The Griffins of India.
The famous Greek philosopher Flavius Philostratus in his book The Life of Apollonius of Tyana wrote about many historical accounts including dragons. In one particularly interesting passage he wrote about Grypes, also known as Griffins living in India at the time. He quotes the 1st century A.D. Indian "sage" Iarkhas who stated:
As to the gold which the griffins dig up, there are rocks which are spotted with drops of gold as with sparks, which this creature can quarry because of the strength of its beak. "For these animals do exist in India," he said, "and are held in veneration as being sacred to the Sun; and the Indian artists, when they represent the Sun, yoke four of them abreast to draw the imaged car; 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 dragons. But they have no great power of flying, not more than have birds of short flight; for they are not winged as is proper with birds, but the palms of their feet are webbed with red membranes, such that they are able to revolve them, and make a flight and fight in the air; and the tiger alone is beyond their powers of attack, because in swiftness it rivals the winds."
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 3. 48
The image that comes to mind for most people when the word "Griffin" is used is generally that of the stereotypical mythical chimera of a lion mixed with an eagle. And in a number of sources this seems to be the image portrayed, though many of those type of accounts are not from eye witnesses. It is well established from biology and genetics that the archetypal Griffin image is not, nor has it ever been, a real animal. And there is no evidence from the fossil record that declares otherwise. There are no Griffin fossils in any strata and it is highly unlikely that one day we will dig up the permineralized bones of a lion with an raptor's head and wings.
Now, having gone over the obvious, it seems questionable to bring up an ancient account of them in India. However the account of Griffins in India documented by Philostratus come from not only a first hand witness, but a native of the area. An eye witness account from a native inhabitant of an area is worth more than DNA results in some cases. Iarkhas is adamant about Griffins living in his homeland and describes them in a way that likely helped inspire the stereotypical image. Iarkhas describes the Griffins as being similar to lions, but not in physical appearance, in their size and physical strength. This is likely where many interpretations of Griffins as half lion, half eagle type animals has stemmed from.
It is unlikely that these creatures were actually digging up gold since animals do not have any use for precious metals, but it may be that they were making nests in places where gold was known to be. It is noted that the Indian artists portray Griffins in regards to sun worship.
The description of the Indian griffins goes on to detail how they are known for killing lions, elephants and even dragons thanks to their ability to fly which seemingly allows them to overwhelm their prey. The interesting part of the griffin's description is that it is said not to have wings like a bird and were apparently not as strong flyers as birds are. This may hint at the creatures gliding more than birds do. Their wings are described as hands with large red membranes stretched over them that they are able to rotate (this could mean many different forms of movement and we don't know which one is meant). He goes on to say that they fight in midair with each other, possibly similar to how birds of prey fight with one another. He closes by saying that the only animal (that he knows of) that outranks the Griffin in power is the tiger, and this is likely because while tigers are indeed powerful and majestic animals, they have long been revered religiously in India, with no animals ever really placed above them.
This ancient account paints a much different picture of Griffins than we are used to. They are not depicted as half lion, a mammal, or as half eagle, a bird, but as a large (roughly the size of a lion) flying animal that instead of having fur or feathers has membranous skin on it's wings.
The only animals known to fit such a manifestation that are known to modern science are Pterosaurs, a tribe of presumably hitherto extinct reptiles capable of flight. However pterosaurs, like dinosaurs, are said by those who believe in evolution to have all died out nearly 65 million years ago. So how could they possibly be the animal's called griffins thousands of years ago?
The possibility of pterosaurs living in the same historical time frame as humans ceases to be a conundrum when one removes the long span of tens of millions of years from the equation, something easily done since the processes used to support these long ages are all founded on sketchy science and poor philosophy. If these flying reptiles did in fact live at the same time as humans we would expect people to record events that included such interesting and inspiring animals. And it seems that this account of griffins in India is a prime example of just that, humans recording an amazing and unique creature, a reptile capable of flight and taking down many other creature, possibly including humans. Such fascinating animals would most assuredly have inspirited the local people that lived alongside these animals to write about how fantastic and powerful they were. And Pterosaurs known for preying on lion and even elephants and other large reptiles would certainly be something to write about.
If mankind and pterosaurs indeed existed together in India several thousand years ago this would obviously contradict the widespread paradigm of evolutionary long ages whereby many organisms such as mankind and pterosaurs. If this view of of natural history is in error then we must logically seek an alternative model of history. This leads us to creation, specifically the creation account found in Genesis seeing as how it is the only one that can satisfactorily interpret the evidence from our world via science and history. If indeed God created all organisms together during the 6 days of creation week we can safely infer that not only is He real but our Lord and Savior. Meaning we had best read His word and find out what He wants from us.
Scientific description in Historie of Foure Footed Beasts (1607).
