Chimera (mythology)

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The Chimera or Chimaera (Greek: Χίμαιρα, Khimaira, from χίμαρος, khimaros, "she-goat") was, according to Greek mythology, a monstrous fire-breathing female creature of Lycia in Asia Minor, composed of the parts of multiple animals: upon the body of a lioness with a tail that ended in a snake's head, the head of a goat arose on her back at the center of her spine. The Chimera was one of the offspring of Typhon and Echidna and a sibling of such monsters as Cerberus and the Lernaean Hydra. The term chimera has also come to mean, more generally, an impossible or foolish fantasy, hard to believe.

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Description

Homer's brief description in the Iliad[1] is the earliest surviving literary reference: "a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle,[2] and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire".[3] Elsewhere in the Iliad, Homer attributes the rearing of Chimaera to Amisodorus.[4] Hesiod's Theogony follows the Homeric description: he makes the Chimera the issue of Echidna: "She was the mother of Chimaera who breathed raging fire, a creature fearful, great, swift-footed and strong, who had three heads, one of a grim-eyed lion; in her hinderpart, a dragon; and in her middle, a goat, breathing forth a fearful blast of blazing fire. Her did Pegasus and noble Bellerophon slay"[5] The author of the Bibliotheca concurs:[6] descriptions agree that she breathed fire. The Chimera is generally considered to have been female (see the quotation from Hesiod above) despite the mane adorning its lion's head, the inclusion of a close mane often was depicted on lionesses, but the ears always were visible (that does not occur with depictions of male lions). Sighting the Chimera was an omen of storms, shipwrecks, and natural disasters (particularly volcanoes).[7]

While there are different genealogies, in one version the Chimera mated with her brother Orthrus and mothered the Sphinx and the Nemean lion (others have Orthrus and their mother, Echidna, mating; most attribute all to Typhon and Echidna).

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