Of the DRAGON.
AMong all the kindes of Serpents, there is none comparable to the Dragon, or that affordeth and yeeldeth so much plentiful matter in History for the ample discovery of the nature there∣of: and therefore herein I must borrow more time from the residue, then peradventure the ReaderPage 702would be willing to spare from reading the particular stories of many other. But such is the neces∣sity hereof, that I can omit nothing making to the purpose, either for the nature or mortality of this Serpent, therefore I will strive to make the description pleasant, with variable history, seeing I may not avoid the length hereof, that so the sweetnesse of the one, (if my pen could so expresse it) may countervail the tediousnesse of the other.
The Hebrews call it Thanin, and Wolphius translateth Oach a Dragon, in his Commentaries upon Nehemiah. The Chaldees call it Darken, and it seemeth that the Greek word Dracon is derived of the Chald••. We read of Albedisimon, or Ahedysimon, for a kinde of Dragon, and also Alhatraf, and Hauden, Haren carn•m, and such other terms, that may be referred to this place. The Grecians at this day call it Drakos; the Germans, Trach Lindtwarm; the French, Ʋn Dragon; the Italians, Drago, and Dragone. The derivation of the Greek word, beside the conjecture afore expressed, some think to be derived from Derkein, because of their vigilant eye-sight, and therefore it is faigned that they had the custody not only of the Golden-fleece, but also of many other treasures. And among other things, Alciatus hath an emblem of their vigilancy standing by an unmarried Virgin.
Which may be Englished thus;
For this cause the Egyptians did picture Serapis their God with three heads, that is to say, of a Lyon in the middle, on the right hand a meek fawning Dog, and on the left hand a ravening Wolf, all which forms are joyned together by the winding body of a Dragon, turning his head to the right hand of the God; which three heads are interpreted to signifie three times; that is to say, by the Lyon the present time; by the Wolf, the time past; and by the fawning Dog, the time to come; all which are guarded by the vigilancy of the Dragon. For this cause also among the fixed Stars of the North, there is one called Draco, a Dragon, all of them ending their course with the Sun and Moon, and they are in this Sphear called by Astronomers the Intersections of the Circles, the supe∣rior of these ascending, is called the head of the Dragon, and the inferior descending, is called the tail of the Dragon. And some think that GOD in the 38. of Job, by the word Gneish, meaneth this Sign or Constellation.
To conclude, the ancient Romans (as Vegetius writeth) carryed in all their Bands the Escutchion of a Dragon, to signifie their fortitude and vigilancy, which were born up by certain men called for that purpose Draconarii. And therefore when Constantius the Emperor entered into the City of Rome, his souldiers are said to bear up upon the tops of their spears, Dragons gaping with wide mouths, and made fast with golden chains and pearl, the winde whistling in their throats, as if they had been alive, threatning destruction, and their tails hanging loose in the air, were likewise by the winde tossed to and fro, as though they strove to come off from the spears, but when the winde was laid, all their motion was ended, whereupon the Poet saith:
In English thus;
The tale also of the Golden-fleece, if it be worth any place in this story, deserveth to be inserted here, as it is reported by Diodorus Siculus. When Aetes reigned in Pontus, he received an answer from the Oracle, that he should then dye when strangers should come thither with ships and fetch away the Golden-fleece. Upon which occasion he shewed himself to be of a cruel nature, for he did not only make Proclamation that he would sacrifice all strangers which came within his Dominions, but did also perform the same, that by the fame and report of such cruelty, he might terrifie all other Nations from having accesse unto that Temple. Not contented herewith, he raised a great strong wall round about the Temple wherein the Fleece was kept, and caused a sure watch or guard to attend the same day and night, of whom the Grecians tell many strange fables. For they say there were Bulls breathing out fire, and a Dragon warding the Temple and defending the Fleece, but the truth is that these watchmen because of their strength were called Bulls, because of their cru∣elty, were said to breath out fire, and because of their vigilancy, cruelty, strength and terror, to be Dragons.
Some affirm again, that in the Gardens of Hesperides in Lybia, there were golden Apples, which were kept by a terrible Dragon, which Dragon was afterward slain by Hercules, and the Apples taken away by him, and so brought to Eurystheus. Others affirm that Hesperides had certain flocks of sheep, the colour of whose wooll was like gold, and they were kept by a valiant shepheard called Draco: but I rather agree with Solinus, who giveth a more true reason of this fable, Ne fam• licentisPage 703vulneretur fides, lest (as he saith) faith and truth should receive a disgrace or wound by the lavish re∣port of fame. There was among the Hesperides a certain winding River coming from the Sea, and including within it the compasse of that land which is called the Gardens of Hesperides, at one place whereof, the falling of the water broken by a Rock, seemeth to be like the falling down of Snakes, to them that stand a far off, and from hence ariseth all the occasion of the fable aforesaid.
