A pleasant retelling of a myth in Record on Line.
COSMIC CALENDAR: Matchmaker dolphin swimming in the sky
By Jim McKeegan
August 27, 2006
Many stories about the stars come to us from classical mythology.
Unfortunately, those Greeks and Romans liked the kind of R-rated tales better left untold in family newspapers! But here's a story that's definitely no worse than PG — a Greek legend concerning Delphinus, the pesky dolphin.
In Greek mythology, Delphinus (del FINE us) was a dolphin employed by Poseidon (poh SIGH dun), king of the sea. Poseidon had dozens of undersea palaces and thousands of servants. He controlled the bounty of the entire ocean, and he had riches collected from countless seagoing vessels that had sunk in his domain. Still, Poseidon was lonely and wished to find the perfect mate.
One day, Poseidon came upon a beautiful young woman near the shore. He rose out of the sea, spear in hand, water streaming from his long hair and beard, and announced himself, “Hail, O beautiful maiden! I am Poseidon, Lord of the Ocean! Would you deign to be my wife?”
The young woman, Amphitrite (am fih TRY tee), was a bit surprised, but unimpressed. She was a minor water goddess herself, and accustomed to seeing some strange things. But really … a spear? Live hermit crabs in the beard? And what did “deign” mean anyway? Amphitrite quickly hurried away inland.
Poseidon realized that he'd blown it, so he sent Delphinus to sing his praises. No matter where she swam, Amphitrite heard the little dolphin.
“Did I mention how many palaces he has? What a nice guy! How about those broad shoulders?” Finally, she agreed to meet Poseidon, they fell in love, and the rest is ancient history.
Delphinus is easy to find in the summer sky. Around 10 p.m., face southeast. The brightest star in that area of sky, about halfway between the horizon and overhead, is Altair. Delphinus is a little to the left of Altair. Look for four or five stars in the shape of a flattened diamond.
Jim McKeegan is an educator and host of “Radio Catskill Cosmic Calendar,” a weekly almanac of astronomy on NPR affiliate WJFF, 90.5 FM in Jeffersonville. He teaches astronomy at Sullivan County Community College. E-mail him at
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