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Friday, 11 November 2011

Dionysus, Sabazios,Tammuz, St George connections

                                                                   Edited May 8, 2012

Let's look again at Dionysus. To view Dionysus/Bacchus, Bacchanalia part I click here

Dionysus(Bacchus) was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology.

DIONYSUS, the youthful, beautiful, but effeminate god of wine. His attributes included the thyrsos (a pine-cone tipped staff), drinking cup, leopard and fruiting vine. He was usually accompanied by a troop of Satyrs and maenads (female devotees or nymphs).

According to the common tradition, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Semele, the daughter of Cadmus of Thebes (Hom. Hymn. vi. 56; Eurip. Bacch. init.; Apollod. iii. 4. § 3); whereas others describe him as a son of Zeus by Demeter, Io, Dione, or Arge. (Diod. iii. 62, 74; Pind. Pyth. iii. 177; Plut. de Flum. 16.)

Several ancient poets and writers attempted to arrange the mythology of Dionysus into a tidy chronological narrative. However, these were artificial constructs--the stories were, for the most part, a loose collection of highly localized, unrelated cult myths.
The mythographer Apollodorus provides us with the neatest of these narratives.


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 26 - 28 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
""Cadmus [and Harmonia] had as daughters Autonoe, Ino, Semele and Agaue . . . Zeus fell in love with Semele and slept with her, promising her anything she wanted, and keeping it all from Hera. But Semele was deceived by Hera into asking Zeus to come to her as he came to Hera during their courtship. So Zeus, unable to refuse, arrived in her bridal chamber in a chariot with lightning flashes and thunder, and sent a thunderbolt at her. Semele died of fright, and Zeus grabbed from the fire her six-month aborted baby, which he sewed into his thigh. After Semele's death the remaining daughters of Cadmus circulated the story that she had slept with a mortal, thereafter accusing Zeus, and because of this had been killed by a thunderbolt. At the proper time Zeus loosened the stitches and gave birth to Dionysus, whom he entrusted to Hermes."

Hesiod, Theogony 940 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"And Semele, daughter of Cadmus was joined with him [Zeus] in love and bare him a splendid son, joyous (polygethes) Dionysus,--a mortal woman an immortal son. And now they both are gods."

Gustave Moreau, Jupiter and Semele

Date: ca 405 - 385 BC
Detail of the central figures from a painting depicting the birth of Dionysus. The new born god emerges from the thigh of Zeus. He is depicted wearing a wreath of vine-leaves, and stretches out his arms, either to ward of or embrace the goddess about to grab him. Zeus reclines on a hill, holding his royal scepter in hand.

Date: ca 470 - 460 BC
Zeus, seated on a rock, gives birth to the god Dionysus from his thigh. Hermes stands by holding the royal scepter of his father in one hand, and in his other, his own herald's wand. He is also shown with winged boots and petasos (traveler's cap).

II. NURSED BY INO & THE Nymphs of Mount
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 29 - 30 :
"Zeus loosened the stitches and gave birth to Dionysus, whom he entrusted to Hermes. Hermes took him to Ino and Athamas, and persuaded them to bring him up as a girl. Incensed, Hera inflicted madness on them. As for Zeus, he escaped Hera's anger by changing Dionysus into a baby goat. Hermes took him to the Nymph of Asian Nysa, whom Zeus in later times places among the stars and named the Hyades."

Period: Imperial Roman
The old god Silenus plays with the infant Dionysus. Beside him sits a Nysias Nymph holding a bunch of grapes out for the child. The goat-legged Pan, and Hermes with winged cap, sandals and lyre, sit to one side.

Date: C4th BC
Hermes holds the infant god Dionysus in his draped arm.

Date: C1st - C2nd AD
Silenus nurses the infant god Dionysus in his arms. He is crowned with a wreath of berries.

Period: Imperial Roman
The infant Dionysus, wearing a leopard-skin cloak and holding a thyrsos staff, rides on the back of a tiger.

