BELLEROPHON Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Bellerophon or Bellerophontes was a hero of Greek                                       
mythology, "the greatest hero and slayer of monsters, alongside of Kadmos 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".               
Iliad vi.155-203 contains an embedded narrative told by Bellerophon's grandson           
Glaucus, named for his great-grandfather, which recounts Bellerophon's myth.             
Bellerophon was son of the king Glaucus ("sea-green") of Corinth and the                 
grandson of death-cheating Sisyphus, who had been sent to Tartarus for his many         
impieties in life, though he had founded Corinth. Bellerophon's grandsons               
Sarpedon and the younger Glaucus fought in the Trojan War. In the Epitome of             
pseudo-Apollodorus, a genealogy is given for Chrysaor ("of the golden sword")           
that would make him a double of Bellerophon; he too is called the son of Glaucus         
the son of Sisyphus. Chrysaor has no myth save that of his birth: from the               
severed neck of Medusa, who was with child by Poseidon, he and Pegasus both             
sprang at the moment of her death. "From this moment we hear no more of Chrysaor,       
the rest of the tale concerning the stallion only...[who visits the spring of           
Pirene] perhaps also for his brother's sake, by whom in the end he let himself           
be caught, the immortal horse by his mortal brother."                                   
Bellerophon's heroic 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 fire-breathing monster the Chimera, living in             
neighboring Caria.