In 1658 Edward Topsell's book Historie of Foure Footed Beasts was printed and was actually a combination of two of his earlier books. In the 1,100 page book Edward lists numerous known animals, although some are said to have fantastical attributes, and some that are considered mythical. In one section he gives an astonishingly detailed description of dragons from various regions. The descriptions given seem to be of several different species of Dragons, and possibly different kinds of animals (different types of Dinosaurs).
"There be some dragons which have wings and no feet, some again have both feet and wings, and some neither feet nor wings, but are only distinguished from the common sort of Serpents by the comb growing upon their heads, and the beard under their cheeks. Gyllius, Pierius, and Gervinus . . . do affirm that a Dragon is of a black colour, the belly somewhat green, and very beautiful to behold, having a treble row of teeth in their mouths upon every jaw, and with most bright and clear-seeing eyes, which caused the Poets to say in their writings that these dragons are the watchful keepers of Treasures. They have also two dewlaps growing under their chin, and hanging down like a beard, which are of a red colour: their bodies are set all over with very sharp scales, and over their eyes stand certain flexible eyelids. When they gape wide with their mouth, and thrust forth their tongue, their teeth seem very much to resemble the teeth of wild Swine: And their necks have many times gross thick hair growing upon them, much like unto the bristles of a wild Boar. Their mouth, (especially of the most tamable Dragons) is but little, not much bigger than a pipe, through which they draw in their breath, for they wound not with their mouth, but with their tails, only beating with them when they are angry. But the Indian, Ethiopian, and Phrygian dragons have very wide mouths, through which they often swallow in whole fowls and beasts. Their tongue is cloven as it were double, and the Investigators of nature do say that they have fifteen teeth of a side. The males have combs on their heads, but the females have none, and they are likewise distinguished by their beards. - Historie of Foure-Footed Beasts (1607)"
At the beginning of the article Edward seems to define several different types of animal altogether that are called dragons. The first creatures mentioned are a type of dragon capable of flight with only two feet (and sometimes none are reported but this may have been due to poor visibility during the sighting).
The next seems to be describing a large species of snake such as a python, although it is unclear as to what the "comb" on it's head would be.
Topsell then seems to mention another type of dragon that has been documented by others. He states that they are known to be black (a common color in reptiles) with green undersides. The description also notes that these dragons have 3 rows of teeth. This is a feature that is known in reptiles, including some dinosaurs. It also mentions that these animals have beautiful eyes, which are the inspiration for people believing they guard treasure.
These dragons are said to have two red dewlaps under their chins, and their bodies are covered in sharp scales. Their eyes are protected by what is likely protruding scales that act as eyebrows. It describes thick "bristle-like hairs" growing down their necks similar to wild boars. It is interesting that boars are often referenced when describing dragons, as is hair. This is likely due to different terminology than we have today. Many reptiles such as dinosaurs had scales shaped like long spines running down their back as many lizards do today still. This is likely what is often referred to in such cases of hair on dragons. These types of dragons are said to have small mouths "like a pipe" (possibly a reference to not only to the size of their mouths but to long throats/necks), and are said to not defend themselves by biting but by smacking creatures and objects with their tails.
The last few sentences mention yet another type of dragon known from India, Ethiopia and Phrygia which are known to have large mouths that they use for consuming birds and other animals, indicating they are carnivorous unlike the type previously mentioned. It is also said that it is scientifically established that these dragons have a forked tongue as well as 15 teeth on either side of their mouth (likely meaning 15 teeth on the upper and the lower jaw on each side of the mouth). This type of dragon is said to have a comb on it's head, and goes on to note that the genders are sexually dimorphic in that only the males have dewlaps and a comb on their head.
These accounts are dismissed by most people as being the mere imagination riddled writings of "uncivilized" people. But this view is in error since many people in the past were much more intelligent than we are today as witnessed by their writings, language, and inventions. Many ancient historians and philosophers wrote about things that were both well known and widely believed during their lifetime. Dragons and other animals are no exception.
The first type of dragons mentioned in the account are flying dragons said to have only two feet. These sound remarkably like what are in our time called Pterosaurs, flying reptiles said to have died out with the dinosaurs. The next type of creature referenced appears to be some species of large snake such as a python, however they are said to have fanciful crests and beards, something snakes do not have, so it may be that a now extinct species of python is being referenced that we are not familiar with. Or it may simply be poetic license on the part of someone who had not seen the animal in question, something that must always be taken into account.
Next, there are large creatures are said to be large animals with small mouths akin to a pipe, sharp scales on their bodies, scales over their eyes, spikey protrusions down their necks akin to thick bristles, and it is said they defend themselves by slamming foes with their powerful tails. To many this sounds like a description of a Sauropod dinosaur, large reptiles known for defending themselves by whipping and slapping enemies with their enormous tails. These large organisms include many different kinds, including the largest land animals to ever exist.
