Jump to: navigation, search


Bellerophon riding Pegasus (1914)

In Greek mythology, Pegasus (, Pégasos) was a winged horse sired by Poseidon, in his role as horse-god, and foaled by the Gorgon Medusa.[1] He was the brother of Chrysaor, born at a single birthing. By extension, the term Pegasus can also refer to any winged horse.



The poet Hesiod connects the name Pegasus with the word for "spring, well", pēgē: "the pegai of Okeanos, where he was born;"[2] however, the name has an aural parallel with a word in the Luwian language pihassas, meaning "lightning", and Pihassassi, a local Luwian-Hittite name in southern Cilicia of a weather god represented with thunder and lightning.[3] Robin Lane Fox observes "a storm god is not the origin of a horse. However, he had a like-sounding name, and Greek visitors to Cilicia may have connected their existing Pegasus with Zeus's lightning after hearing about this "Pihassassi" and his functions and assuming, wrongly, he was their own Pegasus in a foreign land."[4] Fox suggests that the connection does explain Pegasus' role, reported as early as Hesiod, as bringer of thunderbolts to Zeus, otherwise inexplicable.

File:Pegaz Opera Poznań.jpg
Pegasus, as the horse of Muses, was put on the roof of Poznań Opera House (Max Littmann, 1910)

Pegasus and springs

Everywhere the winged horse struck his hoof to the earth, an inspiring spring burst forth. One of these springs was upon the Muses' Mount Helicon, the Hippocrene ("horse spring"),[5] opened, Antoninus Liberalis suggested,[6] at the behest of Poseidon to prevent the mountain swelling with rapture at the song of the Muses; another was at Troezen.[7] Hesiod relates how Pegasus was peacefully drinking from a spring when the hero Bellerophon captured him. Hesiod also says Pegasus carried thunderbolts for Zeus.


There are several versions of the birth of the winged stallion and his brother Chrysaor in the far distant place at the edge of Earth, Hesiod's "springs of Oceanus, which encircles the inhabited earth, where Perseus found Medusa:

One is that they sprang from the blood issuing from Medusa's neck as Perseus was beheading her,[8] similar to the manner in which Athena was born from the head of Zeus. In another version, when Perseus beheaded Medusa, they were born of the Earth, fed by the Gorgon's blood. A variation of this story holds that they were formed from the mingling of Medusa's blood and sea foam, implying that Poseidon had involvement in their making. The last version bears resemblance to the birth of Aphrodite.

Pedigree of Pegasus
Cronus Uranus Gaïa or Nyx
Gaïa or Nyx
Gaïa Chaos
Rhea Uranus Gaïa or Nyx
Gaïa or Nyx
Gaïa Chaos
Phorcys Pontus Ether or Uranus
Gaïa Chaos
Ceto Pontus Ether or Uranus
Gaïa Chaos


Pegasus aided the hero Bellerophon in his fight against both the Chimera and the Amazons. There are varying tales as to how Bellerophon found Pegasus; the most common[9] says that the hero was told by Polyeidos to sleep in the temple of Athena, where the goddess visited him in the night and presented him with a golden bridle. The next morning, still clutching the bridle, he found Pegasus drinking at the Pierian spring.[10] When the steed saw the bridle, he approached Bellerophon and allowed him to ride. Bellerophon slew the Chimera on Pegasus' back, and then tried to ride the winged horse to the top of Mount Olympus to see the gods. However, Zeus sent down a gadfly to sting Pegasus and cause Bellerophon to fall.[11]


File:Pegasus iran.jpg
Parthian era bronze plate depicting Pegasus ("Pegaz" in Persian), excavated in Masjed Soleyman, Khūzestān, Iran.

Michaud's Biographie universelle relates that when Pegasus was born, he flew to where thunder and lightning is released. Then, according to certain versions of the myth, Athena tamed him and gave him to Perseus, who flew to Ethiopia to help Andromeda.[12]

In fact Pegasus is a late addition to the story of Perseus, who flew on his own with the sandals loaned him by Hermes.


Pegasus left Bellerophon and continued to Olympus where he was stabled with Zeus' other steeds, and was given the task of carrying Zeus' thunderbolts


Because of his faithful service to Zeus, he was honored with transformation into a constellation.[13] On the day of his catasterism, when Zeus transformed him into a constellation, a single feather fell to the earth near the city of Tarsus.[14]


World War II

File:NAMA Epinetron Bellérophon.jpg
Bellerophon on Pegasus spears the Chimera, on an Attic red-figure epinetron 425–420 BC
The divisional shoulder flash of British airborne forces

During World War II, the silhouetted image of Bellerophon the warrior, mounted on the winged Pegasus, was adopted by the United Kingdom's newly-raised parachute troops in 1941 as their upper sleeve insignia. The image clearly symbolized a warrior arriving at a battle by air, the same tactics used by paratroopers. The square upper-sleeve insignia comprised Bellerophon/Pegasus in light blue on a maroon background. The insignia was designed by famous English novelist Daphne du Maurier, who was married to the commander of the 1st Airborne Division (and later the expanded British Airborne Forces), General Frederick "Boy" Browning. The maroon background on the insignia was later used again by the Airborne Forces when they adopted the famous maroon beret in Summer 1942. The beret was the origin of the German nickname for British airborne troops, The Red Devils. Today's Parachute Regiment carries on the maroon beret tradition.

During the airborne phase of the Normandy invasion on the night of 5–6 June 1944, British 6th Airborne Division captured all its key objectives in advance of the seaborne assault, including the capture and holding at all costs of a vital bridge over the Caen Canal, near Ouistreham. In memory of their tenacity, the bridge has been known ever since as Pegasus Bridge.

Corporate and commercial uses

Pegasus logo has been used for over 29 years, by Courier Company Pegasus Express Ltd, and is seen on all vehicles and trailers, and depots in Scotland/England.

Pegasus has been the symbol of the Mobil brand of gas and oil, marketed by the Exxon Mobil Corporation, since the 1930s and, more recently, FBR Capital Markets, an investment bank based in Arlington, Virginia.[15] As such, it has also been a symbol of Dallas, Texas, gracing its skyline atop the Magnolia building and in Pegasus Plaza.

The Poetry Foundation also uses Pegasus as its logo; the Buell Motorcycle Company uses Pegasus as a visual branding element. The former Pegaso truck maker from Spain derived its name and logo from Pegasus, although the logo portrayed a merely fast, wingless horse silhouette. Reader's Digest also has a Pegasus logo.

A Pegasus is the emblem of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, which names its bar the Pegasus. Pegasus is the University of Exeter's Classics and Ancient History Departmental Journal. It has had many entries from notable Classicists as well as two articles from J. K. Rowling a former student of the University's Classics and Ancient History Department.[16]

The Taiwanese company Asus took its name from the creature, omitting the first three letters in order for the company to appear first in telephone listings.

Mascot of the Kentucky Derby Festival, a community celebration leading up to the Run for the Roses (aka: the Kentucky Derby) in Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Turkish Pegasus Airlines uses the emblem of Pegasus, and Pegasus also appears in the turbines of all Air France aircraft.

PEGASYS (Hoffmann–La Roche) for the treatment of hepatitis C, is a once-a-week injection that works to reduce the amount of hepatitis C virus in the body.

Pegasus is the mascot of TriStar Pictures.

Pegasus is the name of a medevac helicopter based at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Pegasus[17] transports critically injured patients within Template:Convert/NM of Charlottesville, Virginia. The name was chosen because it was different from most other medevac programs, and there are stories of Pegasus carrying wounded soldiers from battle.[18]

Pegasus is also featured on the coat of arms of Robinson College, part of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. The University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow Scotland, uses an online service called PEGASUS (Portal Engine Giving Access To Strathclyde University Systems)to provide its students with crucial information. Pegasus was chosen for the academic seal of the University of Central Florida, in 1963, by its first president, Dr. Charles Millican, who co-designed it.

