St. John of Damascus on Dragons

For we trust the teaching of Moses, and, more exactly, the Holy Spirit, having spoken through [the prophet]. This [teaching] reads: And God brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever [Adam] called every living creature, that was the name thereof (cf. Gen. 2:19). Hence, a dragon was one of the animals. I am not telling you, after all, that there are no dragons; dragons exist but they are serpents borne of other serpents. Being just born and young, they are small; but when they grow up and get mature, they become big and fat so that exceed the other serpents in length and size. It is said they grow up more than thirty cubits; as for their thickness, they get as thick as a big log. Dio the Roman (A.D. 155 – 236) who wrote the history of Roman empire and republic, reports the following: one day, when Regulus, a Roman consul, was fighting against Carthage, a dragon suddenly crept up and settled behind the wall of the Roman army. The Romans killed it by order of Regulus, excoriated it and sent the hide to the Roman senate. When the dragon’s hide, as Dio says, was measured up by order of the senate, it happened to be, amazing, one hundred and twenty feet long, and the thickness was fitting to the length.”

“There is one more kind of dragon; those have wide head, goldish eyes and horny protuberances on the back of the head. They also have a beard [protruding] out of the throat; this kind of dragons is called “agaphodemons” and it is said they have no faces. This dragon is a sort of beasts, like the rest of the animals, for it has a beard, like a goat, and horn at the back of its head. Its eyes are big and goldish. These dragons can be both big and small. All serpent kinds are poisonous, except dragons, for they do not emit poison.”

– St. John of Damascus, On Dragons (unavailable in English, but excerpted in an English article here)

Comments

  1. Cool post. I believe this beast (or something similar) is mentioned in the book of Job chaps. 40-41. It appears throughout the writings of the Fathers:

    Sozomen

    There were at this period many other bishops in various parts of the empire highly celebrated for their sanctity and high qualifications, of whom Donatus, bishop of Euroea in Epirus, deserves to be particularly instanced. The inhabitants of the country relate many extraordinary miralces which he performed, of which the most celebrated seems to have been the destruction of a dragon of enormous size. It had stationed itself on the high road, at a place called Chamaegephyrae and devoured sheep, goats, oxen, horses and men. Donatus came upon this beast and attacked it unarmed, without sword, lance, or javelin; it raised its head, and was about to dash upon him, when Donatus made the Sign of the Cross with his finger in the air, and spat upon the dragon. The saliva entered its mouth and it immediately expired. (Ecclesiastical History Bk. VII)

    Abba Nisterus the Great was walking in the desert with a brother. They saw a dragon and they ran away. The brother said to him, “were you frightened too, Father? The old man said to him, “I am not afraid my child, but is better for me to flee, so as not to have to flee from the spirit of vain-glory.” (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Alphabetical Collection: Nisterus)

    Additionally, the first time the Loch Ness monster appears in history is in the Life of St. Columba written by St. Adomnan:

    http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/11/saint-columba-and-loch-ness-monster.html

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