Nicolas Poussin,  The Nurture of Bacchus

Drinking Bacchus, Guido Reni

Guido Reni - The Boy Bacchus

 Caravaggio, Bacchus

 Caravaggio, Sick Bacchus

The earliest images of the god were mere Hermae with the phallus (Paus. ix. 12. § 3), or his head only was represented. (Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1964.) In later works of art he appears in four different forms:

1. As an infant handed over by Hermes to his nurses, or fondled and played with by satyrs and Bacchante.

2. As a manly god with a beard, commonly called the Indian Bacchus. He there appears in the character of a wise and dignified oriental monarch; his features are expressive of sublime tranquility and mildness; his beard is long and soft, and his Lydian robes (bassara) are long and richly folded. His hair sometimes floats down in locks, and is sometimes neatly wound around the head, and a diadem often adorns his forehead.

Date: ca 440 - 430 BC
 Dionysus stands attended by a Satyrs and Mainas. The god is bearded, and crowned with a wreath of ivy. He holds a drinking cup in one hand and a double-thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff) in the other. The Mainas beats a tambourine and the Satyrs plays a flute.

Date: ca 490 - 480 BC
Dionysus crowned with a wreath of ivy, and holding a fruiting grape vine in one hand, and thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff) in the other. He is accompanied by a flute-playing Satyr.

José de Ribera, Dionysus

3. The youthful or so-called Theban Bacchus, was carried to ideal beauty by Praxiteles. The form of his body is manly and with strong outlines, but still approaches to the female form by its softness and roundness. The expression of the countenance is languid, and shows a kind of dreamy longing; the head, with a diadem, or a wreath of vine or ivy, leans somewhat on one side; his attitude is never sublime, but easy, like that of a man who is absorbed in sweet thoughts, or slightly intoxicated. He is often seen leaning on his companions, or riding on a panther, ***, tiger, or lion. The finest statue of this kind is in the villa Ludovisi.

Euripides, Bacchae 90 ff (trans. Buckley) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Dionysus] the bull-horned god, and he [Zeus] crowned him with crowns of snakes."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 3. 664 ff :
"[The Tyrrhenian pirates] discovered on this lonely spot, a boy [Dionysus], as pretty as a girl. He seemed to reel, half-dazed with wine and sleep, and almost failed to follow along. I gazed at his attire, his face, his bearing; everything I saw seemed more than mortal. I felt sure of it . . .

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 18 ff :
"You [Dionysus] have youth unfading; you're a boy for ever; you shine the fairest in the firmament. When you lay by your horns, your countenance is like a lovely girl's."

Seneca, Phaedra 753 ff :
"Bacchus [Dionysus], from thyrsus-bearing India, with unshorn locks, perpetually young, thou who frightens tigers with thy vine-clad spear, and with a turban thy horned head."

Date: ca 410 - 400 BC
Detail of Dionysus from a painting depicting the god and his retinue. He is shown here as a pretty youth with long wavy hair. He holds his thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff) in one hand, and beside him llies a baby panther.

Date: ca 400 - 360 BC
The youthful god Dionysus rides side-saddle on the back of a panther with a ribboned thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff) in his hand. He is crowned with a wreath of ivy or vine-leaves.

Period: Late Roman
The god Dionysus, with wine cup and thyrsos rod, rides in a chariot drawn by two Centaurs

Date: C4th AD
The drunken god Dionysus walks supported by a Satyr. He spills his cup of wine, which is lapped up by a panther cub. The god has long hair and is crowned with a wreath of ivy. The Satyr is named Skyrtos in a similar mosaic.

Date: C4th AD
Dionysus stands haloed and holding a drinking cup and thyrsos rod beside the goat-legged god Pan.

Bacchus, Michelangelo

Bacchus, Michelangelo

2nd century Roman statue of Dionysus.

Midas and Bacchus, Nicolas Poussin

4. Bacchus with horns, either those of a ram or of a bull. This representation occurs chiefly on coins, but never in statues.
But I haven't found yet coins that depict him with horns.

Head of bearded Dionysus crowned with ivy.
Date: ca. between 461 and 450 BC

Gold phaler (ornament worn by horses), one of a pair, representing Dionysus. Syria, 3rd century BC.

Thrace, Maroneia. Circa 189/8-49/5 BC.
AR Tetradrachm (16.57 g, 1h).
Wreathed head of young Dionysus right.


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 32 :
"After Hera inflicted madness upon him, he wandered over Aigyptos (Egypt) and Syria. The Aigyptian king Proteus first welcomed him."

This story was probably invented to explain his connection between Dionysus, the Egyptian Osiris and the Phoenician god of wine.


