Bellerophon

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Bellerophon

Nationality/Culture

Greek

Pronunciation

buh-LAIR-uh-fun

Alternate Names

Bellerophontes

Appears In

Homer's Iliad, Hesiod's Theogony

Lineage

Son of King Glaucus of Corinth

Character Overview

In Greek mythology , Bellerophon (pronounced buh-LAIR-uh-fun) was a hero and warrior who accidentally killed his own brother. He tamed the winged horse Pegasus (PEG-uh-suhs) and fought a ferocious beast called the Chimaera (pronounced kye-MEER-uh).

After accidentally killing his brother and another man, Bellerophon sought protection from King Proteus (pronounced PRO-tee-uhs) of Tiryns (pronounced TEER-ins), who granted Bellerophon shelter. Proteus's wife, Anteia (pronounced ahn-TAY-uh), tried to seduce Bellerophon, but he resisted her. Angry at being rejected, Anteia told her husband that Bellerophon had tried to rape her. Proteus was furious but did not want to kill his guest. Instead, he sent Bellerophon to Anteia's father, King Iobates (pronounced eye-OH-buh-teez) of Lycia (pronounced LISH-ee-uh). He also sent a note explaining what had happened and asking Iobates to kill Bellerophon.

Iobates, too, was reluctant to kill his guest, so he sent him on dangerous missions instead. First, he asked Bellerophon to kill the Chimaera, a fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a serpent. With the help of the gods, Bellerophon tamed the winged horse Pegasus and then used it to fight the Chimaera. He still could not get near the beast because of its fiery breath, but the gods helped him formulate a plan. He put a block of lead on the end of his spear and lodged it into the Chimaera's throat. The heat of its breath melted the lead, which went down the creature's throat and suffocated it. After the defeat of the Chimaera, Iobates ordered Bellerophon to defeat two armies, including the fierce Amazons. Bellerophon succeeded in these missions as well.

Afterward, Bellerophon told the sea god Poseidon (pronounced poh-SYE-dun) that Iobates seemed ungrateful for his help. In response, Poseidon caused a great flood to strike Lycia. Iobates finally realized that Bellerophon must be innocent of the charges against him. When he discovered that his guest did not rape Anteia, Iobates gave Bellerophon one of his daughters as a bride and made him heir to the throne of Lycia.

Proud of his success, Bellerophon tried to ride Pegasus to Mount Olympus (pronounced oh-LIM-puhs), home of the gods. Zeus (pronounced ZOOS) sent a fly to bite Pegasus, who bucked and threw Bellerophon to the ground. Bellerophon survived the fall but was crippled for life. He spent the rest of his days wandering the earth as a beggar.

Bellerophon in Context

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, a more popular Greek hero was credited for taming Pegasus, which was one of Bellerophon's main accomplishments. The artwork of the period showed Perseus (pronounced PUR-see-uhs) taming Pegasus, which led to this version of the story becoming the one most generally accepted in modern culture.

Key Themes and Symbols

One of the important themes in Bellerophon's tale is the danger of hubris, or excessive pride that clouds one's judgment. Bellerophon, because of his great heroism, believes that he deserves to go to Mount Olympus. The powerful Olympian gods disagree, and Zeus causes Bellerophon to fall and become crippled for life.

Bellerophon in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Bellerophon was one of the more celebrated heroes in ancient Greece. He was usually depicted riding Pegasus and slaying the Chimaera. Euripides' (pronounced yoo-RIP-i-deez) tragedy, Bellerophontes, details his story, only fragments of which still remain. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Bellerophon's role became less important as depictions of Perseus became more popular among artists and writers.

Fratricide

Killing a brother, or fratricide, is considered an unthinkably horrible crime in many cultures. In Christian mythology, Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, kills his brother Abel. God curses him and banishes him from the society of others. The story also appears in the holy book of Islam, the Qur'an.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

Compare the myth of Bellerophon with the myth of Heracles and his twelve labors. How are the two myths similar? How are they different? Does each one have a different theme or lesson?

SEE ALSO Amazons; Pegasus; Proteus; Zeus

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Bellerophon in Greek mythology, an ancient Corinthian hero, said in some accounts to be the son of Poseidon. Anteia, wife of Proetus king of Argus, fell in love with him, and when he rejected her accused him publicly of trying to seduce her (cf. Potiphar's wife). Proetus, unwilling to violate the laws of hospitality, sent Bellerophon to the king of Lycia, with a sealed letter requesting the king to kill Bellerophon. The king set him a number of tasks likely to prove fatal, such as killing the Chimaera and defeating the Amazons, but Bellerophon with the help of the winged horse Pegasus was always successful. He was finally reconciled to the king, and married his daughter.

Afterwards Bellerophon incurred the anger of the gods by his presumption in trying to ride Pegasus to heaven, but the horse threw him. He ended his life as a lonely outcast.


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Bellerophon (bəlĕr´əfŏn, –fən), in Greek mythology, son of Glaucus3; originally called Hipponoüs. He changed his name after he murdered a countryman and was forced to flee to exile. He became a suppliant at the court of King Proetus of Argos, whose wife Anteia falsely accused him of trying to seduce her. Proetus sent him to Iobates, king of Lycia, with a sealed message requesting the death of its bearer. Iobates gave Bellerophon the seemingly impossible task of killing the Chimera, a beast that was part lion, part goat, part dragon. Bellerophon, however, with the aid of the flying horse Pegasus, killed the monster. Iobates sent him on other difficult missions, but finally decided that Bellerophon was favored by the gods and gave him his daughter in marriage. At the height of his prosperity, however, Bellerophon tried to ride Pegasus to the throne of the gods atop Mt. Olympus, and Zeus in anger caused Pegasus to throw him to the ground. Bellerophon then wandered alone, crippled, blind, and humiliated, until he died.

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