research on Greek dragons on our Earth and their legends
|Research of Dragons; Greek Dragons:|
Ancient and cloudy myths imply that “in those days” the earth was possessed by a race of Titans, giants huge and fierce, whose bodies below the waist were supported by a pair of thick serpent-tails instead of legs, reminding us of those pictures of mythical forerunners of Chinese tribes engraved on the tombs of the ancestors of the Wu family in Shantung; and the Titans’ wives were the Lamiae–abominable hags.
The chief God of that time was Ophion, the Great Snake.
Plato described the Ouroboros as the first living thing in the universe. He said that it had no need of eyes because there was nothing to see, it did not have ears because there was nothing to be heard and because there was not an atmosphere to breathe, it did not have any organs. Plato said that it was an immortal, perfectly constructed being, his own ways provided him food, and all he did or suffered was because of himself. It had no hands because it had no reason to take anything or defend himself against anyone. Nor did he have feet for he had no reason to move beyond his revolving circle.
There were four types of dragon in ancient Greek mythology : the serpent Dracones, the marine Cetea, the fire-breathing Chimaera and the she-monster Dracaenae. The first of these occur in both myth and legend--"legend" meaning the ancients believed such creatures inhabited the far corners of the earth in historical times.
I. DRACONES MYTHICAL
The first type of Greek dragon was the Dracon whose name was derived from the Greek words "drakein" and "derkomai" meaning "to see clearly" or "gaze sharply." It was essentially just a giant serpent which was sometimes equipped with rows of sharp teeth, deadly poison or multiple heads. In myth the beast usually guarded a sacred spring, grove or golden treasure. Our own word "dragon" derives from the creature's name.
COLCHIAN DRACON (Drakon Kholkikos) An unsleeping dragon which guarded the Golden Fleece in the sacred grove of Ares at Colchis. The creature was bewitched by Medea so that the hero Jason could steal its treasure.
CYCHREIDES (Kykhreides) A dragon which terrorized the island of Salamis. It driven out by the hero Cychreus and fled to Eleusis where it became an attendant of the goddess Demeter.
DEMETER'S DRACONES A pair of winged dragons which drew the chariot of goddess Demeter. She gave them to the hero Triptolemos to carry him across the world spreading knowledge of agriculture.
GIGANTOMACHIAN DRACON (Drakon Gigantomakhios) A dragon which was cast at the goddess Athena during the Giant War. She caught it up and threw it into the sky where it formed the constellation Draco.
HESPERIAN DRACON (Drakon Hesperios)(Ladon) A hundred-headed dragon which guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides. It was slain by Heracles when he came to fetch the treasure as one of his Twelve Labors.
HYDRA A nine headed water-dragon which guarded the springs of Lerna. It possessed the power of regeneration, producing two new heads for each that was decapitated. The creature was eventually destroyed by Heracles who cauterized its neck stumps with a flaming torch.
ISMENIAN DRACON (Drakon Ismenios) A dragon which guarded the sacred spring of Ares near Thebes. It was slain by the hero Cadmus who sowed its teeth in the earth to reap a crop of earth-born warriors.
MAEONIAN DRACON (1) (Drakon Maionios) A dragon which ravaged the kingdom of Lydia. It was slain by Heracles when he was in the service of Queen Omphale.
MAEONIAN DRACON (2) (Drakon Maionios) A monstrous dragon which terrorized the kingdom of Lydia. It was slain by the giant Damasen.
MEDEA'S DRACONES Two flying dragons born from the blood of the vanquished Titans. They were yoked to draw the chariot of the witch Medea.
NEMEAN DRACON (Drakon Nemeios) A giant dragon or serpent which guarded the sacred groves of Zeus at Nemea. It was destroyed by the warriors of the Seven Against Thebes after devouring the infant Opheltes, son of a local king.
OPHIOGENEAN DRACON (Drakon Ophiogeneikos) A dragon which guarded the sacred grove of the goddess Artemis in Mysia. It mated with the maiden Halia, producing a son named Ophiogeneis, ancestor of the Ophiogenes tribe.
PITANIAN DRACON (Drakon Pitanios) A dragon of Pitane in Aeolia (Asia Minor) which was turned to stone by the gods.
PYTHON A monstrous dragon which was set by Gaea to guard the oracle of Delphi. It was destroyed by the god Apollo when he seized the shrine.
RHODIAN DRACONES (Drakones Rhodioi) Giant serpents and dragons which ravaged the island of Rhodes. They were destroyed by the hero Phorbas.
