Greek Mythology >> Bestiary >> Legendary Creatures


Ancient Greek and Roman writers imagined a host of fantastic creatures inhabiting the unexplored corners of the world. The most famous collection of these is found in Pliny's Natural History, a book which inspired medieval bestiaries. The images below are from a couple of illuminated medieval manuscripts.


The following creatures were all regarded as species of animal.

AEGIPAN, LIBYAN (Aigipan Libys) Goat-horned and legged men who lived in the forest of Mount Atlas.

AMPHISBAENA (Amphisbaina) A Saharan serpent with two heads, one at each end of its body.

ANT, INDIAN (Myrmex Indikos) Gigantic insects which guarded deposits of gold of the Indian deserts.

BASILISK (Basiliskos) A deadly African serpent which killed by touch and poisonous breath.

BULL, ETHIOPIAN (Tauros Aithiopikos) A gigantic, aggressive African bull whose red hides were impervious to steel.

CATOBLEPAS (Katobleps) A bull-like African beast whose downward looking head, when raised, could killa man by gaze or with its noxious breath.

CETUS, INDIAN (Ketos Indikos) Fabulous half-animal, half-fish sea-monsters which inhabited the Indian ocean. They included fish-tailed lions, bears, wolves, rams and spine-haired mermaids.

CROCOTTA (Krokottas) A hyena-like Aethiopian beast with a powerful jaw-plate in place of teeth which imitated the human voice to lure its prey.

DRAGON, ETHIOPIAN (Drakones Aithiopikoi) Gigantic African serpents.

DRAGON, INDIAN (Drakon Indikos) Giant Indian serpents which preyed on elephants.

DRAGON, PHRYGIAN (Drakon Phrygios) Giant Anatolian serpents which stood upright on their tails to snare birds from the air.

EALE (Eale) An antelope-like beast with tusks and moveable horns.

GRIFFIN (Gryps) An eagle-headed lion native to the mountains of Scythia in North-Eastern Europe.

LEUCROCOTTA (Leukrokottas) A hyena-like Aethiopian beast with a powerful jaw-plate in place of teeth which imitated the human voice to lure its prey.

MANTICORE (Mantikhora) A winged Persian monster with the head of a man, the body of a lion and a spiked missile-throwing tail.

MONOCERATUS (Hippos Monokeratos) Or unicorn, a magical single-horned horse native to India.

NEADES A giant beast native to the island of Samos whose roar could split open the ground.

ONOCENTAUR (Onokentauros) An African animal which was a cross between a man and an ass.

PEGASUS, ETHIOPIAN (Pegasos Aithiopikos) A winged Ethiopian horse equipped with horns.

PHOENIX (Phoinix) A fabulous golden-red bird whose feathers shone with the light of the sun.

SATYR, ETHIOPIAN (Satyros Aithiopikos) A phantom satyr which plagued an African town.

SATYR, ISLAND (Satyroi Nesioi) Ape-like satyrs native to islands off the North African coast.

SATYR, LEMNIAN (Satyros Lemnios) A satyr which consorted with a woman of the island of Lemnos.

SATYR, LIBYAN (Satyroi Libyes) Monkey-like satyrs which lived in the forest of Mount Atlas in North-West Africa.

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.

SERPENT, WINGED (Ophis Pteretos) A feathery-winged serpent which guarded the rich myrrh fields of Arabia.

SPHINX, ETHIOPIAN (Sphinx Aithiopikos) Women-headed African lions.

TRITON TANAGRAN (Triton) A monstrous sea daemon with the upper body of a man and the tail of a fish. It was a fearsome, scaly monster with sharp carnivorous teeth.

UNICORN (Monokeratos) A white Indian horse equipped with a single, magical horn. The Greek name for the creature was Monoceratus ("One-Horn").

WORM, INDOS Gigantic white worms which inhabited the Indos river.

YALE (Eale) An antelope-like beast with tusks and moveable horns.