Here is a myth for you all. (Hey, everyone needs a little mythology every now and then!)
The Myth of Marinus 4.26.07
by Charlie Geter
In the days of old, there was a strong warrior, named Marinus. He hailed from Ritaniia, a small coastal town twenty miles from Rome. Marinus was endowed by the gods with not only the strength of many men, but also with the endurance for swimming long distances. Although he enjoyed swimming, he longed for a competition, to prove his worth. When he was twenty years old, it chanced that the townsfolk of Ritaniia declared a swimming race. ACitizens of Ritaniia!@ one of the town elders began, AMany swimmers in this town covet the olive-branched crown. And thus we have decided to award this great prize to the most skilled swimmer in Ritaniia. The honored winner of the race will also be given a well-forged sword, and a shield which can withstand the strongest blows. The race will be held in two weeks, on the twenty-third of Aprilis, at the beach East of the town square. Those contestants who wish to swim in the race will stand up now.@ Liberius, a skilled swimmer from the southern part of the town, signaled that he would compete. Leonius, known by many to be a swimmer of repute, also joined the race. Marinus quietly stood up as one of the contestants. Flavius, the haughty (but also the unquestioned champion), stood up as well, with a condescending air. And so the four contestants were decided.
As the days drew nearer to the race, Flavius, like a peacock, would brag to his friends. ABut sir@, one plucky bystander asks, AWhat of Marinus? You have faced all swimmers of repute around here but him. Though he be but twenty years of age, he seems to have enough strength in his sinews to challenge you@ Flavius replies, AT=would be more likely for an eclipse of the sun to appear on the day of our race, than for me to lose to this hatchling.@ Likewise the other well-muscled contestants, Liberius and Leonius, would challenge each other with insults in the town square, deliberately exciting the townsfolk, who placed bets on the winner of the crown. Marinus, however, was not seen in the town square for many a night: he was preparing for the race. Along the beaches of the Mediterranean would he swim, gaining strength with each new effort. Gradually, like flocks of geese attracted to bread, people came to watch. Tirelessly would Marinus swim the distance of a league; the observers, full-awed by his might, would cheer as he swam back to shore.
The day of the race finally arrived, and it was quiet. Marinus was first to appear, determined to be well prepared for the grueling contest; next arrived Liberius and Leonius, still flinging charged insults. The spectators drifted in. Minutes before the race, in a gilded chariot, came Flavius. After the customary sacrifices, the announcing town elder says, AThe time has come for our swimmers to prove their worth. When I give the signal, you will race northwards for the distance of four miles to the finishing line along the coast. Take your positions.@ The contestants took their places. The water brilliantly reflected the luminous sunlight. AOn the count of three, the race shall begin. One, Two, Three!@ The swimmers, with powerful strokes challenge each other. Flavius is in the lead at the beginning, while the race for second is tightly contested between the remaining three. Now Marinus, making use of his long hours of practice, charged ahead of Liberius and Leonius, who continue to insult each other even now, as they continue closely locked in a race for third place. Flavius, with surprise and anger, sees Marinus close behind him, attempting to obtain first place. As the two near the last 100 yards of the race, as they strive for victory, the sun is suddenly covered in clouds, and a thunderstorm begins. The spectators are thoroughly soaked, their vision blinded. The brightness of lightning crashes on the shore near the swimmers, the sound of thunder follows. Flavius, overtaken by surprise, involuntarily slows; Marinus uses this opportunity to pull ahead. Now, realizing his error too late, Flavius tries to overturn this twist of Fate. Vainly he tries to overtake Marinus, who like a dolphin more at home in water than on land, is speeding towards the goal. The lightning, clouds, and rain slowly leave the area, only to reveal an eclipse of the sun. Flavius sees that Marinus is twenty yards ahead, and that his words of jest have come true. Now Marinus, as if swimming with the speed of a trireme, passes the finish line, as the spectators cheer. Close behind comes the miserable Flavius, realizing his folly of brag and haughtiness. Fifty yards behind comes Leonius, who barely wins third place, with Liberius less than ten yards behind. Cheering, the people lead the hero on to the town Elder in charge of the race, who bestows on him the olive-branched crown. The townsfolk cheer loudly, with the exception of the grumblers, who had sponsored Flavius, or one of the other swimmers. His parents with great joy at his victory congratulate him lovingly. The Elder then gives him the ancient sword and shield as a special gift. He humbly accepts The crowd cheers. Then Marinus went home to his house, where he quietly had dinner with his family and enjoyed the rest of the day.
