Bellerophon was a hero of ancient Greek mythology, famed rider of Pegasus and slayer of monsters.
Bellerophon was the son of Poseidon by Eurynome, wife of King Glaucus of Corinth who was in turn the son of Merope and Sisyphus, founder of Corinth. Bellerophon’s grandsons, Glaucus and Sarpedon were heroes of the Trojan War.
The Story of Bellerophon
Bellerophon was exiled for the murder of either his brother Deliades or perhaps some enemy. He went to the court of King Proetus of Tiryns to be cleansed of the crime and while he was there the King’s wife Anteia (or Stheneboea) propositioned him, but Bellerophon refused her. The Queen responded to this rejection by telling her husband that Bellerophon had attempted to rape her.
Proetus flew into a rage but did not want to violate the code of hospitality by killing a guest, which would invoke the ire of the Erinyes. So he asked Bellerophon to deliver a secret message to his father-in-law, King Iobates of Lycia. The message read “Pray remove the bearer of this message from the world. He did attempt to violate my wife, your daughter.“
Iobates received Bellerophon in a most hospitable way and feasted him for nine days before asking him his business. When he read the message contained in the sealed tablet, he too was hesitant to violate the code of hospitality by killing a guest, so instead, he asked Bellerophon if he would do him a favor and kill the Chimera, a fearsome, fire-breathing beast that lived in the neighboring land of Caria.
Bellerophon went to see the seer Polyeidos for advice and he was told that he would only be able to defeat the Chimera with the aid of another fantastic beast, the Pegasus. In order to tame the Pegasus, Bellerophon must first sleep in the temple of Athene, which he did.
That night, Athene came to him in a dream and placed a golden bridle next to him saying “Do you sleep, prince of the house of Aiolos? Wake up and take this charm for the steed, and show it to your Father, the Tamer of Horses (Poseidon) when you sacrifice to him a white bull.” Bellerophon awoke immediately and found the golden bridle beside him.
In thanks, he offered sacrifices to both Athene and Poseidon and then he returned to Polyeidos who told him to take the bridle back to Corinth and find the Pegasus drinking from the well of Pirene and sneak up and slip it onto him, which Bellerophon was able to do successfully.
The Slaying of the Chimera
Once the Pegasus had been tamed to his hand, Bellerophon mounted it and flew to the place where the Chimera dwelled. However, even with the help of Pegasus, Bellerophon couldn’t get anywhere near the Chimera because of the great heat of his breath.
After a flash of inspiration, Bellerophon mounted a block of lead to the end of his spear and flew toward the Chimera, swooping down and hurling the spear toward the beasts great mouth, he managed to lodge the lead in the beast’s throat. The lead melted and the Chimera suffocated and died.
However, when Bellerophon returned to King Iobates, his story was not believed and he was sent on yet another quest.
The Solymi were the traditional enemies of King Iobates people. When Bellerophon returned from defeating Chimera, Iobates decided to send him alone against the entire tribe, certain that even he couldn’t handle those odds. But Bellerophon, with the help of Pegasus, wiped them out easily.
The Amazons and an Ambush
When the Solymi tribe didn’t prove much of a challenge, Iobates sent Bellerophon against the Amazons, legendary woman warriors who were bred from birth for battle. But Bellerophon easily defeated them by dropping rocks on them from above.
When Iobates heard that Bellerophon was on his way back from the land of the Amazons, he sent his entire army out to ambush him. But Bellerophon saw them from above and prayed to his father Poseidon to send a great flood that washed them all back to the castle. As the men fled in panic, the women ran out and hoisted up their skirts, shaming Bellerphon into relenting and the waters receded.
Finally, King Iobates decided Belleraphon must be beloved of the Gods and relented in his attempts to kill him. Instead, he invited him to marry his daughter, Philonoe, the younger sister of Anteia and to share half of his kingdom. When big sister heard this, she killed herself.
Philonoe bore Bellerophon four children; Isander, Hippolochus, Deidameia, and Laodamia.
The Hubris of Bellerophon
Bellerophon was quite proud of his accomplishments and decided that he would ride Pegasus to Olympus and become as one of the Gods. This was seen as a great offense and Zeus sent a gadfly to pester Pegasus who threw Bellerophon off and then quietly returned to the stables of Olympus. Bellerophon fell to the ground and was blinded by thorns. He wandered the earth blind and alone till his death.