A word about ‘Arion’

The Arion Singing Society is named for the gifted musician of Greek mythology. Arion was the best citharist and poet of his time.  He lived in Corinth and Lesbos, Greece, and was held in friendship and affection by King Periander (625-585 BC) who greatly admired his talent.  With hopes of becoming rich and famous, Arion decided to go on tour to Italy and Sicily where he was, indeed, a smashing success.  But, eventually he grew homesick so he packed his instruments, costumes, and money and boarded a ship to Corinth.  


Arion felt he was being sensibly cautious in trusting only a Corinthian ship to take him home; but, alas, there were thieves and brigands everywhere.  While at sea, the crew of the ship decided to steal his riches and kill him.  He begged for his life, but they only gave him a choice: kill yourself now and we will bury you when we get to shore or jump overboard and be buried at sea.  To buy a little time, he asked for permission to sing a final song.  So he dressed in his finest costume, took his kithara, and sang the most beautiful song imaginable.  His voice was extraordinary; he sang high notes that few other humans could reach.  And then, he threw himself into the sea.


However, while Arion was singing, dolphins gathered around the ship, attracted by his magnificent music.  When he fell into the sea, one of the dolphins swam beneath him, lifting him out of the water and carrying him to shore on its back.  Eventually Arion found his way back to Corinth and to King Periander who, upon hearing his story, rounded up the sailors who tried to kill the superstar, and brought them to justice.


Arion is credited for inventing the dithyramb, a passionately lyrical hymn in honor of Dionysus, god of wine and revelry (called Bacchus by the Romans), probably first sung at feasts for the gods.  Lesbos, also known in antiquity as Mytilini, is an island in the Aegean Sea that was famous for its School of Poets in the 7th century B.C.