|Indian Dragon , Aberdeen Bestiary manuscript
c. 1200, Aberdeen University Library
THE DRAKONES INDIKOI were a breed of gigantic toothed dragon-serpents which hunted the elephants of India.
Aelian, On Animals 6. 21 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
"In India, I am told, the Elephant and the Drakon (Dragon-Serpent) are the bitterest enemies. Now Elephants draw down the branches of trees and feed upon them. And the Drakones, knowing this, crawl up the trees and envelop the lower half of their bodies in the foliage, but the upper portion extending to the head they allow to hang loose like a rope. And the Elephant approaches to pluck the twigs, whereat the Drakon springs at its eyes and gouges them out. Next the Drakon winds round the Elephant's neck, and as it clings to the tree with the lower part of its body, it tightens its hold with the upper part and strangles the Elephant with an unusual and singular noose."
Aelian, On Animals 16. 39 :
"Onesikritos (Onesicritus) of Astypalaia says that at the time of the expedition of Alexandros [Alexander the Great], the son of Phillipos, there were in India two Drakones (Serpent-Dragons) kept by Abisares the Indian, and that one of them measured a hundred and forty cubits, the other eighty. He says also that Alexandros had a great desire to see them."
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 2. 17 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"The statements made by Nearkhos (Nearchus) and Pythagoras, about the river Akesines [Acesines in India], to the effect that it debouches into the Indos (Indus), and that Opheis (Snakes) live in it seventy cubits long, were, they say, fully verified by them [i.e. the C1st A.D. travellers Apollonios of Tyana and Damis]; but I will defer what I have to say till I come to speak about Drakones (Dragon-Serpents), of whose capture Damis gives an account."
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 3. 6 - 9 :
"Now as they descended the mountain [the Indian Kaukasos (Caucasus)], they say they [Apollonios of Tyana, a C1st A.D. pagan prophet, and his companion Damis] came in for a Drakon hunt, which I must needs describe. For it is utterly absurd for those who are amateurs of hare-hunting to spin yarns about the hare as to how it is caught or ought to be caught, and yet that we should omit to describe a chase as bold as it is wonderful, and in which the sage was careful to assist; so I have written the following account of it:
The whole of India is girt with Drakones (Dragon-Serpents) of enormous size; for not only the marshes are full of them, but the mountains as well, and there is not a single ridge without one. Now the marsh kind are sluggish in their habits and are thirty cubits long, and they have no crest standing up on their heads, but in this respect resemble the Drakainai (She-Dragon-Serpents). Their backs however are very black, with fewer scales on them than the other kinds; and Homer has described them with deeper insight than have most poets, for he says that the Drakon that lived hard by the spring in Aulis had a tawny back; but other poets declare that the congener of this one in the grove of Nemea also had a crest, a feature which we could not verify in regard to the marsh Drakones.
And the Drakones along the foothills and the mountain crests make their way into the plains after their quarry, and prey upon all the creatures in the marshes; for indeed they reach an extreme length, and move faster than the swiftest rivers, so that nothing escapes them. These actually have a crest, of moderate extent and height when they are young; but as they reach their full size, it grows with them and extends to a considerable height, at which time also they turn red and get serrated backs. This kind also have beards, and lift their necks on high, while their scales glitter like silver; and the pupils of their eyes consist of a fiery stone, and they say that this has an uncanny power for many secret purposes. The plain specimen falls the prize of the hunters whenever it draws upon itself an elephant; for the destruction of both creatures is the result, and those who capture the Drakones are rewarded by getting the eyes and skin and teeth. In most respects they resemble the largest swine, but they are slighter in build and flexible, and they have teeth as sharp and indestructible as those of the largest fishes.
Now the Drakones of the mountains have scales of a golden colour, and in length excel those of the plain, and they have bushy beards, which also are of a golden hue; and their eyebrows are more prominent than those of the plain, and their eye is sunk deep under the eyebrow, and emits a terrible and ruthless glance. And they give off a noise like the clashing of brass whenever they are burrowing under the earth, and from their crests, which are all fiery red there flashes a fire brighter than a torch. They also can catch the elephants, though they are themselves caught by the Indians in the following manner. They embroider golden runes on a scarlet cloak, which they lay in front of the animal's burrow after charming them to sleep with the runes; for this is the only way to overcome the eyes of the Drakon, which are otherwise inflexible, and much mysterious lore is sung by them to overcome him. These runes induce the Drakon to stretch his neck out of his burrow and fall asleep over them: then the lndians fall upon him as he lies there, and despatch him with blows of their axes, and having cut off the head they despoil it of its gems. And they say that in the heads of the mountain Drakones there are stored away stones of flowery colour, which flash out all kinds of hues, and possess a mystical power if set in a ring; like that which they say belonged to Gyges (Griffins). But often the Indian, in spite of his axe and his cunning, is caught by the Drakon, who carries him off into his burrow and almost shakes the mountains as he disappears. These are also said to inhabit the mountains in the neighbourhood of the Red Sea, and they say that they heard them hissing terribly and that they saw them go down to the shore and swim far out into the sea. It was impossible however to ascertain the number of years that this creature lives, nor would my statements be believed. This is all I know about Drakones.
They tell us that the city under the mountain is of great size and is called Parax, and that in the centre of it are stored up a great many heads of Drakones, for the Indians who inhabit it are trained from their boyhood in this form of sport. And they are also said to acquire an understanding of the language and ideas of animals by feeding either on the heart or the liver of the Drakon."
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 3. 48 :
"‘For these animals [the Grypes, Griffins] do exist in India,’ he [the C1st A.D. Indian sage Iarkhas] said, ‘. . . and in size and strength they resemble lions but having this advantage over them that they have wings, they will attack them, and they get the better of elephants and of Drakones (Dragon-Serpents).’"
- Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - C3rd A.D.
- Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana - Greek Biography C2nd A.D.