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BELLEROPHON.

Bellerophon, or Bellerophontes, was the son of Glaucus, king of Corinth, and grandson of Sisyphus. In consequence of an unpremeditated murder Bellerophon fled to Tiryns, where he was kindly received by King Proetus, who purified him from his crime. Antea, the wife of Proetus, was so charmed with the comely youth that she fell in love with him; but Bellerophon did not return her affection, and she, in revenge, slandered him to the king by a gross misrepresentation of the facts. {257}

The first impulse of Proetus, when informed of the conduct of Bellerophon, was to kill him; but the youth, with his gentle and winning manners, had so endeared himself to his host that he felt it impossible to take his life with his own hands. He therefore sent him to his father-in-law, Iobates, king of Lycia, with a kind of letter or tablet which contained mysterious signs, indicating his desire that the bearer of the missive should be put to death. But the gods watched over the true and loyal youth, and inclined the heart of Iobates, who was an amiable prince, towards his guest. Judging by his appearance that he was of noble birth, he entertained him, according to the hospitable custom of the Greeks, in the most princely manner for nine days, and not until the morning of the tenth did he inquire his name and errand.

Bellerophon now presented to him the letter intrusted to him by Proetus. Iobates, who had become greatly attached to the youth, was horror-struck at its contents. Nevertheless he concluded that Proetus must have good reasons for his conduct, and that probably Bellerophon had committed a crime which deserved death. But as he could not make up his mind to murder the guest he had grown to esteem, he decided to despatch him upon dangerous enterprises, in which he would in all probability lose his life.

[Illustration]

He first sent him to kill the Chimæra, a monster which was at this time devastating the country. The fore part of its body was that of a lion, the centre of a goat, and the hind part of a dragon; whilst out of its jaws issued flames of fire.

Before starting on this difficult task Bellerophon invoked the protection of the gods, and in answer to his prayer they despatched to his aid the immortal-winged horse Pegasus, the offspring of Poseidon and Medusa. But the divine animal would not suffer himself to be {258} caught, and at last, worn out with his fruitless exertions, Bellerophon fell into a deep sleep beside the sacred spring Pirene. Here Pallas-Athene appeared to him in a dream, and presented him with a magic bridle for the purpose of capturing the divine steed. On awaking Bellerophon instinctively put out his hand to grasp it, when, to his amazement, there lay beside him the bridle of his dream, whilst Pegasus was quietly drinking at the fountain close by. Seizing him by the mane Bellerophon threw the bridle over his head, and succeeded in mounting him without further difficulty; then rising with him into the air he slew the Chimæra with his arrows.

[Illustration]

Iobates next sent him on an expedition against the Solymans, a fierce neighbouring tribe with whom he was at enmity. Bellerophon succeeded in vanquishing them, and was then despatched against the much-dreaded Amazons; but greatly to the astonishment of Iobates the hero again returned victorious.

Finally, Iobates placed a number of the bravest Lycians in ambush for the purpose of destroying him, but not one returned alive, for Bellerophon bravely defended himself and slew them all. Convinced at length that Bellerophon, far from deserving death, was the special favourite of the gods, who had evidently protected him throughout his perilous exploits, the king now ceased his persecutions.

Iobates admitted him to a share in the government, and gave him his daughter in marriage. But Bellerophon having attained the summit of earthly prosperity became intoxicated with pride and vanity, and incurred the displeasure of the gods by endeavouring to mount to heaven on his winged horse, for the purpose of gratifying his idle curiosity. Zeus punished him for his impiety by sending {259} a gadfly to sting the horse, who became so restive that he threw his rider, who was precipitated to the earth. Filled with remorse at having offended the gods Bellerophon fell a prey to the deepest melancholy, and wandered about for the remainder of his life in the loneliest and most desolate places.

After death he was honoured in Corinth as a hero, and an altar was erected to him in the grove of Poseidon.



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