Arion (around 600 BC), singer and poet
Arion of Methymna (on the island of Lesbos) was the most famous Greek singer and poet of his time. According to ancient Greek historian Herodotus (the main source for our knowledge of Arion), Arion invented the dithyrambe: a choir song with hobo in honour of Dionysus. After becoming a rich man touring through Italy and Sicily, he decided to go back to the court of Periander, where he had spent most of his life already. Periander (625-585), or Periandros, was tyrant of Corinth and one of the Seven Wise.
Rich man gets robbed
He arranged for a ship with solely Corinthians, because he thought they were the only ones he could fully trust. But at sea the crew decided to rob the rich guy and kill him. Herodotus tells this as follows:
The seamen told him that he had to jump overboard. Arion realised praying would not help him and asked if they would allow him to sing a last song on the afterdeck. Of course the crew would not let go by a chance to see a performance by the world's greatest singer. Arion put on his best cloth and sung the so-called bravura-aria which was an aria in honour of the god Apollo. Then he jumped overboard and the crew continued their travel to Corinth.
A dolphin's back
Herodotus' story tells us that what the crew didn't know, was that Arion was saved by a dolphin. Knowing Greek symbolism, this is no odd development: the dolphin was considered a musical animal and also it was dedicated to... Apollo. The dolphin carried Arion home, but Periander would not believe the miraculous story at first. Then the crew arrived and they told the tyrant that Arion was still safely in Italy. After the confrontation with the singer, they confessed their cruelty and were punished.
The ancient Greek erected a bronze monument on Cape Tainairon, a little man on a dolphin's back. From Renaissance times, artists have represented Arion many times with a cittern on a dolphin's back. Often they use the singer as a symbol of poetic inspiration. Artists that have depicted or described Arion include Annibale Carracci, Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, Andrea Mantegna, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux' contemporary Hiolle, Lord Byron, Edmund Spenser and German poet August Wilhelm von Schlegel.