Under My Protective Wings

Chimeras in Ancient Iranian Art and Mythology

Author: Kamran Kashiri/ Photo by: Pouran Zangeneh

Ever since humans began toink about life, its meaning and origin, we have been widening our imaginations in the form of myths and legends, creating supernatural entities to act as forces of protection or destruction alongside mythical figures. The most ancient forms of these imaginary creatures can be traced back to prehistoric cultures, where we find composite figures of several strange animals or animal-human hybrids. As already stated, these figures can be positive or negative, builders or destroyers, good or evil according to the mythological world of the relevant culture. Today’s researchers call these composite figures chimeras – based on an ancient Greek mythological hybrid creature – a term we also have chosen in this article. 

Since the development of art, we have depicted complex and composite mythological figures, although nothing can be said with precision about what they were meant to represent. Later on, with the advent of writing, some light could be shed upon the functions and origins of these figures for the first time. 

On the Iranian plateau, traces of chimeras can be found throughout extant ancient Iranian art. Iran has always been the crossroads of cultures and civilisations, and this has led to the merging of different religions, beliefs and ideas throughout the millennia. At its height, the Achaemenid Empire extended from the Indus to the Nile…

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