The Chimera / Chimaera
The lion, similarly to the horse, is the animal symbolizing strength, bravery and ferocity. Hardly anyone would dare to face a lion, even Greek mythology emphasizes this fact in the story of Hercules and his first labor. So, would only a half-god be able to curb the strength of the animal king (especially a “beefed up” one)?
The Chimera – a lion, a goat and a snake in one body
The Chimera was not only a lion, its body also consisted of body parts of a snake and a goat, although it was presented as a lion with the head of a goat placed on the back, and its tail had the head of a snake on its tip.
It was born from the relationship between Typhon and Echidna, and its siblings included other monsters – Cerberus, the Lernean Hydra, Ladon, and the Sphinx.
In one version of the myth, the Chimera would commune with its brother Orthrus, becoming the mother of the Sphinx and the Nemean lion.
The Chimera – today’s meaning
The word “chimera” generally refers to beings combined from several different animals or incredible creatures that are a creative combination of many into one. In biology, a chimera is an organism made of cells that are genetically different.
The Chimera in “The Iliad” by Homer
A short description of the Chimera occurs in “The Iliad” by Homer, and it is the oldest literary source describing this creature. The author “sees” it as an immortal monster with the body and head of a lion, with an additional head of a goat and a snake tail, which defends itself and attacks by breathing fire.
According to Hesiod, the Chimera was an enormous and strong animal with three heads: of a lion, a goat and a dragon, and it could be defeated only by Bellerophon with the help of faithful Pegasus.
Despite its lion mane, the Chimera was considered to be female, which was proved by the visible ears (male lions used to be pictured without ears). Its name has had a pejorative connotation up to today, decades ago, it was the sign of a storm, wrecks and natural disasters, especially volcanic eruptions.
Who has slain the Chimera?
It is said that the Chimera was killed by Bellephoron – he shot it with a leaden spear and the spear melted because of the fiery breath of the beast, which, in turn, killed it slowly.
The Chimera in art
The Chimera can be seen in ancient works from Greece, from the Orientalizing period started by the Etruscan civilization, and even in Christian Middle Ages, when the appearance of this mythical animal changed. At that time, the Chimera was the symbol of deceptive evil forces, therefore, its face became human and the tail was covered with scales.
The Chimera in video games, cinema and literature
The Chimera is a popular monster that has marked its presence in video games or literature. It occurs, inter alia, in the “Harry Potter” series where it guards the entrance to Hogwarts’ principal’s office, it would let through only people knowing the password. It also occurs in video games: Heroes of Might and Magic, Age of Mythology, Arena Albionu, Warcraft III, God Of War, Dragon`s Dogma.