A site dedicated to the Chimaera (or Chimera) Myth
by Ugo Bardi
Note of November 2014. This site is being transferred to a new host. Chimeras and other musings about ancient myths will be gradually moved to this address
http://chimeramyth.blogspot.it/The new format is that of a blog, with periodically added posts. Please update your links!
This Greek dish (probably 7th
century bc) is one of the most ancient existing images of the Chimera myth. The
subdivision in two sections, air on top and sea at the bottom, may be a hint of
the true nature of the myth in its original form: the Chimera as a creature of
the sky, possibly linked to storm and thunder.
The Chimaera - or Chimera - was said to be made out of three different creatures: lion, goat and serpent. A savage beast, sprouting fire from its mouth, it devastated the land until it was killed by the hero Bellerophon who flew over it riding his winged horse Pegasus. Although simple in its basic lines, this story is among the most ancient ones of Occidental mythology and it hides some deep and still not completely known meaning. This site is an attempt to collect data and material about the Chimaera seen in its various aspects: myth, legend, art expression, and as a probe of the human mind.
Texts From Homer to Robert Graves, a selection of texts dealing in various ways with the myth (Created March 1997, last update: Sep 2002)
The Origins of the myth A history of the myth, and hypothesis about its meaning,, by Ugo Bardi (Created March 1997, updated and expanded Sep 2002)
The Chimaera in modern figurative art How modern artists, from renaissance to contemporaries, have seen and interpreted the myth (created May 2002, updated Sep 2002)
The Chimaera of Arezzo Facts and stories about the most famous of all Chimeras, by Ugo Bardi (Created in March 1997, last update, February 2001)
Chimaeras of Arezzo A visit to the city of the Chimaera, (created on February 2001)
Digital images of the Chimaera of Arezzo A set of views and details of the Chimaera unavailable anywhere else (added January 2001)
Bronzino's Chimaera The hidden meaning of a chimaera painted by Bronzino, a Renaissance artist (Created February 2002, revised March 2002)
On Etruscan Lions An article by Jeremy Bernstein, reproduced by permission from the "Aspen Times Weekly", courtesy of Bob Ward, (Published on the issue of July 11, 2003)
Cellini's Medusa Although not directly related to the Chimaera myth, that of Medusa is one of the many ancient myths dealing with female monsters. This article is about the interpretation of the myth by one of the last great artists of the Renaissance: Benvenuto Cellini. (Added on Aug 8th 2003)
Peace between Bellerophon and the Chimera In January 2004, I received this wonderful contribution from Mr. Lino Polegato . Fernand Khnopff (1858-1892), Belgian Symbolist, painted this image in 1896. Actually, Khnopff had meant to paint a sphynx rather than a Chimera, but it does not matter. The Chimera and the Sphinx are, after all, relatives. What counts here is the message of hope that says that even the most bitter of enemies can make peace. In this wonderful painting, the feline Sphinx/Chimaera looks at Oedipus (Bellerophon) as if he were a lover of hers and that is, perhaps, the whole point. Let's hope that Mr. Polegato's wish of peace for 2004 will be fulfilled (Added on Jan 26th 2004)
Shingleton's Chimaeras. Anne Shingleton, British/Tuscan painter, never painted or sculpted a Chimaera. Nevertheless her paintings and sculptures have a chimeric quality which can't be ignored. (Added on July 2004)
The Other Side of the Sphinx. Some say that the Sphinx is the Chimera's sister, some that she is her daughter. It doesn't really matter, Sphinx and Chimera are obviously close relatives and neither is a mere monster. This article explores the "other side" of the Sphinx, the one where she is a teacher and not just a riddler. (Added on April 14th 2005)
Anne Roes's Chimaera. In 1934, in "The Representation of the Chimaera" for "The Journal of Hellenic Studies". Anne Roes identified for the first time the Middle Eastern origin the myth and that the goat head on the creature's back was actually the deformed representation of a wing. This wonderful paper was made available by Jstor.org . (Added on Oct 5th 2005)
The Sex Life of the Teban Sphinx (or why does the Sphinx have tits?) A paper dealing with the most unusual anatomical characteristic of the Teban Sphinx: her breasts. I started writing on this subject in a light mood, then I discovered that there was much more in the Sphinx's breast than just an iconographic accident. The Sphinx's breasts may, actually, hold the key to the meaning of the whole myth. (Added on Oct 6, 2005)
The Chimaera of Arezzo by Janet Rasmussen This paper written by Janet Rasmussen was originally just a term paper. It is, however, an excellent study that summarizes what is known about the Chimera myth, and about the Chimera of Arezzo in particular. It contains a wealth of information unavailable anywhere else in the internet. Janet Rasmussen is at present studying geology and specializing in hydrology. Her interest in the Chimera myth may stem from the remote origins of the creature as a water sprouting, fertility symbol. Janet has a web site and can be contacted at her mail adddress(Added on May 6 2006)
The Chimaera Ritual by Tolga Ozdemir Tolga Ozdemir, Turkish music composer, has written a symphony titled "The Chimaera Ritual". These are the program notes for a performance of this symphony. The inspiration for the program comes in part from the Chimera website and the music is absolutely fantastic! The symphony was recently (March 2007) played at the University of Memphis School of Music. You can see the performance at this link (Added on April 19 2007)
"The Etruscan." A Novel by Linda Lappin Not really dealing with chimeras; it is nevertheless a chimeric book (Added on November 30 2012)
A personal note by the author
About ancient Chimeras, see also the site of prof. Olimpio Musso
This site is kindly hosted by the University of Firenze, Italy.
Created March 1996. If you have material about the Chimaera myth that you think suitable for this site, please send it to me. Thanks. e-mail to Ugo Bardi
Copyright notice; all the material shown in this web site is either original text or artwork of the author or material which is, to the best of the author's knowledge, in the public domain. If you reproduce material from this site, citing the source you make the author happy, otherwise, enjoy. We do not own ideas at best we are owned by them!
Last revision : May 2010
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