Where Do Dragons of the Ancient World Come from?


Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
Gerald Massey writing in the late 19th century had a very interesting take on the origins of the Dragon. He felt that the Dragon-myth of Egypt, where the Dragon was really a giant water snake or reptile , by the name of Apap was largely symbolic of drought or the Nile before the season of innundation.

Massey because of the era in which he lived believed strongly in the theory of diffussion, associated with the idea of The Cradle of Civilization, namely that world civilizations all over the world owed their origins to one source. The difference between Massey and his contemporaries was that Massy saw Africa or Ancient Egypt as that source, whereas the overwhelming majority of his contemporaries saw that source as Mesopotamia. As a result Massey makes the claim that Dragons in all other cultures owed their idea to Ancient Egypt:

The 'mystery of evil,' about which theologians ignorantly prate, was very simple in its origin. Water, food, and light were naturally good. Their opposites—thirst, hunger, darkness, and disease—were as naturally bad. In this way the origin of evil had its rootage in the conditions of external nature for which man could nowise be held responsible. The rest is mainly the result of a primitive doctrine being developed in the domain of theology. For example, Sut, the anthropomorphic devil of the later Egyptian religion, was previously the pre-anthropomorphic representative of drought, dearth, and darkness long before the type of evil had been personalized in the figure of a satanic Mephistopheles as the tempter of womankind. Thus the representative of evil, 'that old serpent' in mythology, became the author of evil in theology, and the devil was evolved in the moral domain according to the eschatology--- [The department of theological science concerned with ‘the four last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell’.]

Today most scholars would question this diffusion theory, and argue instead that most cultures developed independently of each other and that similarities, without discounting the possibilities of diffussion, may either be coincidental or rather a result of the common set of conditions and circumstances which lead to the birth of complex human societies. However to me, Massey's basic point of Dragoms being equated with evil as a result of being synonymous, in an early primitive stage with drought and hunger seems quite interesting.


Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
I believe Massey was very close.

There is a great deal of confusion involved because the languages became... ...well... ...confused at the Tower of Babel. While origins are mostly Egyptian as told by the Greeks the "confusion of the language" originated at Babel which was likely Mesopotamia. This isn't to say everything originated in Egypt, just that most of the concepts, processes, and beliefs still current today first arose in Egypt or were quickly adopted in Egypt after foreign invention. This is lost because religion intentionally omitted Egyptian beliefs and ideas after many centuries of their influence being forgotten because of symbolic language.

Ancient Egyptian was one of the mother languages where words were associated with their definitions. Ideas weren't abstract or symbolic but were concrete and mimiced nature. It looks to us something like computer code and this is why it has been misunderstood. You can't parse computer code without the meaning and intent evaporating.

When symbolic language took over worldwide (yes, it even rapidly spread to the new world somehow) it soon was forgotten how to translate or understand the old writing. Some got saved but most was allowed to moulder away. It's the misunderstanding of the old writing and old ideas that gave rise to most of the myths. Ancient people after the confusion of the language were well aware that their ancestors were sane and meant what they said but didn't understand it.

Dragons most probably are derived from the concept of flows of fluids and water that could be fatal. These were associated with Nehebkau in Egypt which was the hydraulic cycle. Water evaporated and formed clouds which were the coils of Nehebkau and came back down as rain which flowed in the rivers to the sea. All such natural flows can prove fatal under extreme or sublime conditions.

Hence dragons.

Superstition has increased each year since the languages changed.
Aug 2010
Central Macedonia
There are two types of dragons. The Asian dragon (from China) and the European version of dragon which was first attested in ancient Greek. The word dragon itself derives from ancient Greek Draco(n) and was first attested at least 2600 years ago.


Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
There are two types of dragons. The Asian dragon (from China) and the European version of dragon which was first attested in ancient Greek. The word dragon itself derives from ancient Greek Draco(n) and was first attested at least 2600 years ago.
I would beg to differ. All cultures seem to have verious dragon legends, even in Precolombian America., there is the legend of the fethers serpemt or Quetzacoatl, which is neither European nor Asian.

In Africa, there are various legends such as the Apap serpent of Ancient Egypt or the legend of Bida of the Western Sudan.
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Jul 2011
I always thought some people found the skull of a T-rex and concluded dragons must be real.
An assumption of course.
And I think that's a fair assumption.
I think the legends of giants and dragons and other huge beings are derived from people finding skeletons of Dinosaurs/mammoths.

An interesting note from wikipedia:
"Nile crocodiles, today very restricted in range, were in ancient times occasionally found in Southern Europe, having swum across the Mediterranean. Such wayward crocodiles may have inspired dragon myths. Skeletons of whales, as well as dinosaur and mammalian fossils were occasionally mistaken for the bones of dragons and other mythological creatures; for example, a discovery in 300 BC in Wucheng[disambiguation needed ], Sichuan, China, was labeled as such by Chang Qu.Adrienne Mayor has written on the subject of fossils as the inspiration for myths in her book The First Fossil Hunters, and in an entry in the Encyclopedia of Geology she wrote: "Fossil remains generated a variety of geomyths speculating on the creatures' identity and cause of their destruction. Many ancient cultures, from China and India to Greece, America, and Australia, told tales of dragons, monsters, and giant heroes.."In Australia, stories of such creatures may have referred to the land crocodiles, Quinkana sp., a terrestrial crocodile which grew to 5 to possibly 7 metres long, or the 4 tonne monitor lizard Varanus priscus (formerly Megalania prisca) a giant carnivorous goanna that might have grown to 7 metres, and weighed up to 1,940 kilograms, or rainbow serpents (possibly Wonambi naracoortensis) that were part of the extinct megafauna of Australia. Today the Komodo monitor lizard Varanus komodoensis is known in English as the Komodo dragon."

That would confirm OP's Nile crocodile theory but also explains how other cultures came to their own dragon legends.