Bellerophon, the chimera slayer

bellerophonBellerophon was a famous Greek hero, mostly known for defeating Chimera, a fire-breathing mythical monster. He was also recognised by riding white Pegasus which was a sort of a gift from Athena for his devotion to the goddess. Bellerophon was, according to Homer's Iliad, a son of Glaucus and Eurymede of Corinth. Alternatively, according to Apollodorus and Hesiod's catallouges by Hyginus, he was a son of Poseidon by Eurymede which makes him a semi-god. Personally, I placed him among semi-gods because it consists with the story when Bellerophon called his father to help him, upon finding out the plot against him. There are, however, no records of him having any special powers except that he was one of the most favoured heroes by the gods, in a time before Heracles. Anyway, Bellerophon had an adventurous life which started on the day he was banished from home, after accidentally killing his own brother. In his days of glory, after killing the horrendous Chimera and completing many more tasks when he became famous among people and gods, his growing pride led him into a temptation to reach Mount Olympus and preside together with the gods. For this bold attempt, he was punished by Zeus to suffer in delusion and solitude for the rest of his life.

Appearance in the works of art

Most of the time, Bellerophon is depicted as a young man holding a spear in one of his hands and riding or feeding Pegasus. In some arts, he is also depicted slaying Chimera.

Plot of killing Bellerophon

Like mentioned above, his adventures began when he was exiled from his home. It was not long before he arrived to Tiryns where he was accepted and cleansed from his crimes by king Proetus. They enjoyed a great friendship until the king's wife Stheneboea fell in love with Bellerophon and wanted to have an affair with him. But when he rejected her, she falsely accused him of wanting to rape her. Proetus wanted to kill him but didn't want to satisfy his anger by killing a guest and risking the wrath of the gods. Therefore, he sent Bellerophon to Lycia to king Iobates, his father-in-law, along with a sealed tablet, containing a message for the king. In the message it was written that Bellerophon wanted to violate his daughter and that he should get rid of him. However, before the king opened the tablet, he had feasted with Bellerophon for nine days and treated him as a guest. When he finally learned about the message from his son-in-law Proetus, he feared of Erinyes who might bring their wrath upon him, if he was going to kill a guest. As a result, the king sent Bellerophon on a quest, which he thought, that was impossible to survive in.

The Chimera quest

The quest was to slay Chimera, a monstrous fire-breathing female creature composed with parts of lion, goat and serpent. It had a body and head of a lion, with another head of a goat rising from its back and a serpent instead of a tail. The beast was terrorising local countryside, killing cattle and men.fight between chimera and bellerophon Bellerophon was advised, by a local seer in Lycia, to find and tame the winged Pegasus in order to prevail the battle with Chimera. Bellerophon then went to pray night and day in a temple of Athena. When the goddess finally appeared in his dreams, she gave him a golden bridle with which he could successfully tame Pegasus. He was also hinted to go to the well of Peirene, on the Acropolis of his birthplace in Corinth, where he would find Pegasus and tame it, while drinking from the well. After successfully bonded with the creature, Bellerophon flew back to Lycian lands and spotted the monster. He engaged in battle but couldn't come close enough to hit it with arrows or a spear, because of the fire expelled by Chimera. Soon, hero came up with a solution by attaching a block of lead to his spear and flew over the fire-breathing beast, dropping the lead from his spear into its mouth. The beast's fire breath melted the lead, blocking its air passage and consequently suffocating the beast.

More quests before peace was made

With this deed Bellerophon gained reputation among gods. He then returned before surprised Iobates who then sent him on more suicidal missions. He was sent against the great warriors of Solymi and after the Amazones. Both of the battles were the same for him, he flew with the Pegasus above the reach of arrows while throwing down large boulders until he finished them off. Next assignment was a band of Carian pirates, led by an ogre named Cheimarrhus. It is said that the pirates were men, once serving under Iobates and then exiled. They had a dispute with the kingdom of Iobates but were so ruthless that no one wanted to challenge them. Well at least until Bellerophon came on his Pegasus and easily overcame them, much to the delight of the people of Lycia. However, king Iobates still persisted with following his mission to kill the hero and therefore sent his elite guards to assassinate him. Soon it became clear to Bellerophon what the king's intent was and he rode to the palace to confront him. While on the journey, he called upon his father Poseidon who replied by flooding entire Xanthian Plain and waters even threatened to overwhelm entire region, including the citadel. Everyone begged him to stop the flood and when Iobates finally saw that he is no ordinary man, he decided to stop this nonsense from the letter and made peace with Bellerophon, offering him his daughter in marriage and half of his kingdom. The flood stopped and they made peace. Great days were ahead of the hero who married the king's daughter Philonoe and together they had three children. Everything seemed to be in place. Bellerophon's fame grew fast but so did his pride and arrogance.

Twice the pride, double the fall

One day, he decided that his victory over Chimera was enough to ascend to Mount Olympus and preside with the gods. He flew with Pegasus towards the heaven and when he nearly reached the gates of Olympus, Zeus decided enough is enough and sent a gadfly to sting Pegasus which caused the creature to unsaddle Bellerophon and made him fall all the way back to earth. Bellerophon had fallen into a bush on the plains of Aleion, hurting himself badly. He was crippled and blinded and left alone to live out the rest of his life in misery, grieving and shunning the haunts of men.