The last type of dragons mentioned are said to be carnivorous and fierce predators. They, like the others mentioned in the passage, are considered biological, real animals, and it is pointed out that their physical anatomy is well known. These predatory dragons are said have both a crest on their heads as well as a dewlap, but that only the males have these.
This description sounds much like a species of Theropod dinosaur known as Monolophosaurus, an animal that grew to nearly 20 feet long and may have weighed a thousand pounds. They are famous for having a single large crest on their head, just like the last type of dragons mentioned in the ancient account.
Given the fact that this passage from the early 15th century mentions 3 different types of presumably long extinct reptilia, it seems only logical to conclude that the people of the time did in fact encounter animals that most mainstream educational sources nowadays are state are supposed to have died out tens of millions of years ago. Thus making it impossible by evolutionary standards for a human to have ever seen these creatures. However the mere fact that people during the middle ages wrote about such animals is a powerful testimony that such creatures were indeed alive just several hundred years ago. This coexistence doesn't make much sense in light of Darwinian history, but according to the creation view established in the book of Genesis, such cohabitation is only logical since all organisms would have been made alongside humans during the same first week. These testimonies to an alternate, true version of our history should lead us all to question the story of billions of years of death and suffering that evolution teaches and seek an alternative view that gives us solid answers about where we came from and where we are going. For many, these answers are readily available from God through Scripture.
Marco Polo reports dragons in China
During his 20 year voyage around the Orient, Marco Polo went to several places in Asia including Persia, China and Indonesia. He spent 20 years in China and served Kublai Khan for 17 years. He deatiled the people, customs and flora and fauna he saw during his expedition in his book The Travels of Marco Polo which was published in 1300 A.D. During his time in China he wrote of seeing dragons. In chapter 49 he wrote of the dragons in the province of Karajan and how the locals went about killing the animals. He described the animals as thus:
Marco Polo describes the creatures without any fantastical features and quite plainly as one would expect if the writer were describing real, flesh and blood animals and not mythical creatures. He also describes the dragons as exhibiting reptile-like behavior by being highly nocturnal due to the heat as well as being found near water quite often. He also goes on to describe how the hunters kill and harvest the animals and highly prize their gall bladders, something that is still done with rare animals to this day such as bears, tigers and reptiles due to the belief that the organs hold medicinal properties (this may be where the belief stems from). He also writes that the people prize the meat because of it's flavor.
Another interesting point is that Marco Polo wrote in 1271 that dragons were raised to pull the Emperors' chariot during special events, likely the most prestigious events since dragons were so highly regarded in eastern culture. Later on in 1611 the Emperor of China appointed the position of "Royal Dragon Feeder". It only seems logical that the emperor would appoint such an important official position if there were in fact dragons being bred, raised and which needed feeding. Mythical animals don't eat and such imaginary creatures and gods are usually offered sacrifices and not appointed a feeder to prepare, bring and give food to them like animals in a zoo. It only seems logical that not only did Marco Polo encounter real, living Dinosaurs, but that these grand animals were alive and well in China until at least the 17th century, inspiring awe and legends that continue even today.
Dragons have been a central theme in Chinese culture since it began. Unlike the Dragons of Europe, they are not often feared but revered and respected and are symbols of not only power but wisdom as well. They are even part of their Zodiac calendar along with 11 other well known and flesh and blood animals. Yet many regard Dragons to be 100% myth. Yet with inspection into history and biology it has been shown that these creatures indeed are liekly based on those greatest of all reptiles, the Dinosaurs (Pterosaurs and Plesiosaurs are not Dinosaurs but are included for many purposes of discussion. In the broadest of terms they are considered Dinosaurs so to speak).
While there is often much mysticism and religious context to dragons and legends of them, they have always been regarded as flesh and blood animals like the horse or lion or crocodile. They were even mentioned before China was settled when the land was drained off and the snakes and dragons were run off so that the land could be converted for human settlement. Marco Polo even mentioned them in 1271 when he stayed in China for several years, noting that Dragons were raised to pull the Emperors cart on special occasions. Dragons were well known to the Chinese as living animals, not just as mythical beasts or deities.
*This statue is a replica but is an example of the wingless type of Dragon of Oriental culture. It is likely based on Therizinosaur Dinosaurs.
Just what these animals were has been interpreted by many to be based on snakes and crocodiles or simply made up entirely. Some others have insisted they are based on humans discovering fossils and attributing them to grand beasts. However many reports and stories of Dragons insist upon living animals, not reconstructed bones or creatures of fantasy. This means that Dragons were indeed real animals that the Chinese interacted with throughout the the entire history of China. But what were these awe inspiring beasts that were utmost revered? Well, based on the research, cross referencing and more literal interpretation of many people, the most obvious conclusion that some have reached for the identity of Dragons is Dinosaurs. Not just in China, but throughout the cultures of the world.
