Even though dragons are mythical creatures, they have fascinated people throughout history. They are often depicted as having reptilian or serpentine characteristics that may have wings and sometimes breath fire. Some are revered in various religions and culture around the world such as those associated with wisdom, longevity and prosperity, while others are treated as personification of evil and death. Let us take a look at 10 mythological dragons found in different mythologies.
(Heracles and Ladon guarding the tree of the golden apples. Roman relief plate) Image source
In Greek mythology, Ladon was the perpetually-awake dragon that was coiled around the tree in the Garden of the Hesperides, a garden sacred to the goddess Hera, keeping watch over the immortality-giving golden apples. This hundred-headed dragon was the son of Typhon and Echidna, both being half-serpentine creatures themselves.
A minor deity of Sumerian myth, Anzu was often depicted with a lion's head and a serpentine body with eagle wings. This storm god stole the Tablets of Destiny from the sky god Enlil in order to control the fate of all things, but was eventually killed by the sun god Ninurta or Marduk, who was able to recover the tablets, and thus prevented the world from plunging into chaos.
(Ra, in the form of a cat, slays the snake-like Apep) Image source
Apep was the Egyptian mythic demon, who was regarded as the deification of darkness and death. This giant serpent lived beneath the horizon and attempted to devour the sun god Ra every night as the sun set. He would occasionally cause a solar eclipse as he swallowed Ra, who would then be instantly rescued by one of his loyal defenders Seth, ending the eclipse in a few minutes.
According to the Zoroastrian sacred book Avesta, Azhi Dahaka was an evil monster, depicted as a three-headed dragon with a body filled with lizards and snakes that could infect the world when released, and wings that can darken the skies when fully spread. He was a servant of Ahriman, the father of lies and personification of evil in Persian mythology.
(Quetzalcoatl in feathered serpent form as depicted in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis) Image source
Very much venerated by the Olmecs, Toltecs and Aztecs, Quetzalcoatl was believed to be the bestower of terrestrial fertility and the provider of light to his people. This benevolent serpent-like god, known as the "Lord of the Morning Star," was believed to be the bestower of terrestrial fertility and the provider of light to his people. He was also considered an inspiration for poetry, knowledge and the arts. His name is Nahuatl for "long green-feathered serpent".
In no other culture is the dragon as highly honored and as symbolically significant as in China. Futs Lung is the dragon that was responsible for guarding all man-made and natural treasures buried in the underworld. And every time he is required to render an account to the gods, he would shoot out of the ground forming a volcano. His name literally means “the Dragon of Hidden Treasures”.
A cunning anthropomorphic creature with a dragon head and tail, Rahu often disguised himself as a god and was able to drink some of the immortality-granting divine nectar of the gods. This Hindu mythic serpent was ultimately caught by Vishnu, who beheaded him and threw his head into the sky. His immortal head was believed to cause eclipse whenever he devours the sun or the moon.
Nidhogg was the dragon that constantly gnaws at one of the roots of the Yggdrasil tree, which connects and shelters all Norse cosmological worlds, in an effort to destroy them; thereby, he was nicknamed as the "Dread Biter." This flying dragon also has the terrible habit of satiating itself on the corpses of the dead.
(Susanoo slaying the Yamata no Orochi, by Yoshitoshi) Image source
Orochi was an atrocious eight-headed and eight-tailed dragon that was slain and cut into pieces by Susanoo after it became drunk from dipping its heads into the liquor vats that Susanoo placed into a large enclosure with 8 gates. From within its body, Susanoo was able to pull out the legendary sword Kusanagi, Japan's equivalent of Britain's Excalibur.
A Hittite mythic dragon, Illuyankas and his cohorts were killed by the weather god Teshub, with the aid of the goddess Inaras and the hero Hupasiyas, after they were all rendered immobile from engorging themselves with all the food in a banquet purposely prepared to trap them.