Sumerian Dragons (5000 B.C.)
The first dragons, perhaps, appeared here in the myths of the Sumerians. The Sumerian word for dragon is "ushum." The story of Zu and Enlil dates back to about 5000 B.C. There is also the dragon known as Kur, and both Zu and Kur were said to have angered the gods. For instance, Zu stole the Tablets of Law from Enlil.
Ninurta, the sun god, was sent after each of these dragons. For the most part, he completed the task, and managed to slay both dragons.
Chinese Dragons (5000 B.C.)
A Chinese legend has it, that Buddha told all the animals in the world to come to him. When the journey was over, only twelve animals had made it to Buddha, and so they became the Zodiacs. Among these was the great dragon.
Chinese dragons date back to around 5000 B.C. The Chinese believed that they were the "descendants of the dragons," too. The goddess Nu Kua was half mortal half dragon, and she spawned dragons that could easily shift from human form to dragons, or vice versa. In addition to this, they could rise to the heavens, go to the bottom of the seas, and even change size.
Chinese emperors were said to be sons of the dragons and wore special robes. Only the Emperor could wear the sign of the celestial dragon because it was the sign of the ultimate power.
Most Chinese dragons did not have wings. However, they would grow branch-like wings when they became one thousand years old. It is then that they are called Ying-Lung.
Some are also known as Chiao or Chiao-Lung. This is usually a fish that has managed to become a dragon. For most fish, the challenge is to jump through miraculous gates on the ocean floor. For some, however, they grow to a certain age and become a dragon.
There is a story of one called Hai Li Bu. Out walking one day, he came upon a goose killing a snake. Hai Li Bu felt badly for the snake, so he stopped the goose from killing it. This snake was the daughter of the Dragon King, and Hai Li Bu was rewarded with a magical gem that could help him decipher what the animals were saying. He, however, was not allowed to repeat anything the animals said, or he would turn to stone. One day, Hai Li Bu heard the animals speaking of the coming of a great flood. Unable to simply let mankind die, he warned them of the flood, and Hai Li Bu turned to stone.
There is also a story of a great flood. Tien Ti, emperor of the heavens, looked down upon the earth and saw that it must be reformed, as the wickedness of the world was too much. With that, he sent down a great flood to destroy it. The god Tu, taking pity upon man, begged for Tien Ti to stop. With that, Tien Ti created a turtle and placed magic earth upon his back so that it would soak up the water. After this was done, Tien Ti sent out a emerald-scaled Ying-Lung dragon that flew over the world, carving the valleys and rivers with its tail.
In Japan, snakes and dragons are depicted with supernatural powers of all sorts. The Japanese tell the story of the Yamata no Orochi, a huge snake that has eight heads and eight tails. His eyes were said to glow like winter cherries. His belly is constantly inflamed and covered with blood, and he extends over eight valleys and eight hills.
Japanese dragons are also linked to natural disasters. When mortals offended Japanese dragons, the dragons caused floods. They also produced storms, and they were water granting and water producing creatures.
In addition, heavenly dragons guarded the palace of the gods. The earth dragons decided the course of the rivers, and the spiritual dragons bring the blessed rains. There were also the guardians of earthly treasures.
The Japanese also believe that there is a white dragon that takes the form of an O-gon-cho every fifty years. O-gon-cho are golden-plumed songbird. This create sings a song that brings great sadness. The sound is described like that of a wolf's howl. If one was to hear this terrible song, it would bring about terrible pestilence and many will die.
Hai-riyo was the most advanced dragon to the Japanese. It is the Japanese equivalent to the Chinese Ying-Lung.
In addition, Japanese dragons were able to transform themselves into humans. They also demanded sacrifices, and human sacrifices at that.
Yet, dragons were not seen as entirely evil entities, either. Benton, the only female god of luck, was associated with dragons and was believed to have even married a dragon. However, she had far more draconic connections. She was the daughter of the dragon king, and, in her human form, she could be seen riding a dragon.
However, some dragons were seen as good in Japan. There is a tale of a dragon who was said to have lived in Mano Pond, which was quite deep and large. This dragon, taking the form of a small snake, came out of the depths of this pond to sun himself. A tengu (a winged, gnome-like creature) then swooped out of the sky and grabbed the dragon, which was so surprised that he could not wriggle free. However, the tengu could not simply crush the snake (as the snake was not a snake at all, but a dragon), so he brought him back to his mountain and stuffed him into a hole. Without water, the dragon was unable to fly. However, the tengu returned a few days later with a captured monk, who was stuffed into the same hole as the dragon. When asked about how the monk came there, he explained that, while reaching to get the water jug, a tengu had captured him. The dragon then told the monk that, should he have water, he would be able to fly and save them both. With that, the monk spilled out the water jug and the dragon flew him home. The dragon, however, hunted the tengu in revenge and finally managed to kill him.
