previous next

Pegăsus

Πήγασος). The celebrated winged horse, whose origin is thus related: When Perseus struck off the head of Medusa, with whom Poseidon had had intercourse in the form of a horse or a bird, there sprang from her Chrysaor and the horse Pegasus. The latter received this name because he was believed to have made his appearance near the sources (πηγαί) of Oceanus. He ascended to the seats of the immortals, and afterwards lived in the palace of Zeus, for whom he carried thunder and lightning. According to this view, which is apparently the most ancient, Pegasus was the thundering horse of Zeus; but later writers describe him as the horse of Eos, and place him among the stars. Pegasus also acts a prominent part in the combat of Bellerophon against the Chimaera. In order to kill the Chimaera, it was necessary for Bellerophon to obtain possession of Pegasus. For this purpose the soothsayer Polyidus at Corinth advised him to spend a night in the temple of Athené. As Bellerophon was asleep in the temple, the goddess appeared to him in a dream commanding him to sacrifice to Poseidon, and gave him a golden bridle. When he awoke he found the bridle, offered the sacrifice, and caught Pegasus while he was drinking at the well Pirené. According to some, Athené herself tamed and bridled Pegasus, and surrendered him to Bellerophon. After he had conquered the Chimaera he endeavoured to rise up to heaven upon his winged horse, but fell down upon the earth. (See Bellerophon.) Pegasus was also regarded as the horse of the Muses, and in this connection is more celebrated in modern times than in antiquity; for with the ancients he had no connection with the Muses, except producing with his hoof the inspiring fountain Hippocrené.

The story about this fountain runs as follows: When the nine Muses engaged in a contest with the nine daughters of Pierus on Mount Helicon, all became darkness when the daughters of Pierus began to sing; whereas, during the song of the Muses, heaven, the sea, and all the rivers stood still to listen, and Helicon rose heavenward with delight, until Pegasus, on the advice of Poseidon, stopped its ascent by kicking it with his hoof. From this kick there arose Hippocrené, the inspiring well of the Muses, on Mount Helicon, which, for this reason, Persius calls fons caballinus. Others, again, relate that Pegasus caused the well to gush forth because he was thirsty. Pegasus is often seen represented in ancient works of art with Athené and Bellerophon.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: