Our preoccupation with the serpent... and the myth.



Orpheus and Eurydice

The Biblical Fall

Eurynome and Ophion

Bellerophon (Greece)

Bellerophon was accused of killing both the wicked Bellerus , as well as Bellerophon's own evil brother, Deliades. Bellerophon then fled to the palace of King Proeteus of Tiryns, seeking asylum. As Bellerophon was of royal blood, Kind Proeteus gladly granted asylum. Proeteus's wife, Anteia, was a wicked woman who fell in love with the young visitor and tried to seduce him many times. But Bellerophon chastely refused her advances. Anteia, however, told Proeteus that Bellerophon had tried to rape her. Proeteus now wanted to kill him.

But it would have violated protocol for the king to kill a guest of royal birth. So Proeteus sent Bellerophon to kind Iobates in Lycia, accompanied by a sealed letter explaining that Bellerophon had tried to violate Anteia, Iobates's daughter. The letter asked for Iobates's assistance in killing Bellerophon.

However, Iobates also thought it bad protocol to kill a visitor of royal blood. So he decided to give Bellerophon a dangerous, possibly fatal, task. Iobates asked Bellerophon to kill the horrible monster the Chimera. This was a fire-breathing monster that had the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and a serpent's tail. But before taking up the task, Bellerophon spoke to a seer who told him that the job would be simple with the help of Pegasus, the flying horse.

So Bellerophon found and tamed Pegasus, and killed the Chimera with ease. Iobates, still wishing to see Bellerophon dead, did not reward the young hero for this, but rather sent him to defeat two fierce armies, one of which was that of the Amazons, a race of women warriors. By flying over them, mounted on Pegasus, Bellerophon defeated both armies with ease.

Iobates continued to plot the demise of Bellerophon, and did not reward the young hero for his great deeds, and Bellerophon did not understand how the king could be so ungrateful. Offended, Bellerophon rode Pegasus to visit the sea god, Poseidon. Poseidon decided to punish Iobates by causing a great tidal wave to strike the kingdom of Lycia. When the waves were in sight, the people of Lycia begged Bellerophon to call them off. The promiscuous Lycian women stood along the shoreline and lifted up their skirts, offering themselves to Bellerophon in the hope that he would call off the tidal wave. But Bellerophon's high morals kept him from taking advantage of their offer. Flying high over Lycia on the back of Pegasus, Bellerophon asked Poseidon to call off the tidal wave.

After this brush with destruction, Iobates was certain that Bellerophon was innocent of the alleged seduction; the gods would not have defended the young man were he guilty. Iobates asked Bellerophon to see him, producing the letter and demanding a true account of what happened from his daughter. When it was apparent that Anteia had lied, Iobates offered Bellerophon an apology and the hand of another daughter, Philonoe, in marriage. With that, Bellerophon became the heir to the throne of Lycia.

However, it was pride, not sex, that proved Bellerophon's undoing. He tried to fly Pegasus to Mount Olympus, the home of the gods. As Bellerophon neared the palace of the gods, Zeus became angry. The king of the gods sent a fly to bite Pegasus. The flying horse threw Bellerophon, who plunged to the ground. Now Zeus is the owner of Pegasus.

Bellerophon did not die of the fall. He landed in a mass of thorn bushes, thoroughly humiliated. He spent the rest of his days walking the earth as a beggar. Reference - a1Return to top


Orpheus and Eurydice

Orpheus was the greatest musician who ever lived. He was the child of a mortal father and the Muse Calliope, patroness of music. His aptitude for music was noticed early in his childhood and the god Apollo himself gave the child a lyre to play. As he grew into manhood, Orpheus fell in love with Eurydice and married her.

While they were still newlyweds, Eurydice took a walk near the river. A man attempted to seize her by force and she accidentally trod on a poisonous viper while fleeing. Orpheus was so filled with grief that he begged the gods to allow him to enter the underworld to bring her back. His songs of mourning were so moving that the gods agreed; Apollo was his patron for the journey.

Upon arriving on the banks of the River Styx, the border between the world of the living and the underworld, the sky went form sunshine to dark shadow. Orpheus began to play his lyre; Charon was so charmed by the music that he took Orpheus across the river, forgetting about the fare. The snarling guard of the gate to the Underworld, the three-headed dog Cerberus, stopped barking and listened to the music. The three judges of the dead paused to listen as well, and the torments of the punished souls, including Sisyphus, ceased for a few moments.

Finally Orpheus met Hades, lord of the Underworld, and the music melted the heart of the king of the dead. He gladly granted Orpheus's request on one condition: Orpheus must not turn to look at the face of Eurydice until they were both safely out of the Underworld and in the land of the living. If Orpheus looked back even once then Eurydice would have to stay in the Underworld forever.

Orpheus began his ascent to the land of the living with Eurydice following him. He kept his eyes fixed to the front. But as his thoughts were full of her, he could not resist it; he turned his head and lost her forever. Reference - a1Return to top

Eurynome and Ophion

In the beginning was Chaos and darkness. Chaos was a great vast sea in which all elements were mixed together without form. Out of this sea rose Eurynome ("of a good name"), the Great Goddess of all things. She emerged from the waves naked and began to dance on the sea, as there was nothing firm for her to stand on. Suddenly, the south wind blew and spun her around.

It is said that the north wind has miraculous fertility powers and, when she spun around, Eurynome grasped at the north wind. The great serpent of the waters, Ophion, saw Eurynome dancing and was filled with desire. He made love to her immediately. She then assumed the form of a lovely bird and gave birth to the great universal egg. Ophion coiled his tail around this egg until it cracked, spilling out creatures all over the newly formed earth. Eurynome loved Ophion for a time and they went to live on Mount Olympus, home of the gods.

However, Ophion became obnoxious and tiresome, bragging how he had fathered all living things. Eurynome grew weary of him and "bruised his head with her heel" [compare this with the same phrase in the Genesis story of Creation]. He was then cast down to the dark regions of the earth. Reference - a1Return to top


Index Creation myth Mother of God Death
floods Resurrection Serpents Morals
Seasons Polytheism The Dark Ages Evolution
(From www.mythbytes.com , a site by Maria Shaune which no longer exists)
Back to Religious Studies Index