According to Greek mythology, Pegasus, an immortal horse with wings, sprang to life when the hero Perseus beheaded Medusa the Gorgon.
In the ancient myths, Poseidon, the god of storms and sea, sired Pegasus before Medusa fled to live in a cave beneath Mount Olympus.
During late Antiquity, Pegasus became a sign of immortality. His flight into the stars symbolized a soul soaring into the heavens. He is also associated with the Muses, the goddesses of art, poetry, and music.
Today, Pegasus remains a symbol of strength, speed, beauty, and inspiration.
Discover these 10 great myths about the magical flying horse from the ancient Greek world.
Myth#1: Pegasus Sprang from Medusa’s Neck
The story of Pegasus began when the Greek hero Perseus entered Medusa the Gorgon’s cave. Medusa, once a beautiful priestess in the goddess Athena’s temple, escaped to the cavern after the sea god Poseidon attacked her.
With a head full of writhing live snakes and eyes that would turn people into stone, the pregnant Medusa became a monster.
When Perseus used his shield as a mirror to approach Medusa, he cut off her head with his sword. At that moment, Pegasus and his brother Chrysaor sprang from Medusa’s decapitated head.
While his brother became a giant boar with wings, Pegasus flew into the air as an adult winged stallion.
Myth #2: Pegasus Discovers His Mate
In some tales, Pegasus found his mate in Ocyrhoe, also called Euippe, the daughter of Chiron, a half-man, half-horse centaur. When Ocyrhoe revealed that she could see the future, including her father’s fate, Zeus turned the girl into a horse.
Together, Pegasus and Ocyrhoe had two children called Celeris and Melanippe. According to legend, Pegasus’ offspring created a new race of immortal, winged horses.
Myth #3: Pegasus and Perseus Rescue Andromeda from the Sea
After Perseus beheaded Medusa in an act that birthed the winged horse, the hero rode Pegasus home from his quest to the island of Seriphose.
Some tales say that Perseus did not need to ride Pegasus since he already owned the god Hermes’ winged sandals. On the way, the pair rescued Andromeda from an evil sea monster near Aethiopia.
Myth #4: Bellerophon Tames Pegasus
Wild and roaming free, Pegasus resisted anyone who tried to tame him. Finally, a great Greek hero and monster-slayer named Bellerophon attempted the task.
According to Pindar, one of the most famous poets in ancient Greece, the goddess Athena gave Bellerophon an enchanted gold bridle.
Using this charmed bridle, Bellerophon slipped it over Pegasus’ neck while the stallion stopped to drink at the Perian spring high on the Acrocorinth.
When Pegasus looked at the golden bridle, he knew that Athena had sent the hero as his master. As a result, Pegasus let Bellerophon mount him and ride away.
Myth #5: The Adventures of Pegasus and Bellerophon
Together, the hero and the winged horse had many adventures. Sailing through the skies, Bellerophon defeated the Amazons, a race of warrior women.
They destroyed the Chimera with its fiery breath and fought the ferocious Solymi.
The hero even used Pegasus to take revenge on Stheneboa, a married woman who lied about Bellerophon after he rejected her love.
When Bellerophon offered to give her a ride on Pegasus’ back, she happily accepted his offer. As they soared over the open sea, Pegasus shook the deceitful woman off into the waves below.
Myth #6: Pegasus Created Springs with a Stroke of His Hoof
Born from the water god, Pegasus had the gift to create water wherever he stamped his hoof. According to the Greek writer Hesiod, Pegasus’ name is the Greek word pegae meaning spring.
In fact, two famous springs called Hippocrene or “Horse Spring” existed in Greece. Many believed that the water from these springs gushed out of the earth when Pegasus struck the ground with his hoof.
The most famous spring came from Mount Helicon where the three Muses lived. Its waters, created by Pegasus, gave poets creativity and inspiration when they drank the water.
Myth #7: Pegasus and the Death of Bellerophon
According to the Greek gods, no act of pride or revenge went unpunished.
After winning multiple victories over beasts, monsters, and Amazons, Bellerophon swelled with vanity. He believed that he deserved to live and rule with the gods atop Mount Olympus.
Mounting his winged stallion, the Greek hero raced upwards through the clouds. But Bellerophon’s hubris angered Zeus. He would never allow a mortal to live in the deities’ realm.
As Pegasus and Bellerophon spiraled higher, a gadfly sent by Zeus stung Pegasus. When the stallion bucked with pain, he threw his rider from his back. The hero fell to his death from the skies.
Myth #8: Pegasus Flies to Mount Olympus
Meanwhile, the riderless stallion continued his flight towards Mount Olympus. At the end of his journey, he encountered Zeus. The god allowed him to live in the stables with the rest of his horses.
On Mount Olympus, Pegasus served Eos, who unrolled the Dawn across the skies every day.
Myth #9: Pegasus Becomes Zeus’ War Horse
According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Zeus rode the winged stallion into battle.
While Zeus hurled his mighty lightning bolts and rolled thunder against his enemies, Pegasus pulled his chariot wherever he needed to go. He also helped Zeus’ giant winged eagles carry his weapons to war.
During some epic heavenly battles, even Zeus’ soldiers became afraid. Even when the armies of the gods trembled, Pegasus always stayed by Zeus’ side as a loyal companion.
For years, Pegasus served Zeus as a celestial steed, racing with Zeus’ chariot full of thunderbolts created by the Cyclopes across stormy skies.
Myth #10: Pegasus Becomes a Constellation
In the end, the brave and loyal Pegasus received his reward from Zeus.
After he served the Olympians for many years, the king of the gods threw the winged stallion up into the sky where he lived among the stars as a constellation.