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Chapter 8

MYTHS OF HEROIC DEEDS

Pegasus and Bellerophon

Bellerephon, princess of Corinth, grandson of Sisiphus, accidentally slew one of his brothers in a hunting accident. He then fled Corinth to King Protheus of Tiryns to be purified on his crime. While there, the Queen Anteia, fell in love with Bellerophon, who did not return the love. The queen felt scorned. She told her husband that Bellerophon had tried to seduce her. King Proteus, not wanting to evoke the anger of the Furies if he did harm to a guest, wrote a letter, in which asked for the reader to put Bellerophon to death. He then sent Bellerophon with the letter to King Iobates, the father of Anteia.

King Iobates of Lydia, in Asia Minor, received Bellerophon graciously, entertaining him for nine days. Then Bellerophon presented the letter to him. Horrified at the contents, Iobates

felt also in a difficult position, for he, too, did not want to kill a guest, and evoke the wrath of the Furies. But, Iobates thought he found a solution. The "Chimera", a monster with a lion's head, goat's body, and

dragon's tail, had been plaguing the countryside of his kingdom. No mortals had bested the monster, even though many had been killed trying. Therefore, he sent Bellerophon against the Chimera, thinking that the prince would, surely, never survive the challenge.

Bellerophon prayed to the Gods for aid. Athena came to him, giving him a golden bridle, and sugested that he go to Pirene, a spring in Corinth, where the noble horse, Pegasus, frequently grazed, and to capture the horse.

This Bellepophon did, after much patient waiting. Riding Pegasus, he sled the Chimera, with the fatal blow being throwing a lead spear into the throat of the monster, whose fiery breath melted the lead, choking it. He returned to Iobates, who further tested Bellerophon to battling more difficult enemies; the Solemy, the Amazons, and even a core of his best troops. All Bellerophon and Pegasus defeated.

After seeing how easily Bellerophon vanquished such worthy opponents, Iobates surmised that he must had had the help of Gods. He then showed the letter to Bellerophon, who explained what really happened. Now believing Bellerophon, Iobates gave Bellerophon his other daughter in marriage. But this myth does not end happily as this. Bellerophon became arrogant with the power of his alliance with Pegasus. He tried to ascend to Olympus riding the horse.

Zeus sent a gadfly to sting Pegasus, throwing Bellerophon off, and blinding him, after landing on earth. He then wandered the earth for the rest of his life, lonely and accursed.

Today, the term "Bellerophon letter" is used to denote a situation in which a person unkowingly delivers a message that is harmful to the deliverer.

Admetus and Alcestis

Apollo was exiled from Olympus in a dispute with Zeus. He was forced to serve King Admetus of Thessaly as a common shepherd. King Admetus treated Apollo well, and Apollo wished to return the favor, which he did in the following manner.

King Admetus vied for the hand of the beautiful Alcestis, along with many other men of renown in Greece. Alcestis' father, not wanting to alienate any of his neighbors, proposed a contest for the hand of Alcestis; whoever could yoke a lion and a boar to a chariot would win her hand in marriage. Admetus' asked for Apollo's help in this venture, which he did do, thereby winning Alcestis. Apollo also granted Admetus the favor of not having to die when his time came, but he had to find some member of his family as a substitute.

Admetus soon fell ill, and he hastily went to his elderly parents to see if they would died in his intead. They refused, since they reasoned, they still enjoyed life, and that Admetus should die as willed. But, at the last moment, his wife Alcestis volunteered, and Thanatos, the God of Death, came to take her to Hades.

Heracles and Admetus

While Admetus was grieving over the death of his wife, Alcestis, Heracles, not knowing the circunstances, came upon the Kingdom of Thessaly. Admetus received this guest in a very hospitable manner, providing much food and drink. Heracles, in a drunken state, started singing bawdy songs, not knowing the gravity of the situation. Soon thereafter, however, he ascertained the reason for the surrounding gloom, and he became determined to rectify his social gaffe.

Heracles went to the Underworld, wrestled with Thanatos, God of Death, and successfully released Alcestis, who happily returned to the Upper World to be united with her husband, Admetus.

Heracles and Antaeus

Heracles, on the way to one of his Labors, came across the giant, in Libya. Antaeus was the Son of Gaias, mother Earth, and Poseidon. He wrestled all strangers to his kingdomm, beating all, and built a temple to his father. Poseidon, with the skulls of the victims.

Antaeus wrestled the new stranger, Heracles. Heracles noted that every time he threw Anteaus to the ground, he arouse revitalized, stronger than before he threw him to the earth . He concluded that Anteaus was invigorated by contact with his mother, Mother Earth. Therefore, Heacles raised him over his head, breaking contact with the ground, and crushed him to death.

Asclepius

Son of Apollo and the mortal Coronis, Aclepius was raised by Chiron, the learner Centaur. Asclepius became especially adept at the curative arts of Medicine, so much that he became known as the father of Medisine in Greece. In addition, Athena gave him the blood of Medusa, which allowed Asclepius even to be able to restore life to the death.

Asclepius' spread far and wide, so much so that Zeus became jealous, especially of his ability to restore life, a very divine-type gift. He therefore hurled a thunderbolt at Asclepius, mortally wounding him.

Apollo, Aesclepius' father, in revenge, killed the forger of Zeus' thunderbolts, the Ciclopds. For this act, Apollo was banished by Zeus from Olympus, to perform servitude to King Admetus, as previously discussed.

Castor and Polydeuces

King Tyndareus of Sparta and his wife, Leda, had two children, Clytemnestra and Castor. Zeus, in the form of a swan, mated also with Leda to produce the offspring Polydeuces and Helen, of Troy Fame.

Castor grew up to be an expert horseman, and Polydeuces an excellent boxer. Both partook in the adventures of the Argonauts, as well as the Calydonian Boar Hunt, performing heroically in both.

The brothers were extremely close. When Castor was mortally wounded by a spear in battle, Polydeauces prayed to Zeus, that he be able to share his immortability with his dyiong brother. This wish Zeus granted, so that the brothers are always together , one day in Hades, and the next day on Mt. Olympus.

The "Dioscuri", or "Gemini", as they were later to be called became to be known as the patron saint of lost sailors. Zeus placed them in the sky as a constellation afte their death, together, to commemorate their closeness as brothers, as "Gemini".

Talos

Talos, a bronze monster, was forged by Hephaestus, and given to King Minos of Crete. Minos entrusted Talos with guarding the is isle of Crete, which he did by circling the entire island, three time a day. If any potential invaders came close, he hurled stones at them.

Talos had a single vein in his body, running from his neck to his ankle, stoppered by a bronze pin, and filled with ichor, or blood of the Gods. He had the ability to turn himself red-hot, a trait which he used against the invading Sardinians. He would grasp the forign Sardinians in his burning embrace, grinning fiercely, thereby coining the term, "Sardonic grin".

When Theseus had defeated the Minotaur, and was leaving with the other captured Greeks, Talos attempted to grasp the ships from shore, but Theseus threw the red-hot giant off-balance, causing him to fall into the sea, and drowning. To this day, hot-springs are located in this spot, explaining their origin from this myth.