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Illustrated Guide to Mythology

Bellerophon


Bellerophon is a Greek hero who slew the mighty Chimera monster, saving the kingdom of Lycia, while riding the mighty Pegasus.

Bellerophon
Bellerophon

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Bellerophon was the son of Poseidon and Eurynome. He was exiled from Corinth after murdering his brother, and found favor in Argos with King Proitos and his wife Queen Anteia. Queen Anteia fell in love with Bellerophon, but he would not betray the king’s trust. After he rejected the queen, she went to her husband and claimed that Bellerophon tried to violate her. Proitos wrote a letter to his father-in-law, King Iobates of Lycia, in an ancient script which could not be deciphered, with the message to kill the bearer of the letter and sent Bellerophon off with the letter to die. When Bellerophon arrived in Lycia, he was welcomed and feasted, and he instantly fell in love with King Iobates’ other daughter, Philonoe. When the king read the letter, however, he knew he could not break an oath to his son-in-law, but he also knew that he did not feel right killing a potentially innocent man. He came up with a compromise: the Chimera was a hideous creature, the sister of Hydra and Cerberus. She had been ravaging the countryside of Lycia, burning everything in her wake and eating charred bits of innocent people. He asked Bellerophon to kill the creature, thinking that the creature would kill Bellerophon instead. He promised Philonoe to Bellerophon if he succeeded.

Bellerophon went into the countryside and found a survivor who told him what the beast looked like. Then, he prayed to Athena, who told him that he first had to go and get the Pegasus, a white horse with wings, before going after the Chimera. Bellerophon waited at the rock of Corinth for the horse and managed to catch him using a special bit and bridle that Athena gave him. He took the Pegasus back to the countryside, sweeping over mountains until he found the Chimera. He killed her with a spear as the Pegasus soared around her; her blood was green. Eventually, she became nothing more than a smoldering pile of goo. King Iobates gave Bellerophon other dangerous tasks, such as defeating the Amazons, but Bellerophon survived those tasks, too.

Bellerophon was later permanently maimed when he rode the Pegasus back to Olympus, and in his excitement, he reared back, throwing Bellerophon back to Earth. Other versions of this myth claim that Bellerophon became arrogant because of his victory over the Chimera, and he believed he deserved a seat on Mount Olympus. Instead of the Pegasus rearing back out of joy, it reared back after Zeus sent an insect to sting it, sending Bellerophon tumbling back to Earth. Bellerophon became a wandering hermit after the fall, maimed and miserable until his death.

Bellerophon Hero Reference

Parents

Poseidon and Eurynome


Notable Myths

  • Queen Anteia’s Unrequited Love
  • King Proitos’ revenge
  • Pegasus and the Chimera

Symbols / Attributes

  • Spear
  • Pegasus

Companions

Philonoe

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