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 33 :
"He [the young god Dionysus] went to Cybele in Phrygia. There he was purified by Rhea (Cybele) and taught the mystic rites of initiation, after which he received from her his gear and set out eagerly through Thrace [where he introduced the orgiastic cult]."


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 34 :
"Having traversed Thrace and the whole of India and set up pillars there."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 605 ff :
"[Dionysus] conqueror of India."

The most famous part of his wanderings in Asia is his expedition to India, which is said to have lasted three, or, according to some, even 52 years. (Diod. iii. 63, iv. 3.)

Dionysus and the host of Pans, Satyrs, and Bacchic women, by whom he was accompanied, conquered his enemies, taught the Indians the cultivation of the vine and of various fruits, and the worship of the gods; he also founded towns among them, gave them laws, and left behind him pillars and monuments in the happy land which he had thus conquered and civilized, and the inhabitants worshipped him as a god. (Comp. Strab. xi. p. 505; Arrian, Ind. 5; Diod. ii. 38; Philostr. Vit. Apollon. ii. 9; Virg. Aen. vi. 805.)

Period: Imperial Roman
Dionysus accompanied by a Mainas Nymph and the old god Selinos, battles an Indian warrior.


Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 87 (from Athenaeus 10. 428) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Such gifts as Dionysus gave to men, a joy and a sorrow both. Who ever drinks to fullness, in him wine becomes violent and binds together his hands and feet, his tongue also and his wits with fetters unspeakable: and soft sleep embraces him."

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 38e :
"From the condition produced by wine they liken Dionysus to a bull of panther, because they who have indulged too freely are prone to violence . . . There are some drinkers who become full of rage like a bull . . . Some, also, become like wild beasts in their desire to fight, whence the likeness to a panther."

Plato, Laws 665b :
"[In the ideal city proposed by Plato:] We shall rule that the young man under thirty may take wine in moderation, but that he must entirely abstain from intoxication and heavy drinking. But when a man has reached the age of forty, he may join in the convivial gatherings and invoke Dionysus, above all other gods, inviting his presence at the rite (which is also the recreation) of the elders, which he bestowed on mankind as a medicine potent against the crabbedness of old age, that thereby we men may renew our youth, and that, through forgetfulness of care, the temper of our souls may lose its hardness and become softer and more ductile, even as iron when it has been forged in the fire."

Marcantonio Raimondi, Bacchic scene (a drunk Dionysus leans over a satyr)


Ovid, Metamorphoses 3. 572 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Bacchus [Dionysus] himself, grape-bunches garlanding his brow, brandished a spear that vine-leaves twined, and at his feet fierce spotted panthers lay, tigers and lynxes too, in phantom forms."


Euripides, Bacchae 350 ff (trans. Buckley) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Pentheus:] ‘This effeminate stranger [Dionysus].’"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 143 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[The infant] Dionysus was hidden from every eye . . . a clever babe. He would mimic a newborn kid; hiding in the fold . . . Or he would show himself like a young girl in saffron robes and take on the feigned shape of a woman; to mislead the mind of spiteful Hera, he molded his lips to speak in a girlish voice, tied a scented veil on his hair. He put on all a woman's many coloured garments: fastened a maiden’s vest about his chest and the firm circle of his bosom, and fitted a purple girdle over his hips like a band of maidenhood."

Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, Dionysus

Dionysus, Archaeological Museum, Athens - Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto

Dionysus (detail) Archaeological Museum, Athens - Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

 Tintoretto - Ariadne, Venus and Bacchus

 Annibale Carracci, Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne (detail)


