Bellerophon

Bellerophon was a hero best known for slaying the Chimera and flying on the back of Pegasus.

Parents: Poseidon and Eurynome
Consort:
Philonoe

Pebble mosaic depicting Bellerophon killing the Chimera, Rhodes Archaeological Museum.

He was a son of the god Poseidon and Eurynome, wife of King Glaucus of Corinth. In his youth, Bellerophon captured the winged horse Pegasus as it came to drink from the town’s fountain.

Veroli Casket panel detail showing Bellerophon with Pegasus, dating from 900–1000 AD.

Exile

He was later exiled for the murder of a family member and journeyed to the court of King Proetus in Argos for purification. The queen, however, developed a lust for the hero and when he spurned her, she told her husband he had tried to attack her.

The Chimera

Proetus then sent him off to King Iobates in Lycia with a closed letter requesting the youth be put to death. Iobates was reluctant to do this himself and so commanded Bellerophon to slay the fire-breathing Chimera, which was ravaging his land. He rode into battle on the back of Pegasus and slew it by driving a lead-tipped lance into its fiery throat.

Bellerophon on Pegasus spears the Chimera, on an Attic red-figure epinetron, 425–420 BC.

The king then ordered him to subdue the barbarous Solymoi tribe, and later the Amazons, but again he proved victorious. Finally, Iobates commanded his guards to ambush and kill the youth, but he slew them all. The king was forced to acknowledge that Bellerophon must be the son of a god and welcomed him into his house as his son-in-law and heir.

Hubris

Despite all of his successes, Bellerophon was still not satisfied and sought to ascend to heaven on the back of Pegasus. Zeus was angered by his presumption and sent a gadfly to sting the horse, causing it to buck and cast the hero back down to earth.