Next year, the renown of his skill in swimming had reached far and wide. Marinus decided it was time to leave home and seek his fortune. He was interested in the Roman Navy, and decided to travel to Rome, to join the good soldiers of the Republic. The Second Punic War had been fought for many years now, and the Romans needed a strong youth like Marinus. And thus he said good-bye to his friends and finally to his parents. There were many tears and hugs given on both sides; Marinus then took his sword and shield, and departed for Rome. Although his speed at first was swift, he was often attacked by wild wolves and bears, which he slew with his sword, and used for food.
On the second day of his journey, Marinus came to the outskirts of the great city of Rome. He washed briefly in a stream outside the city, and immediately proceeded to sign up as a raw recruit. After six months of training, he was taught all about the ships of the Roman Navy, and he worked hard at his training. After Marinus became part of the Navy, he was sent to the port at Ostia with the other troops who were on a mission to attack Carthage. There were one hundred ships assigned to this voyage On board his vessel, he even met a fellow countryman from a nearby village. His name was Servius, and he was assigned to the same ship as Marinus. They soon became fast friends.
As they left the port of Ostia, a strange event took place. An odd-looking fish with a fin on its back leaped up from the water onto the boat, and though the sailors tried to trap it for food, no one could catch it because of it=s speed. Even when they used a net to capture it, the finned creature always escaped. However, the next morning the fish had disappeared. Most of the sailors did not give it any more thought.
After this episode, the voyage seemed to be going well for the entire fleet. Temperate was the weather, and the waves were calm. All of a sudden, when the trireme was only ten hours away from the coast of Africa, the weather changed violently for the worse. Some of the sailors became frightened, and blamed their general for disobeying the will of the gods. An extremely violent thunderstorm struck with unbelievable ferocity. The waves increased, crashing on the ships, and causing all on board to work with utmost care to prevent shipwreck. Marinus was on the deck, working the sails with a fellow soldier, the worthy Servius. To the surprise and horror of those nearby, Marinus= shipmate was washed overboard by a gigantic wave, while Marinus only was saved by catching hold of the rope used for the sails. As he sees his friend Servius waving helplessly in the raging water, Marinus strips off his armor and dives into the water to save his friend. He swims faster than ever before through the water and the storm-tossed waves, and grabs hold of the gasping sailor. Marinus, making use of his excellent training, swims back to the ship, still traveling with great speed. His fellow shipmates on deck let down a fraying rope, to which he ties his water-logged friend. As the lightning continues to strike, and the rain pours many buckets-worth of water on the crew, they manage to pull Servius back on deck, spluttering and soaked, but alive. They lower the rope again for Marinus. As they are pulling him up, to their shock, the rope, already worn from overuse, snaps, hurling Marinus into the water again. At the same time, a huge wave crashes onto the ship, soaking all the crew; they hold on for dear life to anything they can lay their hands on. When they can get up, they come back to look for Marinus, but can see no one. In vain they call his name, AMarinus! Marinus!@ they shout, yet no answer is heard.
As the brave swimmer (thrown underwater by the Fates), returns to the surface, his head crashes against the hull of the trireme. All his vision fades...
When Marinus finally awakes, all sense of direction fails him; he cannot tell which way to go. He swims (though his head throbs with pain) towards what looks to be the south. Though he swims for hours, he can find no ships, nor island, nor coast. Just the same ocean. The same ocean. His legendary strength seems to fail him; he swims on, more slowly now. He finally cannot support himself, and with a final prayer, asks Neptune that he may be spared. As he slowly sinks underneath the water, his eye descried that the ocean suddenly turned a brilliant, luminous blue, and from the deeps Neptune comes. ABrave Marinus,@ he says, ADo not be afraid. Because of your courage, and good deeds to save a fellow man, I will change you now, to save you from this death. Originally Marinus, mortal man, become instead a Piscis Velo, sail-fish, the fastest of all the fish in the sea! Likewise, I fashion a mate for you, that you may have offspring@. And as he said these last words, Marinus was changed into the noble sailfish, which can travel in water faster than the fastest of ships. And immediately afterwards, Neptune made a female sailfish to be a mate for Piscis Velo. And so the two sailfish were happy, and made an abundance of children, and to this day the sailfish is the fastest fish in the world.
Here is a fitting photograph from my Rome trip. This is an ancient sculpture of the Trojan priest of Apollo being attacked by a sea snake, as told in The Aeneid. We saw this in the Vatican Museum!