two versions of the Triton legend relates that the women of Tanagra before theorgies of Dionysos went down to the sea to be purified, were attacked by theTriton as they were swimming, and prayed that Dionysos would come to theiraid. The god, it is said, heard their cry and overcame the Triton in the fight. Theother version is less grand but more credible. It says the Triton would waylay andlift all the cattle that were driven to the sea. He used even to attack smallvessels, until the people of Tanagra set out for him a bowl of wine. They say that,attracted by the smell, he came at once, drank the wine, flung himself on theshore and slept, and that a man of Tanagra struck him on the neck with and axeand chopped off his head. For this reason the image has no head. And becausethey caught him drunk, it is supposed that it was Dionysos who killed him.I saw another Triton among the curiosities at Rome, less in size that the one atTanagra. The Tritones have the following appearance. On their heads they growhair like that of marsh frogs not only in colour, but also in the impossibility of separating one hair from another. The rest of their body is rough with fine scales just as is the shark. Under their ears they have gills and a man’s nose; but themouth is broader and the teeth are those of a beast. Their eyes seem to me blue,and they have hands, fingers and nails like the shells of the murex. Under thebreast and belly is a tail like a dophin’s instead of feet."
Aelian, On Animals 13. 21 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
"Concerning Tritones, while fishermen assert that they have no clear account orpositive proof of their existence, yet there is a report very widely of certainmonsters in the sea, of human shape from the head down to the waist. AndDemostratos in his treatise on fishing says that at Tanagra he has seen a Triton inpickle. It was, he says, in most respects as portrayed in statues and pictures, butits head had been so marred by time and was so far from distinct that it was noteasy to make it out or recognise it. `And when I touched it there fell from itrough scales quite hard and resistant. And a member of the Council, one of thosechosen by lot to regulate the affairs of Greece and entrusted with thegovernment fro a single year, intending to test and prove the nature of what hesaw, removed a small piece of the skin and burnt it in the fire; whereupon anoisome smell from the burning object thrown into the flames assailed thenostrils of the bystanders. But’ he says, `we were unable to guess whether thecreature was born on land or in the sea. The experiment however cost him dear,for shortly afterwards he lost his life while crossing a small, narrow strait in ashort, six-oared ferry-boat. And the inhabitants of Tanagra maintained,’ so hesays, `that this befell him because he profaned the Triton, and they declared thatwhen he was taken lifeless from the sea he disgorged a fluid which smelt like thehide of the Triton at the time when the man cast it into the fire and burnt it.’ As to the quarter from which the Triton strayed and how he came to be castashore here, the inhabitants of Tanagra and Demostratos must explain. In viewof these facts I blow to the god, and a witness of such authority claims ourbelief; and Apollon Didymois (of Didyma) [oracle of Apollon Brankhos in Miletos]must be sufficient to guarantee to every man of sound mind and strongintelligence. At any rate he says that the Triton is a creature of the sea, and hiswords are : `A child of Poseidon, portent of the waters, a clear-voiced Triton,encountered as he swam the rush of a hollow vessel.’