*Sauroposiedon. A species of Sauropod or "long necked" Dinosaur.
There are several types of Dragons in Chinese culture, be they land dwelling, aquatic or those with wings. Are all these based upon the same type of animal? Logically no. Just as there are multiple types and species of Dragons, there are multiple types and species of Dinosaurs to fill the place of their identity. This seems like a logical conclusion to those who believe that Dinosaurs have lived in recent times with human beings.
Alexander the Great encounter strange creatures and even dragons in India.
As they journeyed, Alexander and his soldiers saw many new and strange sights. They passed through boundless forests of mighty trees beneath whose branches roosted flocks of wild peacocks. They saw serpents, glittering with golden scales, glide swiftly through the underwood.
These creatures sound remarkably like Pterosaurs, flying reptiles that are supposed to have died out with the dinosaurs. However according to the Romans, they clearly were still alive and well in India when the Roman Empire was in power.
Shining Dragon of the Mountain.
A 17th century writer by the name of Athanasius Kircher recorded the story of a clergyman named Christopher Schorerum who was known throughout the region as an honest and good man. Chrostophers story is as follows:
On a warm night in 1619, while contemplating the serenity of the heavens, I saw a shining dragon of great size in front of Mt. Pilatus, coming from the opposite side of the lake [or 'hollow'], a cave that is named Flue [Hogarth-near Lucerne] moving rapidly in an agitated way, seen flying across; It was of a large size, with a long tail, a long neck, a reptile's head, and ferocious gaping jaws. As it flew it was like iron struck in a forge when pressed together that scatters sparks. At first I thought it was a meteor from what I saw. But after I diligently observed it alone, I understood it was indeed a dragon from the motion of the limbs of the entire body.� From the writings of a respected clergyman, in fact a dragon truely exists in nature it is amply established.� (Kircher, Athanasius, Mundus Subterraneus, 1664, tr. by Hogarth, "Dragons," 1979, pp. 179-180.)
This may be the first detailed sighting of what are now called Ropens. Many people over the centuries have described shining or glowing pterosaurs, especially in the Pacific around the islands of New Guinea. This also fits with the "fiery flying serpents" of the Bible in that many people have described them as serpents with wings and look as though they are on fire or emitting a shine with "sparkles" about them. This seems to be what most descriptions of fiery dragons are about. Many people, from every corner of the globe, over several millenia, have described these creatures and those that do today identify them as pterosaurs 100% of the time. Every person that has had a sighting of these creatures has identified them as a pterosaur either being shown pictures or drawing them or simply knowing what a pterosaur is and describing it. How could so many people over such a long period of time, from so many different cultures, and having never spoken with each other, all depict the same animals unless they actually saw them? Well the obvious. They saw them.
The Dragons of India.
The philosopher Flavius Philostratus was born around 172 A.D., a mere 4 centuries after Alexander the Great and died around the year 250 A.D. Flavius wrote a book entitled The Life of Apollonius of Tyana in which he gives an astonishingly detailed account of dragons that lived in India as given to Apollonius and his companion Damis by the native people:
"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. 6 - 9
This description of Dragons may be one of the most detailed known and also fits perfectly well with the anatomy of animals we nowadays call Dinosaurs. One of the first things readers will notice is that Philostratus is referring to not one, but several different types of Dragons, regarding them as real, flesh and blood animals. He groups the species by habitat and not Taxonomy like we group animals today, though it appears that at least the latter two kinds are possibly of the same clade. He obviously believes that these Dragons are real animals and not like fairies or goblins, he is insisting that they are real and have been described scientifically by many people, Including Homer.
He describes the dragons that live in the marshes as being about 45 1/2 feet long (30X 18.24 inches[18.24in. = 1 Olympic cubit]), more sluggish than their cousins (another type), and have a black colored back (possibly entirely black in color) with no crest on their head. Though he does not say what kind of food they eat, it may be inferred from the rest of the passage that they are carnivorous. He goes on to say that there is at least one report of a marsh dragon that was Tawny in color, and also a report of one that had a crest on it's head, though he could not verify them. The lack of a head crest is said to be a trait in female dragons normally, but the marsh dragons being mentioned seem to all lack a crest on their head regardless of gender. These marsh dragons are smaller than the ones that lives in the mountains, plains and foothills, and their sluggishness may be due to it being harder to move quickly through the swamp. If these marsh dragons are indeed carnivorous like the others in the article they may well be a Theropod Dinosaur such as Allosaurus or another Carnosaur, though it is never actually mentioned what the swamp dwelling dragons eat.