THESPIAN DRACON (Drakon Thespiakos) A dragon which plagued the Boeotian town of Thespaie. It was slain by the hero Menestratus, who threw himself into the creatures maw wrapped in spiked armour.
TROJAN DRACONES (Drakones Troiades) A pair of dragons sent by the god Poseidon to destroy Laocoon of Troy and his sons when he attempted to warn his people of the threat posed by the Wooden Horse.
II. DRACONES LEGENDARY
The ancients believed the remote, unexplored corners of the earth were inhabited by Dracones. These legendary creatures were similar to their mythical counterparts.
ETHIOPIAN DRACONES (Drakones Aithiopikoi) Giant serpents which inhabited the land of Aethiopia (that is, sub-Saharan Africa).
INDIAN DRACONES (Drakones Indikoi) Dragons found in the hills and mountains of India. They devoured elephants and were destroyed by Indian dragon-slayers with the aid of magic.
PHRYGIAN DRACONES (Drakones Phrygioi) Sixty foot tall dragons found in central Anatolia. They stood upright on their tails in the air, snaring birds with a magical breath.
II. CETEA MYTHICAL
The second type of dragon was the Cetus or "Sea-Monster." The creature usually featured in myths of a sacrificial princess rescued by a hero.
CETEA (Ketea) Gigantic, serpentine sea-dragons.
ETHIOPIAN CETUS (Ketos Aithiopios) A sea-monster sent by Poseidon to ravage the land of the Aethiopians. The king offered ihis daughter Andromeda to it as a sacrifice. But Perseus slew the beast and released the princess from her chains.
TROJAN CETUS (Ketos Troios) A sea-monster which plauged the land of the Trojans. King Laomedon chained his daughter to the rocks as a sacrifice to appease the creature, but she was \rescued by Heracles and the creature slain.
IV. CETEA LEGENDARY
The ancients imagined that Cetea or sea-monsters populated the distant oceans of the world. "Cetus" was also the Greek word for "whale," which was regarded as a type of sea-monster.
INDIAN CETEA (Ketea Indikoi) Fabulous sea-monsters believed to inhabit the Indian Ocean.
SCOLOPENDRA (Skolopendra) A gargantuan sea-monster with hair extending from its nostrils, a flat crayfish-like tail and rows of webbed feet lining each of its flanks.
The third type of dragon was the Chimera, a fire-breathing monster whose form was a hybrid of lion, serpent and goat. Medieval artists used this creature as the template for the Dragon of Saint George.
CHIMERA (Khimaira) A three headed monster, with the foreparts of a lion, the hind-parts of a goat and goat's-head rising from its back, and the tail of a headed-serpent.
The fourth type of dragon was the Dracaena or "She-Dragon," a creature with the upper body of a beautiful nymph and the body of a dracon or sea-monster in place of legs. Two of these creatures, Echidna and Ceto, spawned most of the dragons of myth.
CAMPE (Kampe) A monstrous she-dragon which guarded the prison-gates of Tartarus. She had the body of a serpent, a hundred serpent "feet," and a scorpion's tale. Campe was slain by Zeus when he rescued the Cyclopes and Hecatoncheires from their prison.
CETO (Keto) A monstrous marine goddess with the body of a sea-dragon in place of legs. She spawned Echidna, the Hesperian dragon and other monsters.
ECHIDNA (Ekhidna) The she-dragon wife of the serpent-giantTyphoeus. Echidna spawned most of the dragons and monsters of myth.
ECHIDNA ARGIA (Ekhidna Argia) A she-dragon which ravaged the kgindom of Argos. It was slain by the hundred-eyed giant Argos Panoptes.
POENE (Poine) A she-dragon sent by Apollo to ravage the kingdom of Argos as punishment for the death of his infant son Linos. It was slain by the hero Coraebus.
SCYTHIAN DRACAENA (Drakaina Skythia) The Dracaena queen of Scythia in north-eastern Europe (now, the Ukraine). She stole the cattle of Geryon which Heracles was herding through the region and agreed to return them on condition he mate with her.
SCYLLA (Skylla) A she-dragon which haunted the Straits of Messina, snatching and devouring sailors from passing ships. She was a nymph with the tail of a sea-monster in place of legs.
SYBARIS A she-dragon which haunted a mountain near Delphi devouring shepherds and passing travellers. She was pushed off the cliff by the hero Eurybarus.
