Bellerophon

One day Bellerophon, a courageous young man from Corinth, arrived at the court of King lobates of Lycia in Asia. He handed the king a sealed letter, and the king greeted him cordially and welcomed him as his guest.

Many days later, the king opened the letter and read it to himself. It was from another king, and it said, "The bearer of this letter must be put to death immediately, for he has displeased my wife."

King lobates was disturbed, for how could he put to death a guest whom he had honored at his own table? Instead he thought of a way to end Bellerophon's life without having a direct hand in his death.

He said to Bellerophon, "I have an important and difficult task for a brave warrior such as you.

"I am eager to serve you," said Bellerophon. "Tell me what I must do."

"You must slay the fire breathing monster, the Chimera, who has been killing the people of my kingdom. She has the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a dragon, and nobody has been able to conquer her."

"This I shall gladly attempt," said Bellerophon boldly, but actually he was shaking with fear. How could he slay such a dreadful monster?

He consulted a seer, who advised him, "You must capture the wild winged horse, Pegasus. Then mount this wonderful flying horse and do battle with the Chimera."

"Everyone has heard of Pegasus," said Bellerophon. "But how shall I capture this animal?"

"Go and sleep in the temple of Athena," said the seer, and he would say no more.

Bellerophon spent the night in the temple, sleeping fitfully, dreaming of the Chimera and of winged Pegasus. In one dream, the goddess Athena gave him a golden bridle, saying, "Use this to capture Pegasus." When Bellerophon awoke, the golden bridle was in his hand. The dream had been real! Athena had visited him during the night.

He ran out to the fields with the bridle and found Pegasus drinking from a spring. Bellerophon approached quietly, and miraculously Pegasus did not run away. Instead the horse raised his head and allowed Bellerophon to slip the bridle over it.

Beflerophon put on his armor and mounted Pegasus, and they flew up, up into the air. What a glorious feeling! They flew over fields and mountains until, below, Bellerophon sighted the Chimera, breathing fire.

He put a piece of lead on the end of his spear and directed Pegasus to circle above the monster, lower and lower, until Bellerophon was almost near enough to touch her Then he rammed the spear into the Chimera's mouth. The monster's fiery breath melted the lead, which poured down her throat and charred her insides. Quickly the Chimera died.

The people of Lycia were overjoyed and proclaimed Bellerophon a hero. However, King lobates still hoped that he would die. He sent Bellerophon on other dangerous adventures on his horse, Pegasus, but each time the hero was victorious.

Finally lobates accepted Bellerophon as a hero and gave him his daughter in marriage. Many happy years followed until Bellerophon attempting immortality, tried to fly to Olympus on Pegasus. This angered Zeus, and he caused a gadfly to sting Pegasus. The horse reared and threw its rider, who tumbled through the sky to earth. He landed safely but became lame and blind and roamed the earth alone until his death. Pegasus, however, flew on to Olympus and became the honored bearer of Zeus's thunderbolts.