Pegasus the Beloved Horse of Myth and Beauty
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Tuesday's Horse
July 2016

Image from Tuesday's Horse

It’s July 15th. That means it’s National I Love Horses Day.

Horses have caught man’s imagination throughout history symbolizing a list of impressive traits such as bravery, strength, grace, beauty, loyalty, speed, agility, sensitivity, purity and soulfulness, having mystical and curative powers.

Let’s take a look at a much beloved mythical horse created in the imagination of the ancient Greeks still recognized throughout the world today.

The Myth

In Greek mythology, Pegasus is a white winged horse that sprang from the neck of the Gorgon Medusa when Perseus beheaded her. Medusa was a beautiful young woman before she was turned into a monster by the goddess Athena after being caught being defiled by the sea god Poseidon in the goddess’ temple. Athena turned Medusa’s hair into snakes and made her face so ugly that anyone who looked at her immediately turned to stone.

Perseus was sent to kill Medusa by King Polydectes of Seriphus, who was the brother of Dictys, the man who took Perseus and his mother Danaë in and raised Perseus as his own son. Polydectes wanted Danaë for himself and Perseus stood in his way because he defended his mother from the king’s advances. He did not expect the hero to come back from his mission alive.

When Perseus killed Medusa, Pegasus and the warrior Chrysaor sprang from her neck, both of them offspring of Poseidon. The name Pegasus is derived from the Greek pegai which means “springs” or “waters,” and Chrysaor’s name means “the golden sword.”

When he was born, Pegasus flew away to Mount Helicon in Boeotia, where the Muses lived, and he befriended them. He created a spring that was named Hippocrene by striking the ground with his hoof. The name Hippocrene means “the horse’s fountain.” It was said that those who drank from the spring were blessed with the gift to write poetry.

The most famous myth involving Pegasus is the one of Bellerophon, the hero who was sent by King Iobates of Lycia to kill the Chimaera, a monster that breathed fire and was devastating the king’s land. Bellerophon found Pegasus and tamed him using a golden bridle given to him by the goddess Athena. Then he swooped down on the Chimaera from the sky and killed the monster with his lance and arrows.

After this and several other heroic deeds for King Iobates, Bellerophon let the successes get to his head. Riding Pegasus, he tried to fly to Olympus and join the gods. He didn’t succeed. He fell off the horse and back to Earth.

Pegasus did however make it to Olympus. There, Zeus used the horse to carry his thunder and lightning, and eventually placed him among the constellations.

Legend In the Sky

The Pegasus constellation lies in the northern hemisphere.

The constellation Pegasus is depicted with only the top half of the horse, and it is nevertheless one of the largest constellations in the sky, seventh in size.

It was first catalogued by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century. The constellation was named after Pegasus, the winged horse in Greek mythology.

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