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800px-FiresChimera2

The eternal fires of Chimera in Lycia (modern-day Turkey) where the Chimera myth takes place (by Jyri Leskinen).

Bellerophon (/bəˈlɛrəfən/; Greek: Βελλεροφῶν) or Bellerophontes (Βελλεροφόντης) is a hero of Greek mythology. He was "the greatest hero and slayer of monsters, alongside Cadmus and Perseus, before the days of Heracles", whose greatest feat was killing the Chimera, a monster that Homer depicted with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail: "her breath came out in terrible blasts of burning flame."

The Adventures of BellerophonEdit

Bellerophon's brave journey began in the familiar way, with an exile: he had murdered either his brother, whose name is usually given as Deliades, or killed a shadowy "enemy", a "Belleros" (though the details are never directly told), and in expiation of his crime arrived as a suppliant to Proetus, king in Tiryns, one of the Mycenaean strongholds of the Argolid. Proetus, by virtue of his kingship, cleansed Bellerophon of his crime. The wife of the king, whether named Anteia or Stheneboea, took a fancy to him, but when he rejected her, she accused Bellerophon of attempting to ravish her. Proetus dared not satisfy his anger by killing a guest, so he sent Bellerophon to King Iobates his father-in-law, in the plain of the River Xanthus in Lycia, bearing a sealed message in a folded tablet: "Pray remove the bearer from this world: he attempted to violate my wife, your daughter." Before opening the tablets, Iobates feasted with Bellerophon for nine days. On reading the tablet's message Iobates too feared the wrath of the Erinyes if he murdered a guest; so he sent Bellerophon on a mission that he deemed impossible: to kill the Chimera, living in neighboring Caria. The Chimera was a fire-breathing monster whose make-up comprised the body of a goat, the head of a lion and the tail being a serpent. This monster had terrorized the nearby countryside.

The Capture of PegasusEdit

The-Winged-Horse

Bellerophon riding Pegasus (1914) (p.d.)

The Lycian seer Polyeidos told Bellerophon that he would have need of Pegasus. To obtain the services of the untamed winged horse, Polyeidos told Bellerophon to sleep in the temple of Athena. While Bellerophon slept, he dreamed that Athena set a golden bridle beside him, saying "Sleepest thou, prince of the house of Aiolos? Come, take this charm for the steed and show it to the Tamer thy father as thou makest sacrifice to him of a white bull." It was there when he awoke. Bellerophon had to approach Pegasus while it drank from a well; Polyeidos told him which well—the never-failing Pirene on the citadel of Corinth, the city of Bellerophon's birth. Other accounts say that Athena brought Pegasus already tamed and bridled, or that Poseidon the horse-tamer, secretly the father of Bellerophon, brought Pegasus, as Pausanias understood. Bellerophon mounted his steed and flew off to where the Chimera was said to dwell.

The Slaying of the ChimaeraEdit

When he arrived in Lycia, the Chimera was truly ferocious, and he could not harm the monster even while riding on Pegasus. He felt the heat of the breath the Chimera expelled, and was struck with an idea. He got a large block of lead and mounted it on his spear. Then he flew head-on towards the Chimera, holding out the spear as far as he could. Before he broke off his attack, he managed to lodge the block of lead inside the Chimera's throat. The beast's fire-breath melted the lead, and blocked its air passage. The Chimera suffocated, and Bellerophon returned victorious to King Iobates. Iobates, on Bellerophon's return, was unwilling to credit his story. A series of daunting further quests ensued: he was sent against the warlike Solymi and then against the Amazons who fought like men, whom Bellerophon vanquished by dropping boulders from his winged horse; when he was sent against a Carian pirate, Cheirmarrhus, an ambush failed, when Bellerophon killed all sent to assassinate him; the palace guards were sent against him, but Bellerophon called upon Poseidon, who flooded the plain of Xanthus behind Bellerophon as he approached. In defense the palace women sent him and the flood in retreat by rushing from the gates with their robes lifted high, offering themselves, to which the modest hero replied by withdrawing. Iobates relented, produced the letter, and allowed Bellerophon to marry his daughter Philonoe, the younger sister of Anteia, and shared with him half his kingdom, with fine vineyards and grain fields. The lady Philonoe bore him Isander, Hippolochus and Laodamia, who lay with Zeus the Counselor and bore Sarpedon but was slain by Artemis.

Fall of BellerophonEdit

As Bellerophon's fame grew, so did his hubris. Bellerophon felt that because of his victory over the Chimera he deserved to fly to Mount Olympus, the realm of the gods. However, this presumption angered Zeus and he sent a gad-fly to sting the horse causing Bellerophon to fall all the way back to Earth. Pegasus completed the flight to Olympus where Zeus used him as a pack horse for his thunderbolts. On the Plain of Aleion ("Wandering"), Bellerophon (who had fallen into a thorn bush) lived out his life in misery as a blinded crippled hermit grieving and shunning the haunts of men until he died. In Tlos, near Fethiye, in modern-day Turkey, ancient Lykia, there is a tomb with a carving of a man riding a winged horse. This is claimed locally to be the tomb of Bellerophon.

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