Bellerophon and the Ambivalence of Greek Mythology

I think my house is finally done with its first coat of paint. There’s a little touch up here and there, but for all intents and purposes it’s done. That’s not to say my purposes aren’t intensive. Oh, they are. They are…

The best part is it looks 100% cleaner than it did initially, even if it’s straight white. Sure, it’s a snooze fest, but it’s clean. I’ll take a clean snooze fest any day. There’s little in the way of decor in the house, as I’m fairly minimalist, but who knows? If I were to find a partner, that might change the plain nature of it all. You know how that goes. You think you’ve got your life fairly well settled. Oh, no, my friend. Has she got a list of changes for you. One of the reasons I walked away from my last relationship was she wanted me to be like her father. I’ll bend here and there for a relationship, but take me as I am after that. On the other hand, Hell would have to freeze over for me to find anyone worthwhile in the fields anyway. I don’t see Satan adjusting the thermostat any time soon.

How does any of this tie into the story of Bellerophon? It doesn’t. It felt good to rap a while after being on the roof of a garage with hot asphalt shingles. Those burned like the Devil. I’ve learned my lesson to have my suntan lotion on while working on the house. I’m not a huge fan of looking jumbo shrimp pink.

Building a little off of my previous post, I began thinking of all the subjects I took while in compulsory education. Truthfully, reading and writing classes were the most beneficial. Algebra and science classes had their purpose, but to communicate well has served me better than working with imaginary numbers or finding the molarity of a hydrochloric solution. What I wish I could do would be customize my curriculum today and send it back in time to be exercised. I could simply learn all that was important to me and get it over with.

Ancient Greek mythology is only a small portion of the American curriculum today. It has been slowly chipped away with other subjects. To be fair, we have advanced considerably in the sciences and high school wants to introduce you to every little thing. The Greeks still have some great stories, and in my opinion, are still worth learning about. Here’s where Bellerophon comes in.

This is not a story that is covered in school, and I had to do independent study for it. What’s remarkable is how wonderfully Greek it is. A wildly accomplished and extremely pious warrior/demigod tames Pegasus and kills the chimera but still manages to upset the gods at a moment’s notice. It reads less like a fairy tale and more like a mercurial D&D dungeon master after one of his friends has hot dice. “This guy can take on whole armies, tame mythical creatures, kill the chimera, but to Hell with him, if he wants to see his father!”

And here we have the classic nut of Greek literature boiled down to a sentence: accomplishes impossible feats which include loads of murder and bloodshed, but shows a human side and gets punished severely. It’s this ambivalent presage that makes me adore the ancient Greeks. A hero or protagonist is given all sorts of accomplishments only to have the author jealously sabotaging their life at the end. We simply couldn’t have that. We need to cut them down a few notches for their arrogance.

Americans love happy endings. I went there for a split second, but I’m keeping it clean tonight folks. That’s professionalism for you! All joking aside, we do love happy endings, and that’s why I think it’s so easy erase Ancient Greek lit from our curriculum. Sure, you’ll have the occasional “dead white men” complaint, but it takes two to tango and I think the unpleasant nature of the tales make it easier to discard.

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6 thoughts on “Bellerophon and the Ambivalence of Greek Mythology

  1. The Medea is one of my favorite plays. I wonder what THAT says about me.

    A good theater class will cover the Greeks. Not everything, but plays for sure.

    • On face, it merely says you like Greek plays. Now if you were to be running around pretending you were the barbarian, there’s probably a little more to be said.

      Most of my formal education with mythology is via Roman interpretation. This was due to taking Latin in junior high. We read the reader’s digest version of the Odyssey in English class. That’s about it.

      The school system gets a report card from the Ohio Department of Ed, and unsurprisingly, Hooterville got a D for their “gifted” programs. That’s not to say I would have been considered “gifted” rather the town just doesn’t know how to handle anyone outside a standardized mold.

  2. kerbey says:

    As soon as you said Greek, I thought Sisyphus–but then came to find out that Sisyphus was Bellerophon’s papa. My Big Fat Greek Chimera-Slayer.

    • In the mythological lineage, Glaucus was the son of Sisyphus and the mortal father of Bellerophon. He was supposedly the son of Poseidon, but kept secret from Glaucus.

      The story of Sisyphus is quite amusing, a savage but clever man sly enough to outwit the gods. His punishment was more for pulling one over on the gods, and less of his cruelty to other humans.

  3. By careful pruning, I have managed to excise all the mythology that I learnt at school from my mind. Oddly, I wish that I had paid more attention to mathematics et al, rather than exciting fairy stories….

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