THE MYTH MAN PRESENTS
THE MYTH OF THE MONTH
BELLEROPHON

Image from Harry Thurston Peck,
Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)

Hubris. It's a great word. 'HUE-briss'. It can be simply defined as "keep your feet on the ground even if your head is in the sky", but it means much more than that. I promise that by the end of this splendid story you will know exactly what hubris means...And how to prevent it!

BELLEROPHON - A TRAGIC HERO

HIS BIRTH

Bellerophon was the brave and handsome son of Glaucus and Eurymede, and the grandson of infamous Sisyphus.

Ah, yes, Sisyphus...Surely you remember Sisyphus: he was the hapless fool who ratted on my godfather, Zeus, to Aegina's father...told daddy that he'd seen Zeusy and Aegina heading up the hill holding hands, and they weren't carrying pails.

You never, ever rat on Zeus, boys and girls. As punishment in Tartarus Sisyphus had to endure a life of endlessly rolling a rock up a hill, only to have it roll back over him just as he reached the top.

The good news was, Sisyphus could never really die. The bad news was, he could never really die; and thus he was doomed to forever repeat the backbreaking task.

Imagine working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in a real hot factory. Without pay or coffee breaks...that's Sisyphus.

Bummer. Hate when that happens. Still, that will teach Sisyphus to drop a drachma on Zeus!

As usual, I digress. Bellerophon's lineage was a matter of debate and some wags even whispered that he was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. You see, his finely sculpted body, quick wit and excellence of spirit strongly hinted of divine origin. In addition, his mother Eurymede had been tutored in the crafts by my beloved aunt, the great goddess Athena, lending more credence to the theory that his father was Poseidon.

(PS: I know for a fact that his daddy was Poseidon, but please don't tell his "real" father, Glaucus, or it will get Bellerophon's mom Eyremede into some serious trouble...)

His name at birth was Hipponous, but he was given the nickname Bellerophon after he killed a man named Belerus in Corinth, a short time before we met. Thus his name can be translated as "killer of Belerus" (Bellerophontes) or "bearing darts" (Bellerophon for short). Some sources insist that the myth of the killing of Belerus was added later in an attempt to explain the hero's name, but that's bunk. Belle had once confessed the whole sordid story to me, but he wasn't proud of it even though he was hardly at fault, and he begged me to keep it secret.

(By the way, I was the only one with enough nerve to call him Belle...he thought it made him sound feminine and would smack on the head anybody else who dared call him that.)

In addition to the murder of Belerus, a further cloud hung over our hero's head because during a quarrel he had also accidentally slain his own brother, Deliades. That's correct, his own brother.

Yo, Belle, mix in some pacifism, dude!

Truth be told, that one was a real accident - no self-defense involved - but to atone for the murders Bellerophon fled to Proetus, King of Tiryns, where he planned to humbly request the king's purification by serving him loyally. I had met old man Proetus and his funky young queen a couple times in the past as a guest at their palace, so Bellerophon asked that I accompany him and make the necessary introductions.

I agreed, warning him to beware of the queen.

QUEEN ANTEIA GETS THE HOTS

Now, hospitality, to friends and strangers alike, was paramount in ancient Greece. To refuse hospitality or comfort to others was one of the highest forms of sacrilege, and often invited the wrath of the gods, who severely punished transgressors. I had reason to believe we both would be received in Tiryns.

King Proetus was happy to see me again and pleased to meet my handsome friend but, as luck would have it, the king's young wife, Anteia (sometimes called Stheneboea - darn Greeks never could make up their minds!), fell in love with Bellerophon the instant she laid eyes on him.


Who Is It?, 1884
by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, b.1836 - d.1912

Told you she was funky. I spoke from experience...

The infatuated queen tried every trick to get close to the gorgeous youth, hoping to seduce him with her wealth and beauty. Bellerophon, a guest at the royal palace, did the proper thing and completely rebuffed the amorous advances of Anteia. Mindful of my warning he went out of his way to avoid her, but when she finally cornered him, things turned ugly.

Bellerophon told the queen that he wasn't interested in having an affair with her, he had enough troubles already. Besides, he was a guest in the house of Proetus and it would be most dishonorable to thus deceive his gracious host, the king.