Herodotus, Histories 2. 123 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"The Egyptians say that Demeter [Isis] and Dionysus [Osiris] are the rulers of the lower world. The Egyptians were the first who maintained the following doctrine, too, that the human soul is immortal, and at the death of the body enters into some other living thing then coming to birth; and after passing through all creatures of land, sea, and air, it enters once more into a human body at birth, a cycle which it completes in three thousand years. There are Greeks who have used this doctrine [the Orphics], some earlier and some later, as if it were their own; I know their names, but do not record them."
In the earliest times the Graces, or Charities, were the companions of Dionysus (Pind.Ol. xiii. 20; Plut. Quaest. Gr. 36; Apollon. Rhod. iv. 424), and at Olympia he and the Charities had an altar in common. (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. v. 10 ; Paus. v. 14 in fin.) This circumstance is of great interest, and points out the great change which took place in the course of time in the mode of his worship, for afterwards we find him accompanied in his expeditions and travels by Bacchantic women. called Lenae, Maenad, Thyiades, Mimallones, Clodones, Bassarae or Bassarides, all of whom are represented in works of art as raging with madness or enthusiasm, in vehement motions, their heads thrown backwards, with disheveled hair, and carrying in their hands thyrsus-staffs (entwined with ivy, and headed with pine-cones), cymbals, swords, or serpents. Sileni, Pans, satyrs, centaurs, and other beings of a like kind, are also the constant companions of the god. (Strab. x. p. 468; Diod. iv. 4. &c.; Catull. 64. 258 ; Athen i. p. 33; Paus. i. 2. § 7.)
Jean-Simon Berthélemy, Bacchante Playing The Cymbals

Etty William, Bacchante Playing the Tambourine

Victor Meirelles, Bacchante

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, entitled The Women of Amphissa. This is the 'morning after' the women have participated in one of the wild frenzied celebrations of Dionysus.

Dionysus was identified with the Thraco-Phrygian god Sabazios, Egyptian Osiris, Phoenician Tammuz and the Roman god Liber, amongst others.

Sabazios is the nomadic horseman and sky father god of the Phrygians and Thracians. In Indo-European languages, such as Phrygian, the -zios element in his name derives from dyeus, the common precursor of Latin deus ('god') and Greek Zeus. Though the Greeks interpreted Phrygian Sabazios with both Zeus and Dionysus, representations of him, even into Roman times, show him always on horseback, as a nomadic horseman god, wielding his characteristic staff of power.

Herodotus, Histories 5. 7 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"They [the Thrakians] worship no gods but Ares, Dionysus [Sabazios], and Artemis [Bendis]. Their princes, however, unlike the rest of their countrymen, worship Hermes [Zalmoxis] above all gods and swear only by him, claiming him for their ancestor."

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 21- 23 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"The [god identified with Dionysus] father of the third [Phrygian Sabazios] is Cabirus; it is stated that he was king over Asia, and the Sabazia were instituted in his honor. The fourth [the Thraco-Orphic god Sabazios] is the son of Jupiter [Thracian sky-god] and Luna [Bendis]; the Orphic rites are believed to be celebrated in his honor."

Thracian/Phrygian Sabazios

It seems likely that the migrating Phrygians brought Sabazios with them when they settled in Anatolia (ca. 1200 BC?) and that the god's origins are to be looked for in Macedonia and western Thrace. The Macedonians were noted horseman, horse-breeders and horse-worshipers into the time of Philip II.

Transformation to Sabazios

The naturally syncretic approach of Greek religion blurred distinctions. Later Greek writers, like Strabo, 1st century AD, linked Sabazios with Zagreos, among Phrygian ministers and attendants of the sacred rites of Rhea and Dionysus. (Strabo, 10.3.15). Strabo's Sicilian contemporary, Diodorus Siculus, conflates Sabazios with the secret 'second' Dionysus, born of Zeus and Persephone (Diodorus Siculus, 4.4.1). The Clement of Alexandria had been informed that the secret mysteries of Sabazios, as practiced among the Romans, involved a serpent, a chthonic creature unconnected with the mounted skygod of Phrygia: "‘God in the bosom’ is a countersign of the mysteries of Sabazios to the adepts, " Clement reports (Protrepticus, 1, 2, 16). "This is a snake, passed through the bosom of the initiates”.

Much later, the Greek encyclopedia, Sudas (10th century?), flatly states "Sabazios... is the same as Dionysus. He acquired this form of address from the rite pertaining to him; for the barbarians call the bacchic cry 'sabazein'. Hence some of the Greeks too follow suit and call the cry 'sabasmos'; thereby Dionysus [becomes] Sabazios. They also used to call 'saboi' those places that had been dedicated to him and his Bacchantes


