The Greek Hero Bellerophon

This is the story of the Greek hero Bellerophon. He was the son of the Greek god Poseidon. His mother was either Eurynome or Eurymede, and her husband, king Glaucus, was his earthly father.

Glaucus was an excellent horseman and taught his son all he knew about horses (we shouldn’t forget that Bellerophon had in his genes, too, a passion for horses, from his real father, god Poseidon).

His life was more or less normal, until he killed by accident another man (whose name differs, according to different authors. Sometimes the man who was killed is called Bellerus, which also explains the origin of the name Bellerophon - to me it looks more like a nickname - that is, "Bellerus' killer". Another explanation for his name is “bearing darts”.)

At that time, when someone comitted murder, he had to leave his city and find someone who would purify his sin. That’s why Bellerophon left his city, Corynth, and went to Tyrins, where king Proetus purified him (I found his name also spelled Proteus). Our hero was young and valiant, that’s why Proetus’ wife, Stheneboea, fell in love with him. She made a pass at him, but he refused, so she got very angry and told her husband that Bellerophon had tried to seduce her. The king should have killed him, in order to wash away the offence, but the laws of hospitality forbade killing a person you ate with, or else it would be a horrible offence to the gods. (The laws of hospitality were finally something nice in those cruel times).

So Proetus asked Bellerophon to deliver a letter to his father-in-law, Iobates, king of Lycia, in which he asked a big favour: to put the bearer to death. Our hero was not as shrewd as Hamlet (who, in a similar situation, read the letter and replaced it with a forged one), so he never thought of reading it. When he arrived at king Iobates’ court, he was well received and invited to dinner. This created a problem for the king, when he read the letter: now he was in the same position as his son-in law, he couldn’t kill his guest because they had eaten together. To say nothing about this absurd situation: having in front of you someone who brings a letter which requests his own death.

But soon he had a brilliant idea: his country was devastated by a horrible fire-breathing monster, the Chimera (or Chimaera), who had a lion’s head, a goat’s head in the middle part of the body and a dragon’s tail (in fact, she was represented as having a tail like a snake’s head). Iobates asked Bellerophon a big favour: to kill the monster, being sure that the hero will not survive. This way, he could do what his son-in-law-asked, without getting his hands dirty.

Click here for the second part of the Bellerophon and Pegasus story.

PS Looking for something else? I promise you, I’m not angry :-)


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