"You are very beautiful, your majesty, and I'm flattered that you like me, but, no thanks, I'll have to pass," he said.

Ouch! The vain woman was stunned. She wasn't accustomed to rejection and had grown used to always getting her way. She turned on the charm to the max, and things got real steamy, but our hero held firm to his values, not to mention his clothing. No matter how much Queen Anteia begged or threatened him, still Belle was resolved to act nobly, finally slithering free and taking his leave of the cunning seductress.

Hey, where are you going?
Painting by John William Godward

The queen was outraged! How dare he go? Did he not know the consequences of refusing to do the queen's bidding? Who did he think he was?

"Off with his head!"

Oops...wrong fairy tale. Sorry.

Ah, the wrath of a vixen scorned...Queen Anteia did a terrible, terrible thing: Running to king Proetus disheveled and in tears, her mighty bosom heaving, she informed her dumbfounded husband that their young guest had tried to violate her, and would have succeeded had she not fought him off with all her might.

"You must have him killed at once!" she commanded her husband. "He has profaned your hospitality!"

The king was incensed but dared not tempt the wrath of the gods by causing harm to a suppliant. The rules of hospitality prevented him from blatantly ordering the death of this scummy culprit, so he devised a sinister plan.

BELLEROPHONTIC LETTER

King Proetus summoned Bellerophon and told him that he was sending him to Lycia, a kingdom ruled by his father in law, King Iobates, who was his wife Anteia's father. There he would serve Iobates to atone for the killings back home.

He handed our hero a sealed note that Bellerophon was to carry as a letter of introduction, detailing the particulars and informing King Iobates that its bearer was to be treated as a royal guest.

Some letter of introduction. The note that Proetus sent with Bellerophon outlined the young man's supposed violation of his wife Anteia, and asked that King Iobates gain revenge for his daughter's ravishment. The visitor must be killed, it said.

PS: That's where we get the phrase 'Bellerophontic Letter', meaning to unwittingly deliver information that can prove harmful to the bearer.

I knew something was up because my buddy Belle had grown silent since his encounter with the queen, but even I didn't suspect just how vile she could be. I told him that I couldn't escort him to Lycia due to a prior commitment (Zeus was thinking of unleashing a cataclysm and had asked me to be there to record it) but i assured him that king Iobates was a good man who would extend every possible hospitality to Belle.

"I'll see you after the flood," I told him, packing my boots and umbrella.

Bellerophon received a royal welcome in Lycia, and after he had bathed and refreshed himself he joined the king in a splendid feast. For nine days the young visitor was entertained, with every gracious effort being made to please him. The food and drink just kept coming, and it would have been rude to decline, so everyone got ridiculously stuffed and had a smashing time.

What did I tell you about Greek hospitality? Love when that happens.

Eager to learn news of his daughter - once he sobered up a little - king Iobates asked Bellerophon if he bore any tidings from Tiryns. Just then the young man remembered the letter given him by Proetus and handed it to Iobates.

The king grew deathly pale as he digested the letter's content. (His vassals suspected wine poisoning and scurried to bring a royal puke pot.)

This criminal, this vile rapist of my daughter must be punished, the king thought, but Iobates didn't want to invite the fury of the gods by mistreating a royal guest, especially one who had already broken bread at his table. So he told Bellerophon that the letter instructed him to extend all favors to his young visitor, and in turn he would have to perform the king's bidding for one year.

"Then you can finally be purified for the two unfortunate deaths and return to your homeland," he lied to Bellerophon, wishing he could just cut off the scoundrel's head there and then.

Fair enough. Bellerophon, youth's heroic impulses surging throughout his being, was ready to tackle any challenge. Bring it on! Victim number one, please!

THE MAKING OF A HERO

First up was the Chimaera. Let me tell you a bit about this horrific monster. Too bizarre for words, the three-headed Chimaera sported a lion's head, the body of a goat and a serpent's tail.

And those were its good attributes. Making this badly botched cloning experiment yet more loathsome, it belched a long and steady stream of fire from its three mouths, incinerating all around.

Rather handy at a barbecue, I must admit, but one had to be real careful, for the monster had terrible table manners.

Oh. Did I mention that the Chimaera had extreme halitosis? Zeus have mercy and pass the extra-strength Clorets!

The beast had taken up residence in Lycia, and in short time had managed to terrorize the entire area, killing and feasting on countless innocent people without so much as a by-your-leave. Talk about plunging morale, not to mention property prices.

There goes the neighborhood. Hate when that happens...

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. Nobody can get close enough to kill it without becoming toast in the process."

Good luck, and good riddance, thought king Iobates, certain that he was sending the young rapist 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. This marvelous steed had sprung forth when brave Perseus had decapitated that looker, Medusa. (I can't wait to tell you about my buddy Perseus, and our visit to the lair of the snake-haired Medusa! Soon, I promise.)

After being liberated by Perseus, Pegasus had gotten work with Zeus, retrieving the king of the Olympians' hurled thunderbolts, and spending his off time hanging with the nine Muses. What fun!

Able to soar through the clouds at a terrific pace, Pegasus was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. I once convinced my godfather Zeus to let me take Pegasus for a spin, and it was by far the most exhilarating feeling I ever had, even better than driving the sun chariot of my cousin Helios! Pegasus was a pure free spirit and I'm one of a privileged few who ever got to ride him.

Thanks, Zeusy! I even listened to you and steered clear of Olympus...But I was tempted.

Belle looked all over Greece for Pegasus, and at last spotted the splendid horse as it drank at the well of Peirene, on the Acropolis of Corinth. Pegasus had been taking turns giving joyrides to the nine Muses and he was a tad tired. (A couple of the ladies had put on some pounds over the Eleusian holidays, alas.)

Ladies, mix in some low-cal food, will ya?

THE TAMING OF PEGASUS

Some say that the great 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 suspected was Bellerophon's real father.

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

Alright, then, let me set things straight. Athena did it, she told me so.

You see, I had spoken of Belle to my great-aunt Athena and she was keeping an eye on him. That's what I loved most about my aunt, she was always eager and willing to help all heroes who were fighting for a just cause. Pallas Athena was my favorite Olympian by far, but please don't tell Zeus I said so!

Athena bemused had watched Bellerophon wandering hither and fro, looking for Pegasus. After all, pray tell, how does one go about searching for a flying horse, besides keeping an eye out for falling horse poop?

One can't simply lay out some bait ("hey, Pegasus, do you prefer oats or bird food?"), or place a Help Wanted - Flying Horse ad in the Olympus Chronicle. No sir, the situation begged for some form of divine intervention.

Athena to the rescue. She appeared to Belle in a dream and told him to go to Corinth. There, at the Acropolis of Corinth, at the magic well of Peirene, he would find the winged horse, drinking from the miracle waters.

Did I mention that you must always trust your dreams? From the most ancient of times, to today's 'modern' era, all daily earthly reality springs forth from our nightly dreams.

Dreams are life's testing grounds, where unhindered by time and space we get to try out various scenarios, finally choosing one probability to manifest when awake. A talented dream artist can significantly enrich his/her life by studying and trusting the eternal validity of dreams.

Out of dreams comes reality.

Bellerophon understood this most basic fact and did not hesitate to journey to Corinth. Sure enough, there was glorious Pegasus, quenching his thirst at the famous fountain of Peirene, just like wise Athena had foretold.

Belle gave silent thanks to his benefactress as he pondered exactly how he was going to capture the winged horse.

I mean, think about it: The horse flies. The man runs.

Advantage, winged horse. Any questions?

Didn't think so.

So what's a hero to do? Bellerophon wordlessly cursed the seer Polyeidus, who had told him to capture Pegasus. 'Why couldn't the old nut have picked a giant turtle instead', he muttered to himself...'or even a wild boar, for that matter'...'no, go tame a flying horse, he said'.

'Mutter, mutter, mutter...just once, I'd like to hear an oracle make a prophecy that wasn't outrageous...mutter, mutter, mutter...oh well, here goes nothing.'

Belle rushed out of his hiding place and lunged at Pegasus, catching nothing but air. The horse hovered over our hero's head, tempted to deposit a load on this interloper's skull. Was this guy for real? Begone, crazy mortal!

