Bellerophon and Pegasus

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Bellerophon was pleased to show what a valiant hero he was... but he needed a special horse for such a special enterprise. He thought the most appropriate one was Pegasus, the winged horse. A wise man and a seer, Polyeidus (or Polyidus), told him to bring gifts to Athena’s temple and sleep there for one night. In his dream, Bellerophon saw goddess Athena who brought him a golden bridle. When he woke up in the morning, he found the golden bridle next to him. He took it and went to the well Pirene, where Pegasus would come and drink.

The hero managed to harness the horse and to get on his back, and ever since Bellerophon and Pegasus were inseparable.

So off they went to kill the Chimera. But each time the hero would shoot his arrows, the fire breath would just melt them and transform them into match sticks. So how did Bellerophon slay the Chimera? He had a brilliant idea: he attached a lump of lead to his spear and threw it into the monster’s mouth. Chimera’s fire made the lead melt, and it went down its throat, killing it.

Detail of the Hinton St. Mary Mosaic with a roundel of Bellerophon slaying the Chimera, c.350 AD

Detail of the Hinton St. Mary Mosaic with a roundel of Bellerophon slaying the Chimera, c.350 AD
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You can imagine Iobates' disappointment when he saw Bellerophon and Pegasus come back. He still wanted to do what he had been asked, so he sent the hero to fight against the enemy tribe of the Solymi. Bellerophon managed to kill them all and to come back, so Iobates sent him to fight against the Amazons. Needless to say, he came back successful again.

When the king saw that nothing worked, he gathered an army of Lycians and told them to ambush Bellerophon. Guess what? The hero killed them all (sort of Van Damme). At his point, Iobates had to acknowledge the fact that Bellerophon was protected by the gods, so maybe he wasn’t guilty of the accusations after all. That’s why the king gave up his attempts of killing the hero and gave him in marriage his daughter, Philonoe. Later, he also showed him the incriminating letter.

The hero decided to go back to Tyrins and prove his innocence. When Stheneboea saw Bellerophon and Pegasus arrive, she knew she was in trouble. Some say Bellerophon took her for a ride on Pegasus and pushed her from the horse, into the sea (but this is not a nice thing to do for a hero). Some others say she stole the winged horse and tried to flee, but Pegasus threw her into the sea. Others yet say she committed suicide when she found out that her sister was going to marry Bellerophon (this time, Pegasus and Bellerophon had nothing to do with her death).

Piercing Bellerophon Mounted on a Pegasus

Piercing Bellerophon Mounted on a Pegasus
Rubens, Peter Paul
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After so many adventures with his horse, Bellerophon was praised by everyone and he became very arrogant. One day he decided to ride his horse directly to the gods’ residence, on Mount Olympus. So Bellerophon and Pegasus left for their last adventure together, but they didn’t get very far. Zeus was angry for this act of arrogance and sent a gadfly that stung the horse. Bellerophon was thrown to the ground and Pegasus returned to heaven. The hero didn’t die, but he was crippled, and he spent the rest of his life wandering alone, as everyone now avoided him. For the ancient Greeks, the hubrys, the fact of being exaggerately proud or self-confident, was a capital sin, that’s why no one wanted to approach a person who had been punished for this. And so a great hero finished his life in misery, because of his unnatural pride.

Offspring:

- with Philonoe: two sons, Isander and Hippolochus, and two daughters, Laodameia and Deidameia

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