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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Greek Myths, The Pegasus

Greek Myths

How Old Are Greek Myths?

Zeus and the other Greek gods on Mount Olympus, from Aphrodite to Poseidon, are familiar characters to many readers. The Greek stories of gods, heroes and monsters are told and retold around the world even today. The earliest known versions of these myths date back more than 2,700 years, appearing in written form in the works of the Greek poets Homer and Hesiod. But some of these myths are much older. Indeed, the Greeks borrowed some of their best material from other, more ancient stories.

© Andrew Ressetti, on loan from Betty Jean Conant

Armoured Pegasus


Long ago, the young Greek hero Perseus set out on a seemingly impossible quest: to slay the hideous Medusa. With a head covered in snakes instead of hair, Medusa was so ugly that anyone who looked at her turned to stone. For many days, Perseus traveled in search of Medusa. Finally, he found her and her two sisters resting among the statues of other heroes, all turned to stone by Medusa's gaze. But Perseus had consulted the gods and knew how to defeat the monster. Looking only at Medusa's reflection in a polished shield, Perseus chopped off her horrible head with a sickle. The winged horse Pegasus sprang from Medusa's neck. Medusa's two sisters were furious and chased after Perseus. But Pegasus allowed the hero to climb on his back, and the two flew away to safety.

-Adapted from ancient Greek myths

Loyal Companion

The white, winged horse Pegasus is only a minor character in Greek myths, serving as the loyal steed and companion to the heroes Perseus and Bellerophon as they battle with monsters. Although Pegasus doesn't show up in many myths, he was a favorite subject of Greek artists. Even today, Pegasus is among the most popular images from Greek myth, appearing on everything from corporate logos to figures on carousels. Indeed, Pegasus is so well known that today all winged horses are called "pegasi."

At a Glance: Pegasus

Pegasus was the son of the monster Medusa and Poseidon, the god of the seas and of horses.

Pegasus was kind, helpful, and never greedy. The constellation named after him even shares a star with the constellation of Andromeda, a maiden he helped save.

White horse with wings.

Pegasus allowed only two mortals to ride him: the heroes Perseus and Bellerophon.

A Hero's Horse

A long time ago, the Greek hero Bellerophon set out to kill the fire-breathing Chimera, a beast with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail. The goddess Athena helped Bellerophon tame Pegasus, and with the winged horse's aid, Bellerophon killed the monster.

After this glorious victory, Bellerophon thought himself the equal of the gods and urged Pegasus to fly him to Mount Olympus. But Bellerophon's arrogance enraged the gods. Zeus sent a fly to bite Pegasus, causing him to rear back and sending Bellerophon hurtling to the ground. Pegasus remained at Olympus for the rest of his life, carrying Zeus's lightning bolts on his back. And when Pegasus died, Zeus transformed him into a constellation, which can be seen to this day.

--Adapted from Homer's Iliad, c. 800-600 BC, and other ancient Greek myths

© AMNH / D. Finnin

Carved Pegasus in the exhibition, on loan from Betty Jean Conant


Stories of Pegasus were particularly popular in the ancient city of Corinth, Greece. The winged horse was used as the city's emblem and appeared on coins of the city for hundreds of years.

Carved Pegasus

A carved Pegasus figure, made by artist Joe Leonard for a private collector, is styled after the animals found on carousels. The statue's wings, however, would make it impossible for anyone to sit on the creature's back.

I still believe there were such magnificent creatures, what about you my dear friends?  What is your opinion? 
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