All day the scene repeated, like those bad slapstick flicks my godfather Zeus liked to watch on OlympusVision. Bellerophon would hide in the woods, Pegasus would return to the spring, Belle would lunge, the horse would hover and so on and so forth. It was a roar! The Muses would have been amused.

I don't know who had more fun, Pegasus or my aunt Athena, who tried to stifle her laughter from her hiding spot in the forest. At times it got downright hilarious, as Belle pleaded with Pegasus to come down, offering him everything edible he could lay hands on, including his own hat, shirt and sandals. For his part, Pegasus admirably withheld the urge to dump large on the madman, just to teach him a lesson.

This went on until at last Bellerophon collapsed exhausted, falling asleep to the soothing sound of the waters of Peirene. Pegasus had retired a few paces away, grazing and keeping a wary eye on the odd sleeping stranger, having had his fill of fun for the day.

Remember, dreams form reality. Bellerophon dreamt that Athena came to him and she held a brilliant golden bridle, unlike anything he'd ever seen before. The goddess handed the bridle to our hero and disappeared without a word. Belle then walked over to Pegasus, who - wonder of wonders! - stood motionless as he slipped the golden bridle over his exquisite stallion head.

The magic bridle worked its charm -- Pegasus looked into the youth's eyes and at once understood the heroic mission. Man and horse became as one in spirit.

I'm sure it's happened to you.

Do you believe in dreams? Bellerophon does. In his dream he was back at the fountain, but this time Pegasus was again unbridled. Bummer. This was turning into a nightmare, as Belle had visions of a hovering horse. Not this time. The great Athena materialized out of nowhere and in her hand she again held the magic bridle. As if mesmerized by the goddess' radiance, immortal Pegasus sauntered over to her and bowed his noble head, eager to be crowned by Athena's golden bridle.

Pegasus and Athena
From the JP Getty Collection, with thanks

What a dream! Bellerophon awoke to the sound of chirping birds serenading the Muses, refreshed by the sleep and rejuvenated by the magical waters of Peirene, whose cool waters he tasted and splashed on his face.

Memo to Belle: It's no dream, dude. Look behind you.

Bellerophon couldn't believe his eyes. Pegasus, wearing the golden bridle, stood a pace behind him, patiently awaiting his master's awakening. The youth slowly reached out and caressed the horse, touching with wonderment his brilliant white wings. Noble Pegasus lowered his neck and gave Belle a playful nudge, as if in apology for the previous day's shenanigans.

Hey, Belle!

How cool was that? Bellerophon was beside himself with joy.

Let's rock!

CHIMAERA NO MORE

On the swift and silent wings of Pegasus they reached the lair of the Chimaera in no time. Belle did his best just to keep his wits about him, so deliriously perfect was the ride! He felt safer and freer in the air than he did on the ground, so complete was the union of mount and rider. This must be heaven! raved our young hero. The joy, the utter pleasure of flight!

I knew exactly how he felt, having ridden the glorious steed.

"Thanks be to you, gray-eyed Athena, savior to all in need!" shouted our hero, and the mountains and valleys echoed back their approval.

The Chimaera heard the shouts and came out of its lair to find out what the fuss was all about. Each of its three heads, lion, goat and serpent, scanned the horizon in opposite directions, searching to see who was coming for lunch. Literally.

What's for lunch? You!

Ok, do you want the long or short version of the Chimaera's demise?

Got it.

Bellerophon circled lazily over the enraged beast, well out of reach of the raging inferno spewing from its mouths. All around the creature's lair gleaming bones and skeletons provided macabre decor, testament to those hapless 'heroes' who had a tilt at the Chimaera and failed.

After a couple of exploratory flyovers, testing the creature's fiery (and stinky!) reach, Belle extracted an arrow and took careful aim. As if telepathically, Pegasus went into hover mode, affording his rider optimal stability and balance. The missile flew through the sky, striking the monster on the butt - exactly where Belle had aimed it.

Talk about a pain in the ass...the Chimaera was more offended than hurt, and if looks could kill our hero would be burnt toast. This time, however, the long flames spewing from its mouths dissipated harmlessly well short of the hovering horse and rider.

