Presenter: Elicia Penman (Thesis review seminar)

This seminar considers how monstrous creatures from Greek mythology lent their physical features to create a new creature: the dragon. In particular it focusses on four major features of the dragon: the serpentine body, the supernatural size, the wings and the fiery breath. Drakōn (‘dragon’), as a word and a concept, comes from ancient Greek culture. The serpentine body, most clearly, is based on Greek mythology’s serpents, such as Python and Ladon. Yet this body was changed to one resembling a lizard, because of the influence of new composite drakontes (‘dragons’) and stories about the Nile’s crocodiles. The large size of the dragon finds its origins in almost every monstrous creature that came before it. The dragon’s wings probably came from both Herodotus’s accounts of Arabia’s winged serpents and tragedy’s staging of the myth of Medea’s flight in a chariot that was drawn by such creatures. The fourth feature, the fiery breath, comes, surely, from the venom of some snake-species. These major features were thus drawn from imaginative art and literature as well as stories of exotic creatures beyond the Greek world.


Michie Building (9),
St Lucia campus