According to Aristotle and other ancient authorities we have the dithyramb because Arion developed it in Corinth. Arion flourish from 625 to 600 BCE. He was born on Lesbos – which is always funny in and of itself. Even better, we learn from Herodotus that we might have missed out on the dithyramb altogether because we almost lost Arion. Without him, the Dionysian’s would presumably have had to work themselves into a frenzy using a Pythagorean monochord and an urn.
Arion traveled to Sicily where he won a music competition. On his return trip, pirates snatched him up in order steal his fabulous prizes. This, of course, was the last time in history that a musician made enough money at a gig to make it worthwhile to steal from him. They gave him the choice of walking the plank or killing himself and having a land burial. Naturally, Arion pulled out his axe and started playing his last tune. His kithara playing and singing was so boss that it attracted some of the music loving dolphins that frequent the Mediterranean.
When he finished, he hopped into the drink and began to drown. One of the music loving dolphins rescued him and took him to shore where he eventually managed his way to Corinth and developed the dithyramb so that the Dionysian’s could get themselves worked up using more raucous means. When you break the string on your monochord the party ends pretty quickly.
Since I grew up watching Flipper, I have long known that no matter how Byzantine and land-based your criminal machinations may be, they are never so labyrinthine that they cannot be foiled by a large sea mammal. I didn’t know that they had been fighting crime for so long…or that they liked kithara music.