Myth Man's Greek Mythology

Pegasus was the beloved winged horse of Greek mythology that sprang out of his mother Medusa's head when the great hero Perseus decapitated the Gorgon. His brother Chrysaor was born at the same time from Medusa's severed head.

Another version of their birth holds that, when Perseus beheaded Medusa, the Gorgon's blood falling on the Earth gave birth to them. Another variation states that they were formed from a cocktail of Medusa's blood, pain and sea foam, much like the goddess Aphrodite's birth.

The immortal flying horse was fathered by the sea deity Poseidon, who, in his role as a god of horses, consorted with the then-beautiful maiden, the gorgon Medusa to sire Pegasus. He is usually depicted as a white stallion.

Pegasus' name means either "of the spring" from the Greek word pêgê, or "sprung forth" from the word pêgazô. The first version alludes to the flying horse's connection with various springs, and the latter to his birth from the Gorgon's neck.

Following his dramatic birth, he assented to Mount Olympus, home of the Olympian gods, where he served the King of the Olympians, Zeus, by retrieving his thunderbolts and lightning on command. On those occasions, the hooves of Pegasus could be heard thundering across the sky in a storm.

Some later accounts state that Pegasus became the occasional mount of Eos, goddess of the Dawn. She would ride the winged steed on her mission to bring forth the Dawn. At other times he would be ridden by Apollo as he brought the sun across the sky.

A favourite of the Nine Muses, who loved to ride and frolic with him, Pegasus caused to gush forth the fountain of Hippocrene (Horse Spring), on Mount Helicon, home of the Muses. Early myths say that everywhere the winged stallion struck his hoof to earth, wonderfully refreshing springs would burst forth.

The fountain Hippocrene was alleged to have been commanded at the behest of Poseidon, in order to prevent Mount Helicon from swelling with rupture and causing flooding whenever the Muses sang.

The story goes like this: The Nine Muses once engaged in a singing contest with the vain daughters of Pierus on Mount Helicon. As the daughters of Pierus began to sing, all around turned to gloom and darkness. Whereas, during the song of the Muses, heaven, the sea, and all the rivers stood still to listen.

Mount Helicon rose heavenward in absolute delight, until Pegasus, instructed by Poseidon, stopped its rising by kicking it with his hoof. The spring of Hippocrene arose where he struck, the inspiring well of the Muses.

The Greek hero Bellerophon, with ample help from the goddess Athena and the sea lord Poseidon, managed to capture the flying horse as it was drinking at a spring, and placed a bridle on the noble beast. Pegasus then allowed Bellerophon to ride him in order to slay the feared hybrid monster called Chimera, as well as performing a variety of other heroic deeds.

Bellerophon's grave error was that he got too full of himself and considered himself equal to the Olympian gods. Mounting Pegasus, he swiftly flew towards Olympus, believing he would be well received. Zeus was having none of that. He sent a gadfly to sting Pegasus, causing the startled stallion to rear up, tossing the impetuous mortal Bellerophon to earth. Lame and crippled, a disgraced Bellerophon was doomed to wander the earth to his dying day.

Some accounts state that Pegasus was killed at the same time as Bellerophon at the hands of Zeus, but don't forget that the winged horse was immortal.

Riding Pegasus was synonymous to flying to the heavens, so he has come to symbolize the divine inspiration that leads to heaven, an allegory of the soul's immortality In more modern times he has come to represent a symbol of poetic inspiration.

He was represented as a gentle and playful creature, a bit naive but always goodhearted and keen to help. Zeus placed him in the heavens as the Pegasus constellation, one of the largest. Its rising marks the arrival of spring and, in Greece, of seasonal thunderstorms..



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