Arion was a winged horse in Greek mythology. Most stories say that he was born after the sea god Poseidon took the shape of a horse to disguise himself and rape the goddess Demeter, who had previously assumed the shape of a horse to escape him. Other accounts say that Arion was the son of the Earth or of other gods. No matter the story of his lineage, his powers remain the same throughout Greek mythology.
Arion was no ordinary horse, and he was said to have exceptional speed that riders used to aid their victory in battle. In "The Iliad," Homer wrote that no other horse could pass Arion in a chariot race. In "Fall of Troy," Quintus Smyrnaeus wrote that Arion was the fastest of all horses on Earth. Arion's speed was partly due to his divine birth, but also partly due to wings that he used to accelerate.
Though he had the shape of a horse, Arion was said to have the mind of a god. In many stories, Arion uses his superior intelligence to participate in battle strategy and to save his rider. For example, in the play "Seven against Thebes," Arion is said to save King Adrastus' life by rescuing him from captors and taking him off the battlefield. Arion is not just a tool for warriors, but participates in battle as a sentient being.
Ability to Speak
Intrinsic to his superior intelligence was Arion's ability to speak. He was able to converse with his masters to help them in battle, as is described in the "Elegies 2" by Propertius. Arion's ability to speak set him apart from other mythological, immortal horses ridden by the gods. His power of speech is attributed to his divine birth, whether of Poseidon and Demeter as most stories suggest, or one of the other gods, such as Zephyrus.
Power of Immortality
In all accounts of Arion, he is gifted with the power of immortality. This served him well in battle as he could not die of his wounds, and he could offer superior protection to his masters. Arion meets other immortal horses in "The Iliad," such as the horses of Achilles. However, these horses are not born of divine parentage. In some accounts, Arion also has the "power of light," further reinforcing his divinity.
- Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images