"That one's for the bad breath, flamethrower!" shouted our hero. "Has anyone ever told you that you stink, Chimmy?"

The beast roared its disapproval (it hated being called Chimmy) but Bellerophon interpreted it as music to his ears. Extracting another arrow, he let fly, hitting the creature on its other butt cheek and adding insult to injury.

A barrage of arrows followed, each inflicting more and more damage to the helpless monster. It howled and raced around but couldn't avoid the deadly rain. The hunter became the hunted.

Paybacks are a bitch.

But bad breath is better than no breath at all, as far as the monster was concerned.

So the Chimaera screeched madly, refusing to die. Bellerophon took out one last arrow and took particularly solid aim. The projectile struck the beast just behind the lion head ear, sinking all the way in and shattering the monster's little brain, the bloody tip coming out the other side of its head.

That's got to hurt. I don't care if your name is Chimaera.

Its mind now completely clouded, and with the sudden onset of the mother of all headaches, the Chimaera was easy pickings. Time to get the lead out.

Did I mention that our handsome hero was a clever sort? This boy scout was prepared.

Belle reached into his pouch and took out a large piece of lead. Fixing it on the tip of his spear, he swooped down dangerously close to the monster. Pegasus maneuvered out of harm's way at the last possible moment, as our hero plunged his spear into the Chimaera's blazing mouth.

What happened next wasn't pretty, and if you're one of those Save-the-Chimaera types you'll no doubt be revolted, so now's your chance to stop reading. Fair warning. Leave.

Okay, they're gone. Here come the gruesome details, you sadists:

The spear tip entered the monster's mouth and at once the lead was melted by its fiery breath. The molten lead trickled down the creature's entrails and entered the belly of the beast, burning the burn unit called Chimaera.

It was all over except for the screaming, but even that was short-lived and muted.

THE KING IS NOT AMUSED

Imagine the king's surprise when the hero returned, not only alive, but successful.

Not only successful, but astride noble Pegasus.

Get out of here! Is this a joke?

The king was not amused.

Rather than reward his incredible bravery and inventiveness, thus, 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.

The smelly Solymians alone were wicked enough; coupled with the Amazons, so to speak, they were downright scary. Things didn't look promising for our hero.

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

I'm here to tell you that 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. It's enough to ruin your work day.

Picture the battle scene if you would - There were the brutal enemies, minding their own business, having a dandy time looting, pillaging and raping unhindered, as was their wont. Out of nowhere swoops in a mounted warrior, astride a winged steed most magnificent. Mouths agape, the soldiers didn't know what hit them, as a barrage of large rocks felled them in their tracks.

(I once asked Belle why he didn't just shoot them dead with arrows, and he started singing a funky song -- claimed it was his battle hymn:

I'll stone you if you claim to be Solymian
I'll stone you if I see you're not Bohemian

I'll stone the Amazons, just to be fair,
I'll stone them, messing up their putrid hair

King Iobates sent me here alone,
So, EVERYBODY must get stoned...

(Told you my man was a folk hero...:)

Outmatched, stunned and demoralized by the aerial bombardment -- not to mention the horribly off-key singing -- the stoned Solymians and the Amazons were soon conquered, and the kingdom's occupied land returned to its rightful Lycian owners.

Happy now, king Iobates?

Afraid not. Next up was a band of Carian pirates, an unruly gang led by a rude ogre named Cheimarrhus. This bandit scum sailed in a ship adorned with a lion figurehead and a serpent stern, and no human dared challenge them.

Needless to say, in short order Bellerophon made seafood of Cheimarrhus and his crew, much to the delight of the people of Lycia. A few well-dropped boulders through the pirate ship opened up just enough holes to sink the vessel and deposit the human flotsam and jetsam into the lap of Poseidon, who kindly dispatched a couple of very large sea monsters to clean up the mess.

By now word of his exploits had flashed all over Greece and the Nine Muses were under heavy pressure to release a Best Of Bellerophon compilation.

"Everybody Must Get Stoned" shot to #1 on the Olympus charts.

Overnight Bellerophon became the most popular name for male newborn babies. Girls were called Belle.