The god was represented on a horseback battling the chthonic serpent or he was often sitting on a throne holding his staff of power.
His appearance was a majestic one, another time a soft and an effeminate one because a part of his myth and cult was his self-castration, including the god´s annual death and revival. Sabazios was often surrounded by the goddess Cybele or (especially in Greek iconography) by Demeter and Persephone. His cult (similarly, like the one of Cybele or Dionysus) was also accompanied by some musicians and ecstatic dancers who were keeping the small snakes with heads raised up. Sometimes we can even observe a snake twisting near the god´s throne. The chthonic animals (including a horned snake, a frog, a tortoise, a lizard), as well as the triple Hecate, the bust of Mercury and the caduceus, the symbols of the sun and the moon, the zodiac symbols, and even a head of a ram on an altar, as a pine cone and some Greek inscriptions, appeared around the god on some representations. These attributes often decorated the reliefs and small votive hands which are associated with the cult of Sabazios in the Roman sites.

Bronze hand used in the worship of Sabazios (British Museum). Roman 1st-2nd century CE. Hands decorated with religious symbols were designed to stand in sanctuaries or, like this one, were attached to poles for processional use.

Early conflict between Sabazios and his followers and the indigenous Mother Goddess of Phrygia (Cybele) is reflected in Homer's brief reference to the youthful feats of Priam, who aided the Phrygians in their battles with Amazons.

Thracian horseman is the conventional term for a recurring motif from the iconography of Paleo-Balkanic mythology during the Roman era.
The tradition is attested from Thrace to Moesia and Scythia Minor, also known as the "Thracian Heros", at Odessos (Varna) attested by a Thracian name as Heros Karabazmos, a god of the underworld usually depicted on funeral statues as a horseman slaying a beast with a spear.

Sabazios, the Thracian reflex of Indo-European Dyeus, identified with Heros Karabazmos, the "Thracian horseman". He gained a widespread importance especially after the Roman conquest. After Christianity was adopted, the symbolism of Heros continued as representations of Saint George slaying the dragon (compare Uastyrdzhi/Tetri Giorgi in the Caucasus).

Heros /hero/ – a Thracian god of hunting, fertility, life and death, all-knowing and all-hearing god – all-god.
The cult of the Thracian horseman was widely spread during the Roman Age, which indicates a renaissance of the Thracian religion at that time – something unknown for the other peoples under Roman domination. Its figure is well known thanks to the numerous historical records from the Roman Age, 1st-4th century AD – young horseman with a spear and shield or with killed game in his hands, followed by a servant, dog and a lion. As an all-knowing and all-hearing god he was portrayed with two or three faces. Due to the mixture of various religions the Thracian horseman was often depicted as a Greek god – Apollo, Asclepius, Zeus, Dionysus, etc., and as the Old Iranian god Mithra, as well as with some of their attributes – lyre (Apollo), single snake staff (Asclepius), impressive beard (Zeus), Phrygian cap (conical cap with its top pulled forward – Mithra), etc. The image of the Thracian horseman served as a base for Christian Saint George.

"Thracian horseman" relief with Latin inscription at Philippi.

A "Thracian rider" relied from the collection of the Burgas Archaeological Museum. 2nd century AD

Thracian horseman in National Historical Museum Bulgaria

Rubens, St George Fighting the Dragon
Raffaello Sanzio, Saint George and the Dragon

Saint George, Gustave Moreau.

St. George and the Dragon, Edward Burne-Jones

Edward Coley Burne-Jones - Saint George

Saint George and the Dragon at Casa Amatller

St. George in the New Church St. Margaret, Munich-Sendling, early 16th century.

Liberty Monument (St George slaying the dragon) in Tbilisi

The iconic image of St. George on horseback trampling the serpent-dragon beneath him is considered to be similar to these pre-Christian representations of Sabazios, the mounted god of Phrygia and Thrace.

Sabazios, the Thracian reflex of Indo-European Dyeus, identified with Heros Karabazmos, the "Thracian horseman". He gained a widespread importance especially after the Roman conquest. After Christianity was adopted, the symbolism of Heros continued as representations of Saint George slaying the dragon (compare Uastyrdzhi/Tetri Giorgi in the Caucasus).

Let’s look at St. George again since he got lots of attention in art.

Saint George (ca. 275/281 – 23 April 303) was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr.

The episode of Saint George and the Dragon appended to the hagiography of Saint George was Eastern in origin, brought back with the Crusaders and retold with the courtly appurtenances belonging to the genre of Romance. The earliest known depictions of the motif are from tenth- or eleventh-century Cappadocia and eleventh-century Georgia; previously, in the iconography of Eastern Orthodoxy, George had been depicted as a soldier since at least the seventh century. The earliest known surviving narrative of the dragon episode is an eleventh-century Georgian text.

