Greek Mythology >> Bestiary >> Immortal Horses >> Arion (Areion)


Greek Name

Αρειων Αριον


Areiôn, Arion

Latin Spelling



Stouter, Braver (areiôn)

AREION (Arion) was an immortal horse born to the goddess Demeter after Poseidon raped her in the guise of a horse. It was first owned by the Arkadian Onkios (Oncius), then Herakles (Heracles) and finally Adrastos (Adrastus).



[1.1] POSEIDON & DEMETER (Apollodorus 3.77, Pausanias 8.25.5)
[1.2] POSEIDON (Statius Thebaid 6.301)
[2.1] GAIA (Pausanias 8.25.5)
[3.1] ZEPHYROS & HARPYIA (Quintus Smyrnaeus 4.569)


[1.1] STHENELOS' HORSE (Quintus Smyrnaeus 4.569)


ARI′ON (Ariôn). A fabulous horse, which Poseidon begot by Demeter; for in order to escape from the pursuit of Poseidon, the goddess had metamorphosed herself into a mare, and Poseidon deceived her by assuming the figure of a horse. Demeter afterwards gave birth to the horse Arion, and a daughter whose name remained unknown to the uninitiated. (Paus. viii. 25. § 4.) According to the poet Antimachus (ap. Paus. l. c.) this horse and Caerus were the offspring of Gaea; whereas, according to other traditions, Poseidon or Zephyrus begot the horse by a Harpy. (Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1051; Quint. Smyrn. iv. 570.) Another story related, that Poseidon created Arion in his contest with Athena. (Serv. ad Virg. Georg. i. 12.) From Poseidon the horse passed through the hands of Copreus, Oncus, and Heracles, from whom it was received by Adrastus. (Paus. l. c. ; Hesiod. Scut. Here. 120.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


Homer, Iliad 23. 346 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[A chariot race :] There is none who could sprint to make it up, nor close you, nor pass you, not if the man behind you were driving the great Arion, the swift horse of Adrestos (Adrastus), whose birth is from the immortals."

Homerica, The Thebaid Fragment 3 (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Adrastos fled Thebes] and took black-maned Areion (Arion) with him."

Hesiod, Shield of Heracles 120 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"[Herakles (Heracles) addresses his charioteer Iolaos (Iolaus) :] ‘Guide the great horse, Arion of the black mane, through all his turns and make him help us, as best you are able.’"

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 77 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Adrastos (Adrastus) was the only one saved [of the Seven against Thebes], by his horse Areion (Arion). Demeter bore this horse to Poseidon, after having sex with him in the likeness of an Erinys (Fury)."

Callimachus, Iambi Iambi Fragment 11 (from Stephanus Byzantium s.v. Apesas) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"[Adrastos races Arion in the chariot-race of the first Nemean Games :] So sped Areion (Arion), the Arkadian (Arcadian) horse, beside the shrine of Zeus Apesantios."

Strabo, Geography 9. 2. 11 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"In regard to the Harma in Boiotia (Boeotia), some . . . say that the chariot of Adrastos (Adrastus), when he was in flight, was smashed to pieces there, but that Adrastos safely escaped on Areion (Arion)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 25. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"When Demeter was wandering in search of her daughter, she was followed, it is said, by Poseidon, who lusted after her. So she turned, the story runs, into a mare, and grazed with the mares of Onkios (Oncius) [in Arkadia (Arcadia)]; realising that he was outwitted, Poseidon changed into a stallion and enjoyed Demeter. At first, they say, Demeter was angry at what had happened, but later on she laid aside her wrath and wished to bathe in the [river] Ladon . . . Demeter, they say, had by Poseidon a daughter, whose name they are not wont to divulge to the uninitiated, and a horse called Areion (Arion) . . . In the Iliad there are verses about Areion himself : ‘Not even if he drive divine Areion behind, the swift horse of Adrastos (Adrastus), who was of the race of the gods.’ In the Thebaid it is said that Adrastos fled from Thebes : ‘Wearing wretched clothes, and with him dark-maned Areion.’
They will have it that the verses obscurely hint that Poseidon was father to Areion, but Antimakhos (Antimachus) says that Gaia (Gaea the Earth) was his mother : ‘Adrastos, son of Talaus, son of Kretheus (Cretheus), the very first of the Danai (Danaans) [Greeks] to drive his famous horses, swift Kairos (Caerus) and Areion (Arion) of Thelpousa (Thelpusa), whom near the grove of Apollon Onkaios (Oncaeus), Gaia (Earth) herself sent up, a marvel for mortals to see.’ But even though sprung from Gaia (Earth) the horse might be of divine lineage and the colour of his hair might still be dark. Legend also has it that when Herakles (Heracles) was warring on Elis he asked Onkios (Oncius) for the horse, and was carried to battle on the back of Areion when he took Elis, but afterwards the horse was given to Adrastos by Herakles. Wherefore Antimakhos says about Areion : ‘Adrastos was the third lord who tamed him.’"

