Bellerophon was the brave and handsome son of Glaucus and Eurymede, and the grandson of Sisyphus. Some even claimed that he was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, for his sculpted body, quick wit and excellence of spirit hinted of divine origin. In addition, his mother Eurymede had been tutored by the great goddess Athena, lending more credence to the theory that his father was Poseidon.

He originally was called Hipponous, but supposedly was given the nickname Bellerophon after he killed a man named Belerus in Corinth. 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.

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

Hospitality, both to friends and strangers, 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.

King Proetus was happy to receive the handsome youth but, as luck would have it, the king's young wife, Anteia (sometimes called Stheneboea), fell in love with Bellerophon the instant she laid eyes on him.

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 in the royal palace, did the proper thing and completely rejected the amorous advances of Anteia. He went out of his way to avoid her, but when she finally cornered him, 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 pass," he said.

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, but our hero held firm to his values. No matter how much Queen Anteia begged or threatened him, still he was resolved to act nobly, finally slithering free and taking his leave.

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

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

"You must have him killed at once!" she commanded her husband.

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 vile culprit, so he devised a sinister plan.

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. He handed our hero a sealed note that Bellerophon was to carry as a letter of introduction, informing King Iobates that its bearer was to be treated like 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.

Myth Man's note:
 That's where we get the phrase 'Bellerophontic Letters', meaning to unwittingly deliver information that can prove harmful to the bearer.

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 effort being made to please him. Eager to learn news of his daughter, king Iobates asked Bellerophon if he bore any tidings from Tyrins. Just then the young man remembered the letter given him by Proetus and handed it to Iobates.

The king grew pale as he digested the letter's content. This criminal must be punished, he thought, but Iobates didn't want to invite the fury of the gods by mistreating a royal guest. So he told Bellerophon that the letter instructed him to extend all hospitality to his young visitor, and in turn he would have to do the king's bidding.

"Then you can finally be purified for the unfortunate deaths back at your homeland," he lied to Bellerophon.

Fair enough. Bellerophon, heroic impulses surging throughout his being, was ready to tackle any challenge. Bring it on!

First up was the Chimaera. This fire-breathing creature, sporting a lion's head, the body of a goat and a serpent's tail, had taken up residence in Lycia, and in short time had managed to terrorize the entire area, killing and feasting on many innocent people.





Homework HelpGreek Mythology TodayOlympian GodsGreek HeroesLove StoriesBeasts and CreaturesMyth of the MonthZodiac, Stars and Constellations

Web, myth narration and graphics created and maintained by Nick Pontikis
Copyright © 1995 Nick Pontikis Thanasi's Olympus Greek Restaurant
Copyright 1999
The Myth Man persona copyright 1988 Nick Pontikis