Nike Inc. has produced a brand of running shoe named the Air Pegasus 26.

Pegasus Mail is the name of an email client.

Popular culture

The winged horse that has provided an instantly recognizable corporate logo or emblem of inspiration, has found many uses in market-driven popular culture.


In the Broadway production of Xanadu, protagonist Kira rides on Pegasus to Mount Olympus during the number "Suspended in Time."

See also

  • Arion (mythology)
  • Sleipnir
  • Luno The White Stallion
  • Magical creatures (Harry Potter)#Thestrals
  • Tulpar


  1. Medusa, in her archaic centaur-like form, appears in the incised relief on a mid-seventh century BCE vase from Boeotia at the Louvre (CA795), illustrated in John Boardman, Jasper Griffin and Oswyn Murray, Greece and the Hellenistic World (Oxford University Press) 1988, fig p 87.
  2. Noted by Karl Kerenyi, The Heroes of the Greeks, 1959:80: "In the name Pegasos itself the connection with a spring, pege, is expressed."
  3. The connection of Pegasus with Pihassas was suggested by H.T. Bossert, "Die phönikisch-hethitischen Bilinguen vom Karatepe", Jahrbuch für kleinasiatische Forschung, 2 1952/53:333, P. Frei, "Die Bellerophontessaga und das Alte Testament", in B. Janowski, K. Koch and G. Wilhelm, eds., Religionsgeschichtliche Beziehungen zwischen Kleinasien, Nordsyrien und der Alte Testament, 1993:48f, and Hutter, "Der luwische Wettergott pihašsašsi under der griechischen Pegasos", in Chr. Zinko, ed. Studia Onomastica et Indogermanica... 1995:79-98, all noted in Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer, 2009:207f.
  4. Fox 2009:208.
  5. Pausanias, 9. 31. 3.
  6. Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 9
  7. Pausanias, 2. 31. 9.
  8. Hesiod, Theogony281; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke 2. 42, et al. Harris, Stephen L. and Gloria Platzner. Classical Mythology: Images and Insights. 2nd ed. (New York: Mayfield Publishing), 1998. 234.
  9. For example in Pindar, Olympian Ode 13.
  10. The double fountain at Corinth; the connection with Pegasus is noted by Strabo (8.6.21) among many others.
  11. Parallels are in the myths of Icarus and Phaëton.
  12. Michaud, Joseph F. & Michaud, Louis G. (1833), Michaud Frères, ed. (in French), [http://books.google.fr/books?id=HGRIAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA284&dq=P%C3%A9gase&lr=&as_brr=0 Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne, ou Histoire, par ordre alphabétique, de la vie publique et privée de tous les hommes qui se sont fait remarquer par leurs écrits, leurs actions, leurs talents, leurs vertus ou leurs crimes], 5, http://books.google.fr/books?id=HGRIAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA284&dq=P%C3%A9gase&lr=&as_brr=0, retrieved 23 June 2009 
  13. Aratus, Phaenomena 206; Scott Littleton, Mythology. The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth & Storytelling London: Duncan Baird, 2002:147. ISBN 1-903296-37-4
  14. Grimal, Pierre. The Dictionary of Classical Mythology. Trans. by A. R. Maxwell-Hyslop. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1996. 349.
  15. Pegasus - The Flying Horse
  16. Pegasus
  17. Pegasus
  18. Pegasus - The Myth, The Name


Premier Equine Classifieds


Subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest news, articles and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Did You Know?

Modern horse breeds developed in response to a need for "form to function", the necessity to develop certain physical characteristics in order to perform a certain type of work... More...

The Gypsy Cob was originally bred to be a wagon horse and pulled wagons or caravans known as Vardos; a type of covered wagon that people lived in... More...

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Arabian horse bloodline dates back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade.... More...

That the term "Sporthorse" is a term used to describe a type of horse rather than any particular breed... More...