Flavius goes on to discuss the dragons from the mountains and plains, saying that these reach larger sizes, much larger than the marsh Dragons, and they prey on any animal they please, including the dragons that live in the swamps since they can run exceptionally fast and are apparently large enough to predate the swamp species, and coupled with their great size, they could probably cover distances quickly so prey would have a hard time escaping. Flavius continues by stating that the mountain and plains dragons are born with a crest and it grows with them over time. The crests start off less noticeable and apparently more contour to the animals body but when they reach sexual maturity the crest grows to it's full size and develops serrations.
At this time it is said that the dragons' crests turn red in color. Flavius mentions that the Mountain and Plains kinds also have beards. This an important point since many skeptics would point out that reptiles can't have beards as a beard is comprised of hair. While reptiles cannot have beards of hair, there are several species of reptiles that have "beards" of scales". The "beards" on reptiles are actually made up of protruding scales that look very similar to a beard and in some species, such as Bearded Dragons which are named for their beard-like throat scales, can even change to dark Black in color, making them look more like beards of hair. There is no reason to think that some Dinosaurs did not have this same feature which is usually used in courtship displays or dominance displays among rival males. So saying that dragons had beards in no way invalidates the possible existence of Dragons, nor does it invalidate the possible identity of Dragons as Dinosaurs.
The text says that the Mountain and Plains dragons have longer necks than the swamp kinds and the plains dragon's scales glitter like silver. This may refer to the iridescence of the scales rather than color. He notes that that the Mountain and plain/foothill species have crests, but from the language it seems their crests may have been on their backs. Many reptiles have iridescent scales that are very shiny, even to the extent of creating a rainbow sheen on them.
Philostratus also notes that the creatures have "fiery eyes". Many animals have "fiery eyes", this simply means that they're eyes are colorful or pretty nowadays, however ancient people believed certain body parts held magical powers. The author also notes that the dragons have similarities to pigs, while most skeptics would declare this proof that dragons aren't really dinosaurs, however this may not mean that the dragons look like pigs, only that they have some features in common such as teeth that protrude beyond their lips that are sharp. It is made clear that the Dragons have large sharp teeth, which are compared to the teeth of large species of fish, possibly sharks or other large species of freshwater predatory fish.
Flavius notes that the Plains kind often battle with elephants, possibly in attempts to kill and consume them. Although the outcome of the battle is usually the death of both animals, at which point the Indians harvest the bodies of both animals and take the eyes, skin and teeth of the dragons which are highly coveted.
The Mountain Dragons are said to be the largest kind (species or subspecies most likely) and are gold colored with the largest beards (dewlaps) of the same golden color as their body, and have the most prominent eyebrows of the 3 kinds of Dragons. While reptiles do not have true eyebrows since they lack hair, some do grow scales or have protruding frontal lobes of their orbit that extend out above their eyes that serve as protection from debris. There are many snakes and lizards that include the word "horned" in their name because of this feature.
The "ruthless glance" the Mountain Dragon's eyes are said to have is a trait often associated with reptiles out of fear since their pupils are normally thin and vertical likes a cats' eyes and not round like a human or mammals. It is only logical that Dinosaurs had the same types of eyes as the reptiles we observe today, which would explain this "ruthless glance" as simply being a differently shaped pupil as reptiles have today. They are said to make the sound of clashing metal as they dig because of their scales. This may be from them making nests or some other activity. It has been established that some Dinosaurs made burrows or caves even large Sauropods.
The crests of the Mountain Dragons are said to to be an intense red color and to "flash brighter than the fire of a torch". It is unlikely that their crests were on fire since the animals wouldn't live long in such an event. This could mean one of several things. They could change the crest's color like a Chameleon. They could simply have been brightly colored and this is a poetic exaggeration. However from the text it seems to convey that the crest of these animals is capable of bioluminescence, producing their own light. This may be attracting mates during some sort of courtship (possibly one that takes place at night), for some sort of ritual combat or some other form of communication to other animals.We can only guess at the reason such a structure would produce a bright light and how, but it would certainly be haunting to see in person, especially at night.
The Mountain Dragons are said to also attack Elephants but apparently succeed, making the them seemingly the apex predators and likely most feared variety of them all. No one wants to mess with an animal that can eat an Elephant.
The account goes on to say that the Indians catch and kill the dragons by using gems in various ways to lull the dragons to sleep and then cut their head off, though apparently this is not always a successful endeavor and often ends up with a hunter being carried off by a dragon to be eaten in it's den.
While this may be muddled with lore, it should be noted that many reptiles, especially lizards, like shiny things. I have personally used keys on a keyring to drive a Bearded Dragon "crazy" with excitement because the shine from the metal enticed it so much it HAD to get them and didn't want to let go even after realizing that they weren't food. This is because reptile eyes are designed so that reflective light shines brighter and not only gets their attention, but causes them to fixate on the source.
