The Manticore (Early Middle Persian: Martyaxwar) is a big, legendary creature of Greek and Persian myths. It is similar to the Sphinx in that they are both evil and mashups of different animals.
Origin and Etymology
The manticore myth was of Persian origin, where its name was "man-eater" (from early Middle Persian مارتیا martya "man" (as in human) and خوار xwar- "to eat"). The English term "manticore" was borrowed from Latin "mantichora", itself derived from the Greek rendering of the Persian name, "μαρτιχώρα", "martichora".
Originally documented in Persia, the feared man-eating Manticore or Manticora, has said to been sighted in places as varied as the jungles of India and Indonesia and, more rarely, the forests of North America and Europe.
It is described as having the head of a human, body of a lion and a tail of poisonous spines, similar to porcupine quills (or sometimes more akin to a scorpion's). There are some recounts that the spines can be shot like arrows, thus making the manticore a lethal predator. It eats its victims whole, using its triple rows of teeth, and leaves no bones behind.
A Manticore's face is said to resemble a human's, and travelers through marshes have reported mistaking a manticore for a bearded man from a distance.
The Manticore is said to be a bold creature, being able to take on multiple men at once, and often looking for such oppurtunities to fill it's appetite.
- Manticores have a melodious call, like the lower notes on a flute blown together with a trumpet. Despite the beauty of the sound, most animals know to flee when they hear it. Humans would do well to follow their lead.
- The intelligence of the manticore varies from animal-like to being able to mimick human speech.
- The venom they secrete from their tails is highly toxic and fast acting. The sting itself is also depicted as being razor sharp and it may or may not have the ability to shoot spikes at its opponents.
- For some reason many accounts claim it is unable to kill elephants. The reason for this is never explained.
- Some accounts also claim if a baby Manticore's tail is crushed, it will be unable to grow poisonous spines, and thus be rendered weak.
It passed into European folklore first through a remark by Ctesias, a Greek physician at the Persian court of King Artaxerxes II in the fourth century BC, in his notes on India ("Indika"), which circulated among Greek writers on natural history but have not survived. The Romanised Greek Pausanias, in his Description of Greece, recalled strange animals he had seen at Rome and commented,The beast described by Ctesias in his Indian history, which he says is called martichora by the Indians and "man-eater" (androphagos) by the Greeks, I am inclined to think is the tiger. But that it has three rows of teeth along each jaw and spikes at the tip of its tail with which it defends itself at close quarters, while it hurls them like an archer's arrows at more distant enemies; all this is, I think, a false story that the Indians pass on from one to another owing to their excessive dread of the beast. (Description, xxi, 5) Pliny the Elder did not share Pausanias' skepticism.
He followed Aristotle's natural history by including the martichoras—mistranscribed as manticorus in his copy of Aristotle and thus passing into European languages—among his descriptions of animals in Naturalis Historia, c. 77 AD.Later, in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana Greek writer Flavius Philostratus (c. 170–247) wrote: And in as much as the following conversation also has been recorded by Damis as having been held upon this occasion with regard to the mythological animals and fountains and men met with in India, I must not leave it out, for there is much to be gained by neither believing nor yet disbelieving everything. Accordingly Apollonius asked the question, whether there was there an animal called the man-eater (martichoras); and Iarchas replied: "And what have you heard about the make of this animal ? For it is probable that there is some account given of its shape." "There are," replied Apollonius, "tall stories current which I cannot believe; for they say that the creature has four feet, and that his head resembles that of a man, but that in size it is comparable to a lion; while the tail of this animal puts out hairs a cubit long and sharp as thorns, which it shoots like arrows at those who hunt it."Pliny's book was widely enjoyed and uncritically believed through the European Middle Ages, during which the manticore was sometimes illustrated in bestiaries.
The manticore made a late appearance in heraldry, during the 16th century, and it influenced some Mannerist representations, as in Bronzino's allegory The Exposure of Luxury, (National Gallery, London) — but more often in the decorative schemes called "grotteschi"— of the sin of Fraud, conceived as a monstrous chimera with a beautiful woman's face, and in this way it passed by means of Cesare Ripa's Iconologia into the seventeenth and eighteenth century French conception of a sphinx.
- “manticore”. Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)