This article is about the mythological creature. See Amphisbaenia for information on the suborder and Amphisbaena (lizard) for the genus.

Amphisbaena (play /ˌæmfɪsˈbnə/, plural: amphisbaenae), amphisbaina, amphisbene, amphisboena, amphisbona, amphista, amphivena, or anphivena (the last two being feminine), a Greek word, from amphis, meaning "both ways", and bainein, meaning "to go", also called the Mother of Ants, is a mythological, ant-eating serpent with a head at each end. According to Greek mythology, the amphisbaena was spawned from the blood that dripped from the Gorgon Medusa's head as Perseus flew over the Libyan Desert with it in his hand. Cato's army then encountered it along with other serpents on the march. Amphisbaenae fed off of the corpses left behind. The amphisbaena has been referred to by the poets, such as Nicander, John Milton, Alexander Pope, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and A. E. Housman, and the amphisbaena as a mythological and legendary creature has been referenced by Lucan, Pliny the Elder, Isidore of Seville, and Thomas Browne, the last of whom debunked its existence.



A 15th-century amphisbaena on a misericord in Buckinghamshire
The amphisbaena has a twin head, that is one at the tail end as well, as though it were not enough for poison to be poured out of one mouth.

This early description of the amphisbaena depicts a venomous, dual-headed snakelike creature. However, Medieval and later drawings often show it with two or more scaled feet, particularly chicken feet, and feathered wings. Some even depict it as a horned, dragon-like creature with a serpent-headed tail and small, round ears, while others have both "necks" of equal size so that it cannot be determined which is the rear head. Many descriptions of the amphisbaena say its eyes glow like candles or lightning, but the poet Nicander seems to contradict this by describing it as "always dull of eye". He also says: "From either end protrudes a blunt chin; each is far from each other." Nicander's account seems to be referring to what is indeed called the Amphisbaenia.


The amphisbaena makes its home in the desert.

Folk medicine

In ancient times, the supposedly dangerous amphisbaena had many uses in the art of folk medicine and other such remedies. It is said that expecting women wearing a live amphisbaena around their necks would have safe pregnancies; however, if one's goal is to cure ailments such as arthritis or the common cold, one should wear only its skin. By eating the meat of the amphisbaena, one could attract many lovers of the opposite sex, and slaying one during the full moon could give power to one who is pure of heart and mind. Lumberjacks suffering from cold weather on the job could nail its carcass or skin to a tree to keep warm, while in the process allowing the tree to fell easier.


In The Book of Beasts, T.H. White suggests that the creature derives from sightings of the worm lizards of the same name. These creatures are found in the Mediterranean countries where many of these legends originated.

Dungeons & Dragons

In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, the amphisbaena is depicted as in traditional myth as a giant serpent with a head at both ends. It travels by grasping one head in the other and rolling like a hoop. The fangs of the amphisbaena are so poisonous that anything successfully bitten by it dies instantly.

Cultural references

  • The short story "There Are More Things" by Jorge Luis Borges from The Book of Sand refers to an amphisbaena and concerns a similar, though mostly undescribed, monster.
  • The CD art on Powerman 5000's album Transform, drawn by Spider One, contains symbols reminiscent of the amphisbaena. Adorning the CD artwork are two-headed arrows wrapped back pointing at each other, and underneath the CD are two worm-like creatures face to face forming a circle.
  • The children's book Dragons, Dragons by Eric Carle features an amphisbaena.
  • The first boss of La-Mulana is an amphisbaena.
  • Amphysvena is the name of the last gear piloted by Ramsus in Xenogears, encountered upon entering the final dungeon.
  • A common two-headed wyvern enemy in Final Fantasy XIII is named Amphisbaena.
  • More recently, the amphisbaena appears in the DS game Scribblenauts. The creature is capable of flying but does not appear to roll into a hoop.
  • In the television anime Beyblade, the character Enrique possesses the bit beast Amphilyon, which is based on this creature in design.
  • The amphisbaena is also a common enemy in many Castlevania games, however its appearance slightly differs. The main body is that of a reptile, but its secondary head is in a guise of a maiden.
  • Amphisbaena is one of the most sought after of the rare series 3 Monster in My Pocket figures (#76).

See also


  • Hunt, Jonathan (1998). Bestiary: An Illuminated Alphabet of Medieval Beasts (1st ed.). Hong Kong: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-689-81246-9.
  • Dave. Amphisbaena. Dave's Mythical Creatures and Places. Available: URL Last accessed 3 May 2005.
  • Levy, Sidney J. (1996). "Stalking the Amphisbaena", Journal of Consumer Research, 23 (3), Dec. 1996, pp. 163–176.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Amphisbaena — Amphisbaena …   Wikipédia en Français

  • AMPHISBAENA — serpentis nomen, in Libyae desertis degentis duo habentis capita, quorum alterum locô suô est, alterum ubi cauda, unde utrinque venenum diffundit. Lucan. l. 9. v. 719. Et gravis in geminum surgens caput Amphisbaena. Aeschylus in Agamemnone:… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • amphisbaena — [am΄fis bē′nə] n. [ME amphibena < L amphisbaena < Gr amphisbaina < amphis, on both sides (see AMPHI ) + bainein, to go: see COME] Gr. & Rom. Myth. a serpent with a head at each end of its body …   English World dictionary

  • Amphisbaena — Am phis*b[ae] na, n. [L., fr. Gr. ?; ? on both ends + ? to go.] 1. A fabled serpent with a head at each end, moving either way. Milton. [1913 Webster] 2. (Zo[ o]l.) A genus of harmless lizards, serpentlike in form, without legs, and with both… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Amphisbaena — Amphisbaena, s. Blödauge und Doppelschleiche …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Amphisbaena — Amphisbaena …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Amphisbaena — Das Wort Amphisbaena bezeichnet ein Fabelwesen: Amphisbaena (Fabelwesen) eine Tiergattung innerhalb der Doppelschleichen: Amphisbaena (Zoologie) Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unterscheidung mehrerer mit demselben Wort beze …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • amphisbaena — amphisbaenian, amphisbaenic, amphisbaenoid, amphisbaenous, adj. /am feuhs bee neuh/, n., pl. amphisbaenae / nee/, amphisbaenas. 1. any of numerous worm lizards of the genus Amphisbaena. 2. Class. Myth. a serpent having a head at each end of its… …   Universalium

  • amphisbaena — n. 1 Mythol. & poet. a fabulous serpent with a head at each end. 2 Zool. any burrowing wormlike lizard of the family Amphisbaena, having no apparent division of head from body making both ends look similar. Etymology: ME f. L f. Gk amphisbaina f …   Useful english dictionary

  • Amphisbaena — n. 1 Mythol. & poet. a fabulous serpent with a head at each end. 2 Zool. any burrowing wormlike lizard of the family Amphisbaena, having no apparent division of head from body making both ends look similar. Etymology: ME f. L f. Gk amphisbaina f …   Useful english dictionary