Nearly a fairytale.
This is a memorial to my beloved three cats Mini, Moritz and Clio who taught me to understand their thinking and behaviour.
Cats like keyboards: when they put their paws on it, something happens on the monitor. It doesn’t smell, but they can see it. My cats like my computer, sit often on my desk and watch what I am doing there.
Cat Mini – the specialist in behaviourism
Cat Moritz – the boss
Cat Clio – the Muse
Cat Clio, the Muse of History, Writing and other Arts Subjects, is a capacity in old history, cat Mini is specialized in behaviourism. Cat Moritz is the boss and thinks he supervises all of us.
One day, I was studying some papers about the Chimaera of Arezzo and had some articles and pictures on my desk. I left the room, the cats seemed to sleep. When coming back and standing in the door, I was a witness to the following conversation of the cats.
Mini: What a monster is that?
Clio: This is the Chimaera of Arezzo.
Mini: Is it a lion?
Clio: No, it is fantasy. Men call it “myth”. They invented a beast with parts of a lion, a goat and a snake.
Mini: And they think it is living?
Clio: Yes, strange enough. It is living in their fantasy world.
Mini: But what is the idea behind this invented animal, so to speak the true nucleus of the myth?
Clio: The basic idea is the goat, exactly the Bezoar Goat. This goat (in Greek ή χίμαιρα) was living in the Near East in antique times in large numbers. They were very hungry and ate up everything which was eatable. Even they climbed trees and ate the fresh green leaves. So men hated them.
Moritz: But when these poor goats are hungry they must eat. When I am hungry I eat.
Mini: You are often hungry, aren’t you?
Clio: Stop it. In order to demonstrate the dangerousness of this goat, men gave her a repulsive appearance. They put her head on the back of a lion with elements of a dragon and with a snake instead of a tail. They say it is the infant of two divine beings: Echidna, a beautiful virgin with a snake-like lower part of the body, and Typhon, a monster with one hundred snake-like heads and a horrible voice. Chimaera is a sister of Hydra, a water-snake with the body of a dog and between five and one hundred heads, Kerberos, the hound of hell with only three heads and Sphinx, a lion with the head of a woman and wings. They all would not be able to win a prize in a beauty contest.
Moritz: Nobody is responsible for his relatives!
Clio: Back to Chimaera! The head of the goat is female due to the length of its horns, the lion may be male due to the mane …
Mini: …although there is missing a very special part …
Clio: …and the snake – uncertain.
Moritz: Did I understand correctly: the parents divine and the child half male, half female with a tail of uncertain sex?
Clio: Her name is female. So let us say: Chimaera is female.
Moritz: Okay! I like her.
Mini: But what an invention! Horrible! Not only the composition of the Chimaera, but even more the idea to disfigure our cousin, the imposing lion!
Moritz: Indeed! It is scandalous!
Clio: I agree, it is tasteless, but in addition ridiculous is the continuation of the story. Men believe that the king of the country where Chimaera lived asked the hero Bellerophon to kill her. Some people believe he succeeded, but this is impossible: Chimaera is also a divine being and therefore immortal.
Men believe that Bellerophon attacked poor Chimaera sitting on his flying horse Pegasus. This would be the first air-raid in war history.
Mini: What an incredible story! This is unfair! It could have been produced by television!
But let us talk about the statue. Is it of natural size? What is written on Chimaera’s right front paw? Why does the snake bite the horn of the goat? What did Chimaera hold in her mouth?
Drawing after an Apulic funeral vase. Approx. 350 BC.
Clio: Let us start with the inscription in Etruscan letters. It can be read as the Etruscan word “tinscvil”, which means “offering” and not “offering to Tinia” as you can read in some publications. Tinia is the highest god of the Etruscans, and an offering to Tinia must have been “tinia tinscvil” as we know from other finds. The inscription has been cast together with the figure and thus proves the Etruscan, not Greek origin of the statue. The size is natural with respect to the goat, but too small with respect to the lion. Since nobody met a chimaera personally, we cannot decide this question. The snake biting the horn is the result of a bad reconstruction of the statue. Of course the snake would not bite the horn when Chimaera was fighting, it would dart her tongue against the common enemy as it is shown in the picture of the struggle. The strange form of Chimaera’s chaps indicate to my opinion that she had something in her mouth, most probably the lance of Bellerophon. This means that Bellerophon was not able to kill her …
Moritz: Steadfast Chimaera!
Clio: … because she disarmed him!
Mini: I can derive from her attitude and the position of her ears that she is defending herself very strongly. She is not aggressive as you can read in publications; in this case she would have put her ears at the side as Clio demonstrates in her foto here.
Clio: But I am not aggressive!
Mini: No, of course you aren’t. It is just the posture of your ears. The posture of your entire body must be taken into account. In this case your tail talks that you aren’t aggressive. You are listening to all sides. Not all men understand the body language of cats. But let us go on.
The position of Chimaera’s forelegs is typical for a defending, barking dog …
Moritz: I don’t like dogs! They are so noisy!
Mini: … or lion.
Moritz: That’s okay, I like lions.
Mini: May be the Etruscan artist knew better dogs than lions but he did not make a mistake.
Moritz: And where is Bellerophon?
Clio: This is a thing we don’t know. Perhaps his figure was lost, perhaps there was no group showing the struggle between Chimaera and Bellerophon, only a brave Chimaera defending her area. One must add that the head of the goat has been hurt, also Chimaera has been wounded. But I am convinced: She won the struggle and survived. She withdraw in a rocky area in Asia Minor, called Yanartaş, where her fiery breath still nowadays can be seen.
Moritz: So she is still alive?
Clio: She lives still at least in the mind of sensitive men. Our tin-opener Peter visited the place. He swears that he has met her in a cave and looked into her red glowing eyes. She blew some fire and hot air against him, just a little bit, as a sign of her esteem, as we cats do when knibbeling his fingers.
Moritz: I would like to meet her!
Mini: I would like it, too!
Moritz: I hope she will get better soon!
At this moment, the three cats noticed me and stopped talking. They know that I understand their language, but they know also not to talk too much. They are very pleasant companions. We understand even without talking.