The Chimera is freaking cool. There are flames burning out of the rocks on the hillside near Olympos with no visual means of lighting or sustaining themselves. The rocks have been home to the eternal flame for hundreds if not thousands of years. Certainly there is recorded evidence of them being used as navigation aides by Roman seafarers.

According to the legend related by another tourist the dark and spooky night I visited, the Chimera was a fire breaking monster made up of the body parts of a goat, lion and a snake. It was apparently rather cranky and regularly sowed death and destruction in its wake.

The hero Bellerophon was destined to tangle with the beast. He had been falsely accused of trying to ravish a king’s wife while staying as their guest. The king feared to kill a guest (apparently the ancient gods had a bit of a thing against that) and so the king sent Bellerophon off to his father in-law (also a king) with a note to deliver saying that the bearer of the note had tried to ravish the daughter and should be killed. Unfortunately that king has already welcomed Bellerophon as a guest and rather awkwardly now couldn’t just knock off Bellerophon. So he sent the hero to kill the Chimera, an obviously impossible task which would assuredly end in the swift demise of Bellerophon. However this neat solution was stymied by young Bellerophon who, with the help of the goddess Athena, tamed the flying horse Pegasus and then flew at the Chimera and lodged a spearhead of lead in the beast’s mouth – when the Chimera breathed fire it melted the lead, so suffocating itself.

Bellerophon married the second king’s daughter (as you do) but apparently ended up angering Zeus and living out his days as a blind hermit.

The Chimera was forever imprisoned beneath the rocks on the hillside by Olympos and still breathes out its angry licks of flame, to the delight of visiting tourists who occasionally roast marshmellows by its heat.

20130419-192227.jpg (photo nicked from theguardian.co.uk – I didn’t have a camera with me!)