The Manticore (a.k.a. Manticora, Mantichora, Anthropophagus) has the body of a lion, head of a human, and tail of a dragon (scorpion or snake). It is described as having three rows of teeth, one behind the other, and a taste for human flesh. Its name literally means "man eater".
The manticore is commonly described as having a red body and blue or gray eyes. Later versions sometimes possess wings. The manticore is part of a family of fantasy creatures called chimera, that are made up of parts of different animals--specifically chimera that are part human (including, for example, the mermaid, faun, sphinx and centaur).
The manticore is distinguished anatomically from the sphinx in that only the face or head is human, not the upper body. Also the manitcore is commonly represented as male, the sphinx more often as female. The manticore can also be confused by with various forms of winged lion-like creatures, especially as early depictions often make the lions face look more human like. However the presence of a normal tufted tail reveals when the creature is not intended to be manticore.
A discussion of other cat based creatures and putative hybrid can be found here.
Descriptions of the Manticore
Accounts of the Manticore seem to originate from Persia.Ctesias was a Greek physician who was employed by the Persian royal court. His original accounts do not survive but there are two second hand reports.
Pliny the Elder wrote on the Naturalis Historia (77BC as translated by Philemon Holland, 1601): "Ctesias writeth, that in Æthiopia likewise there is a beast which he calleth Mantichora, having three rankes of teeth, which when they meet togither are let in one within another like the teeth of combes: with the face and eares of a man, with red eyes; of colour sanguine, bodied like a lyon, and having a taile armed with a sting like a scorpion: his voice resembleth the noise of a flute and trumpet sounded together: very swift he is, and mans flesh of all others hee most desireth."
However another Greek, Pausanias, reported more sceptically that: "The beast described by Ctesias in his Indian history, which he says is called martichoras by the Indians and "man-eater" by the Greeks, I am inclined to think is the lion. 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."
Around 1240 Bartholomaeus Anglicus wrote in De Proprietatibus Rerum that: "It is said, that in India is a beast wonderly shapen, and is like to the bear in body and in hair, and to a man in face. And hath a right red head, and a full great mouth, and a horrible, and in either jaw three rows of teeth distinguished atween. The outer limbs thereof be as it were the outer limbs of a lion, and his tail is like to a wild scorpion, with a sting, and smiteth with hard bristle pricks as a wild swine, and hath an horrible voice, as the voice of a trumpet, and he runneth full swiftly, and eateth men."
Modern sightings and hoaxes are much more rare, as the manticore is a relatively obscure creature and difficult to fake. There is one rather unconvincing 2008 example on Youtube.
Manticores in Bestiaries
Manticores appear in several important bestiaries including bestaries held at:
- Museum Meermanno (France, 1450):
- Liber de proprietatibus animalium (Greece, 1500s)--Very nice red furred version.
The manticore is a one of the less common mythical creatures depicted in art. however it is more widely referred to in popular culture and fiction.
Movie: The Manticore (2005)
The Manticore is a low budget monster movie where a US army squad in Iraq encounters a resurrected manticore. The special effects leave something to be desired.
Fine and Decorative Arts
The manticore occurs in the work of fine artists such as:
Examples from Archeology
- Wilthsire Lid Ornament:The small medieval bronze manticore (shown right) was likely an ornament attached to a vessel or lid. The manticore is relatively rarely found on artifacts.
- This Manticore appears on the "Narbonne Archway" a door and dates fro the 12th century. Also on this archway: manticore #2.
- Carved decoration on a Limerick Cathedral misericord (date unknown)
Many individuals, objects and other entities carry the name of Manticore, including:
"Montecore" is somewhat ironically the name of the tiger than infamously mauled Roy Horn of the stage magic duo Seigfried and Roy (2003).
From Goldeneye(1995) with Pierce Brosnan--Manticore is the name of the yacht owned by Janus Crime Syndicate.
Manticore is the name of the fictional secret institution that created the super-soldier heroine of the television series Dark Angel (2000).
Manticore is a heterogeneous parallel programming language aimed at general-purpose applications running on multi-core processors, developed at the University of Chicago.
Arranged by year of publication.
Meaning and Symbolism
The manticore is thought to symbolize the evil side of human nature.
- Macdonald, F. (2010). Murderous Mythical Creatures. Gareth Stevens.
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