In Greek mythology, Pegasus (Greek: Πήγασος, Pégasos) was a
winged horse sired by Poseidon, in his role as horse-god, and
foaled by the Gorgon Medusa. He was the brother of
Chrysaor, born at a single birthing. By extension, the term
Pegasus is often used to refer to any winged horse...
2. The famous 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 forth from her Chrysaor and the horse
Pegasus. The latter obtained the name Pegasus because he was
believed to have made his appearance near the sources
(πήγαι) of Oceanns. Pegasus rose up to the seats of the
immortals, and afterwards lived in the palace of Zeus, for
whom he carried thunder and lightning (IIes. Theog. 281,
&c.; Apollod. 2.3.2, 4.2 ; Schol. ad Aristoph. Pac. 722;
comp. Ov. Met. 4.781, &100.6.119). 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 (Schol. ad Hom. Il. 6.155; Tzetz. ad Lyc.
17), and place him among the stars as the heavenly horse
(Arat. Phaen. 205, &c.; Hygin. Poet. Astr. 2.18 Ov. Fast.
Pegasus also acts a prominent part in the fight of
Bellerophon against the Chimaera (Hes. Th. 325; Apollod.
2.3.2). After Bellerophon had tried and suffered much to
obtain possession of Pegasus for his fight against the
Chimaera, he consuited the soothsayer Polvidus at Corinth.
The latter advised him to spend a night in the temple of
Athena, and, as Bellerophon was sleeping, 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,
who was drinking at the well Peirene (Pind. O. 13.90, &c.
with the Schol.; Strab. viii. p.379). According to some
Athena herself tamed and bridled Pegasus, and surrendered
him to Bellerophon (Paus. 2.4.1), or Bellerophon received
Pegasus from his own father Poseidon (Schol. ad Hom. Il.
6.155). After he had conquered the Chimaera (Pindar says
that he also conquered the Amazons and the Solymi, Ol.
13.125), he endeavoured to rise up to heaven with his winged
horse, but fell down upon the earth, either from fear or
from giddiness, or being thrown off by Pegasus, who was
rendered furious by a gad-fly which Zeus had sent. But
Pegasus continued his flight (Hygin. Poet. Astr. 2.18 ;
Pind. Isthm. 7.6; Tzetz. ad Lyc. 17; Eustath. ad Hom. p.
636). Whether Hesiod considered Pegasus as a winged horse,
cannot be inferred with certainty from the word
ἀποπτάμενοσε; but Pindar, Euripides, and the other later
writers, expressly mention his wings.
Pegasus lastly was also regarded as the horse of the Muses,
and in this capacity he is more celebrated in modern times
than he ever was in antiquity ; for with the ancients he had
no connection with the Muses, except that by his hoof he
called forth the inspiring well Hippocrene. The story about
this well 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 rising by kicking it with his hoof
(Ant. Lib. 9); and from this kick there arose Hippocrene,
the inspiring well of the Muses, on Mount Helicon, which,
for this reason, Persius (Prol. 1) calls fons cblallinus
(Ov. Met. 5.256). Others again relate that Pegasus caused
the well to gush forth because he was thirsty; and in other
parts of Greece also similar wells were believed to have
been called forth by Pegasus, such as Hippocrene, at
Troezene, and Peirene, near Corinth (Paus. 2.31.12; Stat.
Theb 4.60). Pegasus is often seen represented in ancient
works of art and on coins along with Athena and Bellerophon.
- A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology,
William Smith, Ed.