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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Explained: Pegasus of myth — and the horse in the sky

In the mythology of ancient Greece, Pegasus, whose name comes from pegai, the Greek word for waters or springs, was the war horse of Zeus, the ruler, protector, and father of both gods and humans.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Pune |
Updated: July 22, 2021 8:06:11 am
Pegasus on a Parthian era bronze plate excavated in Iran’s Khuzestan province. (Wikimedia Commons)

Back in 2019, when most people first heard of the spyware Pegasus, The Telegraph quoted NSO Group co-founder Shalev Hulio as describing the company’s flagship creation as the “Trojan horse” that could be sent “flying through the air to [break into] devices”.

Before this, Pegasus had always been the constellation that looks like a winged horse in the northern sky.

“The constellation is visible all year round, except from late March to late April, and when monsoon clouds are thick overhead. In Indian astronomy, its name is Mahashwa,” said Aniruddha Deshpande of the Jyotirvidya Pratisthan in Pune, among the oldest associations of amateur astronomers in India.

Look out for four stars forming the corners of a large square — the Great Square of Pegasus — with a small triangle of stars in one corner, and you will be able to trace the figure of the winged horse in the night sky.

In the mythology of ancient Greece, Pegasus, whose name comes from pegai, the Greek word for waters or springs, was the war horse of Zeus, the ruler, protector, and father of both gods and humans.

When Zeus went into battle, it was Pegasus who carried his arsenal of thunder and lighting. Pegasus never left Zeus’s side, even when the gods appeared to be at a disadvantage. For his loyalty, Zeus rewarded Pegasus by making him a constellation in the sky.

In another account of Pegasus, the horse was born from the blood of Medusa after she was slain by the hero Perseus. Pegasus was captured by the warrior Bellerophon, who rode it to a couple of heroic battles before flying on it to Mt Olympus, the abode of the gods.

Enraged by this audacity, Zeus contrived to make Bellerophon fall off the horse to earth, where a thorn bush left him blind and in misery. Bellerophon’s steed Pegasus, however, kept going until he reached the heavens and became a constellation.

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