Speaking of which, Belle and the Beast became a smash hit on the Dionysian stage, enjoying an unparalleled run before packed houses. Beautiful Grecian groupies vied for our hero's attention, beseeching him to take them on a mile-high ride.

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, unable to forgive the outrage against his daughter. Having run out of monsters and enemies, he sent his elite palace guard to lay an ambush and slay Bellerophon upon his victorious return.

Bad move. Bad, bad move. Instead of Belle, it was the palace guard that soon lay dead, unceremoniously dispatched to Hades by the hero.

Memo to the palace guard: It's useless to hide in ambush behind rocks when your opponent is flying above you on Pegasus. Just thought you'd like to know, for future reference.

Enough already! Bellerophon by now had begun to sense that king Iobates meant to harm him (duh!) and prayed to Poseidon for assistance. He dismounted Pegasus and slowly advanced towards the palace, while behind him the Xanthian Plain was flooded by the great Poseidon.

(Told you that was his daddy!)

It was the most incredible sight. Belle would walk and the waters would lap at a respectful distance behind him. He would stop and so would the flood; start walking and the waters would follow.

Weird stuff, I tell you. The good news was, it was turning inland space into ocean-front property. The bad new was, it would then flood over said property.

Bummer. Hate when that happens, especially when I've just replaced the carpet...

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.

You see, the women thought that Bellerophon was causing the flood because he was a rapist, and desired fresh victims. They had read about it in the Olympus Inquirer.

Talk about yellow journalism! Damn tabloids!

But when they lifted their skirts in 'sacrifice' to this man, mooning him en masse, our hero showed his good moral nature and beat a hasty retreat, ending the flood.

Well. That was enough to convince king Iobates that the Bellerophontic letter must have been wrong, for he now had indisputable proof of the young man's virtuous character. Besides, anyone who commanded floods had to be of divine origin, and logic dictated that he shouldn't be messed with.

Iobates produced the letter from Proetus and asked Bellerophon for an explanation. He listened silently as Belle told his version, interrupting only a couple of times to prod the reluctant youth about his daughter Anteia's odious conduct. When finally he digested the truth the king implored his guest's forgiveness, devastated that he had nearly caused this upright youth's demise.

Would that have ticked off Zeus, or what, thought Iobates...whew...

What's a guilt-ridden king to do? Turning lemons into lemonade, king Iobates offered Belle his gorgeous daughter Philonoe (also known as Anticlea or Cassandra) in marriage, and made him heir to the Lycian throne, stepping aside and surrendering complete control of the kingdom to the acclaimed hero.

I'm sure it's happened to you.


Youth and Time, 1901
by John William Godward

Wouldn't it be great if the story ended right there, and everyone lived happily ever after?

Hey, what do you think this is, a fairy tale? :)

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. Pegasus was at his beck and call. What else could a man want?

How about immortality? How about a corner penthouse on the top floor of Olympus?

Oh yeah? How about a dose of hubris instead?

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 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, and he was special.

It began to eat at Belle. Not content with heaven on earth, the thought of joining the Olympians began to obsess him to the point of madness. His dreams turned to nightmares.

Mounting Pegasus, the fool set off on an ill-advised flight to Mount 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.

Whoa, Peggie!

(Hate when that happens. I speak from experience, having been banished by Hera from wondrous Olympus for writing nasty - but true - stuff about her...she still has not forgiven me...

(I'm real sorry, Hera! Honest! I was only kidding about the cow thing...)

That is called 'hubris'. Scornful and presumptuous ambition that leads to a downfall. Hubris led to the doom of the tragic hero called Bellerophon, slayer of the Chimaera, tamer of Pegasus, and hero of Greece. He had it made but wanted more.

Welcome back to earth, son.

Poseidon and Athena petitioned Zeus to let the impetuous mortal live, and their wish was granted. Belle wasn't killed in the fall, but he probably wished he had been.

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?

Always carry a supply of gadfly repellent whenever you travel to Olympus?

Ok, that too.

Without 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.

So, uncle Homer, what do you give a man who has everything?

"Hope."

Hope
Hope
by George Frederick Watts

 

Coming next:
Only the Muse knows...

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