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Dragon’s Teeth


Subjects of civil strife; whatever rouses citizens to rise in arms. The allusion is to the dragon that guarded the well of Aʹrēs. Cadmus slew it, and sowed some of the teeth, from which sprang up the men called Spartans, who all killed each other except five, who were the ancestors of the Thebans. Those teeth which Cadmus did not sow came to the possession of Æeʹtēs, King of Colchis; and one of the tasks he enjoined Jason was to sow these teeth and slay the armed warriors that rose therefrom.

“Citizens rising from the soil, richly sown with dragon’s teeth, for the rights of their several states.”—The Times.

To sow dragonsʹ teeth. To foment contentions; to stir up strife or war. The reference is to the classical story of Jason or that of Cadmus, both of whom sowed the teeth of a dragon which he had slain, and from these teeth sprang up armies of fighting men, who attacked each other in fierce fight. Of course, the figure means that quarrels often arise out of a contention supposed to have been allayed (or slain). The Philistines sowed dragonsʹ teeth when they took Samson, bound him, and put out his eyes. The ancient Britons sowed dragonsʹ teeth when they massacred the Danes on St. Bryce’s Day.


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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Draconian Code
Draft on Aldgate (A)
Drag in, Neck and Crop
Dragoman (plural, Dragomans)
Dragon Slayers
Dragon of Wantley (i.e. Warncliff, in Yorkshire)
Dragon’s Hill (Berkshire)
Dragon’s Teeth
Drama of Exile (A)
Dramatic Unities (The thrée)
Dramatis Personæ
Drapier’s Letters
Drat em!

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Dragon's Teeth