Cadmus, having been led by a magic cow to a spot in Boeotia where he was thus impelled to plant his intended colony, proposed to dedicate the site at once by the sacrifice of a cow. Therefore he sent his companions for the necessary pure water to a near-by spring, where all were immediately slain by a huge serpent, the dragon-guard of the fountain. As soon as Cadmus learned of the slaughter of his comrades he rushed to the spring and killed the dragon; then, at the command of an invisible voice (some say of Athene), he drew out its teeth and ‘sowed’ them over the adjacent ground. A host of armed men immediately sprang up, each from one of the broadcast teeth, who instantly began to fight and slay one another until only five remained alive. These survivors then quieted their fury and helped Cadmus build a stronghold, which finally developed into the city of Thebes. The five naturally became the ancestors of the Theban aristocracy, and one of them, Echion, called ‘the serpent’s son,’ married Cadmus’s daughter Agave. After many troubles King Cadmus retired to Illyria, where at last he and his wife Harmonia were changed into snakes, died, and were carried by the gods to the place of the blest.
Such was Python, half man, half snake, which haunted the caves on Mt. Parnassus, particularly that cleft in the rocks, originally called Pytho, where afterward was established the Delphic oracle. Apollo seized the place just after his birth, slaying Python with the first arrows from his infant bow; and in later times a festival was held there every year at which the whole story was represented in pageantry–the prototype of similar historic festivals celebrated during the Middle Ages in Europe and not yet quite obsolete.
Python was one of the offspring of Typhoeus and Echidna, themselves apparently son and daughter of Tartarus (underworld) and Gaea (earth). Echidna was part woman and part snake, and her brother-husband is identified with the Typhon of Egyptian mythology, otherwise Apop, one of the forms of wicked Set and a sort of duplicate of the Persian Azhi-Zohak, since he also is a gigantic demon, and has snakes sprouting from his shoulders. This diabolical pair further afflicted the world by engendering, in addition to Python, the three-headed dogs Orthos and Cerberus, the lion of Namaea, the Lernean hydra, the guardians of the orchards of Hesperus and of the Golden Fleece in Colchis, and perhaps other monsters of fable.
Extremely ancient is the tale of the Argonauts, which has so many features in common with that of Cadmus, and records Jason’s final achievement of their purpose by vanquishing the dragon that held the post of custodian of the coveted golden fleece, and who was the last of the progeny of Echidna and Typhon. Finally Perseus, by conquering a prodigious sea-serpent, rescued the forlorn but interesting maid Andromeda, and thereby became the remotest ancestor of all the redoubtable ‘Saint-Georees’ whose adventures are in store for us. Trail of the serpent again!
Perseus became the son of Zeus and Danae, after Zeus had visited her in the guise of a shower of gold poured into her lap. He had many adventures, including the killing of Medusa, the chief of the snaky-locked Gorgons, but the heroic incident that interests us most is his saving of Andromeda. This unhappy maid was a daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia had boasted herself fairer than the Nereids, whereupon Poseidon, the sea-god, to punish this profanity, sent a flood to overwhelm the land and a sea-monster to consume the people. The oracle of Ammon promised riddance of the plague should Andromeda be thrown to the monster (represented in a sculpture of the classic period, preserved in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, as a big, pike-like fish); Cepheus therefore felt compelled to chain his daughter to a rock on the shore, convenient to the marine ‘dragon’ when the tide rose. In this distressful situation Perseus appears, full of gallantry, destroys the approaching monster, and having thus rescued her and freed the threatened country, obtained the girl as his wife. The legend of Heracles and Hesione is virtually the same.
Apollo, the son of Zeus, slew a dragon with a bow and arrow when he was only four years old.
The fearsome offspring of Typhon & Echidna, the Hydra is a water serpent with many heads. It is the sister to Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the passageway to & from the Underworld & the Chimera, the fire-breathing monster with the body of a lioness, the head of a goat on its back & at the end of its tail, the head of a serpent.
The Hydra’s appearance changes from one story telling to the next. Its body is usually that of a serpent, but its heads can be like snakes, lizards, or dragons. The numbers of heads ranges from five up to one hundred, with nine being the typical number. One head is always immortal & when any of the other heads are cut off, another head would grow in its place, some stories say two heads would grow back. The heads often have nasty, sharp teeth & sometimes have horns. The reek of the Hydra’s breathe is enough to kill any man or beast. Its blood is supposed to be venomous as well.
After it was born Hera, the wife of Zeus, took it & raised it for the sole purpose of killing Heracles. It was placed in a swamp near the city of Lerna to protect an entrance to the Underworld. The Hydra would rise from the swamp to feed on anything it could, devouring whole herds of cattle & local villages, devouring them with its multiple heads. It continued to terrorize the countryside until Heracles found a way to kill it.
