Description of the Indian dragon in ancient texts

(ORDO NEWS) — Aelian, On Animals 6. 21 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek Natural History C2nd AD):

“In India, as I was told, the elephant and the dragon (serpent-dragon) are the worst enemies. Elephants lower the branches of trees and feed on them. And the dragons, knowing this, crawl through the trees and wrap the lower half of their body with foliage, but the upper up to the head, it remains free to hang like a rope.

The elephant comes up to pluck the branches, and then the dragon rushes to his eyes and gouges them. Then the dragon wraps around the neck of the elephant, and while he clings to the tree with his lower body, he tightens his grip on the upper part and strangles the elephant with an unusual and unusual noose.”

Aelian, On Animals 16.39:

“Onesikritos (Onesikritos) of Astypalea says that during the expedition of Alexandros [Alexander the Great], son of Phillipos, there were two dragons (serpentine dragons) in India, which were held by the Indian Abisares, and that one of them measured one hundred and forty cubits, and the other eighty. He also says that Alexandros had a great desire to see them.”

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 2.17 (translated by Conybeare) (Greek biography 1st to 2nd century CE):

“The statements of Nearchus (Nearchus) and Pythagoras about the river Akesines (Asines) [in India], that it flows into the Indus and that Opheis (snakes) seventy cubits long live in it, were, as they say, completely confirmed by them [ i.e. Apollonius] i.e. travelers of the 11th century AD Apollonius of Tyana and Damis]; but I will put aside my words until I move on to talking about dragons (serpents-dragons), about the capture of which Damis tells” .

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 3. 6 – 9:

“Now that they have descended from the mountain [Indian Kaukasos (Caucasus)], they say that they [Apollonius of Tyana, a pagan prophet of the 1st century AD, and his companion Damis] came to hunt for a dragon (dragon serpent), which I must describe.

For it is utterly absurd that lovers of hare-hunting should spin a thread about a hare, how it is caught or should be caught, and at the same time omit a description of the chase, as bold as it is amazing, in which the wise man diligently helped; therefore I wrote the following story about her:

All India is covered with dragons (serpent-dragons) of enormous size, for not only the swamps are full of them, but also the mountains, and there is not a single ridge without one. Swamp-serpents are clumsy and reach thirty cubits in length, and they do not have a crest on their heads, but in this respect they are similar to drakainai (dragons).

However, their backs are very black and have fewer scales than other species; Homer has described them more deeply than most poets, for he says that the dragon that lived at the spring at Aulis had a purple back; but other poets claim that its cousin in the Nemea Grove also had a tuft, which we have not been able to verify with respect to the swamp dragons.

The dragons that live in the foothills and on the ridges of the mountains come out to the plain for their prey and hunt all the inhabitants of the swamps; for they are of great length, and move faster than the swiftest rivers, so that nothing escapes them.

They have a crest, of moderate length and height when young; but when they reach their full size, it grows with them and reaches a considerable height, at which time they also turn red and take on scalloped backs.

This species also has a beard, they lift their necks high, and their scales glisten like silver; the pupils of their eyes are made of a fiery stone, and it is said to have supernatural powers for many arcane purposes.

A simple copy becomes the prize of the hunters whenever it carries an elephant with it; for both creatures are destroyed as a result, and those who catch dragons are rewarded with eyes, skin and teeth. For the most part, they resemble the largest pigs, but their physique is more slender and flexible, and their teeth are as sharp and indestructible as those of the largest fish.

Mountain dragons have scales that are golden in color and longer than those of the plains, and they have bushy beards that are also golden in color; their eyebrows are more prominent than those of the plains, and the eye is sunk deep under the eyebrow, and its look is terrible and merciless.

They make a noise like the clanging of brass when they dig underground, and from their withers, which are all fiery red, fire bursts out brighter than a torch. They can also catch elephants, although the Indians themselves catch them in the following way.

They embroider golden runes on a scarlet cloak, which they place before the animal’s burrow after they have charmed them with sleep with the help of the runes; for this is the only way to overcome the eyes of the Dragon, which are otherwise inflexible, and many mysterious tales are sung by them to overcome it.

These runes induce the Dragon to stretch his neck out of his hole and fall asleep above them: then the Indians pounce on him when he lies, and deal with him with blows of their axes, and having cut off his head, deprive him of precious stones.

Mountain Dragons are said to hold flower-colored stones in their heads that shimmer in all sorts of hues and have mystical powers when inserted into a ring, like the one they said belonged to Gyges.

But often the Indian, despite his ax and cunning, is caught by the Dragon, who carries him into his hole and almost shakes the mountains when he disappears.

They are also said to dwell in the mountains near the Red Sea, and they say that they heard their terrible hissing and saw how they descended to the shore and swam far into the sea. However, it was not possible to find out how many years this creature lives, and they did not believe my words. That’s all I know about Dragons.

We are told that the city under the mountain is large and is called Parax, and that in the center of it are many heads of dragons, for the Indians who inhabit it are accustomed from childhood to this sport. They are also said to be able to understand the language and thoughts of animals by feeding on either the heart or liver of a dragon.”

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 3. 48:

“For these animals [grips, (griffins)] really exist in India, – he [the Indian sage Iarhas in the 11th century AD] said, – … and in size and strength they resemble dragons.” … and in size and strength they are like lions, but having the advantage over them that they have wings, they attack them, and they gain the upper hand over elephants and dragons (serpent dragons).”


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