Thursday, February 10, 2011


Meet the manticore, one of the classic bogey-men of antiquity. Manticores are originally from Persian legend, but quickly spread throughout Europe after they were mentioned in numerous Greek writings on natural history. Described as a massive red lion with the face of a man, the manticore was often blamed for people going missing. It devoured men whole, grinding them up with its three rows of teeth. Escape was difficult, as the beast had a deadly poisonous stinger on its tail and sometimes the ability to fire poisonous spines.

Throughout the Middle Ages, copies of such Greek works as Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia made the manticore and other monsters popular in heraldry and bestiaries. The original Persian legend had gone through so many translations and mistranslations that there were a number of different offshoots. Some bestiaries described it as being a male equivalent of the sphinx. Some more skeptical works identified it as a tiger. Some were intelligent, some were simple beasts, some were even musical, but nearly all were deadly.

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