Chimera

Composite monster of West Asia; see Semi-mythical Beasts.

Etymology: From the Greek chimaira ("monster"). Originally a "she-goat," the feminine form of chimaros, "he-goat one winter old." Variant names: Chimaera, Khimaira. Physical description: An assemblage of anatomical parts borrowed from totally unrelated animals. Head of a lion. Body of a goat. Serpentine tail. According to Hesiod, an animal with three heads (goat, lion, snake). Behavior: Said to breathe fire. Lustful. Distribution: Mount Olimpos (Tahtali or Ya-nartas), Olimpos-Bey Mountains National Park, Antalya Province, south-central Turkey.

Significant sighting: Wreaked havoc in ancient Lycia. Killed by the Greek hero Bellerophon, mounted on the winged horse Pegasus. This may have provided some inspiration for the legend of St. George slaying a Dragon (British). PP'ossible explanations:

(1) A fantastic product of the imagination.

(2) Based on a volcanic crevice on Mount Olimpos that still vents flammable methane gas and burns both day and night.

(3) Lions are said to have lived at the top of the Mount Olimpos, goats were pastured in the midheights, and snakes lived at the bottom.

(4) A personification of a storm cloud. Sources: Homer, Iliad, vi. 179; Hesiod,

Theogony, 319ff; Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Imaginary Beings (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1969), pp. 62-63.

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