From All About Dragons
Jump to: navigation, search

Amphiptere, Amphithere, or Amphitere is a term used to describe a type of legless winged serpent found in European heraldry. It derives from the Jaculus, a fabulous snake that is said to guard Frankincense trees in Arabia.


A limbless, dragon-like winged serpent from North Africa that is often found used as a a term used to describe a type of legless winged serpent found in European heraldry. Although originally a North African legend, the myth of the amphitheres were carried along with the slave trade to the Americans and are nowadays, seen as an American type of dragon.

Amphipteres have only its wings as limbs, apart from four vestigial legs, which are very small, as to be invisisble and so unserviceable. There are three species of amphiptere, (Draco americanus tex, Draco americanus mex, Draco americanus incognito) living in the Americas.

They are based on the feathered serpents of mythology rather than heraldic amphipteres, except for the Draco americanus tex, (or Am. amphiptere) which is depicted with moth-like wings.

Amphitheres are generally perceived to have greenish-yellow feathers, bat-type green wings with feathered bone and a feather-tipped tail much like an arrow-tipped demon's tail. Other versions are described as entirely covered in feathers with a spiked tail, bird-like wings, and a beak- like snout that looks like an extra claw.


  • Lucan [1st century CE] (Pharsalia, book 9, verse 848): "Swift Jaculus there...". (verse 962-966): "Upon branchless trunk a serpent, named / By Libyans Jaculus, rose in coils to dart / His venom from afar. Through Paullus' brain / It rushed, nor stayed; for in the wound itself / Was death...".
  • Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 35): "The iaculus hurls itself from the branches of a tree, so that it is not only dangerous to the feet, but flies through the air like a missle from a catapult.
  • Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 4:29): The iaculus is a flying snake. They jump from trees and dart onto passing animals, from which they get their name, darter (iaculi).


In Madagascar, there is a snake called the fandrefiala which will fall tail first from a tree like a spear and stab animals the pass underneath according to the local legends.

See also

Quetzalcoatl is a winged serpent god in the legends of the Olmec, Mixtec, Toltec, and Aztec cultures.