Jess On The Web:
> history | famous dragons
Middle-Eastern serpents and dragons were fearsome creatures of tremendous strength and size. They often exhibited the characteristics of other animals, such as the head of a lion and the talons of an eagle. Some are even depicted with a scorpion's tail.
Many were sea creatures, embodying the destructive power of unpredictable nature and the threat of chaos. In time, they came to represent not just disorder, but evil. As the religions of the Middle East moved into Europe, their views of serpents and dragons most likely influenced the West's depiction of the dragon as being a symbol of evil as well.
Marduk with his Dragon
(from J. Black & A. Green)
Many dragons throughout the Middle-East were a symbol of Marduk, the supreme god of Babylonian and Assyrian religion, originally the god of thunderstorms with the Amonites, and the guardian god of the city of Babylon itself.
As the sacred animal of the dragon, Marduk had the head and tail of a serpent, the body and forelegs of a lion and the hind legs of a falcon, with a forked tongue. Marduk was emblazoned on the monumental Ishtar Gate at the climax of the ceremonial route through the city [King Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem, 2 Kings 24:10-16]. The processional way was also lined with rows of lions sacred to Ishtar, the goddess of love and fertility.
The most dramatic myths concern human or immortal heroes who killed dragons that threatened the world. By destroying the monsters, heroes were able to restore order and preserve the safety of civilisation.
Draco in the Stars
Dragons also made appropriate emblems for the stars mapped by Arabic astronomers. These cosmic creatures engaged in battles far beyond human realms, such as the encounter between the Persian hero Feridun and the mighty dragon Azhi Dahaka. When Feridun stabbed the monster, snakes, toads and scorpions began to pour out, so instead of cutting him up, the hero imprisoned him in Mount Demavend.
The oldest legend about Draco comes from the Sumerians and Babylonians of the Tigris and Euphrates Valley more than 5,000 years ago.
Its many stars were the 42 heavenly judges, namely Osiris and his assistants, among them ibis-headed Thoth, and the jackal-headed Anubis.
Draco's head was the Hall of Justice or Judgement Hall. Its four corner stars - Rastaban, Eltanin, Grumium and Kuma, were the four incorruptible sons of Horus: Imsety, Hapi, Duamutef and Kebehsenuf, who watched over Upper Egypt. In July, when the Nile rose, the head of Draco stood high in the sky at midnight, watching over Upper Egypt.