A native of Corinth, Bellerophon was thought to be the son of Glaucus, king of Corinth, but some sources claimed he was the son of sea god Poseidon. As a young man, he was determined to tame the winged horse Pegasus, and the seer Polyidus told him to go to the temple of Athena and sleep there. Athena appeared that night and bestowed on Bellerophon a magical golden bridle. He went to where Pegasus was, and under the influence of Athena’s charm the horse allowed himself to be bridled with no trouble and from that point was Bellerophon's mount.
At some point after this, Bellerophon accidentally killed his own brother, and had to go to Argos to be purified. The wife of the King fell in love with him, but Bellerophon rejected her advances. The queen, Anteia, told her husband, Proetus, that Bellerophon had wronged her, and the king was determined to exact revenge. Bellerophon had eaten at his table, so to kill him directly would have been a sin against the gods, so he decided to send him to the kingdom of Lycia on an errand, with a letter asking the king there to kill the young man. The king, Iobates, received Bellerophon with great hospitality, so that when he read the letter, he was reluctant to carry out the request, being in the same position as Proetus.
At the time, there was a creature ravaging the countryside, the chimera, and the king asked Bellerophon if he would undertake to slay it. As the chimera was held to be unkillable, the king thought he was sending Bellerophon on a suicide mission. But riding Pegasus, Bellerophon was able to slay the monster. King Iobates then sent him on other expeditions, first against the Solymes, who were mighty warriors, then against the notorious Amazons. Bellerophon passed all the trials, and the king was won over by his courage. The two men became friends, and Bellerophon married the king’s daughter.
Bellerophon fathered three children with his wife, became king of Lycia when his father-in-law died, and lived happily. But with his great success came great ambition, and Bellerophon deemed himself equal to the gods. He attempted to fly up to Mount Olympus on Pegasus to take what he believed to be his rightful place among the gods, but Zeus smote him with a thunderbolt. He fell to earth, and spent the rest of his life as a forlorn cripple, cursed by the gods and avoiding all human contact. In spite of Bellerophon’s pride leading him to a bad end, he was held as a hero in both Corinth and Lycia.
- Some sources say that Pegasus threw him.
- Mythology, by Edith Hamilton, Warner Books, 1942
- The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, by Peirre Grimal, Blackwell Publishers, 1986