Greek and Roman Mythology > Pegasus and the Chimaera

Pegasus and the Chimaera

When Perseus cut off Medusa's head, the blood sinking into the
earth produced the winged horse Pegasus. Minerva caught and
tamed him, and presented him to the Muses. The fountain
Hippocrene, on the Muses' mountain Helicon, was opened by a kick
from his hoof.

The Chimaera was a fearful monster, breathing fire. The fore
part of its body was a compound of the lion and the goat, and the
hind part a dragon's. It made great havoc in Lycia, so that the
king Iobates sought for some hero to destroy it. At that time
there arrived at his court a gallant young warrior, whose name
was Bellerophon. He brought letters from Proetus, the son-in-law
of Iobates, recommending Bellerophon in the warmest terms as an
unconquerable hero, but added at the close a request to his
father-in-law to put him to death. The reason was that Proetus
was jealous of him, suspecting that his wife Antea looked with
too much admiration on the young warrior. From this instance of
Bellerophon being unconsciously the bearer of his own death-
warrant, the expression "Bellerophontic letters" arose, to
describe any species of communication which a person is made the
bearer of, containing matter prejudicial to himself.

Iobates, on perusing the letters, was puzzled what to do, not
willing to violate the claims of hospitality, yet wishing to
oblige his son-in-law. A lucky thought occurred to him, to send
Bellerophon to combat with the Chimaera. Bellerophon accepted
the proposal, but before proceeding to the combat consulted the
soothsayer Polyidus, who advised him to procure if possible the
horse Pegasus for the conflict. For this purpose he directed him
to pass the night in the temple of Minerva. He did so, and as he
slept Minerva came to him and gave him a golden bridle. When he
awoke the bridle remained in his hand. Minerva also showed him
Pegasus drinking at the well of Pirene, and at sight of the
bridle, the winged steed came willingly and suffered himself to
be taken. Bellerophon mounting, rose with him into the air, and
soon found the Chimaera, and gained an easy victory over the

After the conquest of the Chimaera, Bellerophon was exposed to
further trials and labors by his unfriendly host, but by the aid
of Pegasus he triumphed in them all; till at length Iobates,
seeing that the hero was a special favorite of the gods, gave him
his daughter in marriage and made him his successor on the
throne. At last Bellerophon by his pride and presumption drew
upon himself the anger of the gods; it is said he even attempted
to fly up into heaven on his winged steed; but Jupiter sent a
gadfly which stung Pegasus and made him throw his rider, who
became lame and blind in consequence. After this Bellerophon
wandered lonely through the Aleian field, avoiding the paths of
men, and died miserably.

Milton alludes to Bellerophon in the beginning o the seventh book
of Paradise Lost:

"Descend from Heaven, Urania, by that name
If rightly thou art called, whose voice divine
Following above the Olympian hill I soar,
Above the flight of Pegasean wing,
Up-led by thee,
Into the Heaven of Heavens I have presumed,
An earthly guest, and drawn empyreal air,
(Thy tempering;) with like safety guided down
Return me to my native element;
Lest from this flying steed unreined, (as once
Bellerophon, though from a lower sphere,)
Dismounted on the Aleian field I fall,
Erroneous there to wander, and forlorn."

Young in his Night Thoughts, speaking of the skeptic, says,

"He whose blind thought futurity denies,
Unconscious bears, Bellerophon, like thee
His own indictment; he condemns himself,
Who reads his bosom reads immortal life,
Or nature there, imposing on her sons,
Has written fables; man was made a lie."
Vol. II.1,12.

Pegasus, being the horse of the Muses, has always been at the
service of the poets. Schiller tells a pretty story of his
having been sold by a needy poet, and put to the cart and the
plough. He was not fit for such service, and his clownish master
could make nothing of him. But a youth stepped forth and asked
leave to try him. As soon as he was seated on his back, the
horse, which had appeared at first vicious, and afterwards
spirit-broken, rose kingly, a spirit, a god; unfolded the
splendor of his wings and soared towards heaven. Our own poet
Longfellow also records an adventure of this famous steed in his
Pegasus in Pound.

Shakespeare alludes to Pegasus in Henry IV, where Vernon
describes Prince Henry:

"I saw young Harry, with his beaver on,
His cuishes on his thighs, gallantly armed,
Rise from the ground like feathered Mercury,
And vaulted with such ease into his seat,
As if an angel dropped down from the clouds,
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,
And witch the world with noble horsemanship."

Myth Collection

Achelous and HerculesAcis and GalateaAdmetus and Alcestis
Agamemnon, Orestes, and ElectraAmphionAmphitrite
AntigoneApollo and DaphneApollo and Hyacinthus
Aurora and TithonusBacchusBaucis and Philemon
CadmusCastor and PolluxCephalus and Procris
Ceyx and HalcyoneClytieCupid and Psyche
DaedalusDiana and ActaeonDryope
Echo and NarcissusEndymionErisichthon
Glaucus and ScyllaHebe and GanymedeHercules
IbycusIo and CallistoLeucothea dnd Palaemon
LinusMarsyasMedea and Aeson
MelampusMenelaus and HelenMidas
Minerva and ArachneMonstersMusaeus
NeptuneNereus and DorisNiobe
Nisus and ScyllaOrionOrpheus and Eurydice
Pegasus and the ChimaeraPenelopePerseus and Medusa
PhaetonPluto and ProsperinePrometheus and Pandora
PygmalionPyramus and ThisbePython
ThamyrisThe Calydonian HuntThe Camenae
The CentaursThe Golden FleeceThe Graeae and Gorgons
The Griffin, or GryphonThe IliadThe Myrmidons
The PygmiesThe Rural DeitiesThe Sphinx
The Trojan WarThe Water DeitiesThe Winds
TheseusThetisVenus and Adonis
Vertumnus and Pomona

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