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Bellophoron and Pegasus

In Greek mythology, Pegasus (Greek: Πήγασος (Pégasos)) is the winged horse that was fathered by Poseidon with Medusa. When her head was cut of by the Greek hero Perseus, the horse sprang forth from her pregnant body. His galloping created the well Hippocrene on the Helicon.

When the horse was drinking from the well the Corinthian hero was able to capture the horse by using a golden bridle, a gift from Athena. The gods then gave him Pegasus for killing the monster Chimera but when he attempted to mount the horse it threw him off and rose to the heavens, where it became a constellation.


Hesiod connects the name Pegasos with the word for "spring, well", pēgē; everywhere the winged horse struck hoof to earth, an inspiring spring burst forth: one on the Mount Helicon, the Hippocrene ("horse spring"), at the behest of Poseidon to prevent the mountain swelling too much and another at Troezen.

The actual etymology of the name is most likely from Luwian pihassas "lightning", or pihassasas, a weather god (the god of lightning). In Hesiod, Pegasos is still associated with this original significance by carrying the thunderbolts for Zeus.


Most often described as a large white stallion with wings, they have been a mainstay of fantasy art for generations.


In Greek and Roman mythology Pegasus sprang from the blood of the Gorgon Medusa when the hero Perseus beheaded her. some say that they sprang from Medusa's neck as Perseus. Others says that they were born of the earth as Medusa's blood spilled onto it, in which case Poseidon would not be their sire.


Pegasus' story became a favourite theme in Greek art and literature, and in late antiquity Pegasus' soaring flight was interpreted as an allegory of the soul's immortality; in modern times it has been regarded as a symbol of poetic and artistic inspiration.


Pegasus sprang from the gorgon Medusa's neck with his brother the giant, Chrysaor when Perseus killed her. Athena caught and tamed Pegasus and presented him to the Muses on mount Helicon, where, having struck the ground with his hoof, a spring began to flow, which became sacred to the Muses as the fountain Hippocrene. Bellerophon, King of Corinth, managed to capture Pegasus with a golden bridle, given by Athena. There are varying tales as to how Bellerophon found Pegasus; some say that the hero found him drinking at the Pierian spring and that Polyidus told Bellerophon how to find and tame him, others that either Athena or Poseidon brought him to Bellerophon.

With the help of Pegasus, Bellephoron was then able to destroy the three-headed monster Chimaera. Unfortunately, however, this caused Bellerophon to have an inflated opinion of his greatness, and he attempted to fly on Pegasus to join the gods on Olympus. An enraged Zeus sent an insect to annoy Pegasus, causing the horse to throw Bellerophon from his back. Pegasus was then installed in the Olympian stables where he was entrusted to bring Zeus his lightning and thunderbolts. In his later life, Pegasus took a wife, Euippe (or Ocyrrhoe) This family is the origin of the winged horses. Bellophoron did not die from his fall but remained lame and blind in consequence. After this, he wandered lonely through the Aleian field, avoiding the paths of men, and died miserably.

Bullfinch's Mythology


When Perseus cut off Medusa's head, the blood sinking into the earth produced the winged horse Pegasus. Minerva caught and tamed him and presented him to the Muses. The fountain Hippocrene, on the Muse's mountain Helicon, was opened by a kick from his hoof.

The Chimaera was a fearful monster, breathing fire. The fore part of its body was a compound of the lion and the goat, and the hind part a dragon's. It made great havoc in Lycia, so that the king, Iobates, sought for some hero to destroy it. At that time there arrived at his court a gallant young warrior, whose name was Bellerophon. He brought letters from Proetus, the son-in-law of Iobates, recommending Bellerophon in the warmest terms as an unconquerable hero, but added at the close a request to his father-in-law to put him to death. The reason was that Proetus was jealous of him, suspecting that his wife Antea looked with too much admiration on the young warrior. From this instance of Bellerophon being unconsciously the bearer of his own death warrant, the expression "Bellerophontic letters" arose, to describe any species of communication which a person is made the bearer of, containing matter prejudicial to himself.

Iobates, on perusing the letters, was puzzled what to do, not willing to violate the claims of hospitality, yet wishing to oblige his son-in-law. A lucky thought occurred to him, to send Bellerophon to combat with the Chimaera. Bellerophon accepted the proposal, but before proceeding to the combat consulted the soothsayer Polyidus, who advised him to procure if possible the horse Pegasus for the conflict. For this purpose he directed him to pass the night in the temple of Minerva. He did so, and as he slept Minerva came to him and gave him a golden bridle. When he awoke the bridle remained in his hand. Minerva also showed him Pegasus drinking at the well of Pirene, and at sight of the bridle the winged steed came willingly and suffered himself to be taken. Bellerophon mounted him, rose with him into the air, soon found the Chimaera, and gained an easy victory over the monster.

After the conquest of the Chimaera Bellerophon was exposed to further trials and labours by his unfriendly host, but by the aid of Pegasus he triumphed in them all, till at length Iobates, seeing that the hero was a special favourite of the gods, gave him his daughter in marriage and made him his successor on the throne. At last Bellerophon by his pride and presumption drew upon himself the anger of the gods; it is said he even attempted to fly up into heaven on his winged steed, but Jupiter sent a gadfly which stung Pegasus and made him throw his rider, who became lame and blind in consequence. After this Bellerophon wandered lonely through the Aleian field, avoiding the paths of men, and died miserably.

Milton alludes to Bellerophon in the beginning of the seventh book of "Paradise Lost":

       "Descend from Heaven, Urania, by that name
        If rightly thou art called, whose voice divine
        Following, above the Olympian hill I soar,
        Above the flight of Pegasean wing.
                                    Upled by thee,
        Into the Heaven of Heavens I have presumed,
        An earthly guest, and drawn empyreal air
        (Thy tempering); with like safety guided down
        Return me to my native element;
        Lest, from this flying steed unreined (as once
        Bellerophon, though from a lower clime),
        Dismounted, on the Aleian field I fall,
        Erroneous there to wander and forlorn."

Young, in his "Night Thoughts," speaking of the sceptic, says:

         "He whose blind thought futurity denies,
          Unconscious bears, Bellerophon, like thee
          His own indictment; he condemns himself.
          Who reads his bosom reads immortal life,
          Or nature there, imposing on her sons,
          Has written fables; man was made a lie."
                                          Vol. II., p. 12.

Pegasus, being the horse of the Muses, has always been at the service of the poets. Schiller tells a pretty story of his having been sold by a needy poet and put to the cart and the plough. He was not fit for such service, and his clownish master could make nothing of him. But a youth stepped forth and asked leave to try him. As soon as he was seated on his back the horse, which had appeared at first vicious, and afterwards spirit-broken, rose kingly, a spirit, a god, unfolded the splendour of his wings, and soared towards heaven. Our own poet Longfellow also records adventure of this famous steed in his "Pegasus in Pound."

Shakespeare alludes to Pegasus in "Henry IV.," where Vernon describes Prince Henry:

       "I saw young Harry, with his beaver on,
        His cuishes on this thighs, gallantly armed,
        Rise from the ground like feathered Mercury,
        And vaulted with such ease into his seat,
        As if an angel dropped down from the clouds,
        To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,
        And witch the world with noble horsemanship."