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Origin of Winged Serpents Throughout History?

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8/18/2014 3:32:42 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Isaiah 30:6 (740 B.C.)

The burden of the beasts of the south. In a land of trouble and distress, from whence come the lioness, and the lion, the viper and the flying basilisk, they carry their riches upon the shoulders of beasts, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels to a people that shall not be able to profit them.

The History of Esarhaddon (681 B.C.)

According to the command of my lord A""ur, an idea came to my mind and I conceived (the following):
I mobilised the camels of all the kings of Arabia and loaded them with [water skins and water containers].
Twenty "miles" of land, a journey of 15 days, I marched through [mightysand] dunes. Four "miles" of land I travelled over alum stones [and other stones]; four "miles" of land, a journey of two days, I stepped repeatedly on two-headed snakes[... whose touch] is deadly, but continued;four "miles" of land, a journey of [two days] " yellow snakes spreading wings(but continued); four "miles" of land, a journey of two days, [...]: (in sum)16 "miles" of land, a journey of eight days, I marched. [...] very much.
The great lord Marduk came to my rescue [...]. He revived my troops. Twenty days seven [...] of the border of Egypt, I set up a night camp [...]

The History of Herodotus, Book II (440 B.C.)
In the neighbourhood of Thebes there are some sacred serpents which are perfectly harmless. They are of small size, and have two horns growing out of the top of the head. These snakes, when they die, are buried in the temple of Jupiter, the god to whom they are sacred.
I went once to a certain place in Arabia, almost exactly opposite the city of Buto, to make inquiries concerning the winged serpents. On my arrival I saw the back-bones and ribs of serpents in such numbers as it is impossible to describe: of the ribs there were a multitude of heaps, some great, some small, some middle-sized. The place where the bones lie is at the entrance of a narrow gorge between steep mountains, which there open upon a spacious plain communicating with the great plain of Egypt. The story goes that with the spring the winged snakes come flying from Arabia towards Egypt, but are met in this gorge by the birds called ibises, who forbid their entrance and destroy them all. The Arabians assert, and the Egyptians also admit, that it is on account of the service thus rendered that the Egyptians hold the ibis in so much reverence.
The ibis is a bird of a deep-black colour, with legs like a crane; its beak is strongly hooked, and its size is about that of the land-rail. This is a description of the black ibis which contends with the serpents. The commoner sort, for there are two quite distinct species, has the head and the whole throat bare of feathers; its general plumage is white, but the head and neck are jet black, as also are the tips of the wings and the extremity of the tail; in its beak and legs it resembles the other species. The winged serpent is shaped like the water-snake. Its wings are not feathered, but resemble very closely those of the bat. And thus I conclude the subject of the sacred animals.

The History of Herodotus, Book III (440 B.C.)

Arabia is the last of inhabited lands towards the south, and it is the only country which produces frankincense, myrrh, cassia, cinnamon, and ledanum. The Arabians do not get any of these, except the myrrh, without trouble. The frankincense they procure by means of the gum styrax, which the Greeks obtain from the Phoenicians; this they burn, and thereby obtain the spice. For the trees which bear the frankincense are guarded by winged serpents, small in size, and of varied colours, whereof vast numbers hang about every tree. They are of the same kind as the serpents that invade Egypt; and there is nothing but the smoke of the styrax which will drive them from the trees.
The Arabians say that the whole world would swarm with these serpents, if they were not kept in check in the way in which I know that vipers are. Of a truth Divine Providence does appear to be, as indeed one might expect beforehand, a wise contriver. For timid animals which are a prey to others are all made to produce young abundantly, that so the species may not be entirely eaten up and lost; while savage and noxious creatures are made very unfruitful. The hare, for instance, which is hunted alike by beasts, birds, and men, breeds so abundantly as even to superfetate, a thing which is true of no other animal. You find in a hare"s belly, at one and the same time, some of the young all covered with fur, others quite naked, others again just fully formed in the womb, while the hare perhaps has lately conceived afresh. The lioness, on the other hand, which is one of the strongest and boldest of brutes, brings forth young but once in her lifetime, and then a single cub; she cannot possibly conceive again, since she loses her womb at the same time that she drops her young. The reason of this is that as soon as the cub begins to stir inside the dam, his claws, which are sharper than those of any other animal, scratch the womb; as the time goes on, and he grows bigger, he tears it ever more and more; so that at last, when the birth comes, there is not a morsel in the whole womb that is sound.
Now with respect to the vipers and the winged snakes of Arabia, if they increased as fast as their nature would allow, impossible were it for man to maintain himself upon the earth. Accordingly it is found that when the male and female come together, at the very moment of impregnation, the female seizes the male by the neck, and having once fastened, cannot be brought to leave go till she has bit the neck entirely through. And so the male perishes; but after a while he is revenged upon the female by means of the young, which, while still unborn, gnaw a passage through the womb, and then through the belly of their mother, and so make their entrance into the world. Contrariwise, other snakes, which are harmless, lay eggs, and hatch a vast number of young. Vipers are found in all parts of the world, but the winged serpents are nowhere seen except in Arabia, where they are all congregated together. This makes them appear so numerous.

The History of Animals by Aristotle (350 B.C.)

