It's time for another constellation in the series. I am happy to announce we have reached the 'D's! This post makes number twenty-three in the series, with twenty-six more to go. Nearly half way there. Today's constellation is connected to several myths I have spoken about before, but also to a new account, one that is said to be an actual event that took place in ancient Hellas.

The first dolphin myth Delphinus is linked to is to Poseidon's courtship of Amphitrite, Queen of the sea., and mother to all dolphins. I have written about her before, and the myth goes as follows:

"Poseidon saw Her [Amphitrite] dancing with Her Nereids at Naxos (Νάξος), one of the larger islands of Greece. He fell for Her instantly and tried to take Her. She rebuffed His advances and fled to Atlas, the farthest end of the sea. Poseidon, sick with love, sent His dolphin after Her to persuade Her to talk to Him, at least. He eventually found Her and spoke on behalf of His master. His words were so sweet and rang so true, that Amphitrite decided to give Poseidon a chance. It was because of the dolphin, Poseidon eventually got to marry Amphitrite, and He was so grateful, He placed the dolphin in the sky as the constellation Delphinus."

The second dolphin the constellation is connected to is Apollon Delphinios. I have written about this myth before as well, when I discussed the Delphinia festival. In the Homeric Hymn to Apollon, Apollon shows the Kretan colonists the way to Delphi, while riding on a dolphin or metamorphosing Himself into a dolphin.

"I am the son of Zeus; Apollo is my name: but you I brought here over the wide gulf of the sea, meaning you no hurt; nay, here you shall keep my rich temple that is greatly honoured among men, and you shall know the plans of the deathless gods, and by their will you shall be honoured continually for all time. [...] Take out your goods and the gear of the straight ship, and make an altar upon the beach of the sea: light fire upon it and make an offering of white meal. Next, stand side by side around the altar and pray: and in as much as at the first on the hazy sea I sprang upon the swift ship in the form of a dolphin, pray to me as Apollo Delphinius; also the altar itself shall be called Delphinius and overlooking for ever." (474)

In the other myth, it was again Apollon who placed the dolphin among the constellations, this time for saving the life of Arion of Methymna, a poet and musician born on the island of Lesbos, whose skill with the lyre made him famous in the 7th century BC. He was also the first to invent the dithyrambic measure, to give it its name, and to recite in it at Corinth. During the journey home from a tour, there was a mutiny. Arion was allowed to sing one last song, and drew dolphins to the ship. One of them took Arion home. Herodotos described the story:

"He had lived for many years at the court of Periander, when a longing came upon him to sail across to Italy and Sicily. Having made rich profits in those parts, he wanted to recross the seas to Corinth. He therefore hired a vessel, the crew of which were Corinthians, thinking that there was no people in whom he could more safely confide; and, going on board, he set sail from Tarentum. The sailors, however, when they reached the open sea, formed a plot to throw him overboard and seize upon his riches. Discovering their design, he fell on his knees, beseeching them to spare his life, and making them welcome to his money. But they refused; and required him either to kill himself outright, if he wished for a grave on the dry land, or without loss of time to leap overboard into the sea. In this strait Arion begged them, since such was their pleasure, to allow him to mount upon the quarter-deck, dressed in his full costume, and there to play and sing, and promising that, as soon as his song was ended, he would destroy himself. Delighted at the prospect of hearing the very best harper in the world, they consented, and withdrew from the stern to the middle of the vessel: while Arion dressed himself in the full costume of his calling, took his harp, and standing on the quarter-deck, chanted the Orthian. His strain ended, he flung himself, fully attired as he was, headlong into the sea. The Corinthians then sailed on to Corinth.

As for Arion, a dolphin, they say, took him upon his back and carried him to Taenarum, where he went ashore, and thence proceeded to Corinth in his musician's dress, and told all that had happened to him. Periander, however, disbelieved the story, and put Arion in ward, to prevent his leaving Corinth, while he watched anxiously for the return of the mariners. On their arrival he summoned them before him and asked them if they could give him any tiding of Arion. They returned for answer that he was alive and in good health in Italy, and that they had left him at Tarentum, where he was doing well. Thereupon Arion appeared before them, just as he was when he jumped from the vessel: the men, astonished and detected in falsehood, could no longer deny their guilt. Such is the account which the Corinthians and Lesbians give; and there is to this day at Taenarum, an offering of Arion's at the shrine, which is a small figure in bronze, representing a man seated upon a dolphin."

Herodotos' version does not include the addition that Apollon placed the dolphin in the sky for saving one of the best musicians alive at the time, but Roman author Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 BC - 17 AD) does, in his Atronomica. He also describes the creation of the dolphins:

"Aglaosthenes, who wrote the Naxica, says that there were certain Tyrrhenian shipmasters, who were to take Father Liber [Roman God, associated with Dionysos], when a child, to Naxos with his companions and give him over to the nymphs, his nurses. Both our writers and many Greek ones, in books on the genealogy of the gods, have said that he was reared by them. But, to return to the subject at hand, the shipmates, tempted by love of gain, were going to turn the ship off course, when Liber, suspecting their plan, bade his companions chant a melody. The Tyrrhenians were so charmed by the unaccustomed sounds that they were seized by desire even in their dancing, and unwittingly cast themselves into the sea, and were there made dolphins. Since Liber desired to recall thought of them to men’s memory, he put the image of one of them among the constellations."
Delphinus is visible at latitudes between +90° and −70°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of September.