1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bellerophon

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BELLEROPHON, or Bellerophontes, in Greek legend, son of Glaucus or Poseidon, grandson of Sisyphus and local hero of Corinth. Having slain by accident the Corinthian hero Bellerus (or, according to others, his own brother) he fled to Tiryns, where his kinsman Proetus, king of Argos, received him hospitably and purged him of his guilt. But Anteia (or Stheneboea), wife of Proetus, became enamoured of Bellerophon, and, when he refused her advances, charged him with an attempt upon her virtue. Proetus thereupon sent him to Iobates, his wife’s father, king of Lycia, with a letter or sealed tablet, in which were instructions, apparently given by means of signs, to take the life of the bearer. Arriving in Lycia, he was received as a guest and entertained for nine days. On the tenth, being asked the object of his visit, he handed the letter to the king, whose first plan for complying with it was to send him to slay the Chimaera, a monster which was devastating the country. Bellerophon, mounted on Pegasus (q.v.), kept up in the air out of the way of the Chimaera, but yet near enough to kill it with his spear, or, as he is at other times represented, with his sword or with a bow. He was next ordered out against the Solymi, a hostile tribe, and afterwards against the Amazons, from both of which expeditions he not only returned victorious, but also on his way back slew an ambush of chosen warriors whom Iobates had placed to intercept him. His divine origin was now proved; the king gave him his daughter in marriage; and the Lycians presented him with a large and fertile estate on which he lived (Apollodorus, ii. 3; Homer, Iliad, vi. 155). Bellerophon is said to have returned to Tiryns and avenged himself on Anteia: he persuaded her to fly with him on his winged horse, and then flung her into the sea near the island of Melos (Schol. Aristoph., Pax, 140). His ambitious attempt to ascend to the heavens on Pegasus brought upon him the wrath of the gods. His son was smitten by Ares in battle; his daughter Laodameia was slain by Artemis; he himself, flung from his horse, lamed or blinded, became a wanderer over the face of the earth until his death (Pindar, Isthmia, vi. [vii.], 44; Horace, Odes, iv. 11, 26). Bellerophon was honoured as a hero at Corinth and in Lycia. His story formed the subject of the Iobates of Sophocles, and of the Bellerophontes and Stheneboea of Euripides. It has been suggested that Perseus, the local hero of Argos, and Bellerophon were originally one and the same, the difference in their exploits being the result of the rivalry of Argos and Corinth. Both are connected with the sun-god Helios and with the sea-god Poseidon, the symbol of the union being the winged horse Pegasus. Bellerophon has been explained as a hero of the storm, of which his conflict with the Chimaera is symbolical. The most frequent representations of Bellerophon in ancient art are (1) slaying the Chimaera, (2) departing from Argos with the letter, (3) leading Pegasus to drink. Among the first is to be noted a terra-cotta relief from Melos in the British Museum, where also, on a vase of black ware, is what seems to be a representation of his escape from Stheneboea.

See H. A. Fischer, Bellerophon (1851); R. Engelmann, Annali of the Archaeological Institute at Rome (1874); O. Treuber, Gechichte der Lykier (1887); articles in Pauly-Wissowa’s Real-Encyclopädie, W. H. Roscher’s Lexikon der Mythologie, Daremberg and Saglio’s Dictionnaire des antiquités; L. Preller, Griechische Mythologie.