The Chimaira

Earlier today, I visited the Chimaira as part of an extensive reconnaissance trip in Lycia. The site is one of the strangest on on any of our tours in Turkey – a natural wonder with mythological associations.

The place would be memorable and impressive in any context: open flames rise out of blackened hollows amidst a rocky slope, overlooking the sea and surrounded by beautiful pine forests. The scientific reason is volcanic activity far underground, pushing very hot methane to the surface, where it bursts into flame on contact with the atmosphere.

Fair enough – but the mythological explanation is considerably more exciting. Namely, this is the site where Bellerophon, a hero hailing from Corinth, was sent to slay a monster called the Chimaira, a fire-breathing lion-goat-snake hybrid. He was sent as the result of complex soap-opera like complications involving love, slander, trickery and so on (look it up). Riding the winged horse, Pegasus, he succeeded in his mission, suffocating the monster by lodging a spear in its throat. Apparently, not quite, the continuing flames are the breath of the buried monster.

There are many such places where ancient myth can be linked to observable phenomena, and we visit some of them on our tours, e.g. Nisyros, where an active volcano is attributed to the buried giant Polyvotes, or the Athenian Acropolis, where a cleft in the rock marks the spot Poseidon struck in anger while fighting Athena.

Without doubt, the Chimaira is among the most amazing. You can visit it on our gulet cruise along the Lycian shore, one of the many expert-led Turkey tours that we offer.

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