At the end of the passage it is said that these Dragons have been seen around the mountains surrounding the Red Sea and have been seen swimming out into the sea. The passage closes by mentioning an underground city under the mountains mentioned where a tribe of hunters live that specialize in hunting these dangerous animals and are trained to do so from childhood.
From a careful reading of the account of these Indian dragons, it becomes quite obvious that the descriptions are referring to real, living animals with habits and habitats, unlike ghosts or trolls or fairies which are said to be in general places such as "under bridges" or "in haunted woods" and rarely if ever are known in such detail. These animals are recorded as flesh and blood organisms classed as giant reptiles. There are certainly real animals that fit this description, we call them "Dinosaurs" today, and have for about the last 200 years. However before that they were known by another name, Dragons.
The question about this account now becomes "what Dinosaurs were being described by Flavius Philostratus that lived in India and got so large?". The answer is most likely multiple kind since 3 kinds of Dragons are noted and described. The swamp kind is somewhat up for debate since these Dragons don't have crests and their diet is never specifically stated, though it seems they may be carnivorous like the larger kinds are said to be. They are said to be more sluggish than the other kinds but since they lack crests, they are compared to female Dragons, which may mean they look like the Plains and Mountain kinds but without the sail. This could mean they may be some form of Carnosaur such as Allosaurus, or a Spinosaurid that lacks a crest/sail such as Irritator or Baryonyx. These dinosaurs grew to roughly 30 or more feet long and are believed to have been fearsome predators.
The plains type of dragon mentioned may well have been a dinosaur known as Irritator, a species of Spinosaurid that resembled Aegyptiacus but did not reach near the size. This would probably explain it's difficulty in taking down elephants since even though it could, it did not have the size advantage that it's larger relatives would have.
As for the dragons living in the tropical mountains, the description paints a picture of a giant, carnivorous reptile with a crest that can eat Elephants. Paleontological discoveries have shown that such animals indeed lived in the past now known as Spinosaurus. The largest subspecies was Spinosaurus Aegyptiacus and is normally the species used when the name Spinosaurus is mentioned. At 60 feet long (possibly more since we will never know the largest specimen ever) with a large crest/sail on it's back, and an 8 foot long skull full of sharp teeth, it easily fits the description of the Indian dragons living in the mountains. Spinosaurus Aegyptiacus is the largest known theropod dinosaur yet discovered and would easily be able to take down an Elephant and would have been well adept to swim far out into the Red Sea since it is known to have been highly aquatic. It's large crest may well have been able to produce a glow like the one mentioned in Philostratus' passage and would give an explanation for the feature. It is easy to see how the natives of Inida would have feared and revered these awe inspiring, enormous reptiles.
More information on Spinosaurs can be found in our Dinosaurs-Antediluvian Dragons section.
While some people may have difficulties seeing dragons as dinosaurs, history as well as many other fields of research show us that dragons are indeed based on real creatures and that dinosaurs indeed lived at the same time as humans. It is by blending these two pieces of knowledge that the picture of humans and dragons becomes clear and believable. These evidences show that in contrast to the Evolutionary timeline, dinosaurs and humans have in fact lived together in the past just as the history and timeline laid down by the Bible would tell us in Scripture.
Fiery Flying Serpents
In ancient times as far back as Moses and the Israelite people have had issues with reptiles they considered dangerous nuisances. Large or venomous species were respected and feared for their power and ability to kill with just a bite and as such were given a wide birth. Many of these animals such as pythons or cobras or vipers are still common today in tropical and temperate areas, but some animals that were once so common they were at times considered a plague are now nowhere to be found. Many scholars contend these animals never existed alongside humans to begin with due to their descriptions, yet the scholars of the time regarded animals such as dragons and Fiery serpents as real and factual as a cow or eagle.
Many disregard the accounts and records of fiery serpents because the only possible identity of such animals would be Pterosaurs, a group of animals that many say died out over 65 million years ago and could never have been seen by humans. But as can be easily seen from historical eyewitnesses, these flying reptiles were certainly alive and well known just a few thousand years ago.
The earliest reference to fiery serpents we have for these animals in particular come from scripture in Numbers 21:6 where God sends these animals to molest the Israelites for their whining and disrespect after just delivering them from slavery in Egypt. The people of Israel had started losing faith in God despite the fact that He had recently delivered them out of bondage in Egypt and them from the Canaanites that had taken them prisoner. But as humans often do, the Israelites focused on the small negative events in their lives instead of grand joyous ones and began to rebel against God in their hearts and spoke against the very God leading and protecting them (a theme we see throughout all of history, even today).
