Few legends have had humbler beginnings than that of the unicorn. In fact, the literary introduction of this wondrous creature was met not with fanfare and adulation but with such derision that the author of the beast became nothing if not Ancient Greece’s answer to literary mockery. Adding self inflicted insult to the chronicler’s injury, was the reality of what we think of as an otherworldly, graceful beast being nothing more than a large, wild ass. Unknowingly, Ctesias, the much-mocked ancient author, did the greatest kindness to artists, dreamers and little girls through the ages by immortalizing the unicorn in his mid-fifth century B.C. Indica. Until Alexander the Great launched his ill-fated campaign to conquer India in 326 B.C., the book would stand as the only written account of life north of Persia. In Indica, Ctesias relayed other incredulous beings such as the Skiopolae, a ginormous people whose feet were so big they could be used as shelter from the elements, and the martikhora, a red creature with the face of a man, three rows of teeth and a scorpion’s stinger on its tail. (There were also mundane accounts of massive mountains, a.k.a. the Himalayas, and creatures of indescribable proportions, which were in fact, elephants.)
Danielle DiMartino Booth is CEO and Director of Intelligence at Quill Intelligence
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