Chimaera

History of Chimaera

Chimaera, in addition to being the name of a monster, was the ancient name of a volcanic site which was held, by euthemerizing geographers, to have inspired the myth.

Ctesias (as cited by Pliny the Elder and quoted by Photius) identified the Chimaera with an area of permanent gas vents which can still be found today by hikers on the Lycian Way. Called in Turkish Yanar taş (flaming rock), it consists of some two dozen vents in the ground, grouped in two patches on the hillside above the Temple of Hephaistos about 3 km north of Çirali, near ancient Olympos. The vents emit methane thought to be of metamorphic origin, which can spontaneously ignite. In ancient times sailors could navigate by the flames, but today is used more to brew tea.

Chimaera is also mentioned by Isidore of Seville and Servius, the commentator on the Aeneid. Isidore writes that Mount Chimaera was on fire, had lions and goats, and was full of snakes. Servius goes so far as to arrange the animals with lions on the peak of the mountain, pastures full of goats in the middle, and serpents all about the base, thus imitating Homer’s exact description of the monster.