At that time there were many other poets who
sang their own songs, but not one could
compare with Arion.
When he sang at the court of Corinth, the
king's hunting dogs used to come bounding in
to listen to the music, as much pleased as
the courtiers. If he sang in the evening,
with the doors open for coolness, fierce
wolves used to come down from the hills in
the darkness and gather around the palace,
eager to hear the bewitching sound of the
lyre. One could see their eyes shine just
outside the doors, but the moment the music
ceased they were gone. Overhead, great owls
came flapping into the dark trees, and there
were other listeners, too, of which the
people of the court knew nothing.
One day the news reached Corinth that a
musical contest was to be held in Sicily, at
which a bag of gold was to be the prize. All
the poets of Greece meant to go - not so much
for the gold as for the glory that they
hoped to gain there.
Arion did not care greatly either for the
gold or the glory, but he loved singing
better than anything else in the world, and
he liked to see new countries. Therefore he
said he would go, too, but promised to
return to Corinth when the contest was over.
The king of Sicily and the judges were very
much surprised when they heard Arion's
extraordinary playing, and they awarded him
the prize without any question. They would
have been glad to keep him in Sicily, but
Arion, remembering his promise to the king
of Corinth, engaged a Corinthian ship to
take him back to that city.
The sun never seemed brighter, nor the sea
bluer, than it did on the day when Arion
started out to return to Corinth with his
prize. Soon Sicily was out of sight, all but
her mountains, which still showed faintly
against the horizon. Arion was watching the
disappearance of the last peak, when
suddenly he found himself surrounded by the
sailors, all armed. He understood at once
that they had conspired against him, in
order to obtain possession of the gold. The
captain stepped up to him with an unsheathed
sword in his hand, and said, "Give me that
bag of gold you carry, and prepare to die!"
"But if I give you the gold, will you not
let me live?" said Arion.
"No, you must die!" answered the
hard-hearted captain, for he was afraid that
if he let Arion live, the king of Corinth
might find out what had happened.
"I am not afraid to die," said Arion, "but
give me leave to sing one last song to my
"That you may do," said the captain; "but
when the song is finished, you must throw
yourself into the sea."
Then the captain and the sailors retired to
the middle of the vessel, not unwilling to
hear so famous a singer, while Arion, in his
court dress, stood up on the stern, looking
sadly toward the beautiful island of Sicily,
and sang one last song.
The singer's voice floated out over the
water, and a school of dolphins, swimming by
just then, heard it, and came leaping after
When the song was over, Arion, with the lyre
still in his hands, leaped straight down
into the sea. Then the sailors sprang to the
oars, and rowed as fast as they could,
making all possible haste to leave the spot
where they had done such a wicked deed.
But a wise old dolphin, who had come up to
listen to the music, saw Arion leap from the
stern of the ship, and caught the musician
on his back. Then he set out to swim to
Corinth with him.
As Arion rode on the wise dolphin's back,
with the other dolphins leaping along
behind, he played on his lyre, and the
little waves were so charmed that they grew
still, to listen. So the procession reached
Corinth in safety.
The king was greatly astonished, and could
not believe what Arion told him. As soon as
the wicked sailors arrived, he sent for them
and asked them what had become of Arion.
"He is well and happy," said they, "but has
made up his mind that he will remain in
The king then sent for Arion, who came in
wearing the same court dress in which he had
leaped into the sea. The sailors were so
taken by surprise that they confessed
everything, and the king banished them from
the country. But Arion was the greatest hero
in all Greece..
The Legend and Myth of Arion
The Myth of Arion
The story of Arion is featured in the book
entitled Favorite Greek Myths by Lilian
Stoughton Hyde, published in 1904 by D. C.
Heath and Company.