Ctesias: On India by Andrew Nichols

By Andrew Nichols

A Greek physician serving on the courtroom of the Persian king Artaxerxes II within the 5th century BC, Ctesias met visitors and viewers from the a long way japanese reaches of the Persian Empire, retailers from alongside the Silk highway and Indians from close to the Indus Valley. His Indika (On India), used to be the 1st monograph ever written on India by means of a western writer, introducing its readers to such impressive creatures because the unicorn and the martichora, in addition to actual lifestyles matters comparable to the parrot and the artwork of falconry. Confirming pre-existing conceptions of what have been thought of to be the sides of the earth, Ctesias' Indika contributed to shaping the Greek view of India.

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7) Ctesias describes the wall-destroying elephants, the small monkeys with tails four cubits in length, (8) and roosters of enormous size. There is a bird called the bittakos which has a human voice, is capable of speech, and grows to the size of a falcon. It has a crimson face and a black beard and is dark blue as far as the neck ... like cinnabar. It can converse like a human in Indian but if taught Greek, it can also speak Greek. (9) There is a spring which throughout the year fills with liquid gold and from it one hundred clay jugs are drawn annually.

If approached, it stabs with a stinger inflicting a fatal wound. If its opponent fights from a distance, then it points its tail at him and fires stingers as if from a bow, but when assailed from behind, it stretches its tail straight out. It can fire stingers as far as a pletheron and the stingers are completely fatal to everything except elephants. Each stinger is one foot long and as wide as the thinnest reed. The word ‘martichora’ means man-eater in Greek because it mostly captures and devours humans, but eats other animals as well.

FGrH 688 T12. 95. Cf. Stoneman 1994. 96. See the recent study of Causi (2003) for a full discussion of the martichora from Ctesias to the modern age. 44 Introduction 97. Cf. Wittkower 1942 pp. 166-71. 98. As with the bestiaries, the marvels of the Hereford map likely reached its author through intermediaries, especially Solinus; cf. Wittkower 1942 pp. 174-6. D. Westrem (2001). 99. g. the illustrations from the Heydenwelt of Herold (1554); the early fifteenth-century manuscript of Marco Polo’s Le Livre des Merveilles (Ms.

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