Of animals that can fly some are furnished with feathered wings, as the eagle and the hawk; some are furnished with membranous wings, as the bee and the cockchafer; others are furnished with leathern wings, as the flying fox and the bat. All flying creatures possessed of blood have feathered wings or leathern wings; the bloodless creatures have membranous wings, as insects. The creatures that have feathered wings or leathern wings have either two feet or no feet at all: for there are said to be certain flying serpents in Ethiopia that are destitute of feet.

On the Nature of the Gods by Cicero, Chapter XXXVI (45 B.C.)

Even the much ridiculed Egyptians never deified an animal except with reference to some benefit which they derived from it. For instance, the ibis, being a tall bird, with legs that do not bend, and a long beak of horn, destroys a vast number of serpents; in killing and eating the winged snakes that are brought in by the south-west wind from the Libyan desert, it preserves Egypt from plague, the snakes being thus prevented from causing harm by their bite when living, or by their smell when dead.
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8/18/2014 3:32:58 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Geography of Strabo, Book XV (23 A.D.)*.html

Megasthenes says that the largest tigers are found among the Prasii, even nearly twice as large as lions, and so powerful that a tame one, though being led by four men, seized a mule by the hind leg and by force drew the mule to itself; and that the long-tailed apes are larger than the largest dogs, are white except for their faces, which are black (the contrary is the case elsewhere), that their tails are more than two cubits long, and that they are very tame and not malicious as regards attacks and thefts; and that stones are dug up the colour of frankincense and sweeter than figs or honey; and that in other places there are reptiles two cubits long with membranous wings like bats, and that they too fly by night, discharging drops of urine, or also of sweat, which putrefy the skin of anyone who is not on his guard; and that there are winged scorpions of surpassing size; and that ebony is also produced; and that there are also brave dogs, which do not let go the object bitten till water is poured down into their nostrils; and that some bite so vehemently that their eyes become distorted and sometimes actually fall out; and that even a lion was held fast by a dog, and also a bull, and that the bull was actually killed, being overpowered through the dog's hold on his nose before he could be released.

Pharsalia by Lucan, Book VI (61 A.D.)

The froth of dogs that dread water was not wanting, nor the inwards of a lynx, nor the hump of a foul hyena, nor the marrow of a stag that had fed on snakes; the echenais was there, which keeps a ship motionless in mid-ocean, though the wind is stretching her cord; eyes of dragons were there, and stones that rattle when warmed under a breeding eagle; the flying serpent of Arabia, and the viper that is born by the Red Sea and guards the precious pearl-shell ; the skin whicli the horned snake of Libya casts off in its lifetime, and ashes of the Phoenix which lays its body on the Eastern altar.

Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus, Book II (93 A.D.)

So Moses, at the persuasion both of Thermuthis and the king himself, cheerfully undertook the business: and the sacred scribes of both nations were glad; those of the Egyptians, that they should at once overcome their enemies by his valor, and that by the same piece of management Moses would be slain; but those of the Hebrews, that they should escape from the Egyptians, because Moses was to be their general. But Moses prevented the enemies, and took and led his army before those enemies were apprized 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; but the ibes are tame creatures, and only enemies to the serpentine kind: but about these ibes I say no more at present, since the Greeks themselves are not unacquainted with this sort of bird. As soon, therefore, as Moses was come to the land which was the breeder of these serpents, he let loose the ibes, and by their means repelled the serpentine kind, and used them for his assistants before the army came upon that ground.

Characteristics of Animals by Aelian (200 A.D.)

The Black Ibis does not permit the winged serpents from Arabia to cross into Egypt, but fights to protect the land it loves, while the other kind encounters the serpents that come down the Nile when in Flood and destroys them. Otherwise there would have been nothing to prevent the Egyptians from being killed by their coming.

The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus, Book XXII (353 A.D.)*.html

Among Egyptian birds, the variety of which is countless, the ibis is sacred, harmless, and beloved for the reason that by carrying the eggs of serpents to its nestlings for food it destroys and makes fewer those destructive pests. These same birds meet the winged armies of snakes which issue from the marshes of Arabia, producing deadly poisons, and before they leave their own lands vanquish them in battles in the air, and devour them.

The Etymologies of Isidore, V (600 A.D.)

The iaculus is a flying snake. Concerning it Lucan says

And the flying iaculi.

For they spring up into trees, and whenever some animal happens by they throw (iactare) themselves on it and kill it, whence they are called iaculus (cf. iaculum,
"javelin"). Also in Arabia there are snakes with wings, called sirens (sirena); they move faster than horses, but they are also said to fly. Their venom is so powerful that when someone is bitten by them death ensues before the pain is felt.

Folk-Lore and Folk Stories of Wales by Marie Trevelyan (1908 A.D.)

The woods around Penllin Castle, Glamorgan, had the reputation of being frequented by winged serpents, and these were the terror of old and young alike. An aged inhabitant of Penllyne, who died a few years ago, said that in his boyhood the winged serpents were described as very beautiful. They were coiled when in repose, and "looked as if they were covered with jewels of all sorts. Some of them had crests sparkling with all the colours of the rainbow". When disturbed they glided swiftly, "sparkling all over," to their hiding places. When angry, they "flew over people's heads, with outspread wings, bright, and sometimes with eyes too, like the feathers in a peacock's tail". He said it was "no old story invented to frighten children", but a real fact. His father and uncle had killed some of them, for they were as bad as foxes for poultry. The old man attributed the extinction of the winged serpents to the fact that they were "terrors in the farmyards and coverts".
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