Indeed there was a statue of Hercules, in the left hand whereof were three Apples, which he was said to have obtained by the conquest of a Dragon, but that conquest of the Dragon did morally signifie his own concupiscence, whereby he raigned over three passions, that is to say, over his wrath by patience; over his cupidity by temperance; and over his pleasures by labour and travail: which were three vertues far more pretious then three golden Apples. But I will stay my course from pro∣secuting these moral discourses of the Dragon, and return again to his natural History, from which I have somewhat too long digressed.
There are divers sorts of Dragons, distinguished partly by their Countries, partly by their quan∣tity and magnitude, and partly by the different form of their external parts. There be Serpents in Arabia called Sirenae, which have wings, being as swift as Horses, running or flying at their own plea∣sure, and when they wound a man, he dyeth before he feeleth pain. Of these it is thought the Pro∣phet Esay speaketh, chap. 13. vers. 22. Serpens clamabit in Templis voluptariis: and for Serpents the old Translators read Syrenae, and so the English should be, the Syrene Dragons should cry in their Temples of pleasure: and the ancient distinction was, Angues aquarum, Serpentes terrarum, Dracones Templorum: that is to say, Snakes are of the water, Serpents of the earth, and Dragons of the Temples. And I think it was a just judgement of God, that the ancient Temples of the Heathen Idolaters were annoyed with Dragons, that as the Devil was there worshipped, so there might be appearance of his person in the ugly form and nature of a Dragon. For God himself in holy Scri∣pture, doth compare the Devil unto a Dragon, as Rev. 12. vers. 3. And there appeared another wonder in Heaven, for behold a great red Dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his head. Vers. 4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the Dragon stood before the Woman which was ready to be delivered, to devour her childe when she had brought it forth. Vers. 5. So she brought forth a man childe, which should rule all Nations with a rod of Iron. And her Son was taken up unto God and to his throne. Vers. 6. And the Woman fled into the Wildernesse, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there 1260 days. Vers 7. And there was a battail in heaven, Michael and his Angels fought against the Dragon, and the Dragon fought and his Angels. Vers. 8. But they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. Vers. 9. And the great Dragon that old Serpent called the Devill and Satan, was cast out, which deceiveth all the world, he was even cast unto the earth, and his Angels were cast out with him. Vers. 13. And when the Dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the Woman which had brought forth a man childe: and so forth, as it followeth in the Text. Whereupon Saint Augustine writeth, Diabolus Draco dicitur propter insidias, quia occulte insidiatur: that is, the Devill is called a Dragon because of his treachery, for he doth treacherously set upon men to destroy them.
It was wont to be said, because Dragons are the greatest Serpents, that except a Serpent eat a Ser∣pent, * he shall never be a Dragon: for their opinion was, that they grew so great by devouring others of their kinde; and indeed in Aethiopia they grow to be thirty yards long, neither have they any other name for those Dragons but Elephant-killers, and they live very long.
Onesicritus writeth, that one Aposisares an Indian, did nourish two Serpents Dragons, whereof one was six and forty cubits long, and the other fourscore: and for the more famous verification of the fact, he was a very earnest suter to Alexander the Great, when he was in India, to come and see them, but the King being afraid, refused.
The Chroniclers of the affairs of Chius do write, that in a certain Valley neer to the foot of the Mountain Pellenaeus, was a Valley full of straight tall trees, wherein was bred a Dragon of wonderful magnitude or greatnesse, whose only voyce or hissing, did terrifie all the Inhabitants of Chius, and therefore there was no man that durst come nigh unto him, to consider or to take a perfect view of his quantity, suspecting only his greatnesse by the loudnesse of his voyce, until at length they knew him better by a singular accident worthy of eternal memory. For it hapned on a time that such a violent winde did arise, as did beat together all the Trees in the Wood, by which violent col∣lision the branches fell to be on fire, and so all the Wood was burned suddenly, compassing in the Dragon, whereby he had no means to escape alive, & so the trees fel down upon him and burned him. Afterward, when the fire had made the place bare of wood, the Inhabitants might see the quantity of the Dragon, for they found divers of his bones and his head, which were of such unusual great∣nesse, as did sufficiently confirm them in their former opninion: and thus by divine miracle was this monster consumed, whom never any man durst behold being alive, & the Inhabitants of the Countrey safely delivered from their just conceived fear.
It is also reported, that Alexander among many other Beasts which he saw in India, did there finde in a certain den a Dragon of seaventy cubits long, which the Indians accounted a sacred Beast, and therefore intreated Alexander to do it no harm. When it uttered the voyce with full breath, it terri∣fied his whole Army: they could never see the proportion of his body, but only the head, and by that they guessed the quantity of the whole body, for one of his eyes in their appearance seemed as great as a Macedonian buckler. Maximus Tyrius writeth that in the days of Alexander, there was like∣wise seen a Dragon in India, as long as five roods of lands are broad, which is incredible. For hePage 704likewise saith that the Indians did feed him every day with many several Oxen and Sheep. It may be that it was the same spoken of before, which some ignorant men, and such as were given to set forth fables, amplyfied beyond measure and credit.