Heracles was given twelve tasks, one of which was slaying the Lernaean Hydra. He traveled to the swamp where the creature dwelt with his relative Iolaus. He tells Iolaus to wait with the chariot while he fights the beast. Heracles had to cover his nose & mouth with a cloth so he would not breathe in the poisonous fumes of the Hydra. He stood outside of the Hydra’s cave & shot fire arrows into it to get the monster to come out. Just as the beast emerged from the cave, Heracles attacks it with his sword. He soon saw that for every head he chopped off, two would grow back in its place.
Heracles called to Iolaus for help. Iolaus came up with the idea of cauterizing the necks with fire to prevent the heads from growing. Heracles continued to hack off the Hydra’s heads & Iolaus burned the wounds closed. Seeing Heracles winning, Hera sent a large crab to distract Heracles by pinching at his legs. Heracles crushed the crab under his foot & continued fighting. Soon the only head left was the immortal one that no normal sword could cut. Heracles took out a golden sword given to him by Athena & sliced the last head off. He buried the head under a large rock so it could not regenerate easily. Heracles dipped his arrows in the Hydra’s blood making them even more deadly & continued onto his third task.
Heracles later used an arrow dipped in the Hydra’s blood to kill the centaur Nessus who was trying to steal his wife away. Nessus gives his blood & poison soaked tunic the Heracles’ wife telling her it will excite the love of her husband. Years later, when she thinks Heracles has strayed from her, she gives him the tunic. When he puts it on the poisoned blood burns him down to the bone & he dies.
After Heracles killed the Hydra, the goddess Hera was so upset that she took the Hydra’s body & lifted it to the heavens, creating the constellation Hydra.
The Golden Fleece:
The Golden Fleece comes from a golden haired, winged ram that is the offspring of Poseidon and the beautiful maiden, Theophane. Poseidon, jealous of her suitors, carried the maiden away. He brought her to an island where he transformed her into a ewe & himself into a ram so he could have his way with her without her suitors interfering. She eventually gives birth to a winged ram with gold hair. The ram disappears from any surviving Greek myths until it is needed to help two children escape a terrible fate.
The Greek king, Athamas of Boeotia, marries a beautiful woman names Nephele. Some stories say she is human, other say she is a cloud nymph while others elevate her to a cloud goddess. They have two children, a boy names Phrixus, and a girl named Helle. Athamas grows tired of Nephele and become enamored with Princess Ino. King Athamas kills Nephele in the versions she is mortal or divorces her it the versions she is a nymph or goddess.
Athamas takes Ino as his new wife and they have two sons. Ino grows jealous of her stepchildren and devises a way to be rid of them. Ino secretly has seeds destroyed so crops will not grow and a famine would result. When the crops fail, the king asks the oracle what he should do. The oracle, under Ino’s influence, says that the king must sacrifice his first-born son and daughter. The king is reluctant to do this, but the people convince the king to go through with the sacrifices. On the way to the alter Nephele, or her spirit, appears before her children with the winged ram. She tells them to get on and ride the ram to safety.
The children ride the ram over the sea. They are told not to look down as they fly but Helle does and falls off. She drowns in a strait that is now named Hellespont after her. The ram speaks to Phrixus in order to comfort him. The ram brings Phrixus safely to Colchis on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. Phrixus sacrifices the ram to Zeus, settles in the house of King Aeetes, and marries his daughter. In appreciation for all the king has done for him, Phrixus gives King Aeetes the Golden Fleece. Aeetes places the fleece on an oak tree in a grove sacred to Ares where it was guarded by a dragon. The ram becomes the constellation Aries.
After many years, a hero named Jason is given a quest to obtain the fleece. If he retrieves the Golden Fleece, he will be able to take the throne in Thessaly, which was rightfully his. He assembles a band of heroes that became known as the Argonauts. They go through many trials before finally reaching Colchis, where the fleece is located.
Jason asks King Aeetes for the fleece. The king agrees to let him have it if he can perform three tasks, which he believes are impossible. The king’s sorceress daughter, Medea, likes Jason and secretly agrees to help him if he promises to marry her. He agrees and she helps him complete each task. When Jason leaves, he takes the Golden Fleece and Medea with him.
The story of a golden fleece is thought to derive from an old practice of placing sheep fleece into a stream to collect gold flecks that were washed down from upstream. The fleece would sometimes be stretched over a wooden frame to make this easier. Afterwards, the fleeces would be hung from trees to dry out. When a fleece was dry, the gold would be shaken or combed out of it. A fleece would also be used to wipe off washing tables in gold mines.