Greek Island Giants, Dolphin Pirates and Ancient Dragons (Part 2 of 2)

Of the 24 islands comprising what we know as the Northern Sporades, only four are inhabited. These are Skopelos, Alonissos, Skyros and Skiathos. The sea surrounding these islands is filled with a spectacular array of marine life including dolphins known to have swum here millions of years before humans ever learned to build boats or even doggie paddle. So much so that the National Marine Park of Alonissos and Northern Sporades was the first marine park in Greece. It is also the largest marine protected area in all of Europe.

Dolphin pirates of old

The ancient Greeks revered and respected dolphins as depicted in their emblematic association with Poseidon, God of the Sea. In fact, many people believe that some dolphins were once human pirates and there’s a story about this that involves Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine.

Standing alone on the shore looking handsome and regal, pirates nabbed him thinking he was a prince they could ransom or sell as a slave. A struggle ensued but they managed to get him to their ship. His captors had no idea he was a god until strange things started to happen on deck. A vine, full with grapes suddenly curled over the topsail. Ivy full with flowers wrapped itself around the mast. Wreaths circled the oar hole pins. Fragrant wine flowed along the decks. Even though the winds were strong the ship stopped dead in the ocean. Pandemonium broke out when wild animals manifested from nowhere.

Too far from land and terrified, the pirates dived into the watery depths to their death. Dionysus took pity on them, turned them into dolphins and made them playful so that they would be unable to harm humans.

Beware the dragon’s lair

People from all over the world come to marvel at the proliferation of marine life in the Northern Sporades. This includes the playful pirates who bob, dive and swim at formidable speeds alongside day-tripper boats. Legend also has it that some time ago, a dragon with “teeth as sharp as knives and claws sharp as arrows” made his presence known on Skopelos. Whether he had been in a deep slumber or had just arrived, the island inhabitants fled. For many years, only those condemned to death were sent to Skopelos where the dragon was said to carry out the gruesome sentence.

Baiting the beast

When St. Reginos, a priest from the mainland heard of this practice, he was appalled at its barbarism. Disguised as a prisoner he was sent off to Skopelos and on arrival asked the other convicts about the dragon’s location. Confronted by the drooling visage of this powerful, fire-breathing creature he taunted it into chasing him across the island to a hill where he knelt and prayed. When the dragon arrived, God collapsed the hill on top of the monster. Buried under rocks the place became forever known as the Ravine of the Dragon, a local talking point still today. On windy days some people even claim to hear, when approaching or residing on Skopelos, a muted yet angry roaring sound coming from within the bowels of the island.

Greek Island Giants, Dolphin Pirates and Ancient Dragons (Part 1 of 2)