Pliny the Elder's Natural History, Pausanias's Description of Greece
The manticore was a mythical animal with a human head and face, a lion's body, and a scorpion's tail. According to legend, this fast, powerful, and fierce beast attacked and devoured people. Although believed to have originated with the Persians—who said the creature lived in India— the manticore is best known from the writings of Greek historians.
First described by the Greek physician Ctesias in the late fifth or early fourth century bce, the manticore was said to be mostly red with pale blue or gray eyes and three rows of sharp teeth stretching from ear to ear. The manticore's voice sounded like a combination of a trumpet and a reed pipe. Its tail was equipped with stinging quills that the creature could shoot like arrows. An unfortunate traveler who happened upon a manticore in the woods—its preferred habitat—would be subdued by the manticore's quills and eaten whole, bones, clothing, and all.
The Manticore in Context
In the first century CE, the Roman writer Pliny the Elder included the manticore in his book Natural History, which was meant to be a document of known living creatures in the ancient world. This reflects the common opinion that manticores were real beasts; indeed, Pliny was considered such a reliable source of information that people well into the Middle Ages believed the manticore to be real.
Key Themes and Symbols
In ancient Greek culture, the manticore represented the unknown lands of Asia, the area it was said to inhabit. In later times, the manticore was recognized by many Europeans as a symbol of the devil or of the ruthless rule of tyrants. This may have originated in the practice of using manticores as royal decorations.
The Manticore in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life
During the Middle Ages, the manticore appeared in a number of bestiaries, books containing pictures or descriptions of mythical beasts.
The manticore was also featured in medieval heraldry—designs on armor, shields, and banners that indicated the group or family to which a knight belonged. Zoologists used the name manticora for a genus of African tiger beetles with large, fierce-looking jaws. In modern times, the creature has appeared in numerous works of fantasy, including Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. The creature also appears symbolically in the 1972 Robertson Davies novel The Manticore. The manticore was even the subject for a 2005 monster movie, titled Manticore, created for the Sci-Fi Channel.
Read, Write, Think, Discuss
Why do you think ancient Greek sources state that the manticore can be found in India? What does this suggest about Greek exploration of India and Asia? Why do you think that Europeans in the Middle Ages were so willing to believe that the manticore was a real creature?
SEE ALSO Animals in Mythology
The manticore (also known as martichora) was a mythical animal with a human head and face, a lion's body, and a scorpion's tail. According to legend, this fast, powerful, and fierce beast attacked and devoured people.
First described by the Greek physician Ctesias in the late 400s or early 300s b.c., the manticore was said to have originated in India. It was mostly red, had pale blue or gray eyes, and had three rows of sharp teeth stretching from ear to ear. The manticore's voice sounded like a combination of a trumpet and a reed pipe. Its tail was equipped with stinging quills that the creature could shoot like arrows.
heraldry practice of tracing family history and determining family emblems
In medieval Christianity, the manticore was a symbol of the devil. It appeared in a number of bestiaries, books containing pictures or descriptions of mythical beasts. The manticore was also featured in medieval heraldry on items such as coats of arms, banners, and family trees.
See also Animals in Mythology; Monsters.
In heraldry, the manticore is represented as a monster with the body of a beast of prey, the head of a man, sometimes with spiral or curved horns, and sometimes with the feet of a dragon.
Manticore ★ 2005
Usual low-budget cheesefest from the Sci-Fi Channel. American soldiers patrolling an Iraqi town check a bombed-out museum and are attacked by insurgents. An ancient medallion was stolen from the museum and megalomaniac Umari wants to use it to unleash the power of the manticore, only to figure out too late that he can't control it. 88m/C DVD . Robert Beltran, Jeff Fahey, Chase Masterson, Faran Tahir, Heather Donahue, A.J. Buckley; D: Tripp Reed; W: John Werner; C: Lorenzo Senator; M: David Williams. CABLE