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A basilisk (from the Greek basileus, a king) is a mythical reptile, reputed to be king of serpents, which is supposed to have the power of causing death by look alone. According to the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder, the basilisk is a small snake that is so poisonous that it leaves a wide trail of deadly venom in its wake, and its gaze is likewise venomous.

It is called a king from having on its head a mitre-shaped crest. Stories of the basilisk In the same blood line as the cockatrice. The basilisk is fabulously alleged to be hatched by a serpent or reptile from a cock's egg. In Medieval Europe, the description of the creature began taking on features from cockerels. Geoffrey Chaucer featured a basilicok (as he called it) in his Canterbury Tales.

Stories gradually added to the basilisk's deadly capabilities, such as describing it as a larger beast, capable of breathing fire and killing with the sound of its voice. Some writers even claimed that it could kill not only by touch, but also by touching something that is touching it, like a sword. The stories of its fantastic deadliness could be the cause of its downfall to mythical status -- if it really was that deadly, who would be able to see it and live to tell the tale?

In recent years, basilisks have been re-used in fantasy fiction for books, movies, and games. It is common to find basilisks in the bestiaries of role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. A large, snake-like basilisk was also featured in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

See also:\ Greek mythology

A basilisk is also a type of (real) lizard of the genus Basilicus.

In military history, a basilisk is a large brass cannon, said to have been named for its resemblance to the large-variety mythical basilisk in size and potential.