Post by Ralph Hancock
A _New Scientist_ article about mysterious eternal flames coming out of the
Apparently it's all down to ruthenium. How could we have been so stupid as
not to think of that earlier?
Cf. G. Kirk, Comm. vol. II, ad Il. VI.179ff:
"[Schol] T adds that there was a Mt Khimaira in Lycia which spurted fire
from its centre and had many wild creatures at its edges; this is of
possible interest in relation to the Homeric monster's Lycian origin, for
Strabo 14.665 associated the mythical creature with a gorge behind Kragos
in southern Lycia, whereas Pliny NH 2.236[**], after Ctesias, noted two
places in the mountains there where flammable vapours emerged from the
Martin West on Theog. 321, notes that only the goat's head on the back
of the creature emitted flames, according to Ovid Met. 9, 647 and
Apollodoros 2.3.1; But Kirk (sopra) adduces a linguistic argument that
either the whole creature is 'fire-breathing'--and hence from the lion
head, or just goat.
Burkert ( "The Orientalizing Revolution" p. 19 with note 25) gives
references to the East Mediterranean pictorial representations of the
Khimaira, on which only the goat head breathes fire.
Connected with Bellerophon, the slaying of the beast is a purification
of the land from nefarious uncivilised influences (as is the tale of
Orion). In the encounter between Glaukos and Diomedes, the story is a
charming genealogical flourish; not, as Pliny and others want to make of
its wondrous creature, a discourse on flaming mountains. Such
fundamentalist rationalism is the stuff of tedious theorists, not of superb
entertainers such as the Homeric bards.
It would be more correct to say that the Homeric bards re-used elements
of well-known folktales (Bellerophon) and perhaps may have had a visual
inspiration from artefacts rather than by flaming goats on mountains.
I am waiting for the article by as archaeoastronomer claiming that the
Khaimera is an archetypical representation of certain constellational
positions which reveals a pre-Babylonian knowledge of the precession of the
[**] flagrat in Phaselitis mons Chimaera, et quidem immortali diebus ac
noctibus flamma. ignem eius accendi aqua, extingui vero terra aut fimo
Cnidius Ctesias tradit. eadem in Lycia Hephaesti montes taeda flammante
Department of Classics and Humanities
Montclair State University
montclair, NJ 07043