The popularity of the dolphin tattoo design can most definitely be traced back to a long standing empathy and understanding between our two species. Humans and dolphins have co-existed for thousands of years, and the more we continue to learn about these creatures, the more we come to believe that the dolphin carries a divine spark that separates them from other animals. Early man was fascinated by the obvious intelligence of dolphins and their ability to herd schools of fish to make it easier to prey upon them.
To the ancient Greeks and Romans, dolphins were revered among sailors as symbols of divine protection and guidance, aided no doubt by the dolphin's habit of surfing the bow wave of ships at sea. It was thought that dolphins would assist lost sailors back to their home ports and rescue sailors that fell overboard and take them back to shore. In Greece, killing a dolphin was comparable to killing a human and was a crime punishable by death. For dolphins were seen to be messengers for the Gods, and were closely associated with Poseidon's daughters, the Nereids, the goddess of love Aphrodite, the heroine Galatea and the music-loving sun god, Apollo. It was said that the constellation Delphinus, the dolphin, was put in the sky by Poseidon in gratitude to the dolphins for finding his bride Amphitrite.
In Sumeria, dolphins were connected to Ea-Oannes, the deity of the sea, and sometimes with the goddess Isis in Egypt. The Celts associated the dolphin with the healing power of water, and the image of people riding dolphins is seen on some Celtic artifacts. Some Australian Aboriginal tribes claim to be direct descendants of dolphins, who are sometimes regarded as guardian spirits.