus just cannot resist telling entertaining but tangential stories related to his introduction of Croesus. Just one more, then we get to our man in the next selection!)
Periander, who you will recall, was Thrasybulus’ informant with regard to the oracle, was himself the son of Cypselus, tyrant of Corinth. The Corinthians tell of an extraordinary event that occurred during his lifetime. The Lesbians confirmed the tale. It involved Arion of Methymna, the most famous musician of the time. As far as we know he was the first to compose the dithyramb, and indeed gave the form its name. He trained Corinthian choirs in its performance. According to the story, Arion rode to Taenarum on the back of a dolphin.
Arion had spent most of his life with Periander, but had a strong desire to sail to Italy and Sicily. After having done so and having earned a great deal of money in those places, he decided to return to Corinth. So, he sailed from Tarentum in a Corinthian vessel, because he assumed he could trust a Corinthian crew more than any other. However, the crew, once well to sea, conceived a conspiracy. They would shove Arion overboard and take his money. He learned of the plot and begged them to take his money, but spare his life. His efforts were to no avail, and the sailors told him he should kill himself if he wished to be buried ashore, or otherwise, jump overboard.
Arion, seeing that they were beyond appeal, as a last resort begged their permission to stand aft dressed in his performing robes and sing one song. He promised that at its conclusion he would kill himself. The sailors were delighted with the prospect of hearing a song from the most famous singer of the day. They made their way forward from the stern, and gathered amidships. Arion donned the professional costume, took lute in hand and stood on the afterdeck. He played a lively tune and then jumped overboard into the sea just as he was, fully dressed.
The ship continued on to Corinth, but a dolphin picked up Arion and he rode it back to Taenarum. Upon making landfall he made his way, still in costume, to Corinth, where he told the entire story. Periander found it hard to believe. So, taking caution, he put Arion under strict observance and supervision. As he did this he was mindful of the ship’s crew. As soon as he got word of their return, he sent for them. He asked them if they had anything to tell them about Arion. ‘Oh yes,’ the assured him, ‘we left him safe and sound at Tarentum in Italy.’ No sooner had they finished saying this than Arion appeared before them, looking just as he had when he had jumped off the ship. This came as a distressing shock to the sailors. Their lies were plain to see and any denials were futile.
At any rate, that is the tale as both the Corinthians and the Lesbians have it. Furthermore, to this day there is an offering of Arion’s in the temple at Taenarum. It is a small bronze figure of a man on a dolphin.
Now, bringing us back to Alyattes: After concluding his conflict with Miletus, he died. His reign had lasted fifty-seven years. He was the second person in his family to send gifts to Delphi. In return for his recovery from illness he sent a large silver bowl, as well as a serving dish of welded iron - the most noteworthy of all the offerings therein housed. That dish was the work of the Chian Glaucos, the inventor of the art of welding.
"What's that you say Flipper?! There's a man dressed in flowing robes holding a lute? He's drowning! Gee Wilikers!"