Chimaera – A Legend Burning Brightly

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There are lots of marvellous sights on Turkey’s south coast, but the flames of Chimaera rank very close to the top of the highlights list. Referenced in the writings of Pliny, Strabo and Isidore of Seville, this hillside has been on fire for thousands of years.  Walking along the Lycian Way a few kilometers above the beach at Cirali, you will pop out of the forest on to a rocky clearing and the scent of methane will tickle your nostrils.  Looking around, you will see a landscape dotted by small fires that seem to just emerge from the rocks. The fires are caused by a fusion of gases escaping the earth through vents below the surface.

In ancient times, the Chimaera was a mythical fire-breathing being that was part lion, part goat and part snake. It was widely feared as the sight of it was an omen for an impending disaster.  Legend has it that this hillside was the place where Bellerophon and Pegasus defeated the beast and the flames are its last remains.

Hailed by some as the eternal flames, it is easy to understand how this became a site of religious importance.   A temple dedicated to Vulcan, the blacksmith god, is located just below the flames (although a Byzantine Church was later built over it).  Most impressive to view at night, ancient historians indicate that the fires on the hill were used as a navigational aid by sailors on the Mediterranean.

The legacy of the Chimaera still lives on to this day.The term has come to refer to any fictional creature composed of the parts of various animals. It is also a term to describe anything composed of differing parts, or perceived as imaginative or implausible. The name frequently appears in literature, video games, television and film.  If you are hiking the Lycian Way, this is definitely worth checking out.

 

 

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