So as parents often do with stubborn, whining children, He punished them. He sent these flying reptiles amongst the millions of Israelites which were hard to escape from since they could fly, and from their description it appears they were smaller than many other species of Pterosaur, and it appears they were venomous or poisonous in some way. The Fiery serpents of the old testament have been wrote about before, but something that many people seem not to put in context is just how bad this plague of Pterosaurs would have been..It's one thing to be harassed by such an animal, or several. But Scripture makes it clear that there were millions of Israelites on the Exodus from Egypt. This means there were enough of these poisonous Pterosaurs to harass Millions of people! And even kill a number of them. That would be thousands if not tens of thousands of these creatures flying through the campsites of God's people, biting and scratching them, potentially poisoning them. If these were merely vipers or cobras or some other venomous snake the people could have easily avoided them, even shooed them away with sticks or merely killed them. But the fact they were could not escape or outrun these creatures strongly suggests they were not merely snakes.
The people quickly recanted their harsh words against the Lord and asked Moses for help, whom Scripture seems to indicate was not pestered by these animals due to not rebelling against the Lord (Numbers 21:7). Moses prayed and asked God for help. In Numbers 21:8 God tells Moses to make an image of the creatures causing so much suffering to the people of Israel and set it on a pole, and when someone is bitten, they were to look at the image and they would be healed. Now, obviously God does not condone idol worship.
There are several symbolic meanings to the serpent of bronze on the cross. One is God's dominion over the fiery serpents. Carnivorous reptilian animals such as snakes and dragons are usually used in scripture to refer to Satan, and God's ability to command and conquer these creatures symbolizes His power to triumph over the Devil as well. Another symbolism is in the serpent on the pole, in that it conveys that those afflicted with sin (all humans) cannot heal themselves of sin but must look upon Christ to heal them. It also seems unlikely that God would use a snake as a symbol for Christ on the cross when snakes are used in reference to Satan from Genesis 3:1-Revelation 20:2. It seems more likely that God would use a more elegant and powerful animal to represent Himself on the cross. More on this later in the article.
The flying reptiles from these passages believed by many scholars to have been what are known in modern times as Pterosaurs. When most people think of Pterosaurs they think of the large species such as Pteranodon, Quetzalcoatlus, or Ornithocheirus. However most species of Pterosaurs were actually much smaller, having wingspans of 6 feet or less. Most of the species this small were Rhamphorynchid pterosaurs, the kind that typically had long tails and sharp teeth. In fact these creatures are found throughout scripture in several other references as well as other places in history. In Isaiah 14:29 we find mention of fiery flying serpents, which the Hebrew language seems to indicate are the same kind of animals since in the account given in Numbers 21 the creatures are called Saraphim Naphashim and in the references in Isaiah they are called Saraph (fiery snake). This seems to strongly indicate from the basic definition of the words that they are the same animals, at least eh same kind even if they are not the exact same species in both instances. The language does indicate in both Numbers and Isaiah that the creatures can fly as well.
Isaiah 14:29 states:
Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.
The text indicates that these creatures are different from normal serpents (snakes), which cannot fly and are not "fiery". The flying attribute of these winged menaces is best summed up by Goertzen:
That Hebrew word, m’opheph Jpvfm, is a polal participle; a form used only by Isaiah when describing the reptilian saraph (14:29 and 30:6). The polal indicates an intensive of the root pvf ooph that means to fly or flutter. BDB, [Brown-Driver-Briggs] then, interprets it as meaning to “fly about, to and fro.” The imperfect form of the polal is found in Gen. 1:20, “flying creatures that flutter to and fro…” The meaning may be best illustrated by a polal infinitive construct in Ez. 32:10 “when I cause my sword to fly to and fro” or “when I brandish my sword.” The rapid back and forth movement of the sword (brandishing) illustrates the emphasis of the polal intensive. The idea of TWOT [Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament] then, that m’opheph Jpvfm could indicate a serpent’s swift bite, will not work since a serpent’s strike is not a back and forth motion. The word indicates an animal with swift back and forth motion, like the flying of a humming bird.[i]
It is also interesting that the same word used for "fiery serpent" is used by Isaiah is to describe the angelic beings flying around God's throne in Heaven. The root of the word means "to burn" or "to kindle". The same term is likely used because the animals were superficially similar in appearance to the angelic beings Isaiah was shown in his vision and was the most accurate comparison he could make. The "fiery" aspect of these animals is still subject to some debate amongst scholars and laymen alike. Some have suggested it refers to their venomous bite, though most believe it is a reference to their ability to produce their own light, a theme seen in these creatures throughout history, even in many reports of Pterosaurs today in various parts of the world.
