Chimaera

Chimaera (Yanartash – “Burning Stone”) is located about half an hour ride from Olympos, at a height of 300 meters. Gas which seeps from the rocks causes flames which have been burning for thousand of years. The flames burn brightly at night, and are visible from the sea. The best time to visit is after dark, since day time visits are less impressive.

The Byzantines considered this place as a religious area. According to some historical sources, it is claimed that the Olympic Flame was first brought from this point. This unextinguishable flame is mentoned in Homer’s poem “The Iliad”, as the spot where the heroic Bellerrophon killed the beast with the head of a serpent. The only trace the monster left on the face of the earth was his fiery breath which has continued to spew forth its flame for centuries. The legend behind the burning rocks is as follows:

THE LEGEND:

When Perseus cut off Medusa’s head, the blood sinking into the earth produced the winged horse Pegasus. Minerva caught and tamed him, and presented him to the Muses. The fountain Hippocrene, on the Muses’ mountain Helicon, was opened by a kick from his hoof.

The Chimaera was a fearful monster, breathing fire. The fore part of its body was a compound of the lion and the goat, and the hind part a dragon’s. It made great havoc in Lycia, so that the king Iobates sought for some hero to destroy it. At that time there arrived at his court a gallant young warrior, whose name was Bellerophon. He brought letters from Proetus, the son-in-law of Iobates, recommending Bellerophon in the warmest terms as an unconquerable hero, but added at the close a request to his father-in-law to put him to death. The reason was that Proetus was jealous of him, suspecting that his wife Antea looked with too much admiration on the young warrior. From this instance of Bellerophon being unconsciously the bearer of his own death-warrant, the expression “Bellerophontic letters” arose, to describe any species of communication which a person is made the bearer of, containing matter prejudicial to himself.

Iobates, on perusing the letters, was puzzled what to do, not willing to violate the claims of hospitality, yet wishing to oblige his son-in-law. A lucky thought occurred to him, to send Bellerophon to combat with the Chimaera. Bellerophon accepted the proposal, but before proceeding to the combat consulted the soothsayer Polyidus, who advised him to procure if possible the horse Pegasus for the conflict. For this purpose he directed him to pass the night in the temple of Minerva. He did so, and as he slept Minerva came to him and gave him a golden bridle. When he awoke the bridle remained in his hand. Minerva also showed him Pegasus drinking at the well of Pirene, and at sight of the bridle, the winged steed came willingly and suffered himself to be taken. Bellerophon mounting, rose with him into the air, and soon found the Chimaera, and gained an easy victory over the monster.