Chimera

The first testimony of the Chimera appeared in the sixth book of the Iliad. It was written there that it was of divine origin and that in its front side it was a lion. In its middle part it was a goat, and in its back it was a snake.

quimera-de-arezzo

It used to throw flame from its mouth, and it was killed by the beautiful Bellerophon, Glaucus’s son, as the gods had foretold. Head as the lion, body like that of the goat and the tail like a snake, this is the most natural interpretation that Homer’s words suggests, but Hesiod’s Theogony describes it as having three heads and so it is represented in the famous bronze of Arezzo, which dates from the 5th century.

In the sixth book of Aeneid the Chimera that “throws flame” reappears, commentator Servius Honoratus noted that, after taking the views of all the authorities in the field, the monster was from Lycia and that there was a volcano with the same name in that region.

At the base of this volcano there are many snakes moving there, on the slopes are goats and its top threw flames, and there lions have their lairs. Chimera would be a metaphor of this strange volcano. Before, Plutarch had suggested that the Chimera might have been the name of a captain of the pirates who had painted a lion, a goat, and a snake on his ship.

These absurd assumptions prove that Chimera began to bother people a bit. As time went on Chimera has lost its incoherent form and the word has  remained to name the impossible. “Untrue idea”, “Vain figment” is the definition that the dictionary now gives to the Chimera.

Jorge Luis Borges, Quimera

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