Based on numerous historical and modern eye witness accounts, many Pterosaur species seem to be able to produce their own light source through a process known as bioluminescence. No one is certain what method is used to achieve the light produced but it seems to be a method that allows them to control it, making it likely a chemical reaction that the creature controls. Although it does also appear that the source may leave the organisms body as many reports of this phenomena report a trail of light behind the animal's in flight or above them as the descend. It may be that the produce a chemical that they secrete through their skin or some unknown structures similar to what many animals use to produce scented pheromones to mark their territory. As of now this is merely a hypothesis.
Aside from scripture these animals are mentioned by numerous extrabiblical historical figures and considered not only amazing and somewhat dangerous, but also real, flesh and blood organisms with skin, bones and blood. The famous Greek researcher Herodotus wrote in book II about such animals saying
75. There is a region moreover in Arabia, situated nearly over against the city of Buto, to which place I came to inquire about the winged serpents: and when I came thither I saw bones of serpents and spines in quantity so great that it is impossible to make report of the number, and there were heaps of spines, some heaps large and others less large and others smaller still than these, and these heaps were many in number. This region in which the spines are scattered upon the ground is of the nature of an entrance from a narrow mountain pass to a great plain, which plain adjoins the plain of Egypt; and the story goes that at the beginning of spring winged serpents from Arabia fly towards Egypt, and the birds called ibises meet them at the entrance to this country and do not suffer the serpents to go by but kill them. On account of this deed it is (say the Arabians) that the ibis has come to be greatly honoured by the Egyptians, and the Egyptians also agree that it is for this reason that they honour these birds. 76. The outward form of the ibis is this:--it is a deep black all over, and has legs like those of a crane and a very curved beak, and in size it is about equal to a rail: this is the appearance of the black kind which fight with the serpents, but of those which most crowd round men's feet (for there are two several kinds of ibises) the head is bare and also the whole of the throat, and it is white in feathering except the head and neck and the extremities of the wings and the rump (in all these parts of which I have spoken it is a deep black), while in legs and in the form of the head it resembles the other. As for the serpent its form is like that of the watersnake; and it has wings not feathered but most nearly resembling the wings of the bat. Let so much suffice as has been said now concerning sacred animals.
Josephus also writes of these flying reptiles and tells of how Moses used Ibis' to combat them:
…but Moses prevented the enemies, and took and led his army before those enemies were apprised of his attacking them; for he did not march by the river, but by land, where he gave a wonderful demonstration of his sagacity; for when the ground was difficult to be passed over, because of the multitude of serpents, (which it produces in vast numbers, and indeed, is singular in some of those productions, which other countries do not breed, and yet such as are worse than others in power and mischief, and an unusual fierceness of sight, some of which ascend out of the ground unseen, and also fly in the air, and so come upon men at unawares, and do them a mischief,) Moses invented a wonderful stratagem to preserve the army safe, and without hurt; for he made baskets, like unto arks, of sedge, and filled them with ibes, and carried them along with them; which animal is the greatest enemy to serpents imaginable, for they fly from them when they come near them; and as they fly they are caught and devoured by them, as if it were done by the harts;[vi]
Pliny the elder echoes the sentiments of Josephus when he writes:
The Egyptians also invoke their ibis against the incursions of serpents; and the people of Elis, their god Myiagros, when the vast multitudes of flies are bringing pestilence among them;”
Another historical figure who mentions flying reptiles is Esaharddon, the Assyrian monarch. While on the march from Palestine to Egypt he mentions flying serpents, green in color.
Flying reptiles of the description befitting Pterosaurs are known from at least 12 other historical writers including Aristotle, Cicero, Aelianus and others, all of whom considered these creatures real, not mythical animals.
Many people will discount these narratives as merely fanciful writings of "less advanced" people, or misidentifications of animals we see living today, or the imaginations of superstitious people of ages gone by. But these claims cannot stand up to the actual evidence that suggests that these people wrote about real animals living at the time of writing, animals many of them saw with their own eyes. Their rejection is these events as literal history however stem from their deep investment in the philosophy of ancient ages of many organisms being separated by eons of time, creatures that are supposed to have never been seen by mankind according to them. However this philosophy does not pan out when compared to actual evidence in the form of historical texts and eye witness accounts throughout all of history which tell us that humans have lived alongside and seen Pterosaurs through all of history, even today.
All of these evidences paint us a much different portrait of natural history than we are shown in mainstream science media sources which tell us quite confidently that all Dinosaurs, Pterosaurs and Plesiosaurs died out roughly 65 million years ago, long before man existed as a species. These accounts make it quite clear that another view of history is more accurate and that we have indeed lived with Pterosaurs since the beginning of history and may still.
If indeed we were created at the beginning by God along with all other Kinds of animals as the Genesis account states, then we would expect these numerous references to Pterosaurs throughout history by scholars and lay people alike. These records go to show us that indeed we have shared history with creatures that evolution states died out long before us, and that we are indeed made by a loving God whose judgement has been made clear and will come again soon.