When he turned sixteen, Bellerophon longed for adventure, and set out to find it. Along his journey he met Proteus, who feigned friendship to Bellerophon. In truth, Proteus was insanely jealous of Bellerophon, and sought to cause his death. Proteus was the son-in-law of Iobates, the King of Lycia. Feigning goodwill, Proteus gave Bellerophon a sealed message to carry to the King.
Upon his arrival in Lycia, Bellerophon found that a pall had been cast over the once-joyful land. Each night, the Chimera, a monster with the head of a lion and the tail of a dragon, swept down upon the valley and carried off women, children, and livestock. The bones of his many victims lay strewn along the mountainside. The population lived in constant fear.
When Iobates read the letter Bellerophon had delivered, he found that Proteus requested Bellerophon be put to death. Though he wanted to please his son-in-law, he knew that an outright execution would risk war against the Corinthians. He slyly sent Bellerophon to slay the Chimera, sure that he would never return alive.
Bellerophon, longing for excitement, was not frightened by the concept of facing the Chimera. Rather, he was overcome with happiness at the opportunity to rid the poor people from this gruesome threat.
Before he set out on his quest, Bellerophon sought the advice of Polyidus, the wisest man in Lycia. Impressed by the youth's courage, Polyidus told him of the legendary Pegasus. He advised him to spend a night in Athena's temple, and offer her many gifts. In return, the goddess may help him obtain the horse.
Bellerophon took his advice, and Athena appeared to him that night in a dream. She gave him a golden bridle and instructions as to where to find the well from which the Pegasus drank. In the morning, Bellerophon awoke to find the golden bridle beside him. He knew that his dream had been real.
Bellerophon journeyed into the forest, locating the well of which Athena had spoken. He hid in the bushes by the well. When the Pegasus finally arrived, Bellerophon waited till it kneeled over to drink and then pounced upon it from his hiding place, slipping the bridle onto its head. Pegasus flew into the air, trying desperately to shake Bellerophon off. But Bellerophon was up to the challenge, skilled in the handling of fierce horses. Pegasus understood that he had a new master.
After a brief rest, Bellerophon set out to the ledge where the Chimera dwelt. Armed with a long spear, he charged the Chimera. The Chimera exhaled a puff of its horrible fire. Pegasus darted backward to evade the burning breath. Before the Chimera could breathe again, Pegasus renewed its advance and Bellerophon drove the spear through the Chimera's heart.
When the Prince returned to the palace upon a winged horse, carrying the head of the frightful Chimera, the Kingdom rejoiced. The people admired his bravery, and the wonderful winged horse which he rode. King Iobates gave his willing daughter to Bellerophon as a bride.
For years the couple was happy, and when Iobates died, Bellerophon took his place. But again Bellerophon sought greater and greater adventures. Finally, he decided to ride up to Mount Olympus to visit the gods.
Mounting his steed, he urged Pegasus skyward, higher and higher. Zeus, displeased with Bellerophon's arrogant attempt to scale Mount Olympus' heights, sent a gadfly to punish the mortal for daring to ascend to the home of gods. The fly stung Pegasus, and so startled the horse that he suddenly reared, and Bellerophon was hurled off of his back. He plummeted to the ground.
Athena spared his life by causing him to land on soft ground. But for the rest of his life, Bellerophon traveled, lonely and crippled, in search of his wonderful steed.
But alas, Pegasus never returned.