We selected for you some facts about the role and existence of sea turtles in the past.
As many may know, sea turtles are a “living fossil” as they belong to few animals on earth existing since pre-historic eras. Their appearance has undergone almost no changes through all these years! Same then as now.
Turtles often appear in myths, sometimes are used as form of decoration, for music instruments and they were also symbols of different values through history.
Myths in which turtles appear, can be found in ancient Greece, southern Italy and the Sicily. A very well-known myth is the one of Sceiron. Sceiron was a robber, an Isthmian outlaw, hanging around in the area of the Isthmus of Corinth at a cliff on the Saronic coast. He was robbing travelers and making them sit to wash their feet at a steep cliff. So he would give them a kick off the cliff, where a huge sea turtle would devour them. There is also a legend, often depicted in the past and quite well-known, about a man crossing the sea on a sea turtle. The myth however is said to be lost.
Often the turtle appears as decoration on jewellery, sculptures and pottery (as the abovementioned legend with the man crossing the sea on a sea turtle did). Often the turtle appears in company of Gods, like Hermes, Aphrodite, Artemis and Apollo. And sometimes is appears on paintings as a game for children, due to its calm nature.
A sea turtle also decorated one of the most ancient Greek currencies: the currency of Aegina.
The turtle shell was used as a ritual utensil and as a music instrument. The lyre called chelis (chelona is the greek wor for turtle) is thought to be God Hermes invention: small Hermes found a turtle, took its shell off, added horns from a mountain goat and strings from sheep intestines and played melodic music…
The turtle’s symbolic meaning also changed through time. In ancient Greek and Roman era, turtles appearing in artworks were considered as a positive symbol. Through Christianity however, they gained a negative meaning, symbolising sloth and lust. Later again the turtle stood for virtue, fertility and marital happiness.
Today this special creatures still roam the Greek seas and visit the beaches- especially of Zakynthos- to lay their eggs.