According to the Golden Legend the narrative episode of Saint George and the Dragon took place in a place he called "Silene," in Libya; the Golden Legend is the first to place this legend in Libya as a sufficiently exotic locale, where a dragon might be imagined. In the tenth-century Georgian narrative, the place is the fictional city of Lasia, and it is the godless Emperor who is Selinus.
The town had a pond, as large as a lake, where aplague-bearing dragon dwelled that envenomed all the countryside. To appease the dragon, the people of Silene used to feed it two sheep every day, and when the sheep failed, they fed it their children, chosen by lottery. It happened that the lot fell on the king's daughter, who is in some versions of the story called Sabra. The king, distraught with grief, told the people they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom if his daughter were spared; the people refused. The daughter was sent out to the lake, decked out as a bride, to be fed to the dragon.
Saint George by chance rode past the lake. The princess, trembling, sought to send him away, but George vowed to remain. The dragon reared out of the lake while they were conversing. Saint George fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross, charged it on horseback with his lance and gave it a grievous
wound. Then he called to the princess to throw him her girdle, and he put it around the dragon's neck. When she did so, the dragon followed the girl like a meek beast on a leash.
She and Saint George led the dragon back to the city of Silene, where it terrified the people at its approach. But Saint George called out to them, saying that if they consented to become Christians and be baptized, he would slay the dragon before them. The king and the people of Silene converted to Christianity, George slew the dragon, and the body was carted out of the city on four ox-carts. "Fifteen thousand men baptized, without women and children." On the site where the dragon died, the king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George, and from its altar a spring arose whose waters cured all disease.

Other researchers have proposed a different interpretation of St George and the Dragon origin.

According to Christopher Booker it is more likely, however, that the "George and the Dragon" story is a medieval adaptation of the ancient Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda—evidence for which can be seen in the similarity of events and locale in both stories. In this connection, the Perseus and Andromeda myth was known throughout the Middle Ages from the influence of Ovid. In imagery, other Greek myths also played a role. "Medieval artists used the Greco-Roman image of Bellerophon and the Chimaera as the template for representations of Saint George and the Dragon."

To view Perseus and Andromeda click here

Edward Burne-Jones, Perseus Cycle 7: The Doom Fulfilled

Titian, Perseus and Andromeda

Paul Véronese, Perseus and Andromeda

Bellerophon on Pegasus spears the Chimera, on an Attic red-figure epinetron, 425–420 BC

Zeus and Typhon

Parallels also exist outside of Indo-European mythology, for example the Babylonian myths of Marduk slaying the dragon Tiamat. The book of Job 41:21 speaks of a creature whose "breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth."

Marduk and the Dragon
Marduk, chief god of Babylon, with his thunderbolts destroys Tiamat the dragon of primeval chaos.

Before I learned about Sabazios, I associated St. George and the Dragon with Apollo slaying the Python.

PYTHON was a monstrous serpent which Gaia (Mother Earth) appointed to guard the oracle at Delphi. The beast was sometimes said to have been born from the rotting slime left behind after the great Deluge. When Apollo laid claim to the shrine, he slew the dragon with his arrows. The oracle and festival of the god were then named Pytho and Pythian from the rotting (pythô) corpse of the beast.

Seneca, Hercules Furens 453 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Did Phoebus [Apollo] encounter savage monsters or wild beasts? A draco (dragon) was the first to stain Phoebus’ shafts."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 22 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Apollo] made his way to Delphi, where Themis gave the oracles at that time. When the serpent Python, which guarded the oracle, moved to prevent Apollo from approaching the oracular opening, he slew it and thus took command of the oracle."

Date: ca 470 BC
Apollo, seated on the omphalos stone of Delphi, and beside the Delphic tripod, shoots arrows at the monster Python, the old guardian of the shrine. The beast is depicted with a woman's head and breast, matching the poet Hesiod's description of Echidna.

Other closely related she-dragons included the Argive Echidna and Poine, the Tartarean Campe, and the Phokian Sybaris or Lamia.
EKHIDNA (or Echidna) was a monstrous she-dragon (drakaina) with the head and breast of a woman. She probably represented or presided over the corruptions of the earth : rot, slime, fetid waters, illness and disease.
She was often equated with Python (the rotting one), a dragon born of the fetid slime left behind by the great Deluge.

