|Parents||Typhon and Echidna|
|Siblings||Lernaean Hydra, Orthrus, Cerberus [a]|
|Offspring||Nemean Lion, Sphinx[b]|
The Chimera (// or //), also Chimaera (Chimæra) (Ancient Greek: Χίμαιρα, Chímaira means 'she-goat'), according to Greek mythology, was a monstrous fire-breathing hybrid creature, composed of different animal parts from Lycia, Asia Minor. It is usually depicted as a lion, with the head of a goat protruding from its back, and a tail that might end with a snake's head. It was an offspring of Typhon and Echidna and a sibling of such monsters as Cerberus and the Lernaean Hydra.
The term "chimera" has come to describe any mythical or fictional creature with parts taken from various animals, to describe anything composed of very disparate parts, or perceived as wildly imaginative, implausible, or dazzling.
According to Hesiod, the Chimera's mother was a certain ambiguous "she", which may refer to Echidna, in which case the father would presumably be Typhon, though possibly (unlikely) the Hydra or even Ceto was meant instead. However the mythographers Apollodorus (citing Hesiod as his source) and Hyginus both make the Chimera the offspring of Echidna and Typhon. Hesiod also has the Sphinx and the Nemean lion as the offspring of Orthus, and another ambiguous "she", often understood as probably referring to the Chimera, although possibly instead to Echidna, or again even Ceto.
Homer gave a description of the Chimera in the Iliad, saying that "she was of divine stock, not of men, in the fore part a lion, in the hinder a serpent, and in the midst a goat, breathing forth in terrible wise the might of blazing fire." Both Hesiod and Apollodorus gave similar descriptions: a three-headed creature, with a lion in front, a fire-breathing goat in the middle, and a serpent in the rear.
According to Homer, the Chimera, who was reared by Araisodarus (the father of Atymnius and Maris, Trojan warriors killed by Nestor's sons Antilochus and Trasymedes), was "a bane to many men". As told in the Iliad, the hero Bellerophon was ordered by the king of Lycia to slay the Chimera (hoping that the monster would instead kill Bellerophon), but the hero "trusting in the signs of the gods", succeeded in killing the Chimera. Hesiod adds that Bellerophon had help in killing the Chimera, saying "her did Pegasus and noble Bellerophon slay".
A more complete account of the story is given by Apollodorus. Iobates, the king of Lycia, had ordered Bellerophon to kill the Chimera (who had been killing cattle and had "devastated the country"), since he thought that the Chimera would instead kill Bellerophon, "for it was more than a match for many, let alone one". But the hero mounted his winged horse Pegasus, "and soaring on high shot down the Chimera from the height."
Although the Chimera was, according to Homer, situated in foreign Lycia, her representation in the arts was wholly Greek. An autonomous tradition, one that did not rely on the written word, was represented in the visual repertory of the Greek vase-painters. The Chimera first appears at an early stage in the repertory of the proto-Corinthian pottery-painters, providing some of the earliest identifiable mythological scenes that may be recognized in Greek art. The Corinthian type is fixed, after some early hesitation, in the 670s BC; the variations in the pictorial representations suggest multiple origins to Marilyn Low Schmitt. The fascination with the monstrous devolved by the end of the seventh century into a decorative Chimera-motif in Corinth, while the motif of Bellerophon on Pegasus took on a separate existence alone. A separate Attic tradition, where the goats breathe fire and the animal's rear is serpentine, begins with such confidence that Marilyn Low Schmitt is convinced there must be unrecognized or undiscovered local precursors. Two vase-painters employed the motif so consistently they are given the pseudonyms the Bellerophon Painter and the Chimaera Painter.
A fire-breathing lioness was one of the earliest of solar and war deities in Ancient Egypt (representations from 3000 years prior to the Greek) and influences are feasible. The lioness represented the war goddess and protector of both cultures that would unite as Ancient Egypt. Sekhmet was one of the dominant deities in upper Egypt and Bast in lower Egypt. As divine mother, and more especially as protector, for Lower Egypt, Bast became strongly associated with Wadjet, the patron goddess of Lower Egypt.
In Etruscan civilization, the Chimera appears in the Orientalizing period that precedes Etruscan Archaic art; that is to say, very early indeed. The Chimera appears in Etruscan wall-paintings of the fourth century BC.
In Indus civilization are pictures of the chimera in many seals. There are different kinds of the chimera composed of animals from the Indian subcontinent. It is not known what the Indus people called the chimera.
In Medieval art, although the Chimera of antiquity was forgotten, chimerical figures appear as embodiments of the deceptive, even satanic forces of raw nature. Provided with a human face and a scaly tail, as in Dante's vision of Geryon in Inferno xvii.7–17, 25–27, hybrid monsters, more akin to the Manticore of Pliny's Natural History (viii.90), provided iconic representations of hypocrisy and fraud well into the seventeenth century, through an emblematic representation in Cesare Ripa's Iconologia.
The myths of the Chimera may be found in the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus (book 1), the Iliad (book 16) by Homer, the Fabulae 57 and 151 by Hyginus, the Metamorphoses (book VI 339 by Ovid; IX 648), and the Theogony 319ff by Hesiod.
Virgil, in the Aeneid (book 5) employs Chimaera for the name of a gigantic ship of Gyas in the ship-race, with possible allegorical significance in contemporary Roman politics.
Main article: Mount Chimaera
Pliny the Elder cited Ctesias and quoted Photius identifying the Chimera with an area of permanent gas vents that still may be found by hikers on the Lycian Way in southwest Turkey. Called in Turkish, Yanartaş (flaming rock), the area contains some two dozen vents in the ground, grouped in two patches on the hillside above the Temple of Hephaestus approximately 3 km north of Çıralı, near ancient Olympos, in Lycia. The vents emit burning methane thought to be of metamorphic origin. The fires of these were landmarks in ancient times and used for navigation by sailors.
The Neo-Hittite Chimera from Carchemish, dated to 850–750 BC, which is now housed in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, is believed to be a basis for the Greek legend. It differs, however, from the Greek version in that a winged body of a lioness also has a human head rising from her shoulders.
Some western scholars of Chinese art, starting with Victor Segalen, use the word "chimera" generically to refer to winged leonine or mixed species quadrupeds, such as bixie, tianlu, and even qilin.
Main article: Chimera in popular culture