Pankrates, Antinous (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 128) (Greek poetry C2nd A.D.) :
"Swifter than the steed of Adrastos [i.e. Arion], that once saved its master easily, when he was fleeing through the press of battle."

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 4. 469 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"[The horse of Sthenelos (Sthenelus), a Greek warrior who fought at Troy :] Of lineage noble was he, for in his veins the blood of swift Arion ran, the foal begotten by the loud-piping Zephyros (West-Wind) on a Harpyia (Harpy), the fleetest of all earth-born steeds, whose feet could race against his father's swiftest blasts. Him did the Blessed to Adrastos (Adrastus) give : and from him sprang the steed of Sthenelos, which Tydeus' son [Diomedes] had given unto his friend [Sthenelos] in hallowed Troyland."

Oppian, Cynegetica 1. 225 (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd A.D.) :
"To Horses beyond all mortal creatures cunning Nature has given a subtle mind and heart . . . A horse [Areion (Arion)] there was which ran with light feet over the corn-ears and brake them not; another [offspring of Boreas] ran over the sea and wetted not his coronet."

Propertius, Elegies 2. 34 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"[Polyneikes (Polynices) races Arion in the chariot-race of the first Nemean Games :] Adrastus' [horse] Arion spoke aloud, the horse which had gained victory at the funeral games of ill-starred Archemorus [Opheltes, i.e. the first Nemean Games which were his funeral games] : would the fate of Amphiaraus's chariot aught avail you or the destruction of Capaneus, which gave pleasure to mighty Jove [Zeus]?"

Statius, Thebaid 6. 491 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"[The chariot-race of the first Nemean Games :] When now the race is nearing its end . . . [Apollo sends] a snake-stressed monstrous Phantom (Effigiem), of visage terrible to behold . . . When golden Arion [the horse] saw it, his mane leapt up erect, and he halts with upreared shoulders and holds high suspended his yoke-fellow and the steeds that shared his toil on either side. Straightway the Aonian exile [Polyneikes (Polynices) racing the chariot] is flung backward head-over-heels : he drops the reins, and the chariot, freed from restrain, dashes far away."

Statius, Thebaid 6. 301 :
"[The chariot-race of the first Nemean Games :] Before the rest [of the horses] Arion, marked by his man of fiery red, is led forth. Neptunus [Poseidon], if the fame of olden time be true, was his sire; he first is said to have hurt his young mouth with the bit and tamed him on the sand of the sea-shore, sparing the lash; for insatiable was his eagerness to run, and he was capricious as a winter sea. Oft was he wont to go in harness with the steeds of ocean through the Libyan or Ionian deep, and bring his dark-blue sire safe home to every shore; the Storm-Clouds marvelled to be outstripped, and Eurus and Notos (the East and South Winds) strive and are left behind. Nor less swiftly on land had he borne Amphitryon's son [Herakles (Heracles)], when he waged Eurystheus' wars, in deep-pressed furrows o'er the mead, fierce to him also and impatient to control. Soon by the gods' bounty he was deemed worthy to have Adrastus for his lord, and meanwhile had grown far gentler. On that day the chieftain allows him to be driven by his son-in-law Polynices, and much did he counsel him, what arts would soothe the horse when enraged, not to use too fierce a hand, nor to let him gallop free of the rein; ‘urge other steeds.’ Said he, ‘with voice and goad; but he will go, ay, faster than you wish.’ . . .
By instinct had Arion guessed that another driver stood grasping the reins, and feared, innocent as he was, the dire son of Oedipus [Polyneikes (Polynices)]; from the very start he rages more fiercely than his wont, fretting angrily against his burden. The sons of Inachus [the Argives] think him fired by praises, but it is the charioteer that he is flying, the charioteer that he threatens in maddened fury, and he looks round for his lord [Adrastus] on all the plain . . . Arion defying control, dashes here and there in circles and strays rightward from the course . . . and the son of Labdacus [Polyneikes] in pale anxiety neither handles the rein nor dares the lash."





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