The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Index Database
Home About Network of subjects Linked subjects heatmap Book indices included Search by subject Search by reference Browse subjects Browse texts

Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database

Plutarch, Whether Land Or Sea Animals Are More Clever, 36

nanFurthermore, many of the Greeks have temples and altars to Artemis Dictynna and Apollo Delphinios; and that place which the god had chosen for himself the poet says was settled by Cretans under the guidance of a dolphin. It was not, however, the god who changed his shape and swam in front of the expedition, as tellers of tales relate; instead, he sent a dolphin to guide the men and bring them to Cirrha. They also relate that Soteles and Dionysius, the men sent by Ptolemy Soter to Sinope to bring back Serapis, were driven against their will by a violent wind out of their course beyond Malea, with the Peloponnesus on their right. When they were lost and discouraged, a dolphin appeared by the prow and, as it were, invited them to follow and led them into such parts as had safe roadsteads with but a gentle swell until, by conducting and escorting the vessel in this manner, it brought them to Cirrha. Whence it came about that when they had offered thanksgiving for their safe landing, they came to see that of the two statues they should take away the one of Pluto, but should merely take an impress of that of Persephone and leave it behind. Well might the god be fond of the music-loving character of the dolphin, to which Pindar likens himself, saying that he is roused Like a dolphin of the sea Who on the waveless deep of ocean Is moved by the lovely sound of flutes. Yet it is even more likely that its affection for men renders it dear to the gods; for it is the only creature who loves man for his own sake. Of the land animals, some avoid man altogether, others, the tamest kind, pay court for utilitarian reasons only to those who feed them, as do dogs and horses and elephants to their familiars. Martins take to houses to get what they need, darkness and a minimum of security, but avoid and fear man as a dangerous wild beast. To the dolphin alone, beyond all others, nature has granted what the best philosophers seek: friendship for no advantage. Though it has no need at all of any man, yet it is a genial friend to all and has helped many. The story of Arion is familiar to all and widely known; and you, my friend, opportunely put us in mind of the tale of Hesiod, But you failed to reach the end of the tale. When you told of the dog, you should not have left out the dolphins, for the information of the dog that barked and rushed with a snarl on the murderers would have been meaningless if the dolphins had not taken up the corpse as it was floating on the sea near the Nemeon and zealously passed it from group to group until they put it ashore at Rhium and so made it clear that the man had been stabbed. Myrsilus of Lesbos tells the tale of Enalus the Aeolian who was in love with that daughter of Smintheus who, in accordance with the oracle of Amphitrite, was cast into the sea by the Penthilidae, whereupon Enalus himself leaped into the sea and was brought out safe on Lesbos by a dolphin. And the goodwill and friendship of the dolphin for the lad of Iasus was thought by reason of its greatness to be true love. For it used to swim and play with him during the day, allowing itself to be touched; and when the boy mounted upon its back, it was not reluctant, but used to carry him with pleasure wherever he directed it to go, while all the inhabitants of Iasus flocked to the shore each time this happened. Once a violent storm of rain and hail occurred and the boy slipped off and was drowned. The dolphin took the body and threw both it and itself together on the land and would not leave until it too had died, thinking it right to share a death for which it imagined that it shared the responsibility. And in memory of this calamity the inhabitants of Iasus have minted their coins with the figure of a boy riding a dolphin. From this the wild tales about Coeranus gained credence. He was a Parian by birth who, at Byzantium, bought a draught of dolphins which had been caught in a net and were in danger of slaughter, and set them all free. A little later he was on a sea voyage in a penteconter, so they say, with fifty pirates aboard; in the strait between Naxos and Paros the ship capsized and all the others were lost, while Coeranus, they relate, because a dolphin sped beneath him and buoyed him up, was put ashore at Sicinus, near a cave which is pointed out to this day and bears the name of Coeraneum. It is on this man that Archilochus is said to have written the line Out of fifty, kindly Poseidon left only Coeranus. When later he died, his relatives were burning the body near the sea when a large shoal of dolphins appeared off shore as though they were making it plain that they had come for the funeral, and they waited until it was completed. That the shield of Odysseus had a dolphin emblazoned on it, Stesichorus also has related; and the Zacynthians perpetuate the reason for it, as Critheus testifies. For when Telemachus was a small boy, so they say, he fell into the deep inshore water and was saved by dolphins who came to his aid and swam with him to the beach; and that was the reason why his father had a dolphin engraved on his ring and emblazoned on his shield, making this requital to the animal. Yet since I began by saying that I would not tell you any tall tales and since, without observing what I was up to, I have now, besides the dolphins, run aground on both Odysseus and Coeranus to a point beyond belief, I lay this penalty upon myself: to conclude here and now.

Intertexts (texts cited often on the same page as the searched text):

None available Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
aphrodite Bowie (2021) 66
coeranus Bowie (2021) 66
demeas Bowie (2021) 66
desire Bowie (2021) 66
dolphin' Bowie (2021) 66
hector Bowie (2021) 66
milesian Bowie (2021) 66
naxos Bowie (2021) 66
paros,parian Bowie (2021) 66
plutarch Bowie (2021) 66
polydorus Bowie (2021) 66
sarpedon Bowie (2021) 66
sosthenes Bowie (2021) 66
zeus Bowie (2021) 66