Bellerophon: Great Hero Of Homer’s Iliad Who Was Punished By Gods For His Pride And Arrogance

Angela Sutherland  - AncientPages.com - In Greek mythology, Bellerophon was the son of the mortal Eurynome (Eurymede) and Glaucus, the son of Sisyphus, and King of Corinth, but to many of us, he is, first of all, known as the hero of Homer's Iliad.

Bellerophon was beautiful and handsome as a god and equal to the immortal beings in courage.

So what did happen to this great hero who could have almost everything in his life and yet ended it in misery and blindness?

Bellerophon mounted on Pegasus and slaying the Chimera. Central medallion restored from a Roman mosaic of more than 100 m2 discovered in 1830 in Autun (Saône-et-Loire, France)

 Mounted on Pegasus,  Bellerophon was slaying the Chimera. Central medallion restored from a Roman mosaic of more than 100 m2 discovered in 1830 in Autun (Saône-et-Loire, France. ) Image credit: Félix Potuit  - Public domain

One tragic incident of his early life happened when Bellerophon - playing with his father's bow - accidentally killed his brother (in another version, the Corinthian citizen), for which he was exiled from the court. Feeling hostility from the citizens of Corinth, he took refuge at Argolis, where he was warmly greeted and greatly honored by the king of Tiryns, Proetus.

The king's divine wife, Antheia, fell in love with Bellerophon, but her feelings for him were not reciprocated. As he rejected her love, Antheia wanted revenge for his insult. Now, only her hatred fueled her wrongdoings. She went to her husband, saying:

"Oh, king! Bellerophon insults you heavily. You must kill him. He haunts me, your wife, with his love. That's how he thanked you for your hospitality!"

But what she said to her husband was a lie. No less, this lie could hold.

The king was furious and undoubtedly disappointed, but he could not mistreat Bellerophon because he was his honored guest. Being afraid of Zeus' anger for disrespectful behavior toward a guest, Proetus had to find another solution.

Finally, he decided to send him a letter to Antheia's father, Iobatus, the king of Lycia.

Yóbates , Bellerophon, Pegasus and Athena represented in a painting from 1829, work of Aleksandr Andréyevich Ivanov.

Yóbates, Bellerophon, Pegasus, and Athena are represented in a painting from 1829, the work of Aleksander Andréyevich Ivan. Image credit: Aleksandr Ivanov  - Public domain

In the secret letter, written on the double-folded and sealed tablet, Proetus explained to Iobates how seriously Bellerophon had insulted him and asked him to take revenge on him for the insult.

"Pray remove the bearer from this world: he attempted to violate my wife, your daughter."

Like Proetus, also, Iobates feared anger from the gods for killing a guest. Instead, he decided to send Bellerophon on a hazardous mission that he considered impossible. The hero's task was to kill Chimera, a monster with the body of a goat, the head of a lion, and the tail of a serpent.

The creature spewed fire from three mouths and terrorized the nearby countryside of Caria for a long time.

Bellerophon encountered the famous Corinthian seer Polyeidos, who gave him advice about his dangerous battle with the creature on his way to the fight.

Bellerophon was a brave young man, but he also knew that to kill Chimera, he had to own the winged horse Pegasus, an extraordinary divine creature that flew out of the body of the gorgon Medusa killed by Perseus. He knew where to find this wonderful horse but to catch him was not easy.  As soon as he approached the winged horse, the divine animal was carried away with the fastest wind speed behind the clouds.

ChimeraChimera. Image credit: Jastrow (2006) - Public Domain

Finally, Bellerophon managed to tame Pegasus and, flying on him, approached the mountains of Lycia, where the monstrous Chimera had its dwelling. Chimera sensed Bellerophon's approach and tried to hide somewhere, but there was no place to hide. Bellerophon followed her everywhere on his winged Pegasus. Chimera could not hide anymore from the hero's small but deadly arrows.

The hero won the battle with Chimera, and then, he engaged himself in a fight with the Amazons, and again was also victorious, killing ambushing assassins, he met on his way. King Jobates was impressed and gave Bellerophon his daughter Philonoe and half of his kingdom as a dowry. It seemed the pair was happy with their three children. They lived in Lycia, surrounded with glory and respected by the people.

But were they happy? Or, more precisely, was Bellerophon happy?

Now, Bellerophon was famous and very proud of his almost impossible successes. Pegasus's winged divine horse had an honorable place in Greek mythology and was of great importance for the hero, Bellerophon.

Pegasus symbolizes glory, creativity, and inspiration. Bellerophon needed these virtues and got them all. He also possessed qualities such as courage and strength.

He was famous, highly honored, and wealthy.  However, as soon as he received fame and glory for his extraordinary deeds, pride overwhelmed him. Unfortunately, he became arrogant and too proud.

With these negative human values, he lost the favor of the gods.

He imagined himself equal to the gods and tried to fly to Olympus on the divine Pegasus to see the gods. The gods could not tolerate this kind of behavior. Bellerophon was severely punished for his arrogance. Zeus sent a gadfly to sting Pegasus causing Bellerophon to fall back to Earth.

The hero never reached Olympus, but the marvelous horse Pegasus continued up to Olympus and has not been seen since.

Bellerophon did not die but was seriously wounded. He became a blind cripple,  forgotten and abandoned by all until his death.

Written by – A. Sutherland  - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer

Copyright © AncientPages.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of AncientPages.com

Expand for references

Bulfinch T. Bulfinch's Mythology

Walsh, N. Greek Mythology