Ovid's Metamorphoses, Hesiod's Theogony
Born from the blood of Medusa
A winged horse in Greek mythology , Pegasus was born from the blood that spurted from the neck of the Gorgon Medusa (pronounced meh-DOO-suh) when the hero Perseus (pronounced PUR-see-uhs) cut off her head. He is sometimes said to have been fathered by Poseidon (pronounced poh-SYE-dun), the god of the sea and tamer of horses. Pegasus served Perseus until his death, and afterward went to the home of the Muses. The water that gave the Muses their inspiration had dried up, so Pegasus stamped his hoof and created a spring.
With the help of the goddess Athena (pronounced uh-THEE-nuh) and a golden bridle she gave him, the hero Bellerophon (pronounced buh-LAIR-uh-fun) tamed Pegasus. He rode the horse when he slew the monster called the Chimaera (pronounced kye-MEER-uh), a fire-breathing creature with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a serpent. Later, Bellerophon tried to ride Pegasus to the top of Mount Olympus (pronounced oh-LIM-puhs) so that he could join the Greek gods. But Zeus (pronounced ZOOS), the leader of the gods, was angered by Bellerophon's arrogance. He caused a fly to bite Pegasus, and the horse threw Bellerophon to earth, crippling him for life. Pegasus continued on to Olympus and lived in Zeus's stables, where he became the steed of Eos, the goddess of dawn. At the end of his life, Pegasus was immortalized in the form of a constellation, or a group of stars in the night sky.
Pegasus in Context
For the ancient Greeks, Pegasus must have seemed a natural extension of the human dependence on horses for transportation and labor. Just as horses served their owners dutifully, Pegasus served the various gods and heroes to whom he was pledged. His ability to fly may have reflected how people felt about travel by horseback, which was considerably faster than any other form of land travel available at the time.
Key Themes and Symbols
One theme found in the myths of Pegasus is faithfulness, or duty. The winged horse is a faithful servant of Perseus throughout his life, perhaps as a duty to the hero who caused Pegasus to be born. Later, he serves Bellerophon fearlessly in a dangerous battle. He does not deliberately betray Bellerophon by throwing him from his back, but merely reacts to Zeus's attempts to distract him. The golden bridle is a symbol of the faithfulness of Pegasus: he approaches Bellerophon as soon as he sees the bridle and allows the hero to ride him.
Pegasus in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life
The image of the winged horse Pegasus can be found throughout ancient and classical art, though not all winged horses are meant to represent Pegasus. In modern times, Pegasus appeared in the 1981 film Clash of the Titans as the steed of Perseus, and played a prominent part in the 1997 Disney animated film Hercules as a companion to Hercules. Pegasus is the name of a spaceship in the updated Battlestar Galactica television series (2003). Pegasus is also the logo for TriStar Pictures and TriStar television, founded in the 1980s and now owned by Sony Pictures.
Read, Write, Think, Discuss
Airs Beneath the Moon (2006) by Toby Bishop, is a fantasy tale about a teenage farm girl named Larkyn who happens upon an abandoned pregnant mare who dies giving birth to a colt with wings. The colt bonds with Larkyn, and they soon find themselves attending the Academy of the Air, a training center for winged steeds and their riders. As the only person at the Academy not of noble birth, Larkyn struggles to fit in, but she soon discovers that she must foil the evil plans of a newly crowned, power-hungry duke who controls the bloodlines of the steeds.
A winged horse in Greek mythology, Pegasus was supposedly the offspring of the sea god Poseidon and the Gorgon Medusa. According to legend, Pegasus was born from the blood that spurted from Medusa's neck when the hero Perseus killed her. Pegasus served Perseus until his death and afterward went to the home of the Muses. The water that gave the Muses their inspiration had dried up, so Pegasus stamped his hoof and created a spring.
Gorgon one of three ugly monsters who had snakes for hair, staring eyes, and huge wings
Muse one of nine sister goddesses who presided over the arts and sciences
With the help of the goddess Athena*, the hero Bellerophon later tamed Pegasus and rode the horse when he slew the monster called the Chimaera. Later Bellerophon tried to ride Pegasus to the top of Mount Olympus* so that he could join the Greek gods. However, Zeus* caused a fly to bite Pegasus, and the horse threw Bellerophon to earth, crippling him for life.
See also Bellerophon; Medusa; Muses; Perseus.