Another tale of a gracious Japanese dragon involves two friends: a monk and a dragon. The monk resided at the Temple of the Dragon Garden, and a dragon visited him, in the form of a human, every day to hear his chants. They became friends, and their friendship became famous. A drought then hit Japan, and the emperor summoned the monk and ordered him to tell the dragon to make rain, or else the monk would be forced to leave Japan. The monk returned and explained his plight to his friend, the dragon, and the dragon was quite sad. He told the monk that, in three days time, he would make it rain, but since he was not King Bonden, who decided when it should rain, he would be killed for doing it. He simply requested that his friend bury his body and build temples in three specific areas. Sure enough, three days later, there was rain, and the dragon was dead. Crying, the monk buried his friend's body and built a temple over it, which was named Temple of the Dragon Lake. In addition, he built (in the places designated by the dragon before he died) the Temple of the Dragon Mind, Temple of the Dragon Heaven, and Temple of the Dragon King. For the rest of his life, the monk chanted in memory of his friend, the dragon.
Another very interesting thing to note is that the Japanese believed their emperors to be the descendants of dragons. Fire Fade married the sea king's daughter, who turned into a dragon to give birth to their son. Since he did not keep his promise of not looking at her until she said so, Fire Fade saw his wife as a dragon, and she flew off, leaving Kamu-Yamato-Iware-Biko, their son, with only his father. He became the first human ruler of Japan and was the grandson of a dragon. Today he is referred to as Jimmu Tenno.
The Koreans tell the story of the Carp. A poor fisherman was once fishing and managed to capture a huge Carp. This Carp begged for mercy and finally was set free. The Carp turned out to be one of the sons of the Dragon King, who rewarded the fisherman with tremendous great riches.
Egyptian Dragons (3000 B.C. - 2000 B.C.)
Egyptian Serpents and dragons are highly complex and integral to Egyptian mythology. The dates of Egyptian myths vary, but they tend to be within 3000 B.C. and 2000 B.C.
The foremost dragon of Egypt is Apep. He has many other names, and he is the sea serpent. Holding a grudge against Ra, the sun god, Apep attempted to swallow him every night as he made his trip through the underworld. When he succeeded, an eclipse occurred.
In contrast to Apep, there is Mehen, a serpent-dragon. Often, Mehen is depicted coiled around the Boat of the Sun, which Ra traveled upon nightly. He was a protectorate of Ra. Ra also encountered the Guardians of the Gates of the Underworld on his journey.
Serpents were also known to watch the dead. Such were the Iaculi, the Egyptian Winged Serpent, which can often be found on the tombs of the departed. There was also Wadjet, who was also a symbol of rulership in addition to being a guardian. Often, Pharaohs would have her symbol upon their crowns.
Nehebkau began as a mischievous serpent dragon that the gods could not trust. However, Ra tamed him and he soon became one of the helpers to the dead. His key role was to protect the Pharaoh in the afterlife.
The other of the evil dragons of the Egyptians was known as Denwen, whom was destroyed by the gods before he could do much damage. There was also Ammut, which most Egyptians feared because she devoured the souls of sinners.
Babylonian Dragons (2000 B.C.)
The foremost tale of the Babylonians is that of their creation. In this tale, there was nothing except Tiamat and Apsu, and they were the waters. Apsu was the sweet water while Tiamat was the salt waters, and together they created the gods.
As the Apsu grew more and more agitated about the gods, he began to plot a way to rid himself of them. Tiamat did not want to harm her children, so she told Apsu to not harm them as well. Instead, Apsu continued his plot and was soon discovered by Ea. This made Ea take action, and he put a spell upon Apsu. After Ea killed Apsu, he took over the waters, and then he and his wife had Marduk.
Tiamat was not pleased with the murder of her husband. When others began to complain that she had allowed him to be slain, she created a brood of monsters to avenge Apsu's death. None of the gods wished to fight these creatures, and so Marduk stepped forward. He made a proposition: he would slay Tiamat, so long as he could be the King of the Gods.
After a great struggle, Marduk emerged victorious over Tiamat and her monsters. He gathered all the monsters within his fishnets, and he cut Tiamat in half. With one half, he created the Earth; with the other he created the Heavens.
Some Babylonian Myths date back to 2000 B.C., and the most famous being the Epic of Gilgamesh. In this Epic, the dragon known as Humbaba appears. Humbaba was a sort of dragon-mix, being that he had the body of a lion, but it was covered with horned scales. His claws and feet were that of a vulture, and his tail ended with the head of a snake. In addition, he had the horns of a bull on his head and walked upright.
Mesoamerica: Aztec and Mayan Dragons (250 A.D.)
Somewhere around 250 AD, the Quetzalcoatl became a very important god to the Aztecs. He did many things, and operated also under the names of Kukulkan, Ehecatl, and The Lord of the Dawn. He left, however, when he could not change the Aztec's warlike ways.
There is also the Aztec Hydra, Coatlcue. Coatlcue was sometimes depicted with two dragonheads and a skirt made of snakes. She was a symbol for nature.
There are also the Xiuhcoatl, small fire-serpents. They aided Huitzilopochtli in the defeating of his two siblings. It is undetermined, however, if this was a singular creature or if it was a dragon type. It is suspected that it is a dragon type simply due to the abundance of it.