Unicorn History Pt1

Go down

Unicorn History Pt1

Post  dave on Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:08 pm

A unicorn (from Latin unus 'one' and cornu 'horn') is a mythological creature. Though the modern popular image of the unicorn is sometimes that of a horse differing only in the horn on its forehead, the traditional unicorn also has a billy-goat beard, a lion's tail, and cloven hooves—these distinguish it from a horse. Marianna Mayer has observed (The Unicorn and the Lake), "The unicorn is the only fabulous beast that does not seem to have been conceived out of human fears. In even the earliest references he is fierce yet good, selfless yet solitary, but always mysteriously beautiful. He could be captured only by unfair means, and his single horn was said to neutralize poison."


The gentle and pensive maiden has the power to tame the unicorn, fresco, Palazzo Farnese, Rome, probably by Domenico Zampieri, ca 1602

History

Unicorns in antiquity

A one-horned animal (which may be just a bull in profile) is found on some seals from the Indus Valley Civilization. Seals with such a design are thought to be a mark of high social rank.


An animal called the Re’em (Hebrew: רְאֵם‎) is mentioned in several places in the Hebrew Bible, often as a metaphor representing strength. "The allusions to the re'em as a wild, un-tamable animal of great strength and agility, with mighty horn or horns (Job 39:9-12, Ps 22:21, 29:6, Num 23:22, 24:8, Deut 33:17 comp. Ps 92:11), best fit the aurochs (Bos primigenius). This view is supported by the Assyrian rimu, which is often used as a metaphor of strength, and is depicted as a powerful, fierce, wild mountain bull with large horns." This animal was often depicted in ancient Mesopotamian art in profile, with only one horn visible.

The translators of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible (1611) employed unicorn to translate re'em, providing a recognizable animal that was proverbial for its un-tamable nature.

* "God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of the unicorn."--Numbers 23:22
* "God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn."--Numbers 24:8
* "His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth."--Deuteronomy 33:17
* "Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?"--Job 39:9-12
* "Save me from the lion's mouth; for thou hast heard me from the horns of unicorns."--Psalm 22:21
* "He maketh them (the cedars of Lebanon) also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn."--Psalm 29:6
* "But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of the unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil."--Psalm 92:10
* "And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with their bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness."--Isaiah 34:7

Unicorns are not found in Greek mythology, but rather in accounts of natural history, for Greek writers of natural history were convinced of the reality of the unicorn, which they located in India, a distant and fabulous realm for them. The earliest description is from Ctesias who described them as wild asses, fleet of foot, having a horn a cubit and a half in length and colored white, red and black. Aristotle must be following Ctesias when he mentions two one-horned animals, the oryx (a kind of antelope) and the so-called "Indian ass". Strabo says that in the Caucasus there were one-horned horses with stag-like heads. Pliny the Elder mentions the oryx and an Indian ox (perhaps a rhinoceros) as one-horned beasts, as well as "a very fierce animal called the monoceros which has the head of the stag, the feet of the elephant, and the tail of the boar, while the rest of the body is like that of the horse; it makes a deep lowing noise, and has a single black horn, which projects from the middle of its forehead, two cubits in length." In On the Nature of Animals (Περὶ Ζῴων Ἰδιότητος, De natura animalium), Aelian, quoting Ctesias, adds that India produces also a one-horned horse (iii. 41; iv. 52), and says (xvi. 20) that the monoceros (Greek: μονόκερως) was sometimes called cartazonos (Greek: καρτάζωνος), which may be a form of the Arabic karkadann, meaning "rhinoceros".


An old Scottish statue of a unicorn.

Though the qilin (Chinese: 麒麟), a creature in Chinese mythology, is sometimes called "the Chinese unicorn", it is a hybrid animal that looks less unicorn than chimera, with the body of a deer, the head of a lion, green scales and a long forwardly-curved horn. The Japanese version (kirin) more closely resembles the Western unicorn, even though it is based on the Chinese qilin. The Quẻ Ly of Vietnamese myth, similarly sometimes mistranslated "unicorn" is a symbol of wealth and prosperity that made its first appearance during the Duong Dynasty, about 600 CE, to Emperor Duong Cao To, after a military victory which resulted in his conquest of Tây Nguyên.

Cosmas Indicopleustes, a merchant of Alexandria, who lived in the 6th century, and made a voyage to India, and subsequently wrote works on cosmography, gives a figure of the unicorn, not, as he says, from actual sight of it, but reproduced from four figures of it in brass contained in the palace of the King of Ethiopia. He states, from report, that "it is impossible to take this ferocious beast alive; and that all its strength lies in its horn. When it finds itself pursued and in danger of capture, it throws itself from a precipice, and turns so aptly in falling, that it receives all the shock upon the horn, and so escapes safe and sound." It is noteworthy that this mode of escape is attributed, at the present day, to the Oryx, the Ibex, the musk ox and the Argali (Ovis Ammon).

Suspect
avatar
dave
Admin

Posts : 43
Join date : 2009-04-10
Location : Wigan, England

View user profile http://www.entityelite.net

Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum