Pegasus is a mythical winged divine horse, and one of the most recognized creatures in Greek mythology.
Usually depicted as pure white, Pegasus is the offspring of the Olympian god Poseidon. He was foaled by the Gorgon Medusa upon her death when the hero Perseus decapitated her. Pegasus is the brother of Chrysaor and the uncle of Geryon.
Pegasus was caught by the Greek hero Bellerophon, near the fountain Peirene, with the help of Athena and Poseidon. Pegasus allowed Bellerophon to ride him in order to defeat the monstrous Chimera, which led to many other exploits.
Bellerophon later fell from the winged horse’s back while trying to reach Mount Olympus. Afterward, Zeus transformed Pegasus into the eponymous constellation.
There are several versions of the birth of the winged stallion and his brother Chrysaor in the far distant place at the edge of Earth, Hesiod’s springs of Oceanus, which encircles the inhabited earth, where Perseus found Medusa.
One is that they sprang from the blood issuing from Medusa’s neck as Perseus was beheading her, similar to the manner in which Athena was born from the head of Zeus.
In another version, when Perseus beheaded Medusa, they were born of the Earth, fed by the Gorgon’s blood. A variation of this story holds that they were formed from the mingling of Medusa’s blood, pain, and seafoam, implying that Poseidon had involvement in their making.
The last version bears resemblance to Hesiod’s account of the birth of Aphrodite from the foam created when Uranus’s severed genitals were cast into the sea by Cronus.
Pegasus and springs
According to legend, everywhere the winged horse struck his hoof to the earth, and inspiring water spring burst forth.
One of these springs was upon the Muses’ Mount Helicon, the Hippocrene (“horse spring”), opened, Antoninus Liberalis suggested, at the behest of Poseidon to prevent the mountain swelling with rapture at the song of the Muses; another was at Troezen.
Hesiod relates how Pegasus was peacefully drinking from a spring when Bellerophon captured him. Hesiod also says Pegasus carried thunderbolts for Zeus.
Pegasus aided the hero Bellerophon in his fight against the Chimera. There are varying tales about how Bellerophon found Pegasus; the most common being that the hero was told by Polyeidos to sleep in the temple of Athena, where the goddess visited him in the night and presented him with a golden bridle. The next morning, still clutching the bridle, Bellerophon found Pegasus drinking at the Pierian spring, caught him and eventually tamed him.
Michaud’s Biographie Universelle relates that when Pegasus was born, he flew to where thunder and lightning are released. Then, according to certain versions of the myth, Athena tamed him and gave him to Perseus, who flew to Ethiopia to help Andromeda.
In fact, Pegasus is a late addition to the story of Perseus, who flew on his own with the sandals lent to him by Hermes.
Pegasus and Athena left Bellerophon and continued to Olympus where he was stabled with Zeus’ other steeds and was given the task of carrying Zeus’ thunderbolts, along with other members of his entourage, his attendants/handmaidens/shield bearers/shieldmaidens, Astrape and Bronte.
Because of his years of faithful service to Zeus, Pegasus was later honored with transformation into a constellation. On the day of his catasterism, when Zeus transformed him into a constellation, a single feather fell to the earth near the city of Tarsus.