Myths & Folklores : Santorini

by: Kasi

The story behind the Caldera: the Woman, the Hero, the Myth!

Once upon a time as Greek legend goes, there was a decent, strong and handsome man favored by the gods. His given name was Iponoos however he was also known as Bellerophon, due to the fact that at a young age he had killed the famous thief Bellero.  On one of his journeys in Tirintha...

Bellerophon met King Proito’s wife, Sthenibia. She took a liking to Bellerophon and tried to seduce him on several occasions. However Bellerophon tactfully rejected her sexual advances out of respect towards King Proito since he was the King’s guest. As a woman scorned, she resorted to wrongfully accuse Bellerophon to the King, of raping her against her will. Needless to say King Proito was outraged when he heard his wife’s account of what had happened; his immediate reaction was to murder Bellerophon.

However according to ancient Greek laws it was considered sacrilegious to murder one’s guest.  This being the case he wrote a letter to his friend Iobetes asking him to murder Bellerphon as he could not execute the deed.  He cunningly asked Bellerphon himself to deliver the letter to his friend King Iobetes. King Iobetes welcomed Bellerphon but did not read the letter immediately and offered him refuge in his kingdom as a guest.

When he eventually read the message it was too late. He too had offered hospitality and made Bellerphon his guest. Realizing that he could not murder him as a favor to King Proito the only other thing he could do as King and host was to assign him to a challenge. As a guest and according to Greek ancient customs Bellerphon could not refuse. The challenge assigned to Bellerophon was very dangerous.  He had to kill a vicious sea monster (Chimera) living in the Caldera Sea of Santorini. The creature had 3 heads, the body of the goat and a tail of a snake, and breathed fire.

In order to slay Chimera Bellerophon first had to tame Pegasus, the winged horse of the Gods. He then used Pegasus to fly above the Caldera and shoot lead arrows into the mouths of Chimera. The arrows melted as the mouths breathed fire, liquefying the lead that melted Chimeras vital organs. The description of the death of Chimera is the mythological rendition of the actual volcanic eruption that took place in Santorini thousands of years ago, resulting in the formation of Santorini island as we know it today.  Triumphant Bellerophon returned to King Iobetes who was deeply disappointed as his deceitful plan had backfired and Bellerophon was to become famous for his deed.