Of snakes The word anguis is applied to the entire species of snake, because the snake’s body can be folded and bent; as a result, it is called anguis because it forms a series of angles, angulosus, and is never straight. The snake is also called coluber, either because it lives in the shadows, colere umbras, or because it wriggles along in a slippery way, in sinuous coils. For anything that slithers when you hold it, like a fish or a snake, is called lubricus, ‘slippery’. The snake gets its name, serpens, because it creeps up under cover, not by visible steps, but crawling along by the tiniest movements of its scales. Creatures which go on four feet, like lizards and newts are called not snakes but reptiles. Snakes are reptiles too, because they crawl, reptare, on their chests and bellies. There are as many poisonous snakes as there are species; as many which bring death or suffering, as there are colours among them. Of the dragon The dragon is bigger than all other snakes or all other living things on earth. For this reason, the Greeks call it dracon, from this is derived its Latin name draco.
The dragon, it is said, is often drawn forth from caves into the open air, causing the air to become turbulent. The dragon has a crest, a small mouth, and narrow blow-holes through which it breathes and puts forth its tongue. Its strength lies not in its teeth but in its tail, and it kills with a blow rather than a bite. It is free from poison. They say that it does not need poison to kill things, because it kills anything around which it wraps its tail. From the dragon not even the elephant, with its huge size, is safe. For lurking on paths along which elephants are accustomed to pass, the dragon knots its tail around their legs and kills them by suffocation. Dragons are born in Ethiopia and India, where it is hot all year round.
The Devil is like the dragon; he is the most monstrous serpent of all; he is often aroused from his cave and causes the air to shine because, emerging from the depths, he transforms himself into the angel of light and deceives the foolish with hopes of vainglory and worldly pleasure. The dragon is said to be crested, as the Devil wears the crown of the king of pride. The dragon’s strength lies not in its teeth but its tail, as the Devil, deprived of his strength, deceives with lies those whom he draws to him. The dragon lurks around paths along which elephants pass, as the Devil entangles with the knots of sin the way of those bound for heaven and, like the dragon, kills them by suffocation; because anyone who dies fettered in the chains of his offences is condemned without doubt to hell.