Chimera tattoo design Picture
The Chimera (also Chimaera, Chimæra; Greek Χίμαιρα, Chímaira) was, according to Greek mythology, a monstrous fire-breathing creature of Lycia in Asia Minor, composed of the parts of three animals – a lion, a snake and a goat. Usually depicted as a lion, with the head of a goat arising from its back, and a tail that ended in a snake's head, 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 come to describe any mythical or fictional animal with parts taken from various animals, or to describe anything composed of very disparate parts, or perceived as wildly imaginative or implausible.
Homer's brief description in the Iliad is the earliest surviving literary reference: "a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire". Elsewhere in the Iliad, Homer attributes the rearing of Chimera to Amisodorus. 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" The author of the Bibliotheca concurs: 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 ofstorms, shipwrecks, and natural disasters (particularly volcanoes). Gold reel, possibly an ear-stud, withwinged Pegasus (outer band) and the Chimera (inner band), Magna Graeciaor Etruria, fourth century BC (Louvre) 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). The Chimera finally was defeated by Bellerophon, with the help of Pegasus, at the command of King Iobates of Lycia. Since Pegasus could fly, Bellerophon shot the Chimera from the air, safe from her heads and breath. A scholiast to Homer adds that he finished her off by equipping his spear with a lump of lead that melted when exposed to the Chimera's fiery breath and consequently killed her, an image drawn from metalworking. Robert Graves suggests, "The Chimera was, apparently, a calendar-symbol of the tripartite year, of which the seasonal emblems were lion, goat, and serpent." Pebble mosaic depicting Bellerophon killing the Chimera, fromRhodes archaeological museum.
The Chimera was situated in foreign Lycia, but 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 proto-Corinthian pottery-painters' repertory, providing some of the earliest identifiable mythological scenes that can 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 to Marilyn Low Schmitt a multiple origin. 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 serpent-like, begins with such confidence that Marilyn Low Schmitt is convinced there must be unrecognized earlier local prototypes. 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. 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 Medieval art, though 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 ofGeryon 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 emblemmatic representation in Cesare Ripa's Iconologia.