Whereas Dragons are bred in India and Africa, the greatest of all are in India, for in Aethiopia, Nu∣bia, and H•sp••ia the Dragons are confined within the length of five cubits and twenty cubits: for in the time of 〈◊〉, there were three brought into Egypt, one was nine cubits long, which with great care was nourished in the Temple of Esculapius, the other two were seaven cubits long. About the place where once the Tower of Babel was builded, are Dragons of great quantity, and under the Equ•noctial, as Nicepho•us Callistus writeth, there are Serpents as thick as beams, in testimony where∣of their skins have been brought to Rome. And therefore it is no marvail, although S. Austine wri∣ting upon the 148. Psalm, doth say, Dracones magna quaedam sunt animantia, majora non sunt super terram: Dragons are certain great beasts, and there are none greater upon the earth. Neither is it to be thought incredible, that the souldiers of Attilius Regulus did kill a Dragon which was a hundred and twenty foot long, or that the Dragons in the dens of the Mountain Atlas, should grow so great that they can scarse move the fore-parts of their body. I am yet therefore to speak of the Dragons in * the Mountains Emo〈…〉 or of A•igia, or of Dachinabades, or the Regions of the East, or of that which Augustus shewed publiquely to the people of Rome, being fifty cubits long; or of those which be in the Alpes, which are found in certain Caves of the South-sides of the hills, so that this which hath been said, shall suffice for the quantity and Countries of Dragons. Besides, there are other kindes of Dragons which I must speak of in order: and first of all of the Epidaurian Dragons, which is bred no where but in that Countrey, being t•me, and of yellow golden colour, wherefore they were dedicated to Aesculapius, of whom Nicander writeth in this manner.
In English thus;
There are likewise other kinde of •ame Dragons in Macedonia, where they are so meek, that wo∣men feed them, and suffer them to suck their breasts like little children their Infants also play with them, riding upon them and pinching them, as they would do with Dogs, without any harm, and sleeping with them in their beds. But among all Dragons, there was none more famous then the Dragon Python, or Pythias, as the Poets faign, which was bred of the flime of the earth, after the flood of Deucalion, and slain afterwards by Apollo, whereof there lyeth this tale; That when Laton• was with childe by Jupiter of Apollo and Diana, Juno resisted their birth, but when they were born and laid in the Cradle, she sent the Dragon Python to devour them, Apollo being but a young Infant, did kill the Dragon with a dart. But this tale seemeth too fabulous and incredible, and therefore they have mended the matter with another device; For they say that Python by the commandment of Juno, did persecute Latona throughout all the world, seeking to devour her, so as she had no rest until she came unto her sister Asteria, who received her into Delos, where she was safely delivered of Apollo and Diana. Afterward, when the childe was grown up, he slew the Dragon in remembrance and re∣venge of the wrong done to his mother. But the true cause of this History is delivered by Pausani•s and Macrobius, to be thus; That Apollo killed one Python, a very wicked man in Delphos, and that the Poets in excuse of the fact, did faign him to be a Dragon, as aforesaid. And so I shall not need to say any more of Python, except these verses following out of Ovid about his generation:
Which may be Englished thus;
Of the Indian Dragons there are also said to be two kindes, one of them fenny, and living in the marishes, which are slow of pace and without combes on their heads like females: the other in the Mountains, which are more sharp and great, and have combes upon their head, their backs being somewhat brown, and all their bodies lesse scaly then the other. When they come down from the Mountains into the plain to hunt, they are neither afraid of marishes nor violent waters, but thrust themselves greedily into all hazards and dangers: and because they are of longer and stronger bo∣dies then the Dragons of the fens, they beguile them of their meat, and take away from them their prepared booties. Some of them are of a yellowish fiery colour, having also sharp backs like saws; these also have beards, and when they set up their scales they shine like silver. The apples of their eyes are precious stones, and as bright as fire, in which there is affirmed to be much vertue against many diseases, and therefore they bring unto the Hunters and killers of Dragons no small gain, besides the profit of their skin, and their teeth: and they are taken when they descend from the Mountains into the Valleys to hunt the Elephants, so as both of them are kill'd together by the Hunters.
Their members are very great, like unto the members of the greatest Swine, but their bodies are leaner, flexibly turning to every side, according to the necessity of motion: Their snouts are very strong, resembling the greatest ravening Fishes; they have beards of a yellow golden colour, being full of bristles: and the Mountain-dragons commonly have more deep eye-lids then the Dragons of the Fens. Their aspect is very fierce and grim, and whensoever they move upon the earth, their eyes give a sound from their eye-lids, much like unto the tinckling of Brasse, and sometimes they boldly venture into the Sea and take Fishes.