Or Bellerophontes, properly called Hipponous, was a son of the Corinthian king, Glaucus and Eurymede, and a grandson of Sisyphus.1 According to Hyginus,2 he was a son of Poseidon and Eurynome. He is said to have received the name Bellerophon or Bellerophontes from having slain the noble Corinthian, Bellerus.3 Others related, that he had slain his own brother, Deliades, Peiren, or Alcimenes.4
In order to be purified from the murder, whichever it may have been, he fled to Proetus, whose wife Antea (also called Stheneboea) fell in love with the young hero; but her offers being rejected by him, she accused him to her husband of having made improper proposals to her, and insisted upon his being put to death. Proetus, unwilling to kill him with his own hands, sent him to his father-in-law, Iobates, king in Lycia, with a sealed letter in which the latter was requested to put the young man to death. Iobates accordingly sent him to kill the monster Chimaera, thinking that he was sure to perish in the contest. Bellerophon mounted the winged horse, Pegasus, and rising up with him into the air, killed the Chimaera from on high with his arrows.
Iobates, being thus disappointed, sent Bellerophon out again, first against the Solymi and next against the Amazons. In these contests too he was victorious; and when, on his return to Lycia, he was attacked by the bravest Lycians, whom Iobates had placed in ambush for the purpose, Bellerophon slew them all. Iobates, now seeing that it was hopeless to attempt to kill the hero, showed him the letter he had received from Proetus, gave him his daughter (Philonoe, Anticleia, or Cassandra) for his wife, and made him his successor on the throne.
Bellerophon became the father of Isander, Hippolochus, and Laodameia. Here Apollodorus breaks off the story; and Homer, whose account5 differs in some points from that of Apollodorus, describes the later period of Bellerophon's life only by saying, that he drew upon himself the hatred of the gods, and, consumed by grief, wandered lonely through the Aleian field, avoiding the paths of men.
We must here remark with Eustathius, that Homer knows nothing of Bellerophon killing the Chimaera with the help of Pegasus, which must therefore be regarded in all probability as a later embellishment of the story. The manner in which he destroyed the Chimaera is thus described by Tzetzes:6 he fixed lead to the point of his lance, and thrust it into the fire-breathing mouth of the Chimaera, who was accordingly killed by the molten lead. According to others, Bellerophon was assisted by Athena Chalinitis or Hippia.7
Some traditions stated, that he attempted to rise with Pegasus into heaven, but that Zeus sent a gad-fly, which stung Pegasus so, that he threw off the rider upon the earth, who became lame or blind in consequence.8 A peculiar story about Bellerophon is related by Plutarch.9
Bellerophon was worshiped as a hero at Corinth, and had a sanctuary near the town in the cypress grove, Craneion.10
Scenes of the story of Bellerophon were frequently represented in ancient works of art. His contest with the Chimaera was seen on the throne of Amyclae,11 and in the vestibule of the Delphic temple.12 On coins, gems, and vases he is often seen fighting against the Chimaera, taking leave of Proetus, taming Pegasus or giving him to drink, or falling from him. But, until the discoveries in Lycia by Charles Fellows, no representation of Bellerophon in any important work of art was known; in Lycian sculptures, however, he is seen riding on Pegasus and conquering the Chimaera.
The hero, seated on Pegasus and battling the Chimaera, is depicted on a Corinthian skyphos (seventh century BCE) at Aegina, as well as on many other vases. A terra cotta relief from Melos and several coins depict the same scene. A relief of Bellerophon can be found on an inner wall of the Heroon at Gjölbaschi (late fifth century BCE). A more recent relief is at the Palazzo Spada in Rome.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 9.3; Homer. Iliad vi, 155.
- Fabulae, 157; comp. Pindar. Olympian Odes xiii, 66.
- Tzetzes on Lycophron, 17; Eustathius on Homer, p. 632.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 3.1 ff.
- vi, 155-202.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 1.4; Pindar, l.c.; Strabo. Geography viii., 379.
- Pindar. Isthmian Odes vii, 44; Scholiast on Pindar's Olympian Odes xiii, 130; Horace. Carmina iv, 11. 26.
- Virtues of Women, 247 ff.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 2.4.
- ibid. ii, 18.7.
- Euripides. Ion, 203.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.