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The manticore (Early Middle Persian Martyaxwar) is a Persian legendary creature similar to the Egyptian sphinx. It has the body of a red lion, a human head with three rows of sharp teeth (like a shark), sometimes bat wings, and a trumpet-like voice. Other aspects of the creature vary from story to story. It may be horned, winged, or both. The tail is that of either a dragon or a scorpion, and it may shoot poisonous spines to either paralyze or kill its victims. It devours its prey whole and leaves no clothes, bones, or possessions of the prey behind.
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. 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 book Indica ("India"), which circulated among Greek writers on natural history but has survived only in fragments, or references by those other writers. 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 inasmuch 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.
In art and literature
- Canadian writer Robertson Davies wrote a novel titled The Manticore, published in 1972. It is the second volume of his Deptford Trilogy.
- The Manticore and Other Horrors is the tenth studio album by English extreme metal band Cradle of Filth.
- In J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series of books, the character Rubeus Hagrid somehow managed to acquire Manticores, and got them to breed with fire crabs, creating the hybrid Blast-Ended Skrewts. Hermione Granger also reads a news article about how a manticore killed someone, but was let off the hook because everyone was too scared to go near it.
- Manticores appear in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, though in his universe, live manticores are scorpion-like insects with markings resembling a human face on their carapace. They are valued for their venom, which is lethal and incurable, making it a favourite poison. The mythical creature in its traditional form also appears as a heraldic device.
- A Manticore appears in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series book three by Rick Riordan. In the book, it disguises itself as a French military school teacher. Notably, it is depicted with heterochromia in its human and animal form, with orange fur. In Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, A Manticore (played by Daniel Cudmore) appears as Luke Castellan's henchman in place of Agrius and Oreius.
- Manticores are favoured mounts of Dark Elf generals in Warhammer, being popular because of their power and aggressive nature.
- A Manticore serves as a boss and later as regular enemies in the Castlevania Aria of Sorrow and Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow games. They're full lion bodied beings, with batwings and scorpion tails.
- In God of War: Ascension, the Manticore appears as a boss; here it has bat wings, with the ability to breathe fire and instantly spawn smaller manticores. The protagonist, Kratos, must defeat the beast in battle in order to proceed in the game.
- In the BBC series Merlin, the Manticore is depicted as a small creature with a frill like that of a frilled lizard, a humanoid head, a feline body, bat-like wings and a scorpion's tail.
- In the Honor Harrington series of novels, Manticore is the name of a binary star system, its capital planet, and its associated Kingdom. The heroine, Honor Harrington, is an officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy.
- The main characters of the show My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic encounter a Manticore during the two-part Season 1 pilot. Here it is depicted as having the full body and head of a lion with bat wings, bat-like pointed ears, and a scorpion tail. It is fierce at first, but becomes friendly after Fluttershy removes a thorn in its paw (see Androcles).
- Flavius Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, translated by F. C. Conybeare, volume I, book III. Chapter XLV, pp. 327–329.
- John F. Moffitt, "An Exemplary Humanist Hybrid: Vasari's 'Fraude' with Reference to Bronzino's 'Sphinx'" Renaissance Quarterly 49.2 (Summer 1996), pp. 303–333, traces the chimeric image of Fraud backwards from Bronzino.
- Surawicz B, Jacobson B (2009). Doctors in Fiction: Lessons from Literature. Radcliffe Publishing. p. 125. ISBN 1-84619-328-1.
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