Hieros ichthys (Sacred fish)
The ancient Greeks called dolphins ‘hieros ichthys’, which means ‘sacred fish’. Dolphins play a role in many Greek myths, where they were always depicted as altruistic beings helping men. Many coins from ancient Greece feature a man, a boy or a deity riding on the back of a dolphin. Killing a dolphin was even considered sacrilegious and was punished by death. The ancient Greeks also associated dolphins with the god Poseidon. One ancient Greek myth describes how Poseidon fell in love with a beautiful nymph called Amphritrite. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen and wanted to marry her. She declined and hid among the sea creatures. Poseidon called in the help of Delphinus, king of the dolphins to bring back the woman of his dreams. Amphritrite was touched by the gentle nature and words of the dolphin king, and travelled back together with them to marry Poseidon. Poseidon was so grateful to Delphinus, that he set the dolphin in the sky as a constellation.
by Judith Kok