Many young-Earth creationist (YEC) authors claim that ancient Greek and Roman writings describe dinosaurs and pterosaurs, and that Greco-Roman art illustrates Mesozoic reptiles. Such claims are used as "evidence" against evolutionary theory in an attempt to cast doubt on the separation of humans and such animals by millions of years. However, examination of the Greco-Roman materials in question reveals that none of them actually depict Mesozoic reptiles. In descriptions of "dragons" (Greek drakōn; Latin draco) in Greco-Roman literature—which YEC authors claim are dinosaurs—coils and the epithets ophis, serpens, and anguis reveal that the ancient authors are describing snakes, often large constrictors. This is the case for the draco described by Pliny, Phrygian dragons described by Aelian, the Vatican Hill child-eater mentioned by Pliny, the Bagradas River dragon, the legendary dragons that Alexander the Great supposedly encountered, and dragons in Greek mythology. An alleged theropod dinosaur in the Nile Mosaic of Palestrina is a mammal, possibly an otter. An alleged dinosaur in a Pompeii fresco is a crocodile. Herodotus' description of winged snakes is anatomically incompatible with pterosaurs and possibly refers to cobras. Alleged pterosaurs on an Alexandrian coin are winged snakes. An alleged Etruscan pterosaur head sculpture depicts a mammal. Two alleged Tanystropheus in a Roman mosaic from Lydney Park, England are mythical sea monsters. These YEC claims now join the ranks of discredited "evidence" against evolutionary theory.
Senter, Phil, "Dinosaurs and pterosaurs in Greek and Roman art and literature? An investigation of young-earth creationist claims" (2013). Faculty Working Papers. 8.