Apollo Slays Python, Eugene Delacroix

Apollo Slaying the Python

Let's go back to Dionysus.
Dionysus was identified with Tammuz.

Herodotus, Histories 2. 49 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"Melampos [a mythical seer] was the one who taught the Greeks the name of Dionysus and the way of sacrificing to him . . . I [Herodotus] believe that Melampos learned the worship of Dionysus chiefly from Kadmos of Tyre [the mythical Phoenician grandfather of Dionysus] and those who came with Kadmos from Phoinikia to the land now called Boiotia."

Tammuz, Akkadian Dumuzi, in Mesopotamian religion, god of fertility embodying the powers for new life in nature in the spring. The earliest known mention of Tammuz is in texts dating to the early part of the Early Dynastic III period (c. 2600–c. 2334 BC), but his cult probably was much older.


In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar. The Levantine Adonis ("lord"), who was drawn into the Greek pantheon, was considered by Joseph Campbell among others to be another counterpart of Tammuz, son and consort.

Famous relief from the Old Babylonian period (now in the British museum) called the "Burney relief" or "Queen of the Night relief". The depicted figure could be an aspect of the goddess Ishtar, Mesopotamian goddess of sexual love and war. However, her bird-feet and accompanying owls have suggested to some a connection with Lilitu (called Lilith in the Bible), though seemingly not the usual demonic Lilitu.

When the cult of Tammuz spread to Assyria in the 2nd and 1st millennia BC, the character of the god seems to have changed from that of a pastoral to that of an agricultural deity. The texts suggest that, in Assyria (and later among the Sabaeans), Tammuz was basically viewed as the power in the grain, dying when the grain was milled.
The cult of Tammuz centred around two yearly festivals, one celebrating his marriage to the goddess Inanna, the other lamenting his death at the hands of demons from the netherworld.
During the 3rd Dynasty of Ur (c. 2112–c. 2004 BC) in the city of Umma (modern Tell Jokha), the marriage of the god was dramatically celebrated in February–March, Umma’s Month of the Festival of Tammuz.
The celebrations in March–April that marked the death of the god also seem to have been dramatically performed. Many of the laments for the occasion have as a setting a procession out into the desert to the fold of the slain god. In Assyria, however, in the 7th century BC, the ritual took place in June–July
Eventually a variety of originally independent fertility gods seem to have become identified with Tammuz. Tammuz of the cattle herders, whose main distinction from Tammuz the Shepherd was that his mother was the goddess Ninsun, Lady Wild Cow, and that he himself was imagined as a cattle herder, may have been an original aspect of the god.

After the Old Babylonian period, Dumuzi appears only rarely in Mesopotamian.
Thorkild Jacobsen, in The Treasures of Darkness (Yale University Press, 1976, New Haven and London) says that "the cult of Dumuzi the Shepherd (Uruk, fourth millennium BC) "comprises both happy celebration of the marriage of the god with Inanna (who, originally, it seems, was the goddess of the communal storehouse) and bitter laments when he dies as the dry heat of summer yellows the pastures and lambing, calving, and milking come to an end. Thus, "as the farmer, he helps to make the fields fertile, as the shepherd, he helps to make the sheepfolds multiply, under his reign there is vegetation, under his reign, there is rich grain" (from - "The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi")

Dumuzi, left, bound in hands and feet, before a god(dess) flanked by snakes. A storm god (right) stands atop a dragon.

The Mushhushshu two-horned serpent-dragon beast which supports on its back a bearded god (not identified by McCall) with mace in hand and wearing a horned crown. The Mushhushshu was associated with several different gods over a long period of time, Ninazu ("Lord Healer'), father of Ningishzida, who was also identified with the beast, possibly Dumuzi, to the degree Langdon has noted that Ningshzida is an aspect of Dumuzi, later Marduk and even Asshur were also identified with the serpent-dragon. The beast's tail appears similar to the quadruped in the Dumuzi seal above. Another horned god presents a human petitioner carrying an offering, perhaps a goat ? (cf. p. 53. H. McCall. Mesopotamian Myths. 1990, 1993)