All Bellerophon had to do was slay the beast. "Oh, by the way," said the king, "thus far everybody else who tried to kill the Chimaera has been devoured by the monster."

Good luck, and good riddance, thought king Iobates, certain that he was sending the young man to his doom.

Before setting out on this impossible task, Bellerophon was astute enough to consult the seer Polyeidus, who advised him to catch and tame the winged horse Pegasus. The young hero spotted this marvelous horse as it drank at the well of Peirene, on the Acropolis of Corinth. Some say that the great goddess Athena provided a magic golden bridle that Bellerophon slipped over Pegasus, instantly taming him, while others maintain that Athena delivered Pegasus already bridled, while yet others claim that the flying horse was presented by Poseidon, who they say was Bellerophon's real father.

Can we get a consensus here, folks? Just asking...

Regardless, astride Pegasus, Bellerphon flew above the fire-breathing Chimaera and rained arrows on it safely out of its reach. He then attached a piece of lead on the tip of his spear and swiftly thrust it down the creature's throat. The monster's fiery breath melted the lead, which coursed down its throat and painfully killed it.

Imagine the king's surprise when the hero returned, not only alive, but successful. Rather than reward his incredible bravery, however, Iobates sent him at once on another suicide mission, this one against the warlike Solymians and their ruthless allies, the feared nation of warrior women called the Amazons.

Let's see him return from this adventure, thought revenge-minded Iobates.

It was no match. Mounted on Pegasus and flying high above the battle field, well out of reach of his enemies' arrows, Bellerophon rained down large boulders on their heads. Outmatched, stunned and demoralized by the bombardment, the Solymians and the Amazons were soon conquered.

Next up was a band of Carian pirates led by a rude ogre named Cheimarrhus. This bandit sailed in a ship adorned with a lion figurehead and a serpent stern and no one dared challenge him. Needless to say, Bellerophon made mincemeat of Cheimarrhus and his crew, much to the delight of the people of Lycia.

You would think that all these exploits would be enough to redeem the young man in the eyes of the king, but still Iobates persisted in exacting revenge. He sent his elite palace guard to lay an ambush and slay Bellerophon upon his return. Instead it was the palace guard that soon lay dead, dispatched to Hades by the hero.

Enough already! Bellerophon by now had realized that king Iobates meant to harm him and prayed to Poseidon for assistance. He dismounted Pegasus and slowly advanced towards the palace, while behind him the Xanthian Plain was flooded by Poseidon. The waters threatened to overwhelm the entire region and everyone begged Bellerophon to stop the flood. He heeded no man, but when the Xanthian women hoisted up their skirts and rushed at him running backwards, offering themselves if only he would stop the waters, the modest hero blushed and ran away, taking the receding waters with him.

That was enough to convince king Iobates that the Bellerophontic letter must have been wrong, for he now had proof of the young man's virtuous character. Besides, anyone who could command floods had to be of divine origin. Iobates produced the letter from Proetus and asked Bellerophon for an explanation. When he learned the truth the king implored his guest's forgiveness, offered him his daughter Philonoe (also known as Anticlea or Cassandra) in marriage, and made him heir to the Lycian throne.

Bellerophon had it made. His hero status had been established and his deeds had been sung about throughout Greece. His adoring wife was gorgeous and his kingdom prospered and grew. What else could a man want?

How about immortality?

As often happens to those who enjoy great fortune, Bellerophon got way too full of himself and began to fancy himself a god. And gods lived on Mount Olympus, not earth.

That is called 'hubris'. This overweening pride in his own achievements convinced Bellerophon that he deserved to live with the gods, being one himself. After all, Athena and Poseidon both had come to his assistance, proving that they were his equals. Mounting Pegasus, the fool set off on a flight to Olympus.

Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, would have none of that. No uninvited guests allowed. Just as Bellerophon neared the gates of Olympus, Zeus sent a gadfly to sting Pegasus. The startled horse reared, hurling Bellerophon off his back and sending him plunging back to earth where he belonged.

Now crippled and blind, alone and destitute, having lost Pegasus, his kingdom and his wife, Bellerophon traveled the earth, a bitter and broken man until his dying breath.

Sad, yes? So what's the moral of this story? No doubt the myth of Bellerophon teaches us to remain humble, to give thanks for our good fortune, and, above all, to always remember that we are human.






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