English 9A, Period 6
24 January 2018
The Quintessential Tragedy:
Perhaps one of my favorite types of literature is Greek tragedy. Although their storylines are follow similar progressions, each story is unique and extremely action packed.I was first introduced to this world of writing by the Percy Jackson series (which, as I understand it, provides a grossly stripped down and modernized version of the original Greek legends). After reading Riordan’s series, I decided to explore a little deeper and proceeded to read the original stories about great heroes like Hercules and Perseus. The heroic tale that I find the most instructive is the tale of the great Bellerophon.
The tale starts in the standard Greek tradegy style: a boy was born of a god, which in this case was Poseidon, and proceeds to show exceptional talent. Bellerophon’s divine skill was that he was a adept equestrian, which would help him greatly in his subsequent quests. To balance his godly skill, however, he also has a fatal flaw: his hubris. He is extremely confident in his strength and skills to the point of arrogance.
His journey begins with his accidental murder of his brother (or possibly a person named Belleros), which leads to his exile and travelling to a kingdom ruled by King Proteus. There, he was cleansed of his crimes and welcomed as a guest. Naturally, there was a problem with this peaceful image. King Proteus’ wife, Anteia, secretely loved Bellerophon. When he rebuffed her, Anteia became bitter and accused Belerophon of ravishing her. Enraged, but unwilling to kill a guest, King Proteus sends him to his father-in-law, King Iobates, with sealed instructions to kill Bellerophon.
By the time Iobates reads Proteus’ message, however, Iobates has already acceptes Bellerophon as a guest and thus was reluctant to kill a guest (this was a major crime back then). Thus, he sent him on his “call”: to slay the Chimera. Bellerophon received assistance from the goddess Athena, who gave him the means to tame and ride the winged horse Pegasus. After multiple unsuccessful attempts at killing the Chimera, Bellerophon is struck with an idea. He finds a piece of lead and, while riding Pegasus, uses his spear to lob it down the Chimera’s throat, choking and killing the creature.
Iobates, shocked that Bellerophon has survived, sent on three more suicidal quests; he completed all of them. Resigned, Iobates accepts that a god has been watching over Bellerophon and gives him his daughter’s hand in marriage and part of his kingdom.
Alas, with all Greek heroes, there was the tragedy. Bellerophon’s great feats boosted his already over-inflated ego. “With such impressive accomplishments on my resume,” he thought, “I surely qualify as a god.” Eager to realize this fantasy, he rode to Olympus otop Pegasus. Zeus, unfortunately, did not agree with Bellerophon’s thoughts. He sent a gadfly to nip Bellerophon’s steed, causing him to buck and throw off the rider.
I like this tale because it tells the story that most can relate to; at one point, we have all had a stroke of luck. This usually leads to an amazing victory or an ingenious idea. And, because of that, we felt powerful for a period of time. Bellerophon is an extreme example of what happened when one becomes dangerously overconfident. And so, the moral of this story is: “Those with excessive pride will always reach their fatal mistake; such will be their undoing.”