Pegasus, the winged horse symbol of freedom

29 April 2010

Pegasus is a figure from Greek mythology and is the most famous of the winged horses. According to legend, he was born from the neck of Medusa when the hero Perseus cut off the monster’s head; in another version Pegasus was born from the spilt blood of the awful Medusa. The Greek poet Esiodo connects the name Pegasos with the Greek term “pege”, which means “spring or well” since the flying horse stamps its hooves on the ground and gives the idea that it makes something break out.

pegaso tattoo 1 Pegasus, the winged horse symbol of freedom

On Mount Helicon, which Greek mythology describes as the home of the nine Muses, the patrons of every art and science, there was a sacred fountain called Hippocrene, meaning “the spring of the horse.

The mythical winged horse was used by Zeus, the father of the gods, to transport lightning to Olympus, his divine home. In a later story, Bellerophon, another Greek hero, stole Pegasus with the help of the goddess Athena, who gave him a gold bridle, so the young man was able to tame the flying horse. Riding Pegasus, Bellerophon completed an impossible mission: defeating Chimera, a terrifying monster that gave its name to everything that is unreal (“chimera” or pipe-dream). Pegasus then took a partner, named Euippe (or Ocyrrhoe) and had two children, Celeris and Melanippe. This family is the root of all winged horses. Celeris was also associated with the Equuleus constellation, which means “small horse“.

The name Pegasus describes various minor mythological characters, all deformed versions of the Greek Pegasus. In Latin literature, Pliny describes the birds of Ethiopia with horse’s heads as Pegasi. Pliny also described a horse with wings and a horn of the same name. For other writers, including Pomponio Mela, it was a bird with horse‘s ears. In general, each figure, whether mythological or heraldic, corresponding to a winged horse is called Pegasus. The idea of the winged horse is very ancient and comes from Asia Minor.

A sort of winged horse called a thestral also appears in the Harry Potter series. The thestrals pull the carriage that transports students to Hogwarts. They have large wings, a skeletal body and are magic horses that are invisible to most of the pupils at the school.

Pegasus is a well-loved figure and has come down the centuries and millennia giving its name to a constellation, a heraldic figure, a manga character, an Aprilia motorcycle, a kind of rocket and even an aeroplane, the X-47 Pegasus used by the United States Air Force. Artists throughout history have depicted it, fatally in flight, and it has been chosen as a stamp image for Greece and as the logo for various companies and businesses, including the well known winged horse of Mobil gas. It is also a well-loved tattoo, on the skin Pegasus can have bird’s wings or butterfly wings, but its meanings remains the same: it is a symbol of freedom and also assistance, in the completion of the most difficult challenges, impossible missions in fact.

Last but not least… if you are looking for Pegasus or winged horse designs